AM I THAT UNLIKABLE?

I smile when I read the above inscription in my high school yearbook.

Recently in a friend’s novel, a tall, thin, male librarian is the angel of death. I happen to be a tall, thin librarian. In another friend’s novel the villain husband has the last name McCann.

Not too long ago I attended a party for us retirees who had worked in my academic depart. Startled that one former department secretary couldn’t remember me, owing to her memory loss, I effusively reminded her that we never had as much fun as when she was secretary. I had nicknamed her angel because of the parties she planned. I later received a card from another former department secretary saying she had thought she had been my favorite-ever department secretary and felt betrayed to hear what I said to her predecessor. I loved the second woman as much as the first, but hadn’t been prepared to be confronted with the progression of the first woman’s memory loss. I certainly intended to express no diminution of my feelings for the second woman and our years of working together. As I pondered what to write in a card to my offended friend, she died of a stroke. Ah, me. Maybe I am the angel of death.

I ponder the inscription in my fifty-year-old high school year book. “Gary, Lots of luck. To the most detestable, terrible person of the class of 66. Enjoy yourself this summer anyway.”

I beg your pardon? “The most detestable, terrible person of the senior class?” I try to remember some running joke between us that would explain this inscription, but come up with nothing. We weren’t close friends. I don’t remember ever doing anything social together. In high school I was in my self-righteous, fundamentalist Christian phase, believing everyone was immoral and needed to be saved. I was also terrified of the prospect that I was secretly homosexual in a social world that derided homosexuals as the worst possible thing a human being could be. Perhaps I wasn’t at my best.

Yet I remember having fun in high school with a few close friends who had no idea who I really was.

In my dotage I wish most people well. But does McCann, the villainous tall, thin, retired librarian, angel of death, roam at large offending?

More power to the old son-of-a-bitch if he does. That’s one of the benefits of age. You can be nasty with grace.

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