The Reunion

The Reunion

A Story by B.G. Clark
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A story of a man who has spent much of his adult life thinking about a woman he has loved since high school.

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        I still remember the first time I saw Gillian.  In that ribbed pale green turtleneck.  It was soft to the eye and it was hard for me to look away.  She was surrounded by the school in-crowd.  They too were mesmerized by her presence.  Her way of being was something to be marveled.  She wore her hair a little longer than shoulder length.  Thick and dark mahogany brown with hues of red sent my eyes searching over her face for something just as beautiful as her hair and then I stopped rather suddenly at her eyes.  They entrapped me.  No, they snared me into two sinuous pools of opaqueness.  I have been in those pools ever since, trying but never able to leave.  I know now, remembering, as I sat near her and how I held her hand as she rested in that heated hospital bed, that her eyes will always be seared into my consciousness.    

        Her first day of school was an induction ceremony of sorts.  They wanted her in with them and even I, an outsider who thought the daily concerns of such trivial people were absurd and laughable, found myself wanting to be more outward and socially acceptable, just to have been with her on that first day.  Looking back on it now, it seems so ridiculous.  How I wish I would’ve just walked up to her and been myself, been genuine.  But that would’ve been ridiculous.  Mature acts at that age and in that world are the essence of ridiculousness.  To cut through all of the gossipy talk, the whisperings at open lockers, the preoccupation with who made out with who, who drank the most at one of the house parties over the weekend, and so on and so on, would’ve been seeing high school life for what it really was, a genuine person’s nightmare. 

        But now wait; I’m getting lost in the distant past.  Let me start from where I am now.  For the past fifteen years I’ve been working on my craft, shaping it, molding it, perfecting it.  I’m a writer, or so I think.  For some being a writer is something they fall into, but not me.  I’ve known.  I’d known even before I knew.  It has always plagued me, that knowledge.  Most of the time, I had wished I had just given up and been a lawyer or something.  I had wanted to have something real, something that wouldn’t have driven me so far away from every caring person in my life.  Yeah, my mom and dad thought pursuing a writing career was and still is a grave mistake.  I can still hear my dad barking.  He said, “You’ll end up depressed, penniless, and unstable” and my mom in the foreground reinforcing the rhetoric, “Yes, yes, now, you want to end up like that? Well, do you?”

        It was good for me in a way, never having support.  Complete discouragement is what I had needed.  Before Gillian there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I would’ve given up the whole sham.  Writing was sure to be just a phase, just a way to release hidden feelings.  But when she came to school that fall, it was the beginning of the end of my discouragement.  Much to my parents’ dismay, she had entangled me in a hope filled world.  She spoon fed me support and encouragement and like a new born sucking on the teat of its mother, I grew.  Nourished and resilient, I was ready to persist as a writer and for that I am forever grateful.

        Living in San Antonio for the last two years has given me a chance to be reborn.  The history, the multiculturalism, the hospitality, the openness, and beauty of this southwestern town has enlivened me in such a way that now, when I walk down the street I take notice of my surroundings.  The way I notice the wind blowing through a pretty girl’s hair, the smell of fresh tamales, the feeling of anxiousness as I sit in an ultra chic martini bar on Commerce street downtown, are all evidence of my heightened sense of being.  Before San Antonio I spent my time working odd jobs, bouncing around, empty, and wholly alone.  I often had empty thoughts.  Those were the worst.  It was almost like imagining a white sheet of paper with a mundane to-do list printed meticulously and then erased rather suddenly.  This was my vapid phase, or as dad would say, I was “as worthless as tits on a boar hog.”  

        It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure, but as time passed it seemed as though, like a dream, I woke one morning to feel life, in all its complicated completeness.  It had nothing to do with my current success as a writer.  It was simply the aftermath of an unexpected letter.  Over a year ago on a day in April, I ventured out of my unremarkable two story apartment building to check the mail, which usually consisted of credit card offers and grocery store fliers.  But on that day I was surprised to see a letter from my old high school.  Wondering how in the hell the alumni committee got a hold of my address, I opened the envelope which still carried the school emblem, a green and yellow hornet raging angrily with its stinger out, tempered only by the fact that it sported the school jacket, which made it look slightly effeminate.  Inside was a one page invitation to my fifteen year reunion.  I laughed a little to myself, sardonically, as I thought about my high school days.  I thought about how most people would be blasted back into the past with nostalgic fondness, thinking about all the good times with friends, at the parties, the home games, and trying to climb the popularity pole.  But I wasn’t ever one of those people.  I just thought of her. 

