6.06.2012

Rumors.

It's the rumors. The rumors I remember.

In 5th grade, it was Ross Morgan-Linial, wasn't it? He was the one accused, I believe, of breaking into government files from the back of Mrs. Tegenfeldt's class with a 28K dial-up running Prodigy.

When Beth Steinke came to our school, still then named Samantha Costantini, everyone said that she was named Samantha but went by Beth because she was in the witness protection program. I heard at least five different stories as to why she supposedly required government protection, but my favorite was the one about her family being involved in the Maffia.

They said Travis Duty tried to kill himself after Miranda Lyons died in a car crash over Christmas break in 4th grade.

How did we even believe that Leslie Azoze was pregnant with twins, or triplets was it?

I tried to keep it a secret that Julie Shapiro repeated the 4th grade. Actually, that one is definitely true, and I'm not confident that it was ever a rumor, but I can tell you that I saw her side-boob through the sleeve of her muscle sweatshirt one day in Mr. Hathaway's class.

We were so used to being right, to knowing all the answers, that the real and the rumored tended to blur together. You know? Like if Yuko Inoue tutored you in long division one day, offered you an octopus tentacle the next (I was six, and, memory serving, was the only one who ate it and liked it), and then on the third day told you she had heard that a classmate of yours had a terminal disease (he didn't, and no, it wasn't AIDS), you'd tend to believe her. I mean, she was right about the division and the octopus, right?

We were so competitive, too. You have no idea. It was, admittedly, Meg van Huygen who cheated one day on our Math-a-Minute, a timed worksheet that started our math lesson everyday in first grade. She filled it out before start was called making it seem as if she effectively did 10 multiplication problems in somewhere around 25 seconds. Are any of us even capable of that now? I wish I could get my hands on some of those, those math worksheets from Mrs. Tisdale's class, just to see. Just to see how hard it would be now, how smart we were then. You see, we were child geniuses. And as we just found out, that genius was arguably not overrated.

It was about a year ago when Isaac Frost found me on Facebook. It seemed so inane at the time; just one of those long lost friends that finds you on the internet, I tagged in Meg just for fun, thought the three of us would triangulate an internet laugh or two from our perches in the Northwest, Northeast, and Mexico. It was funny. And then Isaac thought a few more people would think it was funny. Then it seemed like only a few minutes had passed and there were a couple hundred of us chiming in, reconnecting, sharing our memories verging from the scant to the elaborate. We went to Elementary School together, and now for one night we are in one room, and lord do we remember.

The time Crystal Sison slapped her boyfriend in the hallway in 6th--or was it 7th grade? And we thought slapping was some sort of fad that we all must ascribe to.

The four units we had about the Renaissance to the loss of learning any American history.

When Willie Braden finally kissed Natalie Moore.

Francis Yoshida's propensity for wearing shorts. Everyday. Even in the snow. Severely short shorts at that, and the nickname he garnered from this activity from Mrs. Jackson: "Short Shorts". The nickname Willie Braden got from Mrs. Jackson: "Short Shorts' Friend".

Koosh balls.

Hypercolor.

Neon.

Nerf.

Microzines.

That time Lauren Kehl cracked her head open on the playground.

The Mt. St. Helens trip, and for a select few of us, the 12 passenger van that we rode in there and back.

There are the proprietary memories like everyone's individual last memory of Ventnor before he jumped off a bridge on Easter Sunday in the 11th grade, and there were shared memories like when everyone got snowed in at school in 5th grade right before Christmas break and slept in the cafeteria and the gym on the floor. We similarly all remember where we were when Kurt Cobain died.

The teachers we remember too, and we, in our old age, call them like football players and remove the prefix of their last name. Alsdorf. Raymer. Daniels. We group each other by teachers, we still remember who we had class with. We remember our cliques: The Best Friends Club, The Sleepover Friends, and of course those indivisible groups of boys that obviously didn't name themselves.

And now? We apparently fall right back into those cliques or never left them. Crystal and Young. Willie, who is actually Will now, Francis who now goes by Frank, and Gary. Meg and Jono. Well, back then it was actually Meg, Jono, and I.

But I love us! I can't believe how much I love us now; we have kids and write plays and are doctors both medical and professional, and we are still so rip fucking smart that it's crazy. All of us. Even those of us that make cat videos and write about vaginas. Edwin Dizon, always known for having a head for maths, obviously went into finance. I say obviously because that's what one might assume that he'd be doing now, but he's not. He's an accountant for a dairy, which means seemingly nothing until you realize how big the dairy industry is in Washington State (it's huge, as is Edwin's company). But that's so us--it makes perfect sense to me because we've all been there at least once--when you are forced to realize that your ethics are forcing your giant brain to make choices that your bank account hates. Look, I'm not 100% sure, but I can say fairly confidently that no one ever told us this would happen.

