’What the hell am I doing here?’ That was my primary thought as I stood here at the high school reunion, 10 years after we all graduated. I was actually surprised they invited me. After all, I hadn’t been in this class for more than a year. I guess you can say that’s one of the downsides of having a parent that works for an oil company and moves around a lot. My dad was the potato man. At least that’s what one of his friends had called him, because like a potato he could be placed pretty much anywhere. If there was a department that needed fixing, he could do it. The result for me; 6 different schools in 9 years, and what a school they had placed me in for my final year. Compared to all the others I was as bad boy as you can get it. I guess I was pretty much a criminal. Reason; I smoked cigarettes and had a drink every now and then. My entire class that year was above average on the grades while I was on the lower half of the scale. It wasn’t because I’m stupid, it’s just that I couldn’t get the motivation to write book reports, work well with biology and I wasn’t good at basketball. I wasn’t a bookworm. That’s a lie. I was a bookworm; it’s just that I was a bookworm in a specific subject. Architecture.
I am brilliant when it comes to drawing, a real artist. Maybe not an artist, because the only things I draw well are buildings, but I do those as good as anyone. The first man who ever picked up on that was my math teacher. He had seen my drawings and after I handed in my first flawless math test, geometry, he wanted to help me. He saw that I was one of those geniuses that needed the proper stimulation to enjoy school. Replicating the Mona Lisa in art class and reciting poems and plays weren’t my thing. Two months into the last year he gave me a challenge. To draw a structure that would consist of three different geometrical shapes, like triangles, squares, pentagons and so on. I still remember the smile on my face as he gave me the task and how my mind immediately started racing how to design it. Two days later I handed in a folder depicting a mall consisting of only three different geometrical shapes; circles, hexagons and squares. He was impressed. Then he challenged me further. Three different shapes, equal number of every shape, and ground floor had to be in a fourth shape. I stayed up the entire weekend to get it done, ignoring dinner and TV. For the first time I had a school assignment that I enjoyed.
After debating with my science teacher he saw a new opportunity. The two of them worked together and gave me a new task. Same as the last one, but I was given a list of materials to use and how much strain each of them could handle in different positions. My new task was a mixture of architecture and engineering. I was in heaven. I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I studied different grand structures, like the pyramids and cathedrals from around the world to see how they coped with the structural strain. While the others watched the school football team play I sat in the library with a pile of books, taking notes and drawing. After a month the design was complete. I proudly presented a large folder to them both, containing the engineering calculations and the design of a Mosque. It was flawless. There were no mistakes and in my own eyes it was an architectural wonder of the world. Maybe I was big headed, but at least I enjoyed school.
The other kids didn’t see my talent in the same way. They saw only what I couldn’t handle, like gymnastics and English and chemistry, not the things that I could handle. I smiled and called them slaves of the system. It wasn’t because I was a hippie or fighting against “The Man”, it was just because I realised they could never appreciate someone that was different. They never bullied me and stole my lunch money, but they never made an attempt to be friends. To be fair, I never made an attempt to be friends either, so I guess we were all happy. After graduation I headed to college to become an architect. Thanks to my math and physics teacher I was accepted at Harvard. Apparently they had connections and my dad had the money to pay for it. I had gone from a below average high school pupil to a Harvard graduate. After Harvard I got a good job and I do what I love the most; draw. Strange how things turn out.
You might think that life’s a dream for me, but even in college I didn’t have people I can call friends. Acquaintances I guess you could call them, but nothing more. I had a roommate, but we had pretty much nothing in common, apart from that we both smoked and were guys. The only ones I can consider friends during my education were my two teachers and two professors. That’s it. I had no one to turn to when things got bad, only my books and drawings. Educational and financial success can’t be measured against good friends. At least I think so. I wouldn’t know, I’ve never had any good friends. I’m surprised I didn’t end up doing drugs.
So there I was, smoking my sixth cigarette of the evening and drinking my scotch, still not really having talked to anyone. I blew out a stream of smoke as the countless memories of total loneliness came back. The only time I’d gotten a pat on the back was when we were given a design task in art class. Everybody moaned, especially those that were “forced” to work with me. They looked at me as the slacker of the class. While they were all debating what design we should use it was already shaping up in my head. Genius at work. The next day I was about to be criticised for not participating when I showed them the sketches I had done at home while they were hanging out at the mall or playing football or whatever. It was a rough draft, but it was better than what they had, so my apartment building was created. Needless to say, we got an A.
I didn’t belong here. I had no idea why I had come. Maybe it was a part of me that wanted to brag and tell them all “look what I have become”, but I couldn’t be bothered. I wasn’t that kind of person. I emptied my glass and threw away my seventh smoke of the night. In for a quick refill of scotch then out again to light up number eight. The ashtray was getting full now. I was staring at the ashtray and the shape of it, thinking work to escape, when a soft voice startled me.
“Hey” I looked up and saw a beautiful woman in a light blue dress standing next to me. She had a rather slim figure, but what caught my eyes was the gorgeous and peaceful face, a face that would remove all the worry in the world. At least if she was your girlfriend. I smiled back to her.
“Mind if I take a seat?” I don’t know why, but my heart was racing.
“No, not at all.” She sat down and there was a moment of rather embarrassing silence.
“You’re Adam, right?” I smiled.
“How did you guess?” She smiled and looked at my cigarette.
“Out of 70 people in our year, you’re the only one who smoked.” I chuckled “And out of 70 people you’re the only one who’s not talking to anyone, apart from me that is.” I smiled.
“True. I’m Adam, but you have me at a disadvantage. I’ve forgotten who you are. To be honest, I don’t remember any names or faces.” She giggled. Maybe there was a bit of disappointment in her laughter, as if she wanted me to remember her. But then again, we all want to be remembered.
“I’m Patricia. We were in the same class. We actually did that apartment project together. Or, you did most of it.” I put out the smoke and remembered. She was a rather sweet girl back in the day. She still was. Even better looking.
“I remember you now. You look very good.” She blushed. I gave myself a silent pat on the back for finally saying a compliment about looks that I really meant. It wasn’t that I was a liar, I was just polite. Now I spoke the truth.
“Thanks. So what’s up with you? Where did you rush off to after we graduated?”
“I went off to college and now I work in an architect firm. How about you?”
“Med school. Now I’m a regular doctor curing cough and ear infections.” She giggled again, as if what she did was nothing more than sweeping abandoned streets.
“So why aren’t you in saying hello to all the others?” I smiled from the question. Maybe it was to make chit chat or see if I was alright, or had she forgotten that almost no one spoke to me during that year.
“You don’t remember I was the loner of the class? The weird kid that no one understood?” She smiled.
“You weren’t that weird. You were a loner, but that was because we didn’t know you. I guess it just came natural to the rest of us, since everyone knew everyone. Was it tough being the new kid?” I took a deep breath, relaxed and looked her in the eyes.
“At this school; no. Although I didn’t have any friends I weren’t bullied or anything. I had changed school so many times before that I got used to being on my own. I lived in my own world and I got used to it.” She looked at me, an expression of pity across her face and a bit of regret. Maybe she wished she had tried to become my friend or pushed some of her guy friends in that direction. Who knows what went on in her mind. We were both silent as we could hear the music starting to play inside. She looked at me again and smiled.
“You wanna come in and dance?” I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I don’t think I should. I can’t dance even if my life depended on it.” She giggled.
“Neither can I.” She got up and held out her hand for me “Come on. We can be the doctor and the architect without rhythm that makes everyone laugh.” I smiled. I might lack social antennas, but even I knew what this meant. I took her hand.
“Alright. Let’s make them laugh.”