        Later, after some time, about five months or so, I was sitting at my desk staring at a blank paged computer screen with caffeine streaming through me.  I thought at that moment the screen would be the ruin of me, when suddenly I got a phone call.  It startled me out of my vacuous caffeinated stare.  I was both aggravated and relieved at once.  With only a handful of people who knew my number, I couldn’t imagine any one of them calling me that early in the morning, or at any time for that matter.  I answered with an incredulous “hello,” but there wasn’t a reply right away, and then after a prolonged pause she said my name or rather questioned my name in that inimitable voice of hers.

 

“Dominic?  Is that you?”

 

        I tried to coolly reply as though I didn’t have the slightest inkling of who it was on the other end.  But I knew.  I knew because images fluttered through my head during the longest pause imaginable:  Sitting in the park together, sharing our worst fears and deepest desires, our first kiss and the first time we sweated out our longing for each other on that cold day in February in my basement room, where the dank musty smell didn’t deter us.  I thought of her sitting next to me in that rental car.  They were all recollections that waited for a release.  The release was triggered by voice activation.  I remember I began to sweat.  First my brow then my back followed by my palms; I was clammy and strung-out in a matter of seconds. 

 

“Yeah, this is Dominic.  Who’s this?”

“Dominic, it’s Gillian.”

 

        I paused again, trying to formulate the right tone to deliver the reply and whether or not I should question the name Gillian, as if I didn’t remember the only woman I ever loved.  I waited and then spoke. 

 

“Gillian.  Gillian Thomas?”

“Yeah, that’s right. Well actually I was married in July.”

“Wow, really you’re married?  Congratulations!”

 

        I had wanted to crawl under my bed and hideaway indefinitely.  After fifteen years I was reduced to being that disingenuous pathetic high-schooler again, forcing falsities out through my lips, intending to sound unaffected and wholly congratulatory.  At that moment I had thought, in a way we never graduate.  We’re doomed to walk those school halls, ceaselessly masked and crying out for something real to hold on to.  Appeasing blandishments and canned polite acknowledgements were, as a revelation, my biggest detestation.   

 

            “It’s been a while.”

            “I know.  How have you been?  And how did you get a hold of my number?”

            “I talked to Ron Stinson a few weeks ago and he was the only one who knew your number.”

            “Yeah, Ron and I haven’t talked in a while, but every now and then we touch base.” 

            “Well, it’s good you and he still talk.”

 

            I couldn’t think of what else I could or should say.  The image of Gillian in my head had remained untouched.  It was as if I was speaking to an imposter.  It was a shell that covered the real Gillian’s mind and soul.  It had created a new existence for itself.  I had known of her marriage back in July because Ron had told me, but I had never let it dilute the idea of reuniting with her inside our once love filled cocoon.  It was unfathomable, but slowly the actualization of her being taken by another man weakened my calcified dream.   I remember I felt like vomiting to purge myself of her expired image which had just liquefied in my core.   

 

            “Are you still writing?”

           

            I was still sweating and by then my ears had begun to chime.  It took a few moments for the question to resonate and register.

 

            “Yeah, I haven’t stopped really.”

            “That’s really great.  Have you had anything published recently?”

            “Not recently, but I’m working on a novel now.  My agent seems hopeful about it, but I’m not so sure.”

            “Well I’m sure it’s a masterpiece.  You were always so good with words.”

            “I don’t know about that, but thanks.”

 

            I couldn’t force myself to ask why she had called.  It was mostly from fear.  I was afraid she’d end the conversation prematurely.  By then I was sitting in my padded desk chair, gripping the phone indelibly, waiting for her to tell me that she’d made a mistake.  My feet were bouncing in concert with the whole networking of my nerves.  I wanted her to tell me that she needed me back in her life.  I waited with the smallest traces of hope streaking faintly through my mind. 