We aren't exactly Gen X and we're not Gen Y, we went through our adolescence with the Clinton Administration and Local Post-Grunge Power-Pop and we all got into our choice of schools and we thought it was never going to end. But it did, and there was a long, long war, and here we are now sipping beers and trading the few secrets we've learned as adults, hoping that maybe this year will be different; maybe we can command the attention we used to, shape the world as we see fit.

I want to tell them everything, I want them to know how beautiful the plains are in Wyoming. I want them to know what it's like to stand in the Sears Tower and feel like you're on the roof of the midwest. I want them to walk the streets of Manhattan with me and be unafraid, to ride the trains black in Europe and to know that this means you didn't pay. To hide from the conductors who will invariably try and deport you. I want them to know that Key Limes are yellow! They are! And when it's just that time they hang heavy from boughs of waxy leaves in the harsh light, and the air smells like salt and exhaust and I tell them no, don't ever rent a scooter in Key West. And I want all the time in the world for them to tell me how much it hurt when they had their children, and I want to meet their husbands and wives and cradle their faces in my hands. But we have this night, and so we try our best to dispel the rumors.

No, Willie didn't run off to Bellingham with Lauren Rogers, and that beret he was seen wearing was a costume.

No, Jono didn't actually come out until, what...Senior year? I was the one who came out Freshman year. But yes, he did make out with Ryan Mooney at a party the summer of 1998.

And yes, I applied for my scholarship to high school on somewhat of a fluke, and only because Meg was going to go there. I didn't think I'd actually win, and I definitely didn't think I'd go even though Meg didn't. But I went. I spent from 5 to 13 with these people, and left them on little more than a whim. And this was the very same school that I walked out of toward the end of my Junior year without even finishing the day, and the following fall found me in College.

I have told this to tons of friends over the years, that I started College when I was 16, and people find this unthinkable. I try and explain--it's not like I did it because it was good for me, this is how I rebelled. I did it because the utility of high school was exhausting and I didn't want to do it anymore. People think this is crazy, but it's not. In this room there are a bunch of us that did it, who skipped one or more years of high school, and few of us did it for the right reasons. Here, we are understood. Willie was one of us.

"I should have stayed. I should have stayed and finished my Senior year. I could have gone to any school. I mean, I had near perfect SAT's, near perfect grades. I was a varsity soccer player. I would have been set. Why didn't I listen to my parents? They're both Fulbright Scholars. They have PHD's. I don't know why I thought I knew better." Just to be clear, so you can better understand us, so you can better gauge the type of opportunities to which we thought we would be entitled, Willie studied at Oxford. As he was always rumored to be the class clown, and arguably was, I chose to first tell him something funny--how he was lucky because I went to art school, and he has no idea how dumb art students are. Then I tell him, in all seriousness, that he can do all of that now.

And we can. Few are as lucky as us, to be able to look at the world and see it as a series of choices. We are so good at so many things that we can choose between them, we can convince people of what we do and do not deserve. We can leave one career and begin another. We can go to grad school in our thirties. We can start our own businesses and be our own bosses. We can have kids. We can pack a duffel bag of gloves and scarves and stow it in the belly of a dirty bus in Virginia, and we can arrive at the Port Authority on 42nd street with a whole new life. I know we can do this because I have, and I tell him, that should he chose it, he can too. We all can.

I mean, look at us! We're just the same. We're older, yes. But look! There's Danielle and Ian, arriving together, just like you might have thought they'd do at a party in high school. And Frank, I swear to god, he's wearing shorts. They're longer these days, though. And then there is everyone who isn't there, and we, together, do the same thing we always did: we churn the rumor mill together for the first time in 15 years.

We hear that Lauren Rogers is traveling the world working on a post doctorate fellowship using Oslo as a home base. We are insanely jealous of this.

We argue over whether Isaac Frost was ever legally married and decide, without him, that he was and to whom.

We wish Fritz Schoughlin was there and have some scant conversation surrounding if he is, in fact, cool now (I argued, yes).

Everyone wonders what happened to Caleb Boots and I tell them that he lives in the Tri-Cities and has two kids, and yes, they are blonde. And everyone is silent while I relate this rumor, and I mean yeah. Am I positive that it's true? No. But it's true enough, and right now, that's what counts. Because we went to elementary school together, and this is what we do. This is the one arena where we don't have to be exactly correct, and we revel in that, like we always have.

It's hard sometimes, and we know it. It's hard to look at the whole world and know with such certainty when people make mistakes and know exactly how to correct it and know that there's little that we can actually do. There are burdens that come with being right, but when we're together all of that seems to fade away and in this room there are a handful of things that we can take for granted that we agree on: that humans and apes share a common ancestor, the difference between 'there' and 'their' and 'your' and 'you're', and that there are absolutely and unequivocally only eight planets. The corporality of Christ. That Al Gore won the 2000 election. That climate change is happening. We don't have to debate these things with each other because we are us, and we are home, and it is raining like always, and all of our shiny faces are all just the same.

But then again, rumor has it that I've been away, that I couldn't possibly be the judge of all of this.

And I can't really tell you if that rumor is true.

XOXO
--M

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