Second Chances

 

California's Best Eats

Perry Clayton was my neighbor when I was 16, and he was a good one. Since he lived down the street from me, he was allowed to come over more often than anyone else. One morning he came by and waited for me to finish getting ready for school. He was watching tv when I came out of the bathroom and told him I felt too sick to leave, and needed to lie down again. When I finally decided to get up, it was after 9am and we were very late for school. Still, we left my apartment and started the six-minute walk to school grounds. A school officer patrolling the grounds saw us and started heading over when we were thirty feet or so from the main gate. Perry easily could have run and hopped the fence in enough time to beat her, but he looked over at me and could tell I wouldn’t be able to run that fast. So he took a deep breath, and walked to the slaughter with me. We both got a truancy ticket, and we both got into a lot of trouble. But that’s how my high school was, for the most part anyway. One for all and all for one.

Beautiful weather greeted me in Los Angeles. The first night was intended to be a run-through of the actual reunion, and although my friend and I invited over a hundred people, we were only expecting forty or so. Those were the people we’d get to spend extra time with, leaving us plenty of time to properly celebrate with the larger group on Saturday. I’ll go into more detail about Friday night later, but it was an interesting night. It set the tone of the weekend in two very distinct ways, but was magical nonetheless. The jukebox tunes we selected would have been terrible if we were any other group of people, but a gathering of Grant Lancers doesn’t require music to make it a party.

At some point Eric started asking why I wasn’t drinking, and then told me it didn’t matter because I was going to “get lifted” anyway. He literally means get lifted too, as in lifted off of your feet and into the air. That’s how these people are. They are so full of energy and always looking to have fun. There were always cliques of different types of kids in our school, but I believe there was a mutual appreciation of everybody, even the weird kids. And this past weekend, all of us got together and had a huge party like no time had ever gone by. The fact that I called several people who I hadn’t spoken to since graduation day and they started talking to me like we see each other regularly at the gym should have been the only indication I needed that my bond with them is unbreakable.

I looked in the mirror on Saturday night and observed two things: I didn’t need to wear Spanx, and I looked like Jasmine. Not like a girl overcompensating for something I lacked, but like the real me. Pretty, young, and fresh-faced. I had fretted over what to wear, but in the end, picked all of the clothes that make me feel like a lady. When I arrived at the Federal Bar, I was there to make everybody else feel like they were the best thing California ever produced. To spread the love. No one was to feel insignificant if they encountered me. I made sure to listen to each and every person that spoke to me. I talked to entrepreneurs, new parents, a cancer survivor, an aspiring rapper, a web manager, and each one stole my thunder.

What I mean is, they were pouring all of the love that I had saved up back into me. I’ve never, ever been squeezed so much in my entire life. I’ve never, ever been told |I love you that many times in a single night. Or heard so many nice things said about me. I was absolutely and completely overwhelmed by the love. 3 marriage proposals, 14 invitations to stay with someone who currently lives in California in the event I want to move back, and 1 epic lift on the dance floor left my face hurting from smiling and laughing.

The quantity of friends in your life doesn’t matter, but the quality is everything. I happen to know some of the real-est, craziest, and special people on the West Coast. It felt like a dream because it was so perfect, like a weekend only the mind could manufacture when your body has succumbed to the night,  but it was real.

It really happened.

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