Have you ever experienced pain? I’m not talking about a tiny heartache or a scrape, but real pain, excrutiating pain. The pain you feel when getting bonked on the noggin’ (really hard) or when you lose a leg after galloping over a landmine. Well, have you? Yeah, me neither. But I thought I’d ask anyway. It might not have been excrutiating, but I did recently receive a letter that would prove to be a pain in the ass all the same. Pull open a bag of potatoe chips, grab a beer, sit down and read.
Friday two weeks ago, traffic on my way home went smooth. Too smooth. No accidents, almost no red lights and a cab driver that wasn’t yelling at old ladies crossing the street. When that same cab driver doesn’t complain about his tip at the end of the ride, you just know that hell awaits as soon as you open the front door of your home. Considering what was awaiting me, I wasn’t too far off, either.
The first thing I noticed when I entered the house, was a lemonlike freshness in the hallway. The floors had been mopped, there was no dust on the vases and I didn’t see any toys lying around. Carefully, I put some weight on the doormat with my right foot. No, Nadia hadn’t removed the cover to the crawling space. This could only mean one thing: she was happy about something. And that was usually a bad omen. I could only hope that her mother wasn’t staying for a month like last time. Then again…
It turned out to be much worse. We had received a letter from my old highschool. Can you guess what it was about? Of course, one of these dreadful reunions. For crying out loud, I can’t actually believe that there are people who like to organize these things. You go there, find out that the ugliest broad in school has become that princess you always wanted to marry, that the nastiest teacher in school still remembers your name and that everybody has got a bigger car than you. I can’t help but think the worst of these kind of events. But Nadia likes them. Did I say ‘like’? She’s thrilled about these things. It’s a happening for her. She picks out her best dress, goes to the beauty parlor, buys new shoes and goes to the hairdresser. Before I even knew it, a shitload of money had disappeared from my wallet. The worst thing was that I knew beforehand I’d already lost against that asshole who married the ugliest, now prettiest girl in school. Go figure.
Yesterday, at the reunion, things turned out pretty much as I’d expected. Nadia gleefully mingled with the groups of people and acted like I wasn’t even there. Whatever. It’s not like I had anything in common with these stuck-up snobs, anyway. I walked over to the punch bar and poured myself a glass. After a quick call to the babysitter to see if everything was all right, I put one hand in my pocket and took a sip of my punch. It was certainly no scotch, but it was alcohol all the same. From the corner of my right eye, I could see a tall, slender man leaning against the wall. He was also drinking some punch and from the distasteful looks on his face, I could see he was grading women. I took another sip from my punch and let it go around in my mouth before I swallowed. Yes, he was definitely grading women, because the punch tasted good.
The man seemed vaguely familiair, although I couldn’t pin a name on him. One look around the ballroom instantly brought me back to my schooldays. They were here. All of them. All the assholes and idiots. There was Jake Hammond, still as fat as a pig and now CEO of a big techical engineering company. In the corner stood Richie Jenkins, the ‘cool’ kid, and now a fireman. I also saw a lot of the (apparently single) women from my old grade surrounding Jenkins, who was probably swooning them with his heroic stories. A couple of other names popped some memories, but none of them were related to the tall man leaning against the wall. (To be continued…)