In 1965 when I was first married, we lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings. Our flat was 2 Q at the far end of the hall. A corner apartment, nice because we had better than average light.
I didn’t drive yet, but it wasn’t a problem. There was a bus stop right in front of our building and the university was just a 5-minute walk. When I wanted to go into town, I just hopped a bus. No parking problems, either.
One sunny day, I felt like going shopping. I did. Had lunch, bought a few things. Having taken the bus home, I took the elevator to the second floor, balancing my packages. I walked silently down the long carpeted hallway to apartment 2Q.
I tried to put my key in the lock, and it didn’t fit. Odd. Hmm. A nameplate was firmly attached to the middle of the door.
My name was not Kincaid. I didn’t even know anyone named Kincaid. It was Apartment 2 Q. But not my place. Or maybe it was, but what was with the nameplate? Hmm.
Feeling increasingly dazed, I made a quick u-turn and walked back to the elevator. I pressed the button and rode back down to the lobby. I stood there for a few minutes, breathing. Then got back into the elevator back to the second floor. Should I have taken the stairs?
Ding! I arrived. Clutching my packages against my chest, I — slower than before — walked down the hall. The pattern in the paint on the wall paint seemed cleaner and brighter. I was feeling a bit light-headed when I got to the end where that pesky nameplate still read “Kincaid.”
There was no question in my mind what had happened. I’d expected it all along.
I had slipped through an invisible wormhole. I was now in a parallel universe, another dimension. Everything was identical in this dimension to the world I knew except that in this place — I didn’t exist. Where I had been, someone named Kincaid was living. Maybe Kincaid was my husband. Perhaps I did exist and Jeffrey had gone missing.
I stood there. Breathing. Staring at the nameplate. Pacing a little down the hall and coming back. Until finally, I looked out the window. And realized I was in the wrong building.
I’d made a simple mistake and gone into the wrong building.
I have forever since harbored a sense of disappointment. However weird, I wanted the magic to be real. I wanted an adventure in The Twilight Zone.
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When first married, Jeff and I lived in an apartment in one of two identical brick buildings — apartment 2Q, at the far end of the hall.
One day, having taken the bus home, I came through the front door, took the elevator up, then walked the long hallway to the apartment. As I started to put my key in the lock, I realized there was a nameplate on the door — “2Q, Kincaid.”
Not my name. The right apartment. But not mine. Hmm.
I took a deep breath, walked back to the elevator, made a u-turn and walked the hallway again. It still said “Kincaid.” Instantly I knew what had happened. I had slipped through an invisible gateway or wormhole into a parallel universe, another dimension where I didn’t exist. I’d been replaced by someone named Kincaid.
It took a while, standing there, staring at the door before it occurred to me I was in the wrong building. A simple mistake: the two buildings were twins. Oops.
What was interesting is not that I went into the wrong building but I assumed I’d slipped into the Twilight Zone. Does everyone think like that? What would YOU think?
Now that my high school reunion has passed and I’m no longer besieged by nostalgia from a half century ago, I feel safe in saying it. I haven’t any idea in what world my classmates were living, but I’m sure it wasn’t the same one I inhabited.
I understand that time can cast a gentler light, a rosy glow over events that took place in one’s youth … but there’s a difference between a rosy glow and a full revision.
For months, I have been bombarded by email from people with whom I attended high school. They are sure they remember me. They recall the fun stuff we did together. After giving it careful consideration, I have concluded they are deranged, on drugs, or senile. Whatever it is they think they remember, it didn’t happen.
Who are these people? Why do they keep talking about relationships that never existed? These people were not my friends. I remember them. They didn’t like me. They either ignored me, made fun of me, or conscientiously ostracized me. I belonged to no cliques, no fun groups. I wasn’t invited to parties. I was not popular.
I had a few friends, but these people who are so happily remembering me? They weren’t among the few people I counted as friends.
Did someone — me or them — slip through a wormhole into an alternate reality? That must be it.
High school was not a good time for me. Neither was junior high school or elementary school, for that matter. Even amongst the unpopular kids, I was unpopular. By the time I had survived junior high, I’d learned how to be invisible. Attending a really huge school helped. It was so big and over-crowded if you kept your head down, no one would notice you.
I was a klutzy kid with no athletic prowess, I avoided the humiliation of the athletically challenged by claiming I didn’t know how to swim. Every semester, I showed up at swimming class.
