We left school a long time ago. After a decade it already seemed a long time had passed. We had become parents. Ten years further on a score of years separated us from those embarrassing teenage selves and, perhaps as a result, from each other. Now, it is half a century. A few of us have been meeting every few weeks to plan the Reunion.
I entered the most recent meeting and found I was the only male. Not unhappily. There was Leah, the hot blooded fish who brought me to a quick boil on my first day, still gorgeous. There was Virginia, brown skinned Virginia, flashing that smile that subverted my every chaste thought. Not that I had many. That tanned skin, that exposure of teeth in that open mouth, how her name seemed an impossible lie, a taunt. There was Bee, an artist now, an artisan in precious metals, in lapis, buxom Bee smiling broadly, Bee whom I never approached, never touched, too shy. Shy? Shocking, unforgiveable callous neglect!
Carmel was there and Carol, whom I have seen oftener and often, whom the years have kept real, who developed beyond the hot fancies and shapes of my adolescent mind.
And one was there, smiling. I didn’t know her at first, couldn’t place her. But her smile – of greeting, of welcome, of recognition – Howard, it’s me. It’s us – such a smile, so pregnant of shared knowing, of secret pleasure, of more, of something never reached. The smile waited upon dawning but the sun rose slowly. Meanwhile, what to do? I kissed her, a nice, slight, chaste kiss, that social gesture so easy now, so charged then. She spoke, her gaze, her smile unwavering, “Hello, Howard.”
Carmel’s voice broke the mystery: “Lilith has brought photos.”
Lilith! More quickly than for all the others I would fall for Lilith. More rapidly and more often. And equally quick in dissolution. The sun never set on our love. Falling in on the school bus, falling out by morning recess, burned by the abrasion, by the intensity, of Lilith’s mercurial moods.
“We’re all fucked,” she would tell me half a century later, “All of us, our parents, ourselves, our generations…”
I sat down at table with the ladies to plan the Reunion. Seated on the sole vacant seat, which happened to be at Lilith’s side, I didn’t contribute much. Neither did Lilith. Instead we whispered like two Grade Five kids, just like the two who met and fell in 1956, the country boy from Leeton, the tiny blonde from Bratislava, fresh from the embers of the Shoah.