“Hello class of ’97!
If you can believe it, it’s been 10 years since our class has graced the halls of Scranton Senior High School! Now it’s time to gather back together and catch up with our friends and classmates! This reunion will take place on Saturday, June 23rd, first with a family-friendly picnic at 1pm then drinks and snacks at 7pm at the Electric City Events Center. The full itinerary is enclosed along with your RSVP card. Whether or not you can make it, please enjoy the contents of this packet, including a letter from someone you may recognize.
We hope to see you in Scranton this June!
Sincerely your class president,
Pam Beesly barely remembered getting this packet a few weeks ago, her mother was in town for dress shopping and brought the large envelope embossed with a cardinal red knight on the front. The reunion date just so happened to be the exact same day as Pam’s upcoming wedding, and she admittedly felt a bit smug returning the RSVP with a “decline” next to her name. This reunion was going to be attended by people still hanging out around Scranton, eager to relieve their high school glory days. They would be looking back, and Pam just wanted to look into the future, to her upcoming wedding and her new life with the man she loved.
But the man she loved was at some bar right now, after he stormed off in the middle of an argument. Pam was not someone to pick fights but she was overwhelmed with wedding planning and by her count the only things Roy had even done was buy a ring and set a date. The decorations, the venue selections, the invitations had somehow all fallen on Pam’s shoulders and she didn’t think it was unreasonable for Roy to do at least one more thing. Somehow this all erupted into him saying he felt smothered by her, and her saying she felt like there was no support from him. After a door slammed and a truck engine roared off, she grabbed the nearest alcohol she could find and stomped to the spare bedroom, the one she was always hoping to convert into an art studio but now mostly was just a bunch of unorganized boxes, including a box where all the non-important, non-spam mail ended up waiting to be organize.
The future was not exactly looking bright either, she felt like she had been rejected for every decent paying graphic design-related job in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. She’s been telling Roy for years, the jobs she was striving for were in Philadelphia or New York, trying to hint they should move closer. He would only counter-hint that he was on track for the warehouse foreman position at his work, and once he landed that he would get more money. Besides her receptionist jobs were okay-paying and would be flexible once they had children, Roy would say.
She should amend her previous statement: Roy had done a few things for the wedding, namely attended the menu tastings (after she narrowed down the entrees) and was in the process of selecting a band (from a box of tapes she gathered). It wasn’t logical or fair to compare wedding planning to child rearing but she couldn’t help but think it would be a similar situation: Roy showing up for the fun stuff and her doing everything in between. She wanted to be a mother, someday, but recently the idea of having Roy’s children caused her unease. Especially if they had boys, they’d be tall and barrel chested, probably get his blue eyes and dimples that so often charmed her, along with his stubbornness, his way to make his wants and needs important and urgent, hers something that can be dealt with later.
Pam took a large swig from of one of Roy’s beers (he would not be happy to find her drinking one of his expensive micros from the back of the kitchen fridge and not a cheap domestic he kept for friends in the garage) and slipped her finger under the flap of the manila envelope. She pulled out the papers, and was face to face with her own writing. “Where I see myself in 10 years”. Behind the letter to herself a small collage of photos, she was curious how much time Stephanie Stucci spent on this if every member of her class received one. Steph was always an overachiever. Pam smiled at the photos, she didn’t care too much about hair styling back then and her hair was frizzy and everywhere. Her clothes always bore the marks of her many painting and drawing classes. How did it get flipped, Pam wondered, her 18 year old self should have been the one worried about appearance, lacking in confidence in her relationships, not her 28 year old self.
Her eyes felt onto the last photo in the collage and drew in her breath. It was some candid photo the yearbook club must have taken: Pam in an oversized sweat-shirt with smudges all over, one hand on the strap of her backpack, the other in the hand of a lanky boy, dark mop of hair on his head. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting herself remember a face she hadn’t seen for nearly a decade, a brilliant smile and a pair of bright eyes that greeted her after most of her classes.
Flipping back to the essay, she read her 18 year old self’s vision for the future, living in a big city with a great art job, a big studio space to all her own, the dreams of someone unfettered by the reality of rent and rejection. She then reached the final paragraph.