 

            “Dominic, I have to tell you something important.”

            “Okay,” I said.

           

            I noticed her breathing had become heavier as it followed a distressed sigh.  Then I heard the sound of muffled crying.  It was soft and intertwined with her heavy breaths.  It was the kind of crying that happened when her eyes, like a dam, leaked thoughts that were too damaging to hold back.  My feet had stopped twitching.  My heart seemed to stop abruptly and then gallop full speed in the opposite direction.

 

            “I’m pregnant.”

            “I don’t understand.  Why are you telling me this?”

            “Because the baby’s yours.”

 

        When she had told me that I was going to be a father I could think of only one thing: The reunion.  I had tried to tell myself it would be a good opportunity to reconnect with old familiar faces that seemed to dart in and out of my mind unexpectedly over the years.  But that had been an excuse.  My intentions were clear, but they were buried in a chest of delusional optimism deep inside me. To see her and only her was my motive.  I had fully convinced myself otherwise, and my body drifted to the airport on that warm early morning in June, almost magnetically.  When I had fully realized why I was going to this gathering at a small campground surrounded by evergreens, I was already in route to Vermont.  The chest of delusional optimism had sprung open somewhere over Lake Champlain and thoughts of Gillian and I spread through my mind like the grand finale of an expensive firework show.

        By the time I had landed I had a head full of doubt and teenage anticipation.  I took my one carry-on bag to the nearest car rental service and decided on a metallic silver Subaru Legacy to get me to the inescapable reunion.  No longer was I intending to shake hands with long forgotten acquaintances or to listen to the dug up and recreated juvenile stories from a former life.  I would simply see her there and wait for that serendipitous moment to congeal our lives once more.  Driving north on interstate 89 assuaged my apprehension.  The sun speckled pavement and warm breeze had calmed my chaotic single-mindedness and I began to develop a plan.   First I thought I would get a nice place to stay, close, but far enough away from the reunion, so it wouldn’t seem as though I was trying too hard.   Then I would buy some nice clothes, but they would be casual and fitting to my personality.  I didn’t want to appear ostentatious and look like someone I wasn’t.  I had thought I would be myself fifteen years ago, but I’d be an upgraded version, still sensitive yet confident and collected.  I had checked my hair in the rearview mirror and was pleased with what I saw.  Forming the plan had made my stomach and head disarranged.  I felt like a stranger to myself.  It had made me sick, but I didn’t abate and the closer I got to the reunion the more powerless I felt.  I was a capitulatory shadow in the face of my fantasy.

        After driving for close to an hour I found a nice quaint bed and breakfast inn nestled off from the interstate, about a twenty minute drive from the campground.  I checked in discreetly.  The place was small and cozy, exuding the romanticism one finds in fairy tale endings where the prince and princess live happily ever after.  It was night and the reunion was the next day.  Exhausted from the trip, I bought a sandwich from an outside corner deli, adjacent to the inn, ate it ravenously and tried to get some sleep. Straggled out on a lumpy bed with a heavy quilt covering me, I couldn’t get to sleep.  My thoughts wouldn’t be quiet.  They seemed to scream and whisper at the same time.  Where was my writing taking me?  Should I visit my parents while I’m home?  Will I feel the same way tomorrow?  What does she look like now?  Will she be there?  What if she doesn’t come?  What if it works out the way I imagined?  How will I feel if it happens?  After it happens?  Why am I here?

        When I awoke early in the morning from what seemed to be a brief shuttering of my eyes, my mouth was dry.  My head felt cloudy and when I turned to look at the clock I had forgotten where I was.  Remembering, I drifted drowsily out of bed and made my way to the bathroom.  Old wood door casings smelled of polish.  It made me sneeze.  After straightening up my room I reverted back to my plan.  Today I would buy some nice clothes and arrive at the reunion looking confident and mindfully sensitive.  I wanted to lure her away and return to this castle in the sky without it looking intentional.  It would be a natural progression, revisiting the past and running through an emotional minefield, with compunction being the spur that drives us on.  It was true, I did regret losing her.  But did she harbor the same regret?  I had been nervously curious to find out. 

