I’m sitting in a suburban golf club bar with twenty old high school classmates. It’s Friday night of our 25th high school reunion weekend. I’ve traveled from New York City for this event and have no idea what to expect.

We’re playing ‘do you know whatever happened to so-and-so’. I can’t resist asking about my old boyfriend from junior high school. Casually I ask, “Does anyone know what happened to Jim Hallenbeck? Where he might be nowadays?”

Over the clink of beer bottles and cocktail glasses Dave what’s-his-name says, “Yeah, he’s divorced and living back at his sister’s on Second Avenue.”

I just nod and feel my face flush. But he’s not finished. “Didn’t you two have an on-again-off-again thing for a few years in school?”

Clearing my throat and trying not to swallow an ice cube, “Ah, yes we did.”

I’m now sweating; my dress and thoughts are sticky. I no longer hear the ambient noise of people and place; the memories come flooding back.

He lived around the corner from me. A little league baseball park with three fields, a basketball court, and a shade house buffered our site line. He was two years ahead of me in school. He was the Bad-Boy type Mother had warned me not to get involved with; Lucky Strikes rolled up in his tee-shirt sleeve, indifferent or less to school, part-time job at the local filling station. Definitely not college material. Dad agreed with her but secretly like him because he was a man’s man: hunter, fisherman, dog lover, and handyman. Over time, Mother grew to accept him. After all, he had six sisters, loved the company of women, knew just what they wanted to hear. He could charm any woman into adoration. During our off-again times he dated my girlfriends and I didn’t really care.

After his graduation he joined the army. After mine, I went to college. We never saw each other again.

The rest of the reunion is a blur. I’m constantly thinking about Him, considering what to do about Him. I return to my life in NYC and an agonizing week goes by before I decide to ‘just do it’. Amazingly, I still have his sister’s phone number in my address book. I call with damp hands, dry mouth, and hopeful heart.

Living in Edinburg on the Sacandaga Reservoir, we were love-locked together for the next 21 years before he passed.

It’s about taking a risk.

6 thoughts on “Finding My Bad-Boy by Leslie Sittner

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