In Las Vegas
A high school reunion!!
People I don’t know anymore, people I never knew. Cold appetizers. Pricey drinks. Vegas at its finest.
People I knew and never liked. High school nostalgia at its finest.
(The girl who almost took my virginity didn’t show. Probably has kids and a disaffected husband by now.)
So I leave, not saying goodbye.
Goodbye was a long time ago, only no one told my classmates.
My flight is in fifteen hours, but I need some beer and sleep.
I leave the reunion casino.
I leave the Vegas strip.
There’s a world, mere yards away, covered with broken liquor glass and little flyers strewn about like leaves from a porno tree.
It makes me feel better. It’s dirty and ugly and more human than a cane attached to an old lady attached to a Wheel of Fortune slot machine.
I find the last hotel room in the western United States.
And I am overcharged for it. So what.
7-11 is nearby. The beer is cheap. The ice is free. The air conditioner works. There is cable TV.
I am a free man.
I don’t have to pretend the people in high school were the best time of my life. The girl who almost took my virginity almost was.
I am alone in Vegas, and I have taken the time to make myself a free man. I have learned a life lesson here.
But the cable TV only gets 10 channels.
My flight is in thirteen hours.
In September, 2003, I flew from San Francisco to Las Vegas to attend a reunion for people in the United States who had graduated from, or merely attended, the Singapore American School (SAS) in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s. I ‘merely attended’ SAS for my freshman, sophomore and half my junior years of high school. My adventures in Singapore would make up a good-sized chunk of anyone’s memoirs; but suffice it to say I made friends at SAS with whom I kept in touch long after I probably should have. I felt like I had evolved beyond my need for them.
But my beloved wife convinced me it would be a good idea to attend the 2003 Vegas reunion. And so I did, and the results are stated pretty clearly in the poem-narrative above. High school in Singapore was not a bad experience for me. In most ways it was the opposite of a bad experience.
But high school there did not construct within me a deep well of nostalgia from which I felt I frequently had to draw the waters of happy, loving memory. It was what it was, and I have never felt contempt for anything related to my high school or anyone else’s, with the exception of people who cling relentlessly to their high school memories and behold them as the best times of their lives.
I wrote the poem for an assignment in a 600-level English class at San Francisco State University, and presented it on September 23, 2003. Can’t remember what grade I got. It doesn’t matter anyway. I didn’t finish what I started at SF State any more than I graduated from SAS.
So there you have it. The people I knew at SAS are long removed from me in distance and time, and I have not seen or spoken to any of them since Las Vegas.