“They were all a bunch of jerks; that’s why I don’t want to go.” George threw this remark at his wife, Hannah. Hannah rolled her eyes and responded, “Most kids are pretty mean in high school, George. That doesn’t mean that they’re mean ten years later. I think you should go to confront your fear of them.” George protested this idea, “They haven’t changed at all. They’re all still judgmental, and they’re just going to stay in the same cliques and not talk to me. We had goth kids, band nerds, jocks/popular jerks, and loners who didn’t belong in any private social club. Guess which kind of kid I was.” “A loner,” said Hannah. “Bingo! I didn’t fit into any clique, so I sat by myself at lunch and did my own thing, and I was happy to be alone. Even the other loners wouldn’t let me hang out with them. I went up to one at lunch and asked if I could sit with him; he looked at me, got up, and walked right out of the cafeteria.” Hannah held back laughter and said, “Just think about going.” George agreed that he would consider going to his ten year high school reunion. I wonder who came up with a ten year high school reunion. Perhaps a group of popular friends who maintained their friendship decided that they would like to gloat about all of their successes and the car they drive to former peers ten years after graduation. However high school reunions were birthed, Oakville High School was about to hold yet another reunion for George’s class. George was very introverted in high school and could never seem to make any friends. He came close in his last year at Oakville, but his potential friend moved halfway through the year. As horrible as George was at making friends, he was even worse at talking to girls he liked. He had many crushes on many girls, but George could never work up enough courage to ask one out or even talk to a pretty girl. The only thing that someone like George can do is imagine having friends or a girlfriend in high school. His mind would wonder why or how people became popular; he thought that if he could discover the secret formula to making friends then he would be able to fit into a clique. Unfortunately, he was never quite able to figure out how to be liked, and thus, he remained alone. George didn’t mind being alone most of the time, but sometimes it was almost unbearable to not have someone to talk to— someone to share life with. This insidious feeling usually wouldn’t haunt him for very long. Though his time in high school was spent alone, George met his wife, Hannah during his second semester of college. Now Hannah was not particularly popular in high school, though she did have a few close friends. George and Hannah had a World Literature class together and would often discuss what they had read together after class. Both were intrigued by each other’s analysis and perspective on various pieces of literature. One day, Hannah asked George out on a date. They went to see the midnight showing of a romantic comedy. As they were walking through the lobby of the theater, a rude teenager similar to the ones George went to high school with bumped into him violently. George immediately apologized, hoping to avoid any unpleasant confrontations. Hannah stepped in, took George aside, and said, “I asked you out because you are such a sweet and loving guy, but you should never apologize when you’ve done nothing wrong. I know you’re shy and awkward around people, but the only thing worse than an awkward interaction is to allow someone to disrespect you and compromise your dignity.” This set the tone for their relationship; Hannah always pushed George to be uncomfortable, not in a negative way, but rather she encouraged him to embrace those uncomfortable situations which allow us to grow. It was this quality about Hannah that was making George think almost obsessively about the reunion. He had already listed the pros and cons in his mind, but Hannah’s words were still saturating many of his thoughts concerning this matter. Finally, George decided to listen to his wife and face the people who neglected him in the past. Truthfully, like many other choices, George found himself overthinking a seemingly inconsequential decision, tiring himself into submission. Overthinking was a quality of which George was thankful for having yet burdened by at times. With his final decision in mind, George spoke to Hannah about the reunion. He said, “I’ve been thinking about going to this dumb reunion, and I have to say that you’re right. I should go and see the people who abused and ignored me. But I want you to come with me. Not to show off my beautiful wife to old enemies, but I want you to come, because I want to show you that I’ll go through awkward and uncomfortable situations to maintain my dignity and grow as a person.” Hannah smiled at her husband and said, “I don’t know how I came up with that line on our first date, but I’m so glad I did. Of course I’ll go with you!” They hugged each other and discussed what they were going to wear to the reunion. George was still somewhat anxious, but he reasoned that he had absolutely nothing to lose by showing his face. The morning before the reunion was set to take place had a unique quality about it. The air seemed to contain the promise of a great opportunity within its molecules. George decided to take a walk soon after waking up which was not his normal routine. He seemed to be embracing new things that would help him grow on this particular day. After his walk, Hannah asked, “Are you having an existential crisis or something?” George laughed and answered, “Yes! I am losing my mind because of the stress I’m going to have to endure tonight.” “Really?” replied Hannah. George smiled, “No. I’m actually not that nervous anymore.” Hannah said, “I knew you’d feel better about it. You’re doing a really good thing for yourself, and I’m very impressed by your decision.” George smugly smiled, “Well this hot girl I went on a date with one time told me that I shouldn’t compromise my dignity. I guess she had a point.” The couple spent the day reminiscing about their lives and planning their future together. The day slipped into evening; the time had arrived for George to attend his reunion. He and Hannah showed up a little early, and he gave her a tour of Oakville. “Good grief!” exclaimed Hannah, “You were such a dork in high school.” “I wasn’t that bad; I forgot it was picture day,” George attempted to defend himself. George continued his tour, “This is where we had our break at. Right in the corner over there is where I had my first kiss. Does that