A short story by: Alicia Mooers
I hadn’t had a drink in nearly 10 years, however as soon as I got to my high school reunion I knew that was about to change.
I had bought an impeccable tweed suit for this occasion, the pairing of my palomino tweed with a raspberry button-up could not have looked better. I do hope it survives high school. The 3-hour production of a short, coiffed hairstyle I was sporting was looking mighty fine, if I do say so myself. I will need this suit for my sister’s wedding on Thursday as well. One last check and fluff of my pumpkin spice latte colored hair and I mumble “You got this, Willie” to my reflection in the trophy case adjacent to the circus doors, and I walk in.
As I entered, the old musty sock smell that seemed to take permanent residence in the “vintage” gymnasium instantly reminded me of my personal hell, P.E. class in freshman year. I haven’t run a mile collectively since those dark days.
The gym is decorated in maroon and gold. The faded colours of the same decorations that are brought out every occasion are stirring up the old memories of my high school graduation. I remember that my mom had bought me a suit and it was three sizes too big… bless her heart. The combination of my oversized suit and the too-small graduation gown I had ordered made me look a bit like an overstuffed turkey.
There are tables filling the room brandishing the same gaudy centerpieces used at my senior prom, and I watch my graduate class milling around having awkward conversations with their bored spouses in tow. I sit back and watch them struggle to remember all that was dear to them 20 years ago. The faces, I watch one of the head cheerleaders back in the day (who I may have had a giant crush on for the whole of high school – only because she had a “bangin’ bod” – ahh, to be young) as she tries to use her university-educated-with-daddy’s-money brain to identify her supposed best friend from the past. I can practically hear her two brain cells rubbing together from here. But, alas I think it is a lost cause – she just can’t get her perfect, pink fingernail on who is standing before her.
As I chuckle to myself at the sight, I hear an all too familiar screech that hits me like a bludger to the head. “OH. MY. GOD. – WILLIE MIKLET!?!” Instantly, I panic. It couldn’t be… no… I thought she moved out east! As I reluctantly turn around, my eyes land on the one thing I didn’t want to see here. The only high school girlfriend I ever had was standing about 6 feet away from me. The unparalleled existence of Margie Rynne, yes, as in sounds like margarine. Oh god. No. This can’t be. If there is anything in this whole world that will knock me off track… it would be Margie, 5 minutes would turn anyone to drink.
Wow, she looks exactly the same – and not in a good way, nothing has changed since our 6-week totally 80’s awkward-fest we called a relationship. First I see the long, matted blonde hair with her signature immaculate straight-across bangs… The only feature not radically 80’s on this girl. I always thought that hair of hers made her look like some sort of seriously abused Barbie doll. Like, “left in a mud puddle outside for weeks and then put in the dryer,” kind of abused. I also see that she still hadn’t figured out makeup. Now, I’m not saying that I am some sort of makeup guru of any sort, but I do know that mascara is not supposed to double as an eyeshadow. Yikes. I still remember having to clean clumps of thick, black, mascara clumps out of my mom’s good Christmas towels because Margie decided they made the perfect tissues on one self-conscious night. Everything about this hen made my sober brain crave a drink. I decided, sober or not, I would get through this night with Margie. I put on my best fake smile and yelled back “Margie! *sigh* Long time no see!” my best futile attempt at appearing excited.
The next thing I know she’s practically strangling me, I know she’s wearing those god-awful fake nails with some sort of rhinestone on the top because they are making tiny canyons in my flesh. Ow. I inhale the regrettably familiar scent of Margie, Cotton Candy and bad breath. Dear Lord, I think her breath actually got worse. As she squeezes, I feel like I am sinking deeper into an endless void of polyester and spandex. “O.M.G Willie.. You just went and became a little hottie-patottie didn’t you?!? I bet you have all the girls fawning after you dontcha?” I don’t even comprehend what this gluttonous mass standing in front of me said because I am too busy focusing on the repulsive slap of her chewing gum that might as well be hitting me in the face. She looks at me expectantly. Did she ask me something? Oh dear, what did she say? I decide on a slow nod accompanying a “Yeeess…” She looks content so I guess that was the right answer. I look past her enormous face and just beyond the large, neon enamel earring staring into my soul, I see an open bar. Yes! My salvation. I say “I think I’m going to go and get a drink…” and then, when I thought the coast was clear and I could happily avoid her for the rest of the night… “Oh, Willie! You always were such a sweetie, don’t tell me you’re still too nervous to ask me if I want a drink?” I stared at her. She stared back, a sickening grin bounding from ear to ear stretched across her face. I turned to go, defeated, and behind me I could hear the clicking of her heels as she followed me to the bar. I decided Margie was as good a reason as any to start drinking again. Otherwise, this was going to be a long night.
