Whenever I am in the Valley visiting my Mom, I generally expect to run into someone that I know when I am out in public so I try to look presentable and prepare myself for awkward small talk as much as possible, and so I was not even surprised when I saw Julie in the reception room after the Christmas recital that night.
I had actually seen her a little while back, at our 20 year high school reunion, but we never really had a chance to talk. Julie and I had grown up together in Sedro-Woolley, and we had attended the same church for a number of years. She and I had had several mutual friends but were never really close friends with each other.
There was a short moment in time, during the first few months of ninth grade, when Julie and I sat on the floor in the hallway together everyday during lunch. Neither of us ate lunch; me because I was terrified of getting diarrhea and not being able to hold it until I got home from school, and I’m not sure why Julie didn’t eat lunch because I never asked her. We spent 30 uninterrupted minutes together everyday, but we never shared secrets. We told jokes and funny stories and laughed a lot, but I can’t say that we really knew anything about each other.
I had not seen Julie since high school, and the only thing that I could remember about that night at the reunion was when a few of us were standing around talking, and for some reason I felt the need to ask her, “Are you happy?” She responded by laughing and saying, “Um yeah, I mean…yeah.”
The awkwardness should have ended there, but I felt the need to take it a step further by saying, “You can totally tell me if you’re not happy.”
Her stunned expression told me, “Go home Whitney, you are drunk.”
Fast forward to the night of the Christmas recital. I could tell by the way that she was hiding behind the punch bowl that she was just as uncomfortable to be there as I was. It is on occasions such as these when I can see Dave Button coming out in my DNA, because where most people would have just pretended that they had not seen each other in order to avoid an awkward encounter, I walked straight over to her and made her give me a hug. The feigned expression of joy on her face told me that she was not as happy to see me as I was to see her, and yet for some reason I continued to prolong the torture.
“How are you? How have you been?” I asked her. She stammered, “Good, I’m good! How are you? Are you good?” I reassured her that I was good as well, and then we stood there in silence for an uncomfortable length of time; like a good twenty seconds. She had turned to look for her kids, and I could tell that she was about to bolt, so I just turned to her and said sincerely, “Hey wait, let’s chat for a minute. I really wanted to catch up with you at the reunion, but there were so many people there, and I had had way too much to drink, so tell me what you’ve been up to!”
As Julie began to tell me a few things about her life, I could not help but wander off in thought. It seemed as though she was exactly the same as she was in high school, which meant that she was most likely still a very conservative christian. I had lost a lot of friends when I “came out” and I knew that she was still friends with some of those who had turned their backs on me many years ago. When I asked her who she is still friends with from high school, she named the one person who was my arch-nemesis, and that is when I blacked out a little bit. I am pretty sure that I have a little PTSD when it comes to being in church, and being around “churchy” people, and for some reason it makes me feel the need to act as inappropriately as possible.
First I asked her if she was going to the church that the Christmas recital was being held in, and she said that she wasn’t, but that she had some friends who had kids that were in the choir. I told her that that’s why I was there as well, because one of my best friends had 2 boys that were in the choir as well, so I was there to show my support. Actually what I said was, “I hope my friend knows what a good friend I am to come to this thing because I really hate going to shit like this.”
Then I asked her if she had fun at the 20 year reunion, and she was like, “Yeah, it was pretty fun to see everyone.” When she asked me the same question, I replied, “Oh man, it was a blast! A bunch of us stayed for the after-party at the casino, and then Katie, Matthew and I went to the high school tennis courts and climbed over (I crawled under) the fence and just laid in the middle of the football field laughing, and telling stories, and acting all crazy.”
Julie’s response was, “Wow, a bunch of 40 year olds at the tennis courts, that must have been a sight! We aren’t really as cool as we used to be, you know.”
I said, “Hey, speak for yourself! We are totally just as cool, and in fact I think that we are even cooler now than we were back then. Also, we’re not 40 quite yet.”
As we were talking I noticed a little girl running around, and I thought that she looked really familiar. I asked Julie, “Hey, isn’t that Jessica’s little girl?” Julie looked at her and just shrugged her shoulders. I said, “I’m pretty sure that is Jessica’s kid, oh yeah now I see Jessica’s wife over there, but I don’t think that Jessica is here.”
Julie appeared shocked when she said, “Jessica’s…WIFE?!”
Me: “Yeah, Jessica’s wife; didn’t you know that Jessica is a lesbian?” Julie started to stammer a bit, and it made me wonder if she somehow missed the memo that I am a lesbian as well.
I saw my friends walking into the reception area and I waved for them to come over. I told Julie, “Hey, let me introduce you to my friends who invited me here.” Julie looked like she was about to make a run for it, but Brianna and Willie walked over before she had a chance to make her exit.
I said, “Hey guys, this is one of my old friends from high school, Julie; and Julie, these are my great friends, Brianna and Willie!”
They all shook hands, and I could tell that Brianna was wracking her brain trying to remember if I’ve told her any Julie stories, and so I went on to say, “Julie and I went to the same church back in high school.” Brianna gave me a knowing smile and was like, “Oh yeah, cool!” I explained to Julie that Brianna and Willie and I all met in college.
Julie said, “It is actually kind of crazy that I ran into you tonight, Whitney, because lately I have been running into all sorts of people from my past, and it is kind of fun to remember the good old days.”
I said, “I know what you mean! Last year one of my friends from Australia came to visit me in Seattle, and it was like a real full-circle kind of experience. It has been so long since I lived in Australia that it sort of feels like it was a dream or something, you know?”
Julie said, “You lived in Australia?”
Me: “Yeah, I was a missionary there for several years right out of high school.”
Julie: “Oh that’s really cool!”
There are so many positive directions that the conversation could have gone from there, but instead I chose to just let the following words fall out of my mouth:
“Yeah, it was an amazing experience. It was so great to see my Aussie friend again, and we had a great time up until I got drunk and asked him if I could borrow some sperm…”
Brianna and Willie both burst out laughing, and Julie just looked at me with giant eyes and said, “What did you just say? Did you say ‘sperm’?”
Until I had witnessed the shock and horror on Julie’s face, I hadn’t considered that it was probably not the best environment to be using words like “drunk” and “sperm”. I mean, it was a Christmas recital after all, and more specifically it was a Christmas recital at a conservative church in a very small town. I wanted to explain myself to Julie by telling her that I might still want to have a baby, and if I had a baby it would have to be through artificial insemination or adoption due to my sexual orientation, and if I had to choose a donor then my Aussie friend would be the perfect choice, but he might feel like it was a terrible sin to bring a child into the world to be raised by a couple of chubby lesbians, so he probably wasn’t the best person for me to ask, but I did not have time to explain any of this because Julie had literally made a run for it.
I looked at Brianna and Willie who were both practically crying because they were laughing so hard, and I asked them, “Oh my God, why didn’t you stop me from saying all that?!?!”
Brianna was like, “How were we supposed to know that you were going to go there?? I mean, we really had no idea…”
I said, “She probably thinks that I’m a sex crazed alcoholic!”
Brianna said, “Well…aren’t you?”
I said, “Shut your face, Bri! I guess I just forgot that we didn’t all move away from the Valley and become horrible people. Oh, and by the way, I hope that you appreciate me coming to this recital thing because you know I hate going to shit like this.”
Brianna said, “You know we appreciate it.”
I said, “Good, because this is all your fault. Now can we please go home and drink beer like normal people?”