The Yearbook Office
Writings on staying alive
 

At Hammer Downs, bet on Betta Run Bill.
Subhoofer will take the day at Fruited Fields.
Your best bet this week is Tiny Prancer at Thumping Mounds.

My drama class tech booth buddy Jon invited me to the wrap party senior year. I think we were wrapping Ordinary People, but who can remember anything anymore. The party was at somebody's house, maybe Sam Snyder's, he seems like the type to host: dad build, dirty blonde, sweater vests at 17. Sam played the father in Ordinary People, but you could tell he really wanted to be the shrink. I had never been to a party with alcohol before. I think Jon invited me because he wanted me to drive.

Earlier in the year, Jon and I had collaborated on our performance midterm, a trio of scenes from Rushmore: Max and Ms. Cross meet on the bleachers; Max and Ms. Cross feed fish in the classroom; Max and Ms. Cross discuss the definition of “relationship” over lemonade in the library. We rehearsed at Jon's house, which was down the street from mine, and I remember thinking it was weird we hadn't hung out more before considering how well we got along and how close our houses were. I was Ms. Cross by default, but I secretly wished I could be Max. On performance day, Jon wore the beret I bought him at Boswell's Party Store. We jumped from scene to scene without transitions. Neither one of us was particularly good at acting, but I think it went over well.

Jon was the first person I ever slow-danced with, in the booth during dress rehearsal for whatever play we did before Ordinary People. There was a dancing scene in the show, and I told him I had never danced with anyone before, and he said will you dance with me? and I said I guess so, and we did.

“This is weird,” I said, because I had never been so physically close to a guy.

“We're just two friends dancing,” he said.

I never liked Jon as more than a friend. This isn't a story about that.

All I remember from the Ordinary People party is parking on the street across from the house, following Jon inside, watching Russell make grasshoppers in the kitchen, trying a sip, thinking it tasted good, not drinking any more, wandering around the house looking at some other family's portraits, and watching Jeremy and Jack smoke on the patio through the sliding glass door. There must have been girls at the party, but I don't remember talking to any of them. I don't remember talking to anyone, but I don't think I was just some silent weirdo skulking around.

On the way home, Jon puked without so much as a warning lean. Puke all over his polo shirt, puke all over the seatbelt, a little bit of puke on the dash. He apologized, I took him home, and I spent the next day in rubber gloves cleaning crusty vomit out of every crevasse on the passenger side of the Nerfmobile. I called my 1987 Toyota Camry the Nerfmobile because of the Nerf Herder sticker on the bumper. People who hadn't heard of the band thought it was just a Star Wars reference, but I only pretended to like Star Wars for a short time in high school, whereas I was a longtime, genuine fan of jokey pop-punk. Jon liked alternative rock and drove a red Karmenn Ghia convertible. The one time I rode in his car, I felt way too exposed and low to the ground.

At yearbook time, Jon signed mine Stay cool! or something innocuous like that. I was mad. Stay cool! after working tech together for three shows, and the dancing, and the party, and the time he cried about his dad? Not that yearbook pleasantries have to be significant, but this seemed to ignore the fact that we had even been friends, and I was certain we had been, at least for a little while. I've always had a hard time with friendship, and the even exchange of affection, and accepting interactions at face value when it feels like there should be something deeper at stake. After high school, Jon went to the Merchant Marine Academy and I never heard from him again.

A few years ago, I was flipping channels when Jon's face suddenly appeared on my screen. I kept flipping for a moment, then went back. Hey, I know that guy. I cleaned his puke out of my car and now he’s was wearing a suit of armor on TV. It was a reality competition show called Full Metal Jousting in which contestants of varying equestrian and stick-wielding ability trained and battled for basic cable glory. His contestant bio said he had been competing in horse riding events since his childhood in Northern California. I don't think Jon ever mentioned being a champion equestrian to me, but who can remember anything anymore.