        I never liked the idea of buying clothes for myself.  When I went into a string of men’s stores in town I became another person.  I was methodical in choosing the right outfit.  It had to be color coordinated but not overdone.  I settled on a nice burgundy polo shirt with matching khakis.  I also bought a new pair of chestnut colored shoes and a light jacket.  The clerk told me that the color scheme went well with my hair and complexion, but I remember when I paid for everything at the cashier counter, my hands had been so jittery that I dropped my change.  I had thought I must be on the road to becoming a whimsical cardboard cutout of my former self.  The reunion would be the dead-end on that road.

        As time slipped by and as though I was entering the first stages of a dream, I realized that I was driving down a narrow dirt road to the campground where the reunion had been going on for over two hours already.  To my right I could see an old wooden sign with balloons sagging off of it.  The sign read ‘Blackwood Union Class of 1990 Reunion’ with a crude arrow pointing to the left.  I drove slowly over the pot-holed road which looked more like a path through a forest.  Then I saw the campground.  It was such a nice evening and as the sun was descending, shadows from the surrounding trees grew fainter and smaller.  The grounds were clean and landscaped.  Campers were parked sporadically throughout the clearing.  I parked the car in an above circular parking area off to the side.  Below I could see the reunion taking place in the middle of the campground under a large gazebo.   

        Sitting for a moment in the car, I felt the immediate weight of my intentions.  My heart began to beat as though it had never beaten before.  I felt like driving back to the inn and hiding in my room for the next two days.  I looked at myself in the rearview mirror for the hundredth time and stared at myself, trying to work up the courage to get out of the car.  I rolled down the window and decided to have a cigarette.  I leaned back in my seat and tried to get comfortable to calm my nerves.  My hands were still jittery.  I realized that this was probably one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had.  Motionless and sedentary, I knew I didn’t have the balls to follow through with my plan.  I became aggravated with myself.  I felt like punching myself in the face really hard.  I wanted some kind of punishment because I was guilty of being consumed by this absurdity. 

        I finished the cigarette and closed my eyes, wanting desperately to be back in San Antonio at my desk working on my novel and wishing I could erase this whole thing.  Then, suddenly without warning she appeared.  She tapped three times on the passenger side window.  All I could do was stare.  She hadn’t changed.  She smiled and motioned for me to roll down the window.  I did hypnotically.  Still smiling she unlocked the door, opened it and sat down beside me casually without a word.  I must have looked like a scared little boy. 

 

          “I’ve been hoping that I’d see you here,” she said.

 

        I could tell that she had been drinking.  Her breath smelled of Kaluha and milk.  She had her long hair tied back.  Her neckline, completely visible, soft, and delicate shouted at me.  I wanted to be the guy from my plan, but I couldn’t.  I wasn’t going to be someone else.  I wasn’t going to play it cool.  I wasn’t going to be collected.  I was going to be genuine, honest with her and myself. 

 

          “I was going to leave just now,” I said. 

          “Really?  Why?  You just got here.”

          “I feel really foolish for coming.”

          “Foolish, why would you feel foolish?”

          “Because I came here for you.” 

 

        It was atypical.  After all that time there weren’t any “Hellos,”  “Wow you look greats,” or “It’s been so longs.”  She sat for a few moments without saying anything, staring out at the reunion down below.  She was beautiful and I, with my contrived look, was shamefully disappearing.  For fear of adding to my fabrication I didn’t say anything. 

 

          “Let’s get out of here,” she said abruptly.

          “What?  Are you sure?”

          “Yeah, we were all just getting drunk anyway.”

          “Sounds great.”

          “No, not so much.  So, are we gonna go or what?”  She was impatient, like she didn’t want to have any time to change her mind.

          “Alright, where to?”

          “Doesn’t matter.  Let’s just take a drive.”

