“So did you buy your tickets?” That’s how the email started out one summer afternoon. It was a friend from high school contacting me. You know, one of those friends that you just pick up where you last left off. We go months without talking. And then we resume our conversation as if a day hasn’t even passed. I love her for that.
After mulling it over, I finally replied, “I’m not going.” I had no desire to see anyone from high school. Still nursing Zane and carrying an extra fifteen pounds of baby weight, I didn’t exactly look my best yet. “Oh please come”, Kara said. “Everyone is talking on Facebook but I noticed you weren’t on the reunion page.”
Two months later, Kara prodded again. “Today is the last day to buy your tickets on eventbrite. Please go!!! You’re the only one left in our group of friends that hasn’t bought. I promise you…it will be fun.” I thought peer pressure was long gone but apparently it’s alive and well twenty years later. At the last possible moment, I finally caved.
My husband and I were late for the reunion and feeling kind of frazzled. And honestly, we were feeling a bit nervous too. It took me a solid hour to work the room with my husband by my side. Every step brought me deeper into a sea of familiar, yet aged faces. Although I had lived overseas and led an interesting life in my twenties, I was now a full-time mother. Not exactly exciting or tantalizing to share. I couldn’t help but think of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, where Lisa Kudrow tells everyone she invented Post-It notes. Somewhat laughing, I thought to myself, “I so wish I could say I invented the iPad or something marvelous right now….instead I just created another human being-ha!” Needless to say, I was feeling slightly insecure but that faded quickly.
Pretty much everyone was sharing similar life stories, “I’m married now, have two kids, blah, blah, blah.” Before sitting down to eat, I finally excused myself to use the restroom. There before me stood two men. They were standing at the entrance of the ballroom but I didn’t recognize either one of them. I figured they were somebody’s +1 or just random husbands.
As I walked past them I heard, “Heyyyyyyy…Oh my gosh I haven’t seen you since graduation.” When I looked up, there was an incredibly hot looking man talking to me. He was tall. At least six-foot, with salt and pepper hair. He had a great smile and beautiful blue eyes that glistened. His arms stretched out before him, till they met the small of my lower back as we embraced. Breaking our hug, I stood there staring, wondering who this person was before me. I frantically looked at his name tag only to draw a blank. Totally clueless, I kept thinking, “Who the hell is this?” The name tag read “Billy” but I couldn’t recall going to school with one. That’s because in high school, everyone knew him as William. And pretty much everyone called him by his last name. The penny dropped a few minutes later and I finally remembered who he was. But it certainly took a while. He looked nothing like he did in high school. Time, you could say, was good to him.
Billy was our star basketball player. Tall, pasty-white and lanky would be adjectives to describe him in high school. Lacking confidence would be another. However, staring at him now, he seemed self-assured and confident, qualities that I love in men. If I had to describe him visually, he looks a lot like the model Gael Nicolas but with Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes. Basically, not a bad combination.
Billy was within our circle of friends but always on the outer edges, even way back then. After graduation, he left California and moved out-of-state to play basketball. Did pretty well in college and got offered to play overseas. But he declined. Ended up moving into finance and working for one of the big investment firms, until he totally switched gears and started a successful business. I can’t say what it is for fear of exposing who this really is. However, let’s just say it made my mouth salivate when he told me.
We sat there talking for a good twenty minutes till I finally excused myself, heading back to my husband. As I walked away, I thought, “Wow has he changed. And for the better. What an interesting person he turned out to be.” That’s it. That’s all I thought. Honestly.
As the evening progressed, all the stragglers were moved to an adjacent bar. Our group was dwindling but we still had a solid twenty people there. I moved to one end of the bar and my husband ordered us some drinks. He then walked away and started talking to people nearby. I took one sip of my chardonnay and looked up through the bottom of my eyes. There Billy sat, at the opposite side of the bar, staring at me intently.
We locked eyes in an instant. It was electric. Fiery. And real.
And totally unexpected.
I immediately tilted my eyes back down, trying to shift my gaze away from his. I entered that room as a married woman “working on my marriage”. But here I sat, clearly being admired by another man. I didn’t think something like this would happen tonight. Nor ever (fuck I was lactating people!). But it happened. In an instant.
As I lifted my head up, I looked again in his direction. He smiled. Big. And then he got up. “Oh.My.God. Wow, has he changed. And in a good way. He sees what he wants and is going after it.” That is what went through my mind. Total alpha male. Very assertive.
My mind raced as I saw him walking towards me. With a giant smile across his face, he sat down next to me. “So, tell me. I don’t get why you are single. Obviously, you’re an attractive guy. What happened? Were you engaged and it didn’t work out? What’s your story?”
His mouth began to move as I studied the contours of his face. I still couldn’t reconcile that this was William in front of me. He looked nothing like he did in my childhood memories. For several minutes, I felt like we were the only two people in the room. Everyone else became a blur. And in that moment, I started to feel something foreign in my chest. “What is that feeling? Is it my heart acting up again? No this was different. My chest felt funny, yet exciting. Oh my gosh, I know what this feeling is. Shit…I haven’t felt this since….since I fell in love with my husband!”
Months later, I would recount that very moment and liken it to playing dominos. In hindsight, that night was a game changer. It was the first of many pieces to fall down in my life, each one intrinsically connecting to another.
Call it kismet.