Hale Boys' Reprise

Danish Khan’s narrative of his time in high school in Western Australia’s Perth is bittersweet. I expected a light-hearted portrayal of a few pranks that years later you relive over beers when classmates link up in the same city at the same time. His story had the same effect as biting into a savory steamed Chinese bun and finding out it is filled with sweet sticky dessert bean paste instead. Surprise!

Most of my formative years were spent in the Western Pacific. That is about the extent my life relates to Danish’s. I am envious that he has those continuing connections from his school years. My first reunion effectively became my last.

Most of the boys in my class were married or almost. I was single. Eyebrows rose with silent judgement. Since I had seen my classmates, my family relocated to Thailand, then Germany, Korea and were heading to Alaska. When I informed one of my classmates when asked, I was branded a “show off.” It got worse: I lived in Japan and never “came back home” to Guam. Home? I was born in Spain. I was as at home in Singapore, Hong Kong, or Munich. Guam was no longer home to me.

That was the last reunion where I stayed till the end. At the next one, I spent most of my time asking about friends who were not there, hoping to see someone I remembered. “Divorced.” “Divorced and gay  — nasty break up,” and “rehab” were the other excuses people used to describe those in absentia, stabbing people behind their backs — yup, how could I forget that?  

Everyone remembered me. It was just after Nagano was chosen for the winter Olympics and suddenly I was Mr Popular. Did I have a spare bedroom? Could I show people around? I felt pressured to hand out my address and phone number. “Paul, let’s talk after the reunion.” I left before the introductions were made. That was the end of my high school connections.

I don’t have the ties to high school that Danish has. I wish I did. But the few times I had contact with friends after that, it was basically because they saw me as a giant pink piggy bank  — I live in Japan I must be rich. “I wish I had your yen salary. Can you lend me a couple thousand?”

Sometimes we separate because life just treats us that way. I understand it. I have written about it in “Separating Across Tokyo” and “Love on the Wires.” Danish, if a man is judged by the friends he has, truly I should be taking lessons from you.