Sunday, January 10, 2010

Who Cares What Happened in High School? Me. A Little

"Carl thinks that you hate him."

Someone ran up to me, delivered the news, and ran away. At least that's how I remember it; like a poof of information from a crier.

Then just as quickly Carl was standing near me, in a small semi-circle of people.

"I'm gay," he told me. He seemed to tremor, in his voice, in body.

"Yes. I know." I must have sounded annoyed. We'd known each other since we were in elementary school.

Carl had been absent from the Dobson High School - class of '89 - ten year reunion and the retirement party for drama teach the year before that (1998).

He's one of the only people I rejected when I got his "friend request" on Facebook.

This was a grudge I had been intent on keeping. It had lost it's enmity and perhaps even it's purpose. Still it had a rationality that kept it preserved.

What had happened back in high school that twenty years caused me to still give a damn?

When I was 18, he and his mother had sat down a new friend of mine and told him that I was "evil." And they were serious. I don't think they had any justification or reason to support their claim. They thought I was Ouija board evil and wanted to protect other people from that. It had been a hard experience at the time because this was a new friend and he listened to them. Or at least my purported evilness cast enough doubt for him to dump me.

If I had to guess, I would suspect that Carl's and his mother's insanity had been born from toilet paper.

I was sixteen and driving around Mesa, Arizona in a VW Rabbit Convertible with my friends Stacy and Sean. We bought toilet paper and flung it all over Carl's house. Why him? Because we knew where he lived. We went back an hour later. Why? Because we weren't sure where anyone else lived so we went to revisit our work. The TP had been removed. So we TP-ed it again.

Then we drove around. Unable to find another target, we went back to Carl's house. It had been cleaned again. But this time they were waiting for us, in stealth. Then Carl jumped out in front of the Rabbit, causing me to turn it around on two wheels. He took off after us in his Mustang. I lost him on the freeway. But then we were determined to, well, to take it too far.

I dropped off my friends at their homes. Two hours later, well after midnight, I snuck out to pick them up in the same Rabbit and redecorated Carl's front lawn.

That's the only thing I can come up with. Carl's family had been deeply religious - Catholic, so I became a bogeyman to them.

So more than twenty years later, we stood near each other in a ballroom at a Hilton in Scottsdale with him coming out to me. I look down at a red string on his wrist. He noticed, tugged at it and said, "My partner Gary and I practice Kabbalah." Carl had always been a Madonna fan going back to Junior High.

I knew that Gary was his partner for close to twenty years. Jesus. We had friend in common for thirty years. Carl and Gary had been living together since college in a condo that Carl's parent's had bought for him, not far from the TP'ed house. Carl was a flight attendant who had been having an early mid-life crisis putting that relationship in jeopardy a few years ago.

I had all that information without having spoken to him once in twenty years. I had all that news without really even wanting to know.

So Carl was still worried what I thought about him. And I was still mad at him for being a weirdo dick to me a generation ago.

I didn't want to confront that. And I couldn't let it go.

That's what people do at reunions.

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