Forever a senior

My sister’s in town, and we were out shopping (she tells me what I need, and I go buy it–what was that I said about bachelorhood?) and she suddenly bolted. “Huh?” says I. “Johnson,” she pops her head around the corner again, then bolts.
Suddenly I hear a vaguely familiar voice behind me. “You!” I turn around, and one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends is standing there. He points where he expects to see my sister, “And You!” But she’s nowhere to be found. He shrugs.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I live just up the street,” I say. He gives me a shocked look. My family moved out of St. Louis five years ago, and I was the only one to come back. Evidently no one told him. No biggie. We were always civil, but hey, we ran in different crowds and he was dating my sister and they didn’t part on the best terms.

We got to talking a bit. He finished high school, but none of his brothers did. Some of his friends did, some didn’t. They all got jobs that paid what looked like good money straight off–and still looks like good money, but good money at 22 is very different from good money at 35. We talked a bit about what we were each doing. In his case: “Stuff, here and there.” I was able to infer from other things he said later that he’s working mostly as a mechanic but not holding down any job for very long. He went to a junior college, ended up on academic probation, and got kicked out. (I’m pretty sure I could just show up for the finals for any given class at that particular junior college and stay off academic probation, but that’s just me.)

He asked about me. “Bachelor’s of journalism, 1997, working fixing computers, writing books at night.” He asked if I liked it. I was honest. Books yes, computers no. But once I have two books in print and selling I can ditch the day job. That impressed him–“At least you’ve got a plan to get what you want.”

My sister came out of it a bit shaken. He still looks exactly how he did at 18. But his looks are about all he’s got. Looks and a fast life, dating strippers and Hooters girls and going to strip clubs every other weekend, but it’s no different or better than senior year of high school–except the drinking and strip clubs are legal for him to do now. You know how they say, “forever a senior” when someone dies tragically a few weeks or months before graduation? He’s living that. A life forever looking back, because there’s not much worth looking forward to. And once the looks go…

I can’t say I’m jealous. I told my sister she shouldn’t be either.

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