A photograph can be a vivid, often painful, reminder of an embarrassing moment. But what if there is no photograph and the people who witnessed the event still remember it—without visual prompting—decades after the event? Such was the case with my most embarrassing high school moment, which came back to haunt me not too many months ago.
After decades of refusing to go to my high school reunion, I finally relented, certain that few would remember me, not just because of changes to my physical appearance—the Picture of Dorian Gray looked much younger by comparison—but for the simple fact that I was incredibly shy back then, a ghost passing silently through the halls and into and out of the classrooms. Some might have remembered me as an athlete who lettered in soccer and track, but now that I was a shadow of a shadow of my former self’s shadow, looking more frail than hale, that chance seemed remote at best.
I was certain that I’d pass the night virtually unrecognized, that I’d have to tell people who I was, but the moment I entered the hotel ballroom, shouts of “Disco!” erupted from the tables closest to the door, squeals of demented delight quickly spreading throughout the room, people leaping to their feet and rushing toward me.
If I were making this into a movie, at the first shout, the event DJ would have quickly slipped The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” into the player:
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
But this wasn’t a movie, and the music playing—ZZ Top’s “She’s Got Legs”—was a bit off topic, although I could have made it fit by changing the lyrics a bit:
He’s got legs, he don’t know how to use them
I couldn’t move, I was frozen in place, so I just stood there in horror and let my former classmates surround me, each offering a snippet of the story as they laughed and patted me on the back.
I remember the event backwards. The discus lying in the parking lot, then wobbling, then lifting into the air in a short arc to the crumpled hood of Coach Danby’s prized Corvette, then leaping into the air again, flying through a broken window, the shards of glass coming together to fix the damage as the discus returned to my sweaty hand, my look of horror changing to a look of absolute confidence, the last words of my speech on “How to Throw a Discus” echoing in the room.
“.easy really is discus a throwing, see you, So”