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2005-09-03 - 12:40 p.m.

I was planning on going home this weekend. There's a ten-year high school reunion tonight, at the Cresaptown Eagles. I've never been in there, but it's the kind of place where members drink dollar drafts and they have darts and eight-ball tournaments advertised in the paper, where the house band is called High Five or Red Light Runners or something. I'm not sure if anyone would be there who I was friends with in high school, but I'd always thought I'd like to go to it, to say hi to the people I'd meant to be friends with but never really was, for whatever reason. But it's a three-hour drive and the cheapest gas I saw yesterday was $3.69 a gallon. Anyway, if I went I'd get to see my nephew, who my brother says is crawling around now. He says they went into his room the other day and found him standing up in his crib, smiling at them, giggling as if to say, "What's next?"

I was a go-between in high school. I was friends with most of the groups. An ambassador. I was assistant editor of the yearbook, it's true. I mainly wrote all the little stories that appear every other page, the ones with headlines like, "What do we want to be when we grow up?" Mainly, though, I did yearbook to meet girls. And I did, sort of. My first girlfriend was a yearbook girl. She's now a speech therapist, I think. She had two older brothers, one of whom eventually went into the army and after that became a guard at a youth boot camp for Baltimore teens who'd gotten into trouble. I think he was involved in some kind of scandal a few years ago where a bunch of the guards were charged or at least accused of abusing these kids from the city. He's a big old country boy and back in high school, when I was dating his sister, he told a friend of mine that if he ever caught us doing anything, he'd stick a shotgun barrel in my nose, or something like that. What's also true is that she was the first girl I did a whole bunch of things with. So take that, homeboy. She broke up with me the week before I left for college. After she broke up with me, I demonstrated the correct second baseman's footwork to execute a 6-4-3 double play. I have no idea why I did this.

I also played soccer and baseball in high school. I was going to try out for basketball in the ninth grade, but I weighed probably 110 pounds and I remember the shorts back then ended a few inches below your stuff. This was before Michigan's Fab Five, before long shorts. So I didn't try out. I could always shoot, though. I gave a speech at the induction ceremony for National Honor Society. It was for a retiring guidance counselor. I took three years of Spanish and made it to Calculus. I did not have sex in high school. On football Fridays, the cheerleaders wore their uniforms to school. I'll never understand why the teachers allowed this. Jesus. The pleated skirts they wore, with no leggings or anything underneath, ended about mid-thigh. And the girls would sit, of course, cross-legged in class. This was tough time. I didn't do much walking around on football Fridays, even if I really had to go to the bathroom, because I had things happening in my pants all the time. I don't know how anybody did anything on football Fridays.

I had crushes on a series of girls. A girl named Kelly was the first. She had this thick, red hair. She was very lithe, graceful. She was small. I sat in front of her in tenth-grade geometry and we became friends, but even then I knew I didn't have a chance. The football players knew she was all of these things, too, and she went for them, a series of them. I remember she would talk about having sex with her boyfriend, a senior, and it drove me crazy. Sixteen. Such an ill-equipped age. Kelly's friend, a girl who lived down the street from me, would tell me secrets on the bus rides home. She said Kelly's boyfriend didn't like having sex with her because "she talked too much."

I skipped school a few times to go to this flooded quarry in Bedford, Pa. There were several cliffs from which to jump, of varying heights. My friend, who I've written a long essay about, he always went off the highest. They always said it was 60 feet high, but home to first on a little league diamond is 60 feet high and this cliff had to be 100 feet. It was several seconds of following his speeding body before he crashed into the water, shoes first, with a POP. We got stoned and drunk and smoked Jacks cigarettes from Sheetz (99 cents a pack!) and did Dust-Off. Dust-Off was never a favorite of mine but the other kids loved that stuff. They'd laugh for minutes at a time after doing it.

Professional news. I had two more essays accepted in a span of twenty-four hours. Both emails. I'd just been working on both of them, too. Also, found out that I'll be introducing Susan Orlean at the university's lit fest in early October. This excites but scares me good. I should probably read her books. She also has curly red hair.

I wrote a poem for the Russian girl. She left on Thursday morning. I said her hair was like a novel when I run my fingers through it. And this is true. It's curly like ivy's curly, how you have to work to get your fingers through it. Sometimes she straightened it, and though I said I liked it when she did that, really I liked it better when it was curly and she wore it down.

Reading "Beloved." The prose is beautiful and surprising. She likes her flashforwards and flashbacks, where it takes you a few sentences to get your bearings. Usually I don't like this at all, but I trust her. I feel as if I'm in capable hands.

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