Back in DC, back at Mom's. Small rental car. I'm dressing up. Should I be wearing a tie? Nah, too formal. I'm the wacko from San Francisco, right? I'm driving down Route 66, with my lovely wife as my date - she's all dressed up, too.
It's like we're going to the prom. All I need is a corsage or something. We're at the hotel and can't find parking. We're walking in. Outside a family is in the ending stages of a wedding. Beefy guys with near-shaved heads sport vests over white shirts, jackets slung over arms in the unseasonable heat.
Inside we're asking where the reunion is. We're looking for elevators. The distant thump of DJed music shakes the building. We walk up to the doors. Wrong high school - looks like James Madison is having a 10-year reunion next door. We walk over to the other ballroom. Here we go.
Pinning our name tags on. Opening doors as the music roars up. I look around. It is Prom 2.0, 20 years later. The same people, dressed up, sweating, nervous. Everyone talking about who came and who didn't; who brought whom, who's together. Who's broken up.
I swear the DJ is playing the exact same set we got nearly 20 years ago. And like that time, I've surprised a few people by bringing a mysterious hot woman no one has ever met before. This time, it's my wife. Yay me.
The main difference this time is the drinking is subsidized.
People are milling around, looking for faces they recognize. All of the ladies look fantastic. There's some sort of giant roast labelled "Steamship of Beef".
I'm seeing people I recognize but the music is too loud. Most of these people have stayed here on the East coast, many still in Virginia. Many with kids, and a few with a shocking number of them.
Everybody is smiling. I'm getting hoarse. It's not very comfortable in here. We look around. I scan the memorabilia table and set a pile of CDs down next to the framed list of the 8 classmates who've died since graduation. I knew 2 of them well. One died in a drunk driving accident weeks after graduation.
I am surprised again that anyone remembers me. Shocked to find some of them have even found and regularly read this blog (hi, Mike!). I'm having fun, but I'm also getting tired. There's only so much of this nostalgia I can take, and the prom flashbacks are starting to creep me out.
The sheer volume in the room coupled with the size of the space and lack of places to sit aren't creating a nice vibe. Again, it's like prom. Nobody dancing.
I look at my wife. Time to go? We exit the room and the tinnitus ring of excess sound crashes into the relative silence. We get back in the car and ride back to DC, chatting about the evening.
Unlike my last trip back for a reunion, there's no melancholy creep through the city streets or blurring of past and present. My life is here and now - my wife next to me, driving through what's become of McLean, back to DC where my mother lives with her new husband.
Soon I will get on a plane and return to San Francisco, where I live. Where life is. It was nice to see the old gang, albeit briefly. Would have been nicer to talk to some folks longer. Nicer still to have had something to talk about.
I'm OK. You're fine? Good. Glad to hear things didn't turn out awful for any of us. Hope the next 20 are good, and the 20 after that. Maybe even the 20 after that.
Take care. Save a dance for me. And maybe send me an e-mail.