High School Reunion

There are gold and brown streamers hanging from the awning. There’s a sign on the restaurant door that reads “THS Class of ’89 Reunion”. I get out of the car. “Have a great time honey” my mom says. I peer back into the car and say “Thanks mom.” Having my mom drop me off at my high school reunion was not how I imagined this moment. But the flight into Cincinnati was expensive. And, as a graduate student I cannot afford to rent a car just to drive a few miles to a restaurant on a barge on the river.

Once inside, my friends and I fall back into rhythm. We barely miss a beat. And, at the end of the night, just like the end of all of our high-school Saturday nights, I take the keys. They’ve been drinking. I have not. And, we pile into a truck. I take the wheel, Randy gets into the passenger seat and Shane gets into the extended cab. I press down the accelerator, throw some gravel and we take off down route 50. We’re singing along to “A Country Boy Can Survive” when Shane leans forward, drapes his arms over our shoulders and says “I love women”.

He looks at me, he looks at Randy and say it a little louder “I love women”.

Randy gets in on it too and says “I love women”.

Shane says it a little louder and then Randy says is a little louder.

They say it again and again.

Each time a little louder. And, each time with a bit more emphasis.

I’m wondering how and when this is going to end, when Shane sticks his head out of the window and hollers into the night “I love women!” Randy does the same. And, then Shane turns his attention to me.

“Hump” he asks “do you love women?”

I smile.

He hits my shoulder.

“Hump” he asks again “Do you love women?”

I smile back at him again.

Randy gives me a light jab to the side.

“Hump” Randy says “tell him that you love women.”

I shake my head. I’m not going to say it. Not because it is juvenile. It is. We all know it. No. I’m not going to say it because this is why I came home. I came home to feel this again, to be in close proximity with those who know me and love me. No. I will not say it. Because I don’t want this moment to end. So, they rachet up the pressure.

“Say it, Hump. Say that you love women! Say it, Hump! Say it!”

I shake my head.

They unleash a flurry of blows upon me.

“All right. All right” I say.

And, with least amount of volume that I can muster I say “I love women”.

But they’re not having that.

“No Hump! Say it! Say that you love women! Say it loud!”

They start hitting me again.

I yield.

I lift my head to the truck’s torn headliner and yell “I love women!”

And, with that, they fall back triumphantly into their seats smiling and laughing.

Shane throws his arms over the back of the bench seat and stares out the window. Randy reclines in the passenger seat. Does the same. I turn off the music. We get quiet. The truth of this moment starts settling in. We’re on borrowed time. We’ve taken different paths since 1989. We’ve changed. And, even though we want to go back. Desperately want to go back. To feel this feeling. To feel this bond. To be what we were with and for one another. We cannot. We had our time together. I don’t understand why it has to be this way. But it is. And, it hurts.

I turn my attention to the road. All of our late-night drives flicker through my mind like the dashed white lines in the headlights. I look over at Randy. I look back at Shane in the rearview mirror. I love these two men. We raised one another. But this will be our last time together. At least, like this. I know it. They know it. But none of us can bring ourselves to saying it. So, we enjoy the drive. We listen to the crickets trilling. And, we let the humid night air whip in and all around us as we speed off into the night.

But not too fast.

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Thanks. – shawn

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