“I hope that in 10 years I will be with someone who loves me, who supports me and is always encouraging me, someone who makes me better but also is made better by me. And it may sound silly, but I think I’ve been lucky enough to find that already, and I hope when I read this letter in 2007 that I have held onto it.”
With a shaky hand and blurred vision, Pam set the papers beside her on the bed, then began twisting the engagement ring on her finger. The one with the yellow-gold band she didn’t quite like and the stone setting she didn’t quite want, but settled for it because it was less expensive, just like she settled for this tiny house with no room for her to make art, for the office jobs that would never lead to a career. The wedding venue, cake, dress, invitations, nothing was her first choice, she had to be practical.
Someone who makes me better and who is made better by me. Maybe once upon a time, Roy made her better, gave her encouragement and support, and she did the same for him, but those days seemed like a distant memory. Now it was petty fights and her begging him to at least act interested in planning his own wedding and settling for the fact that he wasn’t. Settling for his vision of their future where he would be the one to pursue a steady career while she needed something flexible, something she could easily leave or do part time once she had his children. Always settling.
Her cellphone rang from the other room and she stood slowly, knowing it was Roy and knowing she should be moving faster in case there was an issue and she needed her. But she enters the living room long after the cell stopped ringing, just in time for the ding of a new voicemail.
“Hey Babe,” the slurring voice started, “I’m at Kenny’s, and we’ve both been drinking so… I should probably stay here tonight. Um… I think we’re both so stressed out that we ended up saying things we don’t mean, but tomorrow I want to work on everything. I need to do more, I want to do more. Um… I love you Pammy, I’ll see you tomorrow, g’nite.”
There was a time where Pam would have felt guilty, felt like this message was a sign that Roy truly loved her and wanted to worked harder and do more. She would have agreed they were both to blame, would have thought he was being responsible staying over at his brother’s rather than risk driving home. But the truth was he was just trying to shift the blame to her, and that he purposefully got too drunk at Kenny’s so that he would have an excuse not to come home and deal with anything tonight, counting on her to be less angry and more forgiving tomorrow, to settle for yet another compromise.
She took a deep breath and shook her head, scrolling through her contacts and hitting “SEND”.
“Hey Penny,” Pam greeted the voice on the other end.
“Hey Pam, what’s up, are you okay?” her little sister said, surely confused by Pam’s late phone call.
“I’m okay, um, do you think you can come get me? I’m at home.”
A long silence before Penny spoke again, “Pam, what’s going on? Is… is Roy…?”
“We argued and he left, he’s at his brother’s for the night,” Pam quickly answered, knowing her sister was imagining a much more volatile situation. “I’m okay, I just…”
“I’ll come, Pam, I’ll be there in half an hour,” Penny said.
Pam closed her phone, headed to the hallway closet where her luggage was kept, and wheeled the bags into the main bedroom. There wasn’t room for everything so she grabbed her nicest, most professional work clothes, a few shirts, pants and skirts, and a couple pairs of shoes. She then moved to the spare bedroom and started putting books, documents and art supplies in the second suitcase. The last thing she grabbed was collage of highschool photos and the letter still on the bed. She smiled as she looked once again at her carefree teenage self; she was doing this for her. Her eyes studied the boy in the last photo, his hair sadly almost covered his eyes but there was still a smile on his face. Not the big brilliant smile that was etched in her memory, but something smaller, more personal. With extreme care, she slipped the photos and the letter back into the envelope and put it in the front pocket of her suitcase.
Penny arrived shortly after, and as she took Pam's bags out to her car, Pam sat in the kitchen trying to decide what to write to Roy, scribbling out several unsatisfactory notes before settling on a simple "I'm sorry."
"Ready, Pam?" Penny called from the entranceway.
"One minute," Pam replied, her right thumb and index finger on her ring. The band slipped over the first knuckle and she hesitated, wondering if this was rash, if she was really ready to change everything.
"You've got this, Beesly," she heard a male voice say in the back of her mind.