I lumbered up to the bar, with the clicking not far behind and ordered a gin and tonic. As the bartender handed me my drink, I heard an “ahem” on my left. Margie was standing there with her enormous cow eyes flitting between me, my drink and the bar. Another “ahem” and I caught on. This narwhal beside me wanted to order her a drink. Seriously. By this time the bartender asks “… and for the lady?” looking straight at me. I grumbled “Whatever will get her drunk…” and left.
I found a nearby table covered in “Congrats Grad!” confetti and a faded maroon tablecloth. Settling into a hard, plastic chair that is decorated with multiple carvings, one of which is a rather large engraving of a lopsided heart with a “Jace” professing his love for a “Madi” … “Jace and Madi 4 Eva!”
As I am getting comfortable and lifting the glorious gin and tonic to my mouth, I hear the clicking again. Before she can get any closer, I take a big gulp of my drink. The intoxicating buzz of bubbles on my tongue sets off a rush of instant gratification and I started to remember less and less why I quit drinking in the first place. The clicking gets closer and then is beside me. Then the pecking begins. “Sooo when did you get a little chunky in the trunky?” or “Why did we even break up in da first place?” her voice is reminiscent of a dog toy. I keep sipping and nodding.
After what feels like an eternity of meaningless questions, and about 6 gin and tonics later, she starts with “Willie, you think *hiccup* we could *hiccup* reconnect?” when I say nothing back, she inches all 200 pounds of pleather and cheetah print closer and hisses the words that are only ever brought up after eight vodka shots and ten years “Like in an intimate way”. I struggle to keep the gin and tonic down. I may be drunk but all the alcohol in the world could not make me get with Margie ever again. I say “no Margie, we had our times… you’re very drunk, and I don’t think you wouldn’t be saying that sober.” Her grey eyes burn into mine. They start to puff up. Crap, she’s about to push me down a waterslide I did NOT sign up for.
“How could you!?” *hiccup* she continued with “I am NAAAT drunk…! I still love you Willie! Why do ya think I came back to this hellhole?” *hiccup* “The thought that I would’ve have a chance with you again is the only thing that keeps me …”
Yes, Margie Rynne vomited on my new tweed pants. Wonderful. I guess I’m going to need a new suit for my sister’s wedding on Thursday after all. I stare up at the leopard print porpoise that ruined them. Behind her matted yellow head of hair, I see the whole reunion laughing. A couple of them have big lumps of the Welcome Back Class of 1987 cake in their hands, others are in the corner holding handfuls of confetti and chips near the industrial fans. What in the world is about to happen?
Now I understand all the food in people’s hands. I stand up, unzip my smelly, soggy pants and add to the noise of by yelling “STRIP FOOD FIGHT” – don’t ask what possessed me to do this, because I don’t know – but to my surprise everyone actually listens. I grab a chunk of cake from the table nearby, I ball it up in my once beautiful tweed pants and chuck it at a previous football quarterback who, upon impact, squeals like a girl I once dated at the sight of a bumblebee. A miraculous thing happens next, he turns and right when I think he’s going to charge, yells across the madness “nice shot!” and continues to pelt people with napkin-made spitballs.
I hear clicking behind me and for the first time all night I don’t care if it’s Margie. As I turn, it’s the brainless cheerleader I had observed earlier, now pants-less and standing right in front of me. She says nothing except – “You’re actually pretty cool” and plants a highly intoxicated kiss on me right in the middle of the chaos. Better than Margie I guess.
When the drunken cheerleader becomes bored with me and goes back to her football-star husband, I decide this has been enough fun for one night. As I turn to leave the chaos I started behind me, I see a half of a cheetah print ball laying facedown under one of the tables. Margie must have either died or it couldn’t handle all the physical activity and liquor, and so it passed out. I walk over to the large spandex covered gluteus-maximus and poke it with my shoe. The mass of Margie Rynne grunts, well she is at least alive. I turn to leave.
One last look at the chaos that my high school reunion and I see “nerds” fighting alongside “jocks” – something that would’ve never happened all those years ago. I see Margie’s rump sticking out from under that table. Banners are being ripped down and being used as shelter. There’s chip shrapnel flying and cake-confetti mixture splattering on nearby walls, various items of clothing decorating the floors but still the gym sock smell remains.
I walk through the doors and out into the hallway. The same trophy case that self-selected its own glory is staring me in the face and my once perfect hair is misshapen and cake bits are doubling as styling gel. I now have a quite literally raspberry coloured shirt, as I am coated in berry juice. My tweed jacket has seen better and I sigh for my missing tweed pants.
I would get them cleaned, if only I could remember where they ended up.