Hey, I'm Jason. I'm a chronically-ill-super-freedom-loving-medical-self-journalist.
Today I did something vaguely out of character, I wrote something online which I may regret. I haven’t been able to get it off my mind–and I haven’t written a post for a while–so, I land here. With you. To write a blog post. Because I haven’t written for a while. Subsequently, you will be subjected to a longer than usual post. It has a good ending.
My 25th high school reunion has reared its ugly head my direction. I know, right? Now you’re on board. Nice. While the sentiment of this event is sweet and certainly has its “pay-back” potential … I won’t be going. Number one, I am an urban city-slicker-type and my final two years of high school were spent in rural New Hampshire. Very pretty. Kinda boring. Just for me, mind you. It is certainly a place with merit: clean air, fall leaves (they are just leaves, you know) and wicked-good laws for the same-sex-marrying-type. Anyway, it’s nice. I was there this decade once already, so I feel like going on this trip might’ve been overdoing it a bit. Number two, it’s two freaking days after Christmas (a young woman complimented me on my blog, but pointed out my language can get a little rough–and so the previous “freaking” is for her). There are four of us, we familial travelers. Transcontinental flight. Let the cash registers rejoice the sound of the holidays: ca-ching! Plus, even though the young lady organizing the event is quite nice, she announced the event date well behind the 60 day, save-a-lot-of-money-airline-rule. So, in summary: Christmas, debit card, family, uh, no. I could go by myself on the cheap, but what’s the point of going when the hot wife with tattoos and spectacular progeny are the real show?
Number three: high school sucked eggs. Ostrich eggs. Big, hairy Ostrich eggs dipped in lemon juice, served on toast with Vegemite (apologies to Australia, but yeast paste?). Let me give you a brief synopsis:
In California, during my Sophomore year, I was freaking (2!) awesome. Best year of my life, maybe. I went to school on the infamous Melrose Avenue. I wore vintage blue suits with blue suede creepers. I had orange hair, was on the track team and was class president. Two terms, biatch. I dated private school girls, for crying out loud! I’m still dating one today (no, not that way, she was a private school girl back then, sheesh).
Then, without having the sense to see what I was about to put myself through, I landed in NH to complete my under-under-graduate work. My mother took me to the world’s worst hair-dresser, on the way home from the airport, no less, and had me shorn of my “ridiculous hair.” Looking back, I realize the irony; my mother was living, let’s just say, an alternative lifestyle at the time, yet still found a way to strip me of mine. I pause having really just realized this for myself … jeez, mom. (I love you, mom. It’s grandma’s fault.)
That was before I rested even a toe on the soil of Merrimack Vally High School. Recall for a moment the scenes from “Dazed and Confused” wherein pick-up trucks are donut-ing in the parking lot and freshmen are running from shit-kickers worn by trucker-hat-wearing-country-thugs You’re close to the idea. (Please understand, these were not the “ironic” trucker hats meant for Ashton Kutcher’s noggin.) The guys, really except for two exceptional friends, either bumped me in the halls with their shoulders or hazed me. The girls, well, of course there were a couple of nice girls who gave a shit about me, but on the whole it was more than 3,000 miles between me and the free-wheeling days of California.
Back to the reunion. 25 years later, in front of the world on Facebook, a reunion group request is made:
Who is coming and how many will you be?
I want you to know I asked my hot, tattooed L.A. wife if it was okay if I responded in the following way and she said it was. So I’m absolved, at least around here. Here’s what I wrote:
Thanks very much for the invite, my family and I will not be able to make it this year. I never really liked going to high school anyway.
Yup. Right there on the reunion’s campaign headquarters. And here, finally, is the part that’s really bothering me: I still feel guilty for my milquetoast RSVP/dig. I mean, who gives a crap if I didn’t like going to high school? Nobody. That’s who. Because most people didn’t. And it’s just a half-hearted comment on Facebook, how many of those do you suppose exist in a day? Still the guilt persists–I’m a nice boy under it all. I have my wife’s approval, so let’s get to global absolution, because I think I deserve it.
Put aside all the crap I had to change about myself just to survive in remarkably hostile territory. I still lost my kidneys. That’s right. For those of you out there who join me in that living hell, we have a bond that transcends all social barriers and I welcome you with open arms. High school is hard, high school with a disability is soul-crushing.
At the time, some hack physician who is long, long gone by now decided between my Junior and Senior years, while I was in L.A., would be a good time for me to take Prednisone. It would save my renal function! Lots and lots of Prednisone. If you’re in the know, I took 60mg three times a day for almost half a year–yes, three times a day. For those of you unaware of the numbers, that dosage is outrageously high. The thought of it, were I to have to take it today, terrifying. I don’t know what it compares to, frankly, there is no greater medical evil than Prednisone. I’ve overheard nurses at the transplant clinic apologize to patients who have to take 5mg once a day:
I’m sooo sorry, we just can’t figure out how to get you off of the last five milligrams, you’re going to have to take this sliver of a pill … I hope it doesn’t effect your life in a negative way. Really, we’re soooo sorry.
By the time I arrived back in NH, every side effect that miserable drug offerred, I accepted. My face had ballooned into comical proportions. I had acne everywhere, my back was like a battlefield rife with craters. My mood was completely nutty. I had fits of anger and lonely bouts of sadness. Yet, Merrimack Valley, you were not kind to me, at least not in memory. Your students made fun of me, your teachers offered no solace. Your lunchroom, Jesus, your lunchroom–what level of darkness it accessed. There were no celebrities on dialysis back then, you see. No George Lopez kidney transplants. Nobody knew what the fuck I was going through. Probably not even me.
I missed the “professional” senior class photo-shoot everyone else went to, I couldn’t face a camera. My class picture, set into eternity in the yearbook, was taken the last possible day a photo could be turned in. One of my two friends took it, just outside the Senior locker area (don’t get me started, if the lunchroom was hell, the Senior Locker Area ate hell for breakfast and spat it out next to the puddles of chaw on the sidewalks); I stood in front of some wall and tried to make my face look normal. Yeah, good luck, young me.
I don’t know if this post falls under the definitely-kidney-related column or … some other column. I’m not sure how to even end this post, I find myself weeping at the keyboard again. What can I say? I’m half-apologizing for a Facebook post which turns out to not be all that rude, if you think about it, and half-devastated at the renal revelations it has afforded me. I created a thin-skinned insult and was rewarded with a deluge of devastating recollections. I mean, I could’ve said:
You can count us as a negative four, and by the way, you rat bastards, there was barely anything good about my high school years with you monsters (you know who you are) and certainly nothing happy happy happy about losing my kidneys, so of course I’m not fucking coming across the country for those memories to be stirred up like mental muck in a witch’s cauldron. Have fun without me … you always did before.
But I didn’t. I’ve got more important things to do. Like recover.