O.K., so let me tell you how none of my best friends showed up tonight for the Banks High Class of '85 Twentieth Reunion and I'm left sitting all alone at table ten with Teresa Alvarez, who smells like lavender soap and has a wart on her left index finger, and Joe Briggs, who at one time was sort of hunky in an athletic way, but now he just talks golf and birdhouses and waves his thick hands around.
Mylar balloon bouquets and shouts of "Banks Lions Rule" followed by someone's roar and the band with the slinky buck-toothed singer taking requests for Madonna and Cindy Lauper and Jimmy Buffett and Otis Redding. I just couldn't take it anymore. I hope you don't mind if I hang out over here for a while. Do you make good money as a hotel bartender? Cash bar at a reunion. For the money they charged us, you'd think we'd get free drinks. You know what I'm saying. Maybe you could add another splash of rum?
My friends didn't come tonight. Weird. I mean, we used to be big shots. And I don't mean we were cheerleaders. I'd just as soon kick a cheerleader in her short-skirted ass and feed her pom-poms to a bear, so that's not what I mean by big shots. I mean, we ran the school. Student Government Secretary, Treasurer, Drama Club President, Yearbook Editor, Soccer Team Captain, and First Chair Flute in a state-recognized orchestra. That was us. But they left me alone this evening, bailed out one by one, and so I've spent quite a bit of my night thinking about pulling the fire alarm so we can all go home.
Madison Rucker isn't here. She says she refuses to get older, and she tries to stay fresh with her crazy hair dyes and just recently that belly piercing that made her husband jump like a frog on a hot lily pad. He shouted, "So that's what you think looks good, that's what you think?" and Madison called me laughing and crying because Carl was hollering. He's always hollering. "Don't let that man hit you," I said. No man has ever bullied me. They never stay around long enough; they say I'm too nuts.
And Joni Holloway isn't here. She's got eating issues. She's a little flower stem right now, living on oranges and spinach salads. That woman thinks she looks good, but she's so thin I swear she's looking like a Picasso, angular and scary if you ask me. I could snap her wrist with my hand if I wanted to, not that I'd do that, even though I have been sort of violent lately, tossing that plate against the wall when my boss recently fired me. Six years with that damn company, and I think it's because I wouldn't sleep with him – fat-ass that he is – but he says it was department overhaul, some sort of business-speak for, "I'm putting in some younger women."
Eliza Rubio, who still works for old fat-ass, isn't here. She did say she'd quit for me and she says she hasn't slept with old fat-ass, though she lies. I know this and I still love her, but I say no, no, no because Eliza needs the money. Her boyfriend just ran off. He took all his art supplies and left one wall of her house half-painted, some underwater adventure, a mermaid with no tail, a fish with some scales. She threw a can of soda at him; he ducked and now she's got a dent in that wall too, right there in the seaweed, a chunk of plaster fallen, a splash of brown like an exploded starfish.
My therapist says I focus too much on other people's lives. I once asked her how she spends her evenings. She said I wasn't funny.
She's the one who told me to come to the reunion, even after I heard Madison and Joni and Eliza had cancelled. I told her it was foolish, that we had all planned to go together, make it a reunion of us, but she said it would be good for me. So I suppose I came to please my therapist, although she'd say I came to please myself. She may be right on that one, but I'd hate to tell her that. Whenever she thinks she's somehow succeeded, she has this habit of tapping her heels. Dorothy-to-Kansas like. I pointed it out and she said, "We all have our quirks." So now I'm always looking at her shoes. Designer shoes.
You know, I also came to see my high school sweetheart, and look at him now. He's on the dance floor, Billy Stern, waving his arms around to Culture Club. Yeah, I know he can't dance well, but I won't hold that against him. Who can dance to 80's music anyway? But see over there, sitting by the table with the yearbooks stacked on it, that pregnant woman, that beautiful woman half-hidden by the yellow balloon centerpiece? That's his wife.
Another splash of rum, please. Just a little one.
My therapist says I drink too much. She should meet my friend Nell Herman, who also didn't show up. And maybe it's just as well. Nell's loonier than the rest of us, though she says the Lord is helping her through. She says things like that – "the Lord will help me through" – but then she also talks to objects, like the clothes in her closet and the food in her fridge. I've heard it, scared the hell out of me the first time she said, "Hello peanut butter," but now I just find it charming in a crazy Nell sort of way. She'll be wearing those long flower dresses one day, all dusty rose and lace, and she'll have cats and crickets in her living room.
And Emmy Munro-Winterson cancelled just yesterday. She was supposed to drive with me. But she called and said she had issues at home. I didn't ask; I just repeated, "Issues," because that's pretty much a code word for somebody sleeping around on somebody. Emmy is the one who sent in the photo of all of us for the reunion display wall. It's the beach snapshot where we're all slightly open-mouthed. That's senior year in Ft. Lauderdale, a girls-only weekend and a month before Billy broke up with me. We look silly happy, like we're not aware of what's going to happen, how we're going to age twenty years and lose ourselves and find ourselves on Prozac and in therapy.
I mean, we couldn't know that when the cute Venezuelan boy said he'd take the picture. We grouped up, all bikini giggles and baby-oil and sunburn, and he said on the count of three, two, one, but he said it in Spanish, tres, dos, uno, and we shouted along with him, which is why our mouths are in o's. You probably can't see it from here. On your break, go take a look. It's like we're surprised – our mouths open like that.
Copyright © Shellie Zacharia 2006. Title graphic: "Watered-Down Holiday" Copyright © The Summerset Review 2006.