Walter shuffled around the garage looking for a tool he'd last seen ten years ago, but he swore and grumbled that he knew it just had to be there. He hasn’t moved it, it must’ve been that darn young kid who came around when he was tinkering , wanting to help him. He needed that tool to get the car running so he could go to the thing tomorrow. Ah, yes, the thing. His 45th high school reunion. He winced just thinking about going out with all those old creaky folks dressed up in their vintage clothing and trying to dance like Travolta and Jagger! What asses!
For years, going to a high school reunion was the last thing on Walter’s list, that is, if he’d had a list. He never saw himself as much of a social butterfly. His days in high school were a series of unfortunate events in his mind. Although people were nice enough to him, he viewed himself as awkward and a bit of an oddball and that's what he imagined his classmates thought of him as well. In reality, Walter was incredibly intelligent and kind. Not being very comfortable in his own skin however, he never felt like he quite belonged. Very observant and perceptive in every other situation, he had no instincts at all when it came to himself. As a result of this, he found himself spinning wildly down multiple rabbit holes as a form of personal persecution.
Due to his lack of emotional growth, the youth became an adult, emerging from his cocoon of security into life's realities. This was a difficult time for a young man whose parents, having moved to Arizona to retire, left him completely alone for this first time in his life. He found himself moving from town to town and doing menial work to keep himself afloat. It was at this time that he received a flyer announcing his five year reunion. It was very peculiar that he even saw it. His only form of communication was good old fashioned snail-mail and his faithful old landline. The flyer was thrown out without a second thought. At times he’d come home to messages from two people he knew from school asking him to respond to invitations. He ignored all overtures and went on with his life.
Walter was able to secure a decent job and by the time he was forty, had a small home. Since he now had a permanent home and address, the reminders of upcoming events and reunions reached his mailbox from the class president. Again and again, he threw them out or wrote “Not at this address!” on the envelope.
As Walter started to age he became wistful, wishing he could talk to someone who remembered him, someone who could talk about old times. His own memories were starting to dull and the good old times were increasingly out of reach, the cobwebs of time getting harder to sweep off. He brought out his dusty yearbook to see if it said anything about what year the next reunion would be held. It was on the last page of the book that he found what he was looking for. The graduating class of 1975 from Wrenville High was to hold their forty fifth reunion in March of 2020.
Walter came to the realization that he no longer cared what all those people thought about him. All these years he assumed they had all gotten happily married, they all attended a wonderful college and had that dream career that they’d desired. Maybe they hadn’t. His difficulties stemmed from the realization that he had always undersold himself and had no goals. He had only entertained the thought that everyone else was successful. Now it came to him that some had probably dropped out of college, or become drunks, or lost their fortunes, or had failed marriages and lost their families. Suddenly it became perfectly clear that maybe he’d done okay after all. In that moment of clarity he knew that he wanted more than anything to be at that party. He made an announcement to his family of three dogs and a very old grumpy cat, “I’m going to the damn thing this year and you guys aren’t stopping me!” He would be there on Saturday, March 14, 2020 and nothing was changing his mind! Doing a little jig, he'd turned on a Led Zeppelin album and wildly started playing the air guitar. It felt good to have made decided to go,
Walter had still not found that tool. The young boy was walked down the street and heard all the cursing and clatter came from Walter’s garage. He decided to stop by and see what Walter was up to. He found him there muttering under his breath, clanging and banging his tools and cans of nuts and bolts around like a crazy man. Walter looked over his shoulder and barely acknowledged the boy but asked him if he’d seen the tool. The boy walked right over to the pegboard on the wall and plucked the tool off the hook and quietly handed it to Walter. With no objections from Walter, the boy proceeded to stand by to assist and the car was quickly up and running. Walter then went about preparing for the following night, dusting off his suit and shining his shoes. He even went to the barber. Imagine that! He went to bed that night in anticipation of the next day, wondering if perhaps he could be opening a new chapter in his life.
He awoke the next morning to a dawn with a bright sun rising over the horizon, shuffled out to the kitchen and started his coffee. He turned on the radio, and the air was filled with news alerts about a pandemic and how the country was on lockdown. He washed his face and shook off the fuzziness of morning. Disappointment and fear crossed his face as reality swept through the room. Cruel fate had rendered the world closed and a large door had slammed down on his dreams.