When I first pulled it out of the box in my attic, I had to do a double take. I hadn’t seen it in years, but it seemed so familiar. It was an object of such fondness to me that even though I’d just found it again, I felt I’d had it by my side all of these years.
But I hadn’t. Not really. It’d been up here, in the box of memories like the rest of my aging junk. Nestled there, amongst the skateboard and roller blades, between the paintings I’d done when I was 15. The pages still felt crisp, despite all the times I’d read the book through the years when I’d missed those formative years.
Here it was, my school yearbook. Chock full to the brim with pictures of people I’d called friends. Some who I’d called my enemies, too. A tome that I’d taken with me to college and even now remained. Even with me moving to a new house with my second wife, it was still stored in the attic instead of discarded in the trash like most people’s memories.
I heard Erica shouting for me from downstairs. Hurrying me along, reminding me the moving van was on its way and the boxes needed to be downstairs. I looked around at the empty attic.
What the hell? I thought. I’m ahead of schedule. I plonked myself down and opened the book with a gusto I’d not felt in weeks. Even the thought of the new house paled in comparison to a trip along nostalgia lane.
I