After driving a retirement home van over to Atlanta just over a week ago, I began to shuttle vehicles back and forth between Birmingham and Atlanta. It was a nice, easy drive, and gave me more of a chance to enjoy time in my old home town.
I had received an invitation a few months ago to go to my old Scout troop reunion. At first I had no intention of going, because I seriously doubted I would be back in Birmingham on January 9. But when I saw I would be here, I thought Why Not?
It was happening at an Episcopal church at 7pm, and I showed up wondering if I would recognize any of the guys I hadn't seen since I was a kid. I looked around the room full of men and no one stuck out for me. At the same time, nobody seemed to know who I was. And then I heard a voice.
"Bill Thomas? Is that you?"
I turned and looked into the face of a stranger. "Yes, I'm Bill."
"And you have no idea who I am, do you?" He smiled. He was tall and slender, very well coiffed and manicured. "Bill it's me, Simon. Simon Turner."
"Simon?" My mind searched for some type of memory. "Simon..."
"We went to school together from first grade until 8th grade, when I left and moved to Colorado. I always loved to dance, don't you remember? You cast me as the lead in that play you wrote for English class."
That did it. I remembered him! "Simon! How are you buddy?" We hugged, and he seemed genuinely happy to see me.
"Well I'm much better now that I see you. I must say, you are a sight for sore eyes." I felt like I had heard those very words recently. Somewhere. It wasn't like it was a unique or original phrase, and yet Simon seemed to really mean it.
"Simon, how long has it been?"
"Well, like I said, the end of 8th grade. We were supposed to go to a summer scout camp, and I didn't get to go because my Dad got transferred. It broke my heart. You and I had agreed to be bunk mates. Do you recall?"
I squinted as I tried to recall. "Kinda sorta."
"Oh come on now, you and I were as thick as thieves."
"I remember we were friends."
"I tell Jackie about you all the time. Come on, let's sit down." He took me by the arm and led me to a table, where we sat together. "Oh, you would not believe the way I go on about you to this very day. Bill this and Bill that. Jackie says he gets tired of hearing about you, but I don't care."
"Who is Jackie?" I asked.
"My life partner. Certainly you must have known back in those days that I was a gay bloomer?"
I shook my head. "No I honestly did not."
He wrinkled up his nose. "Really? How could you not? I was such a prissy little sissy." Simon giggled, and it made me smile. "You know I had a huge crush on you, didn't you?"
"Oh come on, you had to know."
"I really, really didn't."
"In 8th grade, I was just gaga over you. It was a boyhood crush, just puppy love. But oh..." Simon held his hand over his heart and mimed a pounding beat. "You were so damn cute."
"Was I?" I was very surprised by this news.
"Didn't you ever notice the way that I would stare at you in the showers after P.E. class?"
"I really didn't. And maybe that was for the best, I was so sheltered I don't know what I would have done with that information. I mean, I don't know how I would have processed it. I mean..." I realized I was rambling, so I shut up.
Simon was beaming. "You are blushing. That is so adorable."
"You know, I just remembered something. When I was a kid, when we showered after P.E., I would just run around under the water and get wet. In and out of the open shower area as quick as I could. Most of the guys would do the same. You were always the first one in and the last one out. I recall that I thought that you had to be the cleanest kid in the whole school."
He smirked. "I had another agenda. I was a people watcher."
"Yes, I get it now. You were watching, all right, you sneaky little SOB."
Simon held up a hand in the air. "Guilty as charged." He laughed. "Well, my one regret was that we never shared a night of passion."
"Buddy, if it makes you feel any better, I was too dumb and naive to have even understood any of that back in those days. Heck, I didn't go to bed with a girl until I was 20, and she turned out to be gay."
He gasped. "How funny is that?"
"Not too funny. Her name is Karen, and I'm still in love with her."
He grabbed my hand and squeezed. "You are just too sweet." I wriggled around in my chair. Simon eyed me with suspicion. "Have I made you uncomfortable?"
"Well, telling you how I felt about you, that I was watching you and so forth? Did I scare you off? Because that is the last thing I wanted to do."
"No, Simon. I guess it is sort of unusual, I'm not used to this sort of thing. But you are my friend first and foremost, and I'm really glad we've reconnected."
As the evening wore on, other old friends came up and we got reacquainted. Simon never left my side, and we exchanged information and promised to stay in touch. I guess I will take any positive attention I can get. It's nice to be cared about, whether you're a Boy Scout or a driving fool.