 

        I started the car and turned around to go back in the direction I came.  I could feel her eyes on me.  My heart, sunken momentarily before, had now risen back to life in a desperate rhythm.  These hands of mine couldn’t rest.  The right moved back and forth from the gear shift to the steering wheel inconstantly.  The other squeezed the padding of the wheel in different places, first softly and then without reason, intensely.  I waited for her to say something.  I hated the silence.  But I was worried of ruining it.  She just sat there nibbling on her fingertips with her face averted, looking out as we passed fields of grass.  My head screamed at me: Say something!  Anything! 

 

          “I see you’re still biting your nails.”

          “Yeah, and you still can’t handle silence,” she said with a teasing smile.

          “I haven’t changed really, still the same guy.”

          “I have.”

          “Oh yeah, how?”

          “Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past and the future.  It’s something I never used to do very much.”

          “Yeah,” I said softly.

          “Dominic, I never wanted to hurt you the way that I did.  We were so young.  I was so young and you were so idealistic.  I guess I wanted to prove that life isn’t some fairytale.  It was too easy for me, for us.  I needed complication and complexity.  You just knew, and me, I didn’t want to know.”

 

        Instinct told me to react.  I felt like jumping into this deep pool of old feelings and I could feel old unhealed wounds begin to seep, but I didn’t respond right away.  I thought as I looked off to the side at cornfields and fainted red dairy barns.  The two lane road twisted and turned over minor hills, amidst beautiful rustic scenery.  I had forgotten how uplifting it felt to be home in the summer.

 

         “Why don’t we talk about it over dinner?”

         “You don’t want to go to the reunion at all?”

         “Nah, I told you I came here to see you.” 

 

        She sat quietly, reflecting.  The corners of her mouth tightened into a semi-smile.  We made eye-contact for a moment.  Her eyes, a soft deep brown, were shadowy yet so inviting.  I couldn’t tell what she was thinking.  I had a feeling she wanted to see where this would take us.  My mind threw me back into the past with flashbacks of us walking hand in hand along a lonely road after her car broke down late at night and then it shot me into the future.  I pictured us cooking breakfast together in my San Antonio kitchen.  She would be wearing one of those country aprons with cross-stitching.  And I, not being able to control myself, would begin to warm her up with kisses to the bottom of her neck.  She was right.  I was idealistic, downright fantastical.  

 

         “I’m with someone,” she said.

         “I know.  Me.  Now.”

         “Dominic, I’m serious.”

         “Okay, well let’s catch up on everything.  We owe it to ourselves to have some kind of closure.  Don’t you think?”

         “Alright.”

         "Hey, do you remember the restaurant we used to go to all the time, the sushi place, what was the name?”

        “Sushi Harbor?”

        “Yeah, that’s right.  How’s that sound?”

        “You want to take a trip down memory lane don’t you?”

        “No.  I just want a chance to talk and be with you tonight.”

 

         She grew quiet again.  This time she had a sullen expression.  I didn’t want to coerce her into being with me, but I was afraid of being dropped again.  There was something bothering her.  I could see the way she tried to avoid looking at me and I heard the tenuousness and vulnerability in her voice, like I was pulling down the shield she had been holding upright for so long.  She was exposed, uncomfortably comfortable. 

 

          “Let’s just go to your place.  I don’t want to run into anyone I know.  Where are you staying?” 

          “This little bed and breakfast inn close to eighty-nine.  Are you sure, what about dinner?”

         “I had some food at the reunion, so I’m fine now.  You can order something if you want.”

        “I’ll be okay for a while.”  

 

        We drove the rest of the way without saying much.  I had turned on the radio and we listened to some Springsteen songs.  As “Secret Garden” was playing I couldn’t help but think of how she was always so far away from me, especially then, as she sat next to me.  We pulled into the small peastoned driveway of the inn and it was already six-thirty.  By then my nerves had calmed down, but I was feeling the anxiousness one feels when one is in control.  I was the master of my feelings, an unclouded and unadulterated desire to make her love me as much as I loved her.  The question was how do I channel my desire in such a way as to make her requite it?  I knew I would have to slip through the cracks of the wall she had been building up since we parted years ago.   When she smiled as I opened and held the door for her, I knew I had a chance.

