It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE REUNION.
1. After all of the stress, after all of the tension, after all of the dread, it finally happened last night. In the beer splattered bowels of Boston’s financial district, Jose Melendez’s tenth high school reunion transformed from distant anxiety to current ennui. To be honest, Jose had been worrying about the reunion since the warm Spring day when he graduated from high school in 1994.
People worry about reunions for lots of reasons. Some people want to show their old classmates that they’ve done well in life, married a beautiful woman, lost weight or simply transcended the pimple faced geekdom that defined them in them in their youth. Perhaps others want to show people that they are no longer bullies (Note: Or perhaps that they still are bullies.) But none of these "traditional" anxieties troubled Jose. Jose is basically happy with who he is now and was basically happy with who he was in high school, he’s got nothing to prove. (Note: Though Jose will confess, he was a little disappointed that no one said "You’re Jose Melendez? The Jose Melendez? Wow. I read you like twice a month. You suck. You just f*cking suck, I can’t believe you were such a d*ck to Little Cesar Crespo.") No, what troubled Jose was the nagging fear that he might be asked to help with reunion planning.
You see, Jose was Class Secretary his senior year of high school, a position that turns out to be a lifetime office, and as a class officer he could conceivably bare some nominal responsibility for the reunion. Jose didn’t really think about that when he ran for the job, though he supposes he should have known. Jose assumed that, as in most nominal democracies, elected positions are subject to, well, elections. Typically, one does not become President for Life or Secretary for Life or whatever without some sort of military or security action and frankly the BHS Class of ’94 state security apparatus did not seem up to the task. Nevertheless Jose is Secretary for Life, joining Kim Jong Il, Bashir al-Assad and Ayatollah Ali Khameni in the club of leaders with lifetime tenures. Yes, Jose is in a club with some disturbing characters. (Note: Though Jose bets Kim and Assad don’t have to plan their class reunions. Khameni might though, Jose isn’t sure what goes into the job of being Supreme Leased of a country.)
Jose’s hope had always been that he would never get the call. Jose liked the Class President for Life and other officers fine, but they were not folks he hung out with in high school, much less now, so he figured the risk was minimal. Moreover, Jose’s poor effort in setting up the Spirit Week Semi-Formal Dance his senior year had established him as a poor team player and general malcontent. These factors gave Jose some room to relax, and yet the worry persisted.
When the five year reunion came and went in 1999 without Jose receiving anything more than an invitation, the worry dissipated. The Class President for Life and his friends were clearly going to organize these reunions ad infintium, and Jose was perfectly happy to let them. So Jose relaxed into his life, the black cloud of fear lifted from above him. He got comfortable. He let his guard down. He got caught.
Three months ago, Jose was walking the streets of his neighborhood in Boston’s historic North End, and he ran into the Class President for Life. There were a million things Jose could have done; he did none of them. He could have screamed and ran away. He didn’t. He could have pretended he was someone else. He didn’t. He could have simply collapsed to the ground and then been carted off to safety in an ambulance. He didn’t. Instead, he had a conversation. He choked. Jose talked with the Class President for Life, who it turns out lives two blocks from Jose, about work and the neighborhood, and yes, the reunion.
It was then that the crushing burden fell on Jose’s broad shoulders. The Class President for Life asked him to help…he asked Jose to let his friends know the time, date and location. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!! THE HORROR!!! THE HORROR!!!
Jose was sucked in and escape was impossible, resistance futile. Jose was forced by circumstance, forced by history, forced by the duties, obligations and responsibilities of his high office to spend one, perhaps two minutes sending emails about the reunion to his friends, none of whom came anyway. And those minutes? Those minutes are gone forever, evaporated into the ether. Could Jose have cured cancer in those minutes? Flown to Mars? Scaled Everest? Eaten lunch? Who knows? That brief shining moment and all of its potential, all of its possibility is gone to the ages, just another victim of the high school reunion.
2. At the reunion Jose was able to accomplish something momentous, however. By virtue of being among the last handful of people still drinking when the bars shut their doors, Jose is prepared to declare himself one of the coolest, if not the coolest kid in high school. It may have taken him until the age of 28, but Jose finally did it!!! Also, Jose suggested starting a fight with the Lexington High School and Wayland High School reunions that were happening right up the street. That’s got to count for something.
3. Jose actually needs to be serious for a moment, and break character.
A few years ago, I learned that one of my classmates, a girl named Elizabeth Porreca had died. I saw the obituary in the Boston Globe. Last night, I learned that she died it a car accident. I didn’t know this girl beyond her name, and to be honest, I'm not even sure I’m spelling in correctly. In a class of 182 people, she was one of the people I knew the least, but it still broke my heart to hear that she was dead. The only thing I remember about her was that at the Halloween dance my senior year, she won the best costume contest by dressing as the Pillsbury Doughboy. It was a really great costume. I don’t know if more than a few of my classmates will ever read this, but I think it’s important that we remember her.
I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE REUNION.