Long Time No See
By Jeff Baker
I looked around the decorated gym; streamers and banners proclaiming “Welcome Class of 84!” And “Thirty Years Since College.” Dancing couples, loud music from a band and three girls I didn’t recognize sitting on a table probably not sipping punch. I sighed and looked around for the snack table. It felt like a hundred years since I’d been in this gym. And in my case, it was at least close to that!
“Hey! Andrew! Dude!” This was from a big guy with glasses and thinning blonde hair who I barely recognized. Dewayne Somebody-Or-Other. “You haven’t changed a bit!”
“Yes, I have,” I said smiling to myself. Thanks to some spaceships, some decelerated aging and a little time-travel. Dewayne Ross, that was the guy’s name (funky memory), had put on maybe thirty pounds, one for every year since college.
“What have you been doing with yourself?” Dewayne asked.
“Um, various jobs.” I said. “Worked out of a warehouse for a while. Drove a delivery van.” Got picked by some alien overlords for a few galaxy and time-spanning missions; spent some time in the 1800s, lived through Reconstruction twice, that was no fun I thought.
“Hey! Andy! Andy Dominski!” The kid dressed in a t-shirt decorated with the logo of some band I couldn’t remember skidded up to us.
“Andrew,” I said.
“Yeah! We got a survey question, this’ll be fun,” the kid said. He pulled out a clipboard. “What class from Millington College have you used most since graduation?”
“History,” I said. “Got to do some in-depth research a while back. A long while back.” I recognized the kid; he was probably fiftyish but skinny and wore his hair long with dark glasses. He wasn’t any of the guys I’d come close to hitting on. I took advantage of his question to lose Dewayne and wander over to the table with drinks and chips. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.
I sniffed the punch, couldn’t tell if it was spiked or not. I grabbed a can of soda instead and put some chips and a little sandwich with a toothpick in it on a paper plate. The band kicked into high gear and I could barely hear anything. That meant I didn’t have to pretend to know anybody I couldn’t remember. I glanced up at the ceiling. Lights played on it, making me think of a disco. I’d been in a disco one time. I was a lousy dancer. I grinned. There was something so wonderfully normal about all this. After zipping around like I was Dr. Who for a century, I really appreciated normal.
I sat down on a chair near the wall with the plate on my lap and slurped the can of soda. It was just like College or High School for that matter; going to the dance and just sitting around with my friends instead of dancing. Well, 1975 through 1984 I couldn’t have gone dancing with a guy even if I’d been out or had the nerve to ask anybody. I surveyed the dance floor; couples dancing, some I recognized. The captain of the basketball team had apparently gotten together with the head cheerleader. I smiled again and munched on the chips. I hadn’t expected to have a good time but I was!
“Hey, Andrew! Is that you?”
I looked up. Took me a second but I recognized Kenny. I’d kind of crushed on him when I was about 20.
“Yeah, it’s me,” I said, shaking his hand. “How you been?”
“Okay,” he said. “Went to Grad School. Got married. How about you?”
Married. Of course, I thought.
“Oh, I started working, did a lot of traveling.” I said, faking a smile.
“You look good,” Kenny said.
Oh, God you look good I thought.
“You too,” I said. “Married, huh? It suits you.”
“Hey, Ken,” came a voice behind us. “If the punch is spiked it’s watered down.”
This was from a tall, balding guy sipping a cup he’d just filled from the punchbowl.
“Oh, Andrew Dominski, this is Marc Garretson, my husband.”
The tall husband guy smiled and extended his hand. I shook it and said hi, all the while thinking It would have been nice to find out that Ken was playing on my team about, oh nineteen-eighty-two or something.
And I said it. I grinned at Kenny and said, half-jokingly, “I wish I’d known back in school!”
“Same here,” Kenny said. “But I wouldn’t have met Marc.” The two of them looked at each other the way my Mom and Dad did.
“Hey,” I said. “Would you two mind, I mean, would it be okay if Kenny, Ken and I, well, did the next dance?”
Marc laughed. “Sure, if it won’t freak everybody out! I mean, if it’s okay with Ken.”
Kenny nodded and we made our way onto the dance floor as the band slowed the music down. We held each other and danced and I don’t think anybody noticed.
“You doing okay?” Kenny asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I am.” The dance was worth waiting a hundred years for.
After a few blissful minutes, I waved Marc over and he took my place with Kenny. One of the other dancers stared but I didn’t care and I was sure Marc and Kenny didn’t.
I snagged another canned soda and stepped out of the gym, flashing back for an instant to all the times I’d gone through that door. I sipped my soda and stared up at the night sky, noting a couple of stars that really weren’t there anymore, just Earth was still getting their light.
“Hey, you got a cigarette?” This was somebody who’d just stepped out of the gym that I didn’t recognize.
“Nope,” I said. “I don’t smoke. It helps keep me young.”
That was fun and funny! Totally unexpected. I really enjoyed this one, Jeff. 🙂