Word Count 495
By Terry Rainey
We tidy up nervously before the seven-block trip to our 50th high school reunion. Canastota High School, Class of 1968. What was our daily walk to high school became, in time, our life’s path.
Many of our classmates went out to the big world. A few came back. It will be great to see them, to catch up with lucky ones who’ve made it in one piece. A few went to Vietnam, and came back changed. Some enrolled in college and moved to far flung places, Kansas, Iowa, Oregon, even overseas. One we know is an Elvis impersonator. Two policemen. A snake charmer. Marriages. Divorces. Death, in a surprisingly few cases.
Nervous adrenaline actually makes me a bit wistful that we’re not walking tonight. The seven blocks is lovely in all months, but especially in June, when the cedars, elms, and spruce are full and connect with each other over the lane, branches touching..
Mike struggles to get into the passenger seat. His legs and arms, with years of farm chores tattooed on them, don’t quite coordinate as well. No more Mike tossing hay bales bouncily. But I know that any help that I may offer would be swatted away. Mike’s pride remains. I let him settle himself, and I wait for him to remember the seatbelt. I wonder that he still thinks he’s climbing onto a tractor seat, and beginning a day.
We could not be more different, he and me. I mean I. I revere the power of words, whether written, spoken, or sung. Words have momentousness, convey feelings and enrich our lives. Mike learned to read when he was 42.
I met him when we were in the 4th grade. I didn’t really start talking to him till our freshman year in high school. I don’t know if it was because we had classes together, but something about him always stuck with me, like a familiar landmark.
His dogged persistence made me fall in love with him. I think he fell in love with me that same year when we started talking and getting to know each other better, but sometimes he makes on that he had decided somewhere between 5th and 6th grades. He always brags, elongates, and stretches the truth of romance. I love that about him.
We even joined Young Life together before he had to quit. I remember my mother’s reaction when he quit. Oh, was she on her high horse. She’d taken every opportunity to put Mike down, and now she had her justification that he was a loser, a dead-ender, a lifelong bumpkin.
The seatbelt warning brings me back. I shoo away my thoughts of the past, of the history.
Mike clicks in, satisfied. He smiles, somewhat taken aback that I’m looking him right in the eye. I smile and put us in reverse.
I had been afraid of the things I’d come upon in life. Then the future came, and he was by my side.