One of my most vivid Shelter Island High School memories was this one time my classmates offered me a ride home. I usually walked home from school everyday, as my house was easily within walking distance. I believe it was winter, either that or late Autumn. Maybe even early Spring. All I remember for certain was that it was cold enough for me to wear my puffy red jacket that always made me feel like a giant red penguin. The day ended like any other would, but before I could even walk out of the parking lot, Cory and a few of his friends pulled up beside me and offered me a ride. Not seeing any particular reason to say no, I agreed.
As I sat in the car and listened as Cory and his friends talked, I remember feeling incredibly out of place. There they were, typical teenagers discussing teenager things, and there I was, wearing a jacket that made me look like Ralph’s little brother from A Christmas Story. I felt like a small child being chaperoned by the big kids, even though we were all about the same age. Cory was even driving. Cory was no older than me, and he was driving a car, something I had never even thought about doing at the time. Even to this day, I still don’t know how to drive a car – between public transportation and good old fashioned walking, the need for it never really arose in my life. It was incredibly surreal to see someone my age driving a car without much trouble.
And that was about it, really. I told them where to drop me off, they did so, and that was that. The strange moment was over, and I could go back to my own room. My own world. I’ve always been a natural introvert. I always found my video games and my own imagination more interesting than the company of others. Not that I ever resented my classmates or found their presence displeasing. I simply preferred to be alone. I suppose there’s no real shame in that, as that mentality is actually quite common. Still, I could never shake the feeling that I was missing out by choosing to spend so much time alone.
It’s been nearly a decade since I graduated from Shelter Island Central School and subsequently moved away. I still remember a lot of my old class mates. Sometimes I wondered what ever became of them. Recently, I finally decided to follow through on that thought and look them up – not a difficult thing to do, thanks to the internet and social media.
I started with Peter. I recognized his teeth but not much else. I say teeth because he was one of those kids with some goofy-looking teeth. I know it’s a cruel thing to say, but it was hard not to notice at the time. On the bright side, his teeth are definitely looking better these days, along with everything else. I imagine he’s got a decently active dating life these days, even if he does kinda look like a hipster. People still call him by his nickname, “Beef.” I still have no idea where he got that nickname.
Next was Mario. Mario was always a lot of fun. He’s done pretty well for himself since High School. He actually owns and operates his own business now – a brewery. Mario was something of a class clown, so it was surprising to learn that he became an entrepreneur. Though there IS a video of him getting frustrated by a Rubiki’s Cube on his Facebook. That wasn’t as much of a surprise.
Cory has also done pretty well for himself. He’s a senior financial analyst for a grocing company. That didn’t surprise me. Cory was class president and took the role very seriously, leading all kinds of student activities back in the old days. So I could easily imagine him in a suit and tie giving powerpoint presentations on last quarter’s profit margins. Couple that with the fact that he hasn’t seemed to have aged a day (seriously, did this guy discover the fountain of youth or something) and it would seem the last eight years had been very kind to him. Some guys have all the luck.
Frank is a paramedic now. That’s kind of surprising, because if I recall correctly, he was kind of a jerk. Dude probably treats his patients by slapping them across the face to keep them from passing out due to blood loss.
Phil moved to New York City and now works as a construction worker. I’m not surprised. He was welcome on Shelter Island, but he was always a city boy at heart. At least, that was the impression I got from him. Small towns like Shelter Island didn’t seem to suit him.
The biggest surprise of all was when I looked up Max the Third. Yes, that was his name – he was the third generation Max. Anyway, when I typed his name into the search bar, the very first result I got on Facebook was actually Max the Fourth – Max’s newborn son. Max, someone who is no older than me, is now a married mad and a father. That blows my mind more than any other discovery. Also, Max got buff. Like, real buff. Ripped, even. It’s jarring because he was kinda skinny back in the day.
Throughout all this, you may be wondering whatever happened to me after High School. To be perfectly blunt, I’d rather not say. All I’m willing to say is that I still feel like that little kid wearing that puffy red jacket, surrounded by people who are the same age as me, yet are infinitely more mature than me.
The people I grew up with have done just that. They grew up. They’re all driving their own cars now. As for me, I’m still that small child riding in the back. I don’t even know who’s driving my car or where it’s going anymore.