        We walked up the narrow wooden staircase to my room on the second floor.  Demurely, she sat in the desk chair.  In the dimness of the lighting she looked statuesque as though she had melded into the chair.  I took my jacket off, hung it up in the closet and sat on the corner of the bed facing her.  I looked into her eyes and she averted slowly and coyly.

 

          “This probably wasn’t a good idea,” she said.

          “Why not?”

          “Because there’s too much going on in my head.”

          “Like what?”

          “Like what if I made a mistake.”

          “Oh.”

          “I mean years ago, when I told you not to follow me.  Remember when I said I needed complication and complexity?  Well I got just the opposite without you.  My life turned out to be really typical and I used to wish that I could go back to that day before I left and tell you not to listen to me, because I was being a scared girl afraid of knowing love.”

          “What about now, are you afraid?”

       

        She didn’t say anything, but she looked at me like she was looking through a prison cell.  Her eyes told me “no.”  We both stood slowly and fell into each other.  With so much longing and so many regrets hidden below the surface of our skin, we boiled over into the night, rectifying ourselves with every sensation of what was and what could be again. 

        When I woke in the morning she was gone.  I found a note that simply said: I’m sorry, but don’t try to find me.  My flight back to San Antonio was later that evening and I felt sick and empty.  I remember my way back, staring vacuously out the window, wondering if I would ever feel alive again.  I had spent the months before she called trying my best to forget her and the whole thing.  Weeks would go by and I wouldn’t think of her at all, but then out of nowhere, something or someone would bring me back to her.

 

          “I’m sorry Dominic, really I am.”

          “Yeah, I got your note when I woke up months ago, thanks.”

          “Dominic, don’t be like that.  I was getting married.  What was I supposed to do?”

          “Um gee, I don’t know, maybe take responsibility for your feelings for once in your life.”

          “I’m getting it annulled.  Did you hear me?  I said I’m getting it annulled.  He knows everything and I’ve chosen to keep the baby.  I’m staying at my mother’s.  Dominic, I want you to know because the baby will need a father.  I want you to know that I’m not afraid anymore.” 

          “This is too much for me to take in right now.  You can’t tell me this after five months of nothing and just expect me to know what to say.  You just can’t.”

          “Okay, I understand you’re upset.”

          “I’m not only upset.  I’m confused.”

          “Okay, take some time and think.  Call me when you’re ready to talk.”

 

         Two weeks went by after our phone conversation.  I should have felt some kind of warmth and satisfaction that comes to a man when he finally gets what he has wanted for so long, but I didn’t.   When I finally decided to call her, I had only one question to ask.  What would she have done if she hadn’t become pregnant?  I wanted to believe that she would have listened to her feelings and broke off her marriage.  But I knew that it was my idealism talking again.  She told me that she didn’t know, but that she has always loved me.  I wanted to put the situation in perspective and I found that regardless of my doubts and worries, I was going to be a father.  I wanted to be a good father.

I convinced her to move to San Antonio before the year ended.  She did.  When the baby (a girl we decided to name Marie) was born a few months ago I was nervous.  I could only remember one thing clearly that day in the hospital:  Marie’s eyes were just like her mother’s.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

         

 

 

           

           

 

 

             

 

         

© 2010 B.G. Clark


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you do have a way with words, and Gillian with her brown hair and dark eyes,you did made her impossible to forget,,,how,,,beautifully you narrate her radiance,,,yet i have a suggestion,,what if you go through it and shorten it a bit,,,i was touched,,,a beautiful write,,,,

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

you do have a way with words, and Gillian with her brown hair and dark eyes,you did made her impossible to forget,,,how,,,beautifully you narrate her radiance,,,yet i have a suggestion,,what if you go through it and shorten it a bit,,,i was touched,,,a beautiful write,,,,

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on January 14, 2010
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Author

B.G. Clark
B.G. Clark

Busan, South Korea



About
For now I'm just writing for myself. I like to write stories that reveal, even if it's just a glimmer, the heaviness of human existence, however tragic and/or uplifting. Remembering that it's all mo.. more..

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