I was seeing Janet the therapist in 2001, which was the year of my 20-year high school reunion. I went to two different high schools: Balboa High School in the Panama Canal Zone, which was populated by Zonians who'd lived in the Zone their entire lives, rich Panamanians, embassy brats, and military brats and then Judson Rural High School in San Antonio, whose student body consisted of kids who had been together since kindergarten, for my senior year. I was one of two new students in the senior class of 638. Good times, good times.
I did not remember high school fondly, yet Janet thought it would be a good idea for me to go to the reunion. It was being held in Florida, as it is not practical for most people to travel to Central America for a weekend. I was reluctant, but too scared to challenge the authority of my therapist, so I went.
Much to my surprise, I had fun. I realized that my dread memories of high school were more of my senior year, when Michelle W was about the only person who was nice to me, and not of my time in the Canal Zone. I had had friends at Balboa and indeed was friends with them still, although Jackie still reminds me of the time I gave her phone number to the horrible people with four kids who paid $10 for a full day of babysitting and left the house with no clean diapers but two children in diapers, no clean dishes and hungry, wild children.
The school was academically distinguished - had I stayed there for my senior year, I would have been much better prepared for college, there was no dress code, which meant shorts and flip flops to school, and we were five minutes from the beach with an open campus. What's not to like?
Almost the first thing I did once I got to the party was seek Katy, to whom Sally D and I had been mean in 9th grade after befriending her first. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted Sally's approval more than Katy's, so I went along with Sally and her scathing comments to and about Katy.
When I found Katy and apologized, she graciously denied remembering anything about our behavior. Maybe she was telling the truth, but I remember when people were mean to me. (I'm talking to you, Lisa who got mad that Sandy escorted me down the aisle for the Honor Society initiation. He and I were lab partners in physiology, OK? Yes, he was one of the hottest guys in school, but trust me he was not interested in me That Way and you were gorgeous then and gorgeous now, but pouting does not enhance your beauty and you know, you could have returned my "hello" in the ladies' room at the reunion instead of acting like you had never seen me before.)
Maybe it helped that after 9th grade, Katy didn't need Sally anyhow, because she went from scrawny pre-adolescent to a very pretty, very curvacious teenager and suddenly made it into the Cool Crowd. In 10th grade, Sally ditched me for another group and I got my just desserts.
My close friends were not at the reunion, so I was forced to mingle with the group at large, which is something I hate doing, as I am not a social person. Really. I'm not. I'm convinced nobody really wants to talk to me and that they're always looking over my shoulder for something better. It was not comfortable.
But then I saw Steve, on whom I'd had a crush all of high school. In 9th-grade science, I'd asked him to be my lab partner and he said no. He spent the next three years ignoring me while I worshipped him from afar.
He was sitting on a couch next to Helen, who was one of the smartest, nicest, most gorgeous girls in our class. She still looked great. Steve spent his entire high school years with a crush on Helen.
I sat next to Steve and Helen and we chatted. Well, I tried to get Steve's attention but he was too busy trying to get Helen's attention to pay attention to me. I don't even know why I was so interested except don't we always want what we can't have? And he was still smart with a dry wit, but he had no interest, 20+ years later, in wasting it on me.
Meanwhile, the guy sitting on my other side kept talking to me. I would answer him curtly, then turn back to Steve, who I was convinced would love me if he would just TALK TO ME.
I hate losing.
Even to Helen, who was just as nice as she ever was. Honestly, was she aware of her beauty and its corresponding power? She didn't act like it.
Finally, after I had rejected the guy on my other side several times, he tapped my knee and said in frustration, "Hey! I am trying to flirt with you!"
That got my attention.
"Who are you?" I asked of the very nicely dressed and rather handsome man.
"Alberto P.," he answered.
"Did I know you?"
"I was the captain of the football team," he told me.
"I didn't go to the games," I answered apologetically.
"I was the senior class president and voted most likely to succeed."
I shrugged. "We moved after our junior year."
Finally, in frustration, he said, "My uncle was the president of Panama!"
I shook my head. "I really didn't pay any attention to politics back then."
I might not have known who he was, but he had my attention. Good looking, nicely dressed, and, most importantly, interested in me. Fooey to Steve. I turned my attention to more fruitful endeavors.
"Let's go dance," Alberto said.
Well OK. See that, Steve? The CAPTAIN OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM WANTS ME. You had your chance and you blew it.
Tralalalala. I went off with Alberto and had a wonderful evening with the CAPTAIN OF THE FOOTBALL TEAM, who wanted to be with ME.
At the end of the evening, he walked me to my room, asked for my email address, and kissed me on the cheek.
We corresponded for a short while, but this was in August and then came September 11 and everything in everyone's life seemed to come to a screeching halt. But he made me feel wonderful for one evening and it was worth it.