“You again?” said the coach. “Just keep out-of-the-way,” It was a win-win for me. I got an hour a day of private swim time alone in the deep end of the pool and completely avoided gym class. I believe I was technically on the swim team, but I never actually swam in an event. I was a bench warmer. That was fine. I liked the water, but I wasn’t going to win any medals.
All I had to do was get acceptable grades, not fail math courses after which I could go to college. I heard from other survivors that in college I might meet people who I’d like and might like me. That sounded too good to be true, but I had it on good authority. It turned out to be true so I guess making it through high school alive was worth it.
This was not the first time I’ve had to fend off a reunion. I dodged the 10th, 15th, 20th and 25th. I think there was a 40th too. But like a bad penny, it keeps coming back to haunt me. On the up side, we are now all so old, there is very little likelihood of any more such grand events.
I have repeatedly gone over this in my mind. I know with absolute certainty that high school wasn’t a fun time. It wasn’t only not fun for me. It wasn’t fun for most of us. We were young, hormonal, lost, unsure where we were going or how we would get there. Everyone felt ugly or deformed. Many of us had dreadful home lives that we hid from everyone else.
Yet now those years have become one long golden memory. At the reunion I did not attend, they actually got together to sing the school song. Never once in the years I attended did we ever actually sing the school song. It was a joke. We used to make fun of it because it was so dumb. Now, it’s a warm fuzzy memory. Bizarre.
My husband says this is typical of reunions. He says that when he went to his reunion — he actually attended one — people were reminiscing about the great times they had together, none of which he could remember nor could he recall the people claiming to have been there with him.
He says people need to pretend that they had a great time. It makes them feel better.
Not me. Even after fifty years I can’t think of a single reason to revisit a time and place I would just as soon have skipped in the first place. Oh, and to put this in perspective, our high school prom was cancelled due to no one but me and my date signing up for it. So exactly how terrific was the experience really?
Does pretending the past was perfect when it wasn’t even close make you feel better about your life? It doesn’t work for me. But maybe I’m the one with a problem. What do you think?
And now, a word from our sponsor:
2013 is the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. That’s five zero. Half a century.
After so many years, one might suppose my memories would be fuzzy enough that I could delude myself into believing I had fun in those opening years of the 1960s.
This has come up because a few of the people with whom I apparently attended high school want to have a reunion. Not the entire graduating class of more than 1200 people. This is a smaller sub-group of people who claim to actually know me and want to see me again. They say they remember me and all the neat stuff we did together.
I think they are deranged. Whatever they think they remember, as far as I can tell, didn’t happen. I do not want to go to the party. I said no when I was contacted by phone, but they keep sending me invitations by email … endless variations of the same thing. Lists of names I don’t recognize. I know I’m not young, but I’m not senile either. Who ARE these people?
I am considering the possibility I slipped through a wormhole and am in an alternate reality, which would explain how come they know me, but I don’t know them. Yeah, that’s probably it.
I was not a popular high school student. Even amongst the unpopular students, I was unpopular. Fortunately, by the time I had survived junior high, now known as “middle school” but back in those good old days, referred to simply as Hell, I had learned to be invisible. Attending a really huge school helped. It was so big and crowded, you could slither through all three years (10th, 11th and 12th grades) and if you kept your head down, no one would know your name. I only got attacked by junior thuglets once (not bad considering what an oddball I was) and participated in group activities only if dragged screaming and kicking, usually because someone needed an accompanist and I played the piano.
A klutzy young thing, I avoided the traditional humiliation of the athletically challenged by claiming I didn’t know how to swim. When I showed up, the swimming coach would say “You again? Just keep out-of-the-way,” and thus I got an hour a day of private swim time alone in the deep end of our Olympic-sized pool. I think I was on the swimming team, but I didn’t actually ever swim in an event. I was a bench sitter. And, apparently, the only girl in high school who didn’t care if my hair got wet.
So all I had to do was get decent grades, try not fail my math courses, and then I could go to college where I heard I might actually meet people who I’d like and might like me too. It turned out to be true, so surviving high school was probably worth it. But now, like a malevolent spirit, fellow graduates of Jamaica High School want me to come to their party. They even think I should pay for the privilege.
If I could remember any of them, I might consider it. No, that’s a lie. You’d have to drug me then drag my unconscious carcass there before I regained consciousness.
High school wasn’t a fun time. Not for me. Fifty years later I can’t think of a single reason to revisit an experience I would as soon have skipped in the first place.
And now, a word from our sponsor: