Fifteen years ago, I graduated from high school in the mountains of Virginia. Looking forward to a new life "out--and outside of the valley," I headed to North Carolina. Recently, news of the inevitable reunion was sprung on me by my cousin Whitney, two weeks before it was scheduled.
First, they held a "family" picnic. I enlisted the help of my closest straight girlfriend, Marilyn, to help deal with the bubbas. We were only asked three times, "When did y'all get married?" I took little pride in a comment about how I was the nicest boy in school, and what a catch I was. I whispered to Marilyn that my last boyfriend probably does not think that.
I went to the reunion with the hope that no one would recognize me. There was no competition for "Most Changed," "Moved the Farthest" or "Cured Cancer," but I knew I was not the leader of the art-class geeks, as I was back in school. My hopes for an unspoken crown crumbled when Ronnie arrived. That "fat trumpet player" had grown into a handsome man, and he had a beautiful wife. Then came Mike, the former cross-country runner--now a stand-in for Mr. Clean. I was still the leader of the geeks--and none of them showed. But there was one more chance: the evening dance at the golf club.
Table No. 1 was the "A" crowd--the ones whose fathers were upper-management at the local factory. The "B" table was made up of those whose parents cleaned offices. Fifteen years had not taught anyone a damn thing. I was disgusted by the sight, when I suddenly realized that I was as guilty as they. I was not out there walking up to members of either group, shaking hands, asking where they lived, what they did. Instead, I was using Marilyn as a shield, hiding in internalized homophobia.
So when another classmate, Tim, came over to speak to me, I knew it was time to act. I can't recall exactly why "I'm queer" came out of my mouth.
That was not the reply I was expecting. Of course, the one person I came out to was the one who had a serious car accident in Germany and had amnesia for three months. Maybe Waynesboro High School's graduating class of 1985, including myself, should all try a good knock upside the head from life.