The smell of a campfire fills my nose as I sit on my porch tonight. Someone, somewhere in my neighborhood is having a small gathering of friends over for an intimate night of conversation and good times. Sound bites of their conversation drift on the wind and land upon my ears and I almost feel apart of their group.
This feeling makes me miss even more the event that I wanted to be at tonight. The event is called “Curds with Gwen” and it is taking place in a small town in Wisconsin. People I knew from another century and another high school are getting together for an ad hoc reunion of sorts.
And in case you’re wondering about the name “Curds with Gwen”, well, Gwen is the one who came up with the idea for everyone to get together and eat fried cheese curds… a staple in any Wisconsinites diet. The crispy, tender, golden crust hides the liquefied magma of melted cheese inside… damn I wish I had a pound of them right now sitting in front of me… I’d devour them and be thankful for the blisters on the roof of my mouth in the morning.
But more than that, I miss the folks who are there, and even the folks who aren’t. I don’t normally get nostalgic about my high school days. After all, I attended three different high schools, so it was hard for me to make lasting friends. But somehow, the kids from Roncalli High School, class of 1985 seem to have burrowed their way into my psyche.
How do I describe Roncalli in the 1980’s… it’s hard… it… well…
It was like a John Hughes film. Pick any of them, “Pretty in Pink”, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Breakfast Club”… that was Roncalli.
We had all the stereotypes in abundance. Jocks, Preps, Geeks, Dorks, Druggies, Greasers… you name it, we had it.
My first day there started halfway through the first quarter of school. I was transferred in and as soon as I stepped foot on the school bus I knew I didn’t fit in anywhere. After all, I saw in myself not just one stereotype, but all stereotypes. I was a geek, a jock, a greaser, a prep, a druggie and a dork. Within a week of attending classes, I’d made friends in each clique.
I played chess with the chess club, I helped rebuild an engine with the greasers, I programmed computers with the geeks, I was on the wrestling team, for a short time, I dressed like a prep, I smoked weed with some of the jocks and I had a voracious appetite for the schools library.
My friends spanned the cliques and I had no problem talking to anyone. Even if it was someone I didn’t know. Well, with one exception… a girl…
A girl named Jody.
Our lockers were next to each other and I rarely said anything when she was around. Yes, I had a crush on her and it killed me. Anytime I’d ask anyone about her, they’d say she was going out with so and so, or she was dating a linebacker or that she was stuck up and wouldn’t talk to anyone.
So when she actually came up to her locker one day as school was letting out and asked me for a cigarette, I about damn near shit myself. I quickly fumbled for my pack and pulled out a Marlboro and handed it to her. She said thanks, turned and left. Her ponytail slowly swaying back and forth across the middler of her back.
I was in shock. So much so that I didn’t even see Brother John walk up and start scolding me for having cigarettes in the school. It wasn’t until he grabbed ahold of my arm that I realized he was standing there. I quickly apologized, shoved the smokes back in my pocket and ran away from him hoping he wouldn’t come after me and try to confiscate my illegal Marlboros.
On the bus ride home all I could think about was Jody. Did she try to set me up? Why didn’t I know she smoked? How come I’d never seen her at any of the parties I’d been to. Why the fuck didn’t I talk to her?
Teenage bullshit… that’s what it was. Being uncomfortable in your body and not really knowing where you fit in… I know that now. Then, not so much. I was awkward, a bit shy around girls I liked and definitely in fear of getting my ass kicked by the football team.
So, when the invite went out for this “reunion” I really wanted to go. To see these people and how they’ve changed over the years. Are they married? Do they have families? Divorced? Alive? Dead? Hell anything.
Social media only gives you the filtered information of what someone wants you to see. I’m not saying the person posting pictures of kittens, hiking the Appalachian trail, espresso under the Eiffel tower and shaking hands with some Hollywood star is lying, what I’m saying is that they are putting out what they want you to see.
It’s different then when you hear the stories from their lips and see the light of joy gleam in their eye as they tell you what they’ve done and how they've done it. That’s what I miss.
That’s why right now, at this very minute I wish I were in Manitowac, Wisconsin, hanging out with a bunch of people I only spent two years of my life with. Because they are awesome to me, even if they don’t know or realize it.
Have a great week.
PS. I don’t normally do this, however, my third high school, Washington High School, the one I graduated from, you guys, if you're reading this, mean as much to me as well. I love the friendships I made there and I wish I could give you all a big hug. We went through some crazy times together, both good and bad and this blog is written in honor and memory of friends, you guys are included as well.