Robert Meets Peggy
Robert entered the Highlands Banquet Room. He smiled at faces familiar to him but those faces looked back at him as if they were trying to say, ‘Do I know you?’ and ‘Were you in our class?’ or ‘You must be married to someone in our class because I have no clue who you are.’
Robert thought the bar would be a good place to start. As he made he way to the bar there was a reception table with two women sitting behind it.
“Let us give you a badge,” one said.
“What is your name,” the other said.
“Smith,” Robert said. “Robert Smith.”
“You’ve really changed,” one said.
The other went through a file box of badges. She pulled one out. It had his name on it and his senior class photo. She handed it to Robert. She pulled it back, looked at the picture, and looked at Robert. “How did you do it?”
“Do what?” Robert said.
“You haven’t changed,” she said. “Just the zit is gone.”
“Robert smiled. “You should have seen me a week ago; I still had it.”
“Go mix with your classmates and have a good time,” she said.
“Thanks,” Robert said and steered toward the bar.
“What will it be?” the bartender said.
“Just a club soda with lime,” Robert said.
A friendly chubby face next to Robert said, “Bernie Sarno, class clown. You recovering too?”
Robert seemed confused.
“The club soda and lime,” Bernie said. “The preferred drink of all well-to-do recovering alcoholics everywhere. Me? I’m off the wagon for the weekend. Somehow the size of the party and the amount of booze has to be in relationship with the other.”
“I never knew that,” Robert said.
Bernie went on as if Robert said nothing. “So what’s your racket, Robert?”
“I’m in manufacturing,” Robert said. “I own Smith Machining in Batavia. What about you, Bernie?”
“Kinda making a career shift at the moment,” Bernie said. “I’ve always been in sales… Hey, you wouldn’t need a salesman would you? I can sell sand to an Arab.”
“Actually,” Robert said. “We’re expanding in Asia. So what I really need is a guy who can sell tea to a Chinaman.” Robert walked away before Bernie had an opportunity to answer.
Three steps beyond Bernie was slightly overweight woman. She was sort of dancing. “Remember me?” she said.
Robert immediately remembered her. They had a hand full of classes together and she was at least partly responsible for his shyness. She was cruel and unkind. She flirted with him for several weeks and luridly asked him to ask her out. “Louder,” she said several times until nearly everyone in at the next table in the cafeteria could her and finally she said. “No way, you’re to loud. I like soft-spoken guys.”
“Aren’t you Louie Templeton?” she said. “We won a dance contest together. Tina O’Conner, best dancer. Still got the moves.”
“Yes and there’s a lot more to move,” Robert said and darted to the balcony overlooking the city. He stood for a long time looking out over the lighted city and wondering why he ever came.
He turned back to all the laughter and gayety inside knowing that he never really quite belonged and suddenly there she was, Peggy Allen and with her an average looking guy. He and Robert could have been brothers. As if drawn by magnetism Peggy turned to the balcony. She smiled broadly and led the man with her onto the balcony.