make you jealous?” Hannah smirked, “Oh please George, I’m the first and only girl you’ve ever kissed. Nice try though.” “At least I tried,” said George with his own smirk. They finally arrived at the final destination of the tour. A banner was stretched above the entrance to the gym welcoming everyone back. George gazed at history, took a breath, and went in. Clutching Hannah’s hand tightly, they walked halfway across the gym. As they stood on the Oakville Giants logo, someone approached them. George saw who it was that approached, “Oh no, it’s Brian Abernathy. We had at least three classes together every year, and he never talked or even looked at me,” George whispered to Hannah. “Isn’t your name George Garson?” asked Brian. George was surprised by this question, “Yeah that’s my name.” Brian shook his and Hannah’s hands and said, “I’m really sorry that I thought I was better than you and never talked to you. We had a ton of classes together and I thought that you were weird or didn’t like me. My parents were putting so much pressure on me to be a football star, and I was too caught up in my own pride and ego to try and be your friend.” George was even more shocked by this admission, “I didn’t know your parents were putting so much pressure on you, and I forgive you.” They shook hands and parted ways. “Well that was surprisingly pleasant,” said George. Hannah patted him on the back, “I told you this whole reunion wouldn’t be so bad. George smiled but frowned suddenly, “Here comes Michael Woods. We had lockers next to each other, and he would always wait until I had my books in hand and knock them on the floor.” Michael approached and said, “Hey George, I’m glad you made it tonight. Ever since we graduated I’ve wanted to tell ya I’m really sorry for being a jerk to you. I guess I took all of my anger and frustration out on you, and you didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated you. This doesn’t excuse my behavior, but my dad used to beat the hell out of me which made me feel powerless, so I suppose I thought if I smacked you around it would prove I was a man.” George felt tears swell in his eyes, “ I’m really sorry your dad did that to you, man. I forgive you for being a jerk to me all those years, and I hope you feel like a man now.” “I do,” responded. George and Michael introduced their wives to each other and talked about their lives since high school. They finished their conversation, and George felt like leaving, “I’m really surprised and happy by how tonight has gone. I faced my fears and stood up for myself,” said George. “You did a great job tonight,” said Hannah. As they were walking through the parking lot, someone shouted George’s name. He and Hannah spun around, but George already knew who it was. He frantically recounted the atrocities Nick Crowley committed against him to Hannah, “This guy was one piece of work. He used to get girls that I liked to jokingly ask me out in front of everyone. He punched me in the nose and got blood all over my new cardigan one time. Worst of all, he started a rumor that I was gay and hurled homophobic slurs at me all the time along with pretty much everyone else. I hate him so much.” Hannah wiped a tear from her face and said, “Give him a chance; he might not be like that now.” By this point, Nick had come within speaking distance, “George, how’s it going? I wanted to talk to you earlier, but I was afraid to.” George looked upon Nick with a smile of disdain, “I bet you were, Nick.” Nick took a few seconds to prepare his next statement, finally he said, “I know that you probably hate me because of all the messed up stuff I did to you here, but I just wanna say that I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have hit you or made girls pretend to ask you out, and I really shouldn’t have lied and spread the rumor that you were gay.” George interrupted, “Yeah. You really ruined a lot of days for me back then.” Nick collected his breath, “You’ve got every right to be pissed at me; I even hated myself for a long time. I made high school a living hell for you because I was living in hell at home.” “What do you mean?” asked George. “I was raped, George.” A long pause ensued after Nick admitted this. He continued, “My uncle moved in with us when I was twelve. From that time until I turned fifteen I suffered unspeakable things at his hands. You’ve gotta understand that I was just a boy; I didn’t know how to handle that situation. He and my dad left after my parents got a divorce, and I was left alone with my alcoholic mom. I was completely alone and ashamed of myself. For whatever reason, I targeted you and wanted to make you hurt as bad as I was hurting. I’m really sorry for doing that to you.” George couldn’t help but cry at this point and for the first time in his life, he felt empathy for Nick. George hugged him and said, “I had no idea that was happening to you, no idea at all. I used to hate you so much, but now I understand why you did what you did. You shouldn’t hate yourself, and I forgive you for all the bullshit you put me through. I really wish that stuff hadn’t happened to you, and I wish we could have been friends.” Nick said, “Maybe we can be friends now.” George smiled, “Maybe we can.” He and Nick exchanged numbers and promised to keep in touch. George and Hannah began driving home when he looked back at his high school and noted how much smaller it looked now. Hannah realized that what George was experiencing is a change of perspective. She said, “Are you glad you went?” George glanced at her, “Tonight I realized what the best decision I’ve ever made is.” “What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?” asked Hannah. “Asking you to marry me. You encouraged me to go tonight, and I have gained a new perspective about my past at this reunion. I’ve come to realize that all those people I went to school with weren’t jerks; that was my interpretation of their behavior. Most of them were going through very painful and confusing things of which I had no knowledge of. I was too preoccupied in victimizing myself that I never attempted to imagine why people treated me the way they did. Deep fractures within a soul can cause one human to harm another. I hold nothing against them anymore, and I hope that somehow they have or will heal from their past. Thank you for pushing me to do this.” “You’re welcome, and you did so well tonight,” replied Hannah. As she and George approached their house, George felt as though the past remained behind them, and they could begin to move forward into the future.