Thursday, October 6, 2011

High School Time Machine

by Lupe Fernandez – Class of 1980

I attended a high school reunion in August. It’s been thirty-one years since I graduated from Sunset High. Stepping into the Crow Canyon Country Club in San Ramon, I felt transported through time. In an instant, the goofy kid became the responsible, pillar of the community adult, the flighty social butterfly became a stern mother of three, and the student voted mostly like to succeed is dead.

My idea of fun at a reunion was asking questions such as

“Did you like high school?”

“Did you have to fend off unwanted advances from boys?”

“Can you tell me about that traumatic experience of being taunted?”

Other alumni were drinking, talking and dancing.

I thought about the teenage life I didn’t live. I thought of a different story. What if I had an affair with a teacher and fell in love? What if I married a high school sweet-heart and she got pregnant with somebody’s baby? What if I asked the popular girl out for a date and she said yes? What if I tried to burn down the gym and never got caught? What if I adopted the slacker life style and fought with my parents about college? What if I became a literary sensation and couldn’t handle the fame? What if I had gone drinking on overnight school trip and committed a crime?

What if I saved the school from some horrible disaster of my own making? What if I joined a cult? (Joining a cult was a big fear in my teen days.)

All these possibilies. Lives unlived. I was a well-behaved, bored, shy, sarcastic kid whose regrets have regrets.

In those days, Warsaw Pact Forces occupied Eastern Europe, ready to jump off into Germany. Iran held American Embassy personnel hostage. A disease emerged – today known as AIDS - with causation unknown, treatment non-existent and death guaranteed.

What if World War III broke out and my school survived? What if someone I knew was a hostage at the American Embassy and I hated my fellow Iranian students? What if I caught the mysterious disease and developed immunity?

I’m grateful to have avoided those scenarios.

I can’t go back in time and revise my past. Writing stories that take place in high school, during those uncertain years of out-of-fashion smells, ill-fitting conversations and awkward clothes, allow me a small measure of instant replay to satisfy romantic wishes or fashion an exciting life.

I’ll never know why that one girl dumped me after a week of going steady, so I’ll have to make something up and live with it.

What if…


  1. This article of yours got me to thinking about my own "what if's". What if I had payed more attention to my homework instead of what boy I was going to hook up with? What if my best friend from high school was still alive? Would we still be friends? What if I went to high school reunion and no one remembered me? Thanks alot Lupe, on this rainy gloomy day I really need to be thinking about these things!

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    We've been attempting to wean our Residence Mexican off his obsession with high school, but alas, he revisits that era time and again. He can be tiresome with his "What If..." ruminations - especially when he drones on about his two high school girlfriends, ugh - but as he explains, "What if is the be the beginning of a story."

    We appreciate your patience and patronage.
    The Management

  3. Dear Pen and Ink Blog,
    Thank you for attempting to wean him but I think your efforts will be fruitless. I usually enjoy reading his high school articles,however this one got me thinking too much. If he thinks he has regrets then it's a good thing he didn't live my high school life. I am sure his writing's would be alot different from these. However I was happy to see he had the guts to go to his high school reunion. Too bad he didn't leave with a date!

  4. Great photo of you, Lupe! The well-behaved, bored, shy, sarcastic kid was obviously an astute observer of human behavior. There's a stockpile of great material there, waiting to be written.

  5. Dear Anonymous,
    Our Mexican-In-Residence assures us - ad nauseam - that his high school experience contains more regrets than anyone else's. "My regrets have regrets," he says. We encourage our Token Male to date and/or get a social life so he'll stop being Mr. I Always Turn In My Pages Early, and be pressed for time like the rest of us.
    The (Busy) Management

  6. Dear Megan,
    We keep telling Mr. F. that he is fortunate to have so much material to drawn upon. You would think he would be grateful. How does he respond?
    The (Dry Eyed) Management

  7. I never went to a school reunion - or any reunion for that matter. I have few clear recollections of teenage hood. Which is why I will never write YA. I applaud Lupe's memories. Lots of story there.

  8. The High School Reunion --- eek! Sounds like a Stephen King novel to me. Enjoyed reading your post Lupe!

  9. I'm such a party machine when it comes to reunions. Wooo.....
    Lupe F.

  10. I attended a high school reunion last year and had a blast! I'm so glad they happen.

  11. Dear Janet,
    We are glad that you are glad.
    The Happy Management

  12. I agree with Susan - lots of potential stories here. Have fun writing them!

  13. Jeepers, thanks Lori.
    Lupe (Voted Mostly Unlikely) F.

  14. This was just lovely, Lupe. I've never been to a reunion (I actually dropped out of high school), but i loved all your "what if" scenarios. This is also why I write YA and coming of age screenplays. As Sonya Sones noted - we get to have our characters make better, more exciting, more daring choices then we did.

  15. Karolina,
    Dropped out of high school? That means you're going to be a billionaire genius. Rats. I went to college. No billions for me.
    Dropped In

  16. I love asking myself these questions. I was shy and boring, too, for the record. If we'd lived it all, we wouldn't want to write about it. :)

    Really lovely post, Lupe!


  17. Dear Amy,
    Thanks for compliment Amy.
    Despite being shy and boring as a teen, you have a husband, kids and most agent! (sigh)
    Let's see I have no wife, no kids and no agent.
    Bitter Party of One


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