Coco Does Bama I

Thursday, September 2nd, 2004 | Friends, Travel


When I go home, I become the southerner that I never was when I lived there. I drink cheap beer, listen to country music, eat hickory-pit barbeque, and love humidity. I say “Aw-haw” a lot, and use the verb “tump.” I notice things that I didn’t pay much attention to while growing up, like kudzu, which is everywhere I look, and so beautiful and horrific. The humidity is almost unbearable, yet guys look so hot and smell so sweet. I’ve fallen in love with the south by getting out of it.

My high school reunion began with a get together at Whiskey Tango, a bar near our old school. My brother and I drove by the school first, which is now a Muslim Community Center. The school moved and is now called the Jefferson County International Baccalaureate Program, which sounds considerably less special ed than “Resource Learning Center.” We preferred to call in just “RLC” and make it seem more mysterious.

All of the guys, except for Donny, Peter, and Ben, have cultivated cute beer bellies. Rita looks exactly the same, gorgeous and thin, and with the trophy husband. She told me that David, my big high school crush, was gay, but that they couldn’t reach him to invite him to the reunion. “Wait, Rita, like I was totally in love with him, don’t tell me that he’s gay. How do you know this?” She told me that they spent a summer together during which time he made no pass at her at all. “He must be gay.” I told her that she just wasn’t his type, and that her bruised ego did not a homosexual make, although I made her promise me that she’d make it her mission to find out whether or not he is gay. In high school I wrote him a letter telling him I was in love with him. He actually wrote back and told me that although he was flattered, his god didn’t allow such activity and that if I had professed my love to him a few years ago, before he was Christian, that he would have flattened my face. I had already photographed him without a shirt, telling him that my photography teacher recommended that I needed some photographs of the male form for my portfolio. (I pushed that a bit later when I told Potsie, my next crush, that my photography teacher recommended that I take some nudes for my portfolio.)

Here’s David’s picture in the yearbook. I was the layout editor and the photographer, so in my first stab at visual narration, I tried to indicate that the only way to his heart was through me. I was the detective, trying to find the way in, while he stood there guarding his pearl beyond all price. That’s Wendy, below me, in the looking glass, my girlfriend and best buddy (although she didn’t make it to the reunion), representing the illusion of love.

Rita told me that she had always had a crush on Sam, my first boyfriend, who looked like Mick Jagger’s cute little brother. Evidently she didn’t know about me and Sam, so I broke it to her that he and I used to have sex in the Ya-Ya room at school. Sam ended up with his picture on the cover of the Birmingham News after setting up a date with an FBI agent posing as a 14-year old boy. He later made a fortune with Amazon and retired, and is now drying out somewhere on the east coast after a crystal meth addiction. Should have stuck with me!

Liz is still kind of horsey, but beautiful, too, and no longer the awkward kid. She married Sam, not my boyfriend Sam, who is about 20 years older and looks like Santa, and completely adores her. Rodney also married someone older, and surprisingly a woman, and was the only one who said “Nothing, absolutely nothing” when asked what he was up to these days.


Amy was a successful criminal defense lawyer for about 10 years, but recently decided to handle a few bankruptcy clients a month instead. She looks like she stepped out of a Hammer film–huge eyes set widely apart on a face with a ruby red mouth and white skin and long fingernails. She married the guy that I would have married–the food broker with the beard and the belly and the heart of gold. (He seemed unusually taken by my art, btw.) On the first night of the reunion, Amy got really drunk and made a prolonged, but ultimately unsuccessfull pass at my brother, whom she dated in high school, but never put out because she was only dating him to make Brad jealous, yet determined to say “yes” 20 years-, a husband-, and a 9-year old child later.

I really connected with Karl, whom I remember as being sweet, but not particularly strange or creative enough to run with my pack. He’s now working in theater and has a gorgeous wife and that cute belly that I mentioned earlier that all of my old mates have grown. 

I dragged James out of seclusion to join us. He is a fugitive from justice, having jumped parole in California after spending 2 months in the LA County jail for dealing crystal meth. Too strung out to serve his sentence, he split for Alabama and the comfort of his mom and dad, where he is currently recuperating. Like all of my classmates, he’s incredibly smart, as well as being very articulate and funny about what was a truly terrifying experience, which included getting his glasses smashed and face bashed in before his dealer/partner pulled a gun on him and ran off with the money they had stashed for the next investment. So James and I sat at the table with the former Brad, now Braden, and his wife—–devoted Christians who recently adopted a Chinese baby girl because God so willed it. Braden is now an OB-GYN, and his wife a former nurse. They have 4 kids in addition to the adopted girl. I spoke with Mrs. Braden for most of the dinner, and we shared stories about our kids. She was very charming, and sincere, but I couldn’t help but wonder if she went to the “thou shalt not lie with a man as thou lieth with a woman” church, or the “love thy neighbor” church. I fear Christians as much as they fear God. I sensed that they were the good kind, though.

More Bama adventures later…

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