I'm not sure what I expected, really: recrimination or reconciliation, revisionism or revelation? Slipping back into old roles, or forging new friendships? I bore no grudges and couldn't call to mind any unfinished business; I didn't feel I had anything to prove except the fact that I had nothing to prove. And yet I wondered if old wounds might be reopened, old insecurities raised up or finally put down; I wondered if it would be one last act of closure.
Nothing really prepared me for what I did feel on seeing my old classmates again, which was, roughly, nothing at all.
And so there were some pleasant people, some of whom I had known a long time ago. I recognised some of them immediately, while others had changed so much that recalling their names was a struggle. Most of them were thinner and blonder, and many (how our teachers would have approved!) were doctors, lawyers, teachers. Some were married, and several (like me) had brought their partners. I talked my way through round after round of so how are you doing and it's so weird being back here, with the occasional side order of you haven't changed a bit. I learned a little about people's lives, isolated events, countries and children, the hours giving evidence / or birth; but this was a dead zone, an out-of-time zone, a place where everybody had been transplanted out of the context in which they made sense. The more conversations I had, the stronger was the sensation that I wasn't actually meeting anybody, that we were all having one of those dreams where you're at some kind of party but it's actually a theatre on a boat and your schoolfriends and work colleagues and university friends are all in the same place and then your French teacher comes in but she isn't really your French teacher, she's actually your sister, and, and. The sort of dream where you probably end up running and running and unable to move an inch. Possibly naked, too, but this wasn't that sort of dream.
"I read your blog," said one girl, "so I know everything about you, but you know nothing about me!" She grinned. That was about all the conversation I exchanged with her all evening. She was one of the few people there I was actively keen to talk to, someone I had liked and secretly (as if I could keep secrets!) admired in our schooldays; but as the ebb and flow of conversation kept carrying us away from each other (whether by chance or her design) I realised it didn't matter any more. We didn't exchange email addresses. She knows where I am, though. Perhaps she's even reading this now.
Awkward dinner-table conversation gave way to a slightly less awkward disco, where Double Disc (Loughborough's finest, veteran of decades of school discos) played the cheesiest hits of the 1990s. In those days, I couldn't dance, didn't know how, didn't realise that nobody else knew how either and the only difference between us was that they didn't care; this time I genuinely didn't care, and just enjoyed the dancing. I remembered all the moves to "Saturday Night" and "The Macarena", but for me, this wasn't the real soundtrack of the 1990s. Back then I was listening to Suede, Kingmaker, the Cure, Morrissey, a vast limited edition gatefold twelve-inch smorgasbord of all the standard misfit anthems. Such a tired old cliché, and I knew it then almost as keenly and as wearily as I knew it now, layer upon layer of knowledge.
They played "Disco 2000", and I remembered dancing to it at the Upper VI May Ball, and knowing then that it'd be played to death in the years to come. The girl I was dancing for then didn't come to the reunion. Her name, funnily enough, was Deborah. And it suited her just fine.
It's strange to realise that the ghosts you came to lay to rest, half unbelieving and half afraid, are only tricks of the light after all. Just smoke and mirrors. I left half an hour after midnight, having turned into neither a pumpkin nor a princess.