We all have at least one friend whose glory days were back when men were boys, women wore training bras, and the greatest life achievements consisted of passing a biology exam and getting a handy under the bleachers. I’m talking, of course, about the friend who peaked in high school. This veteran of the high school Varsity something or other was not content to move on from high school, but to reminisce like some kind of high school Van Wilder, which is definitely the worst kind of Van Wilder-like figure you can be.
Not all of us can be rocket scientists. In fact, not all of us can even earn a bachelor’s degree in underwater basket weaving. This friend was simply content to graduate and spend the next four years partying with high school kids and working at the local Walmart as a cart boy, while you were out hitting more home runs in college than Babe Ruth did in the major leagues. While you were browsing schools, this friend was dominating high school athletics and maybe even academics, but something deep inside him just wouldn’t let him leave once you turned the tassels. Like “Hotel California,” he could check out of high school any time he liked, but he can never leave.
Somehow, usually by chance, you run into this person in the real world. He has almost certainly put on a pound or 50 since you last saw him, and his acne seems to have magically persisted into his mid 20s, like he had an evil fairy godmother ensuring his face would always look like a topographic map of the Bavarian Alps. You may see him at Walmart or run into him shamefully shoveling food into his gullet at a fast food place while he takes a break from work. He will definitely recognize you before you recognize him. You’ll attempt to speed walk away or duck behind a table, but it’s no use. He zeroes in on you like a laser-guided smart bomb, ready to try and leech all the joy out of your day.
“Hi…” you’ll stammer, wishing somehow you could learn the ability to teleport at that exact second in time. You won’t need to speak though. He’ll tell you how great he has been, and how amazing all the high school parties he’s been going to are, completely disregarding the fact that he’s now 23 and drinking with 14-year-olds. You’ll think his lifestyle would create an opportunity for an episode of “To Catch A Predator” that’s so good, the producers would cream their pants over it.
He’ll talk about his job at the local Wawa, and how he is about to become a shift manager. You’ll question how he ever got a higher grade than you did in geometry. If you were close friends, you’ll lament his downfall, and perhaps even attempt to take him under your wing so he can interact with other adults. If you weren’t close, you’ll thank God you didn’t end up like him, living in Bumblefuck, Nowhere, working at a place with a maximum salary $10,000 dollars below the poverty line.
You’ll catch up on old times and hear new stories, though your friend’s stories will be variations of all his old high school exploits–like smoking weed in someone’s basement and stealing alcohol from someone’s parents. All his stories will be tinged with futility and desperation, because someone old enough to remember “Legends of the Hidden Temple” shouldn’t steal alcohol with 17-year-olds or smoke pot in his parents’ basement. You will tell stories of college conquests and postgrad success, causing him to compensate with even more ridiculous stories. If it doesn’t devolve into an experiential dick measuring contest, both of you will say how good it was to catch up (it wasn’t) how much you want to see him again (they do, you don’t) and how much you’ve missed each other (you forgot him the second your feet hit your college campus).
Despite the sadness you get from seeing the horribly misshapen and developmentally arrested former friend before you, you’ll be happy you aren’t him. He will serve as a cautionary tale for you everywhere you go, reminding you there are worse fates than a 9 to 5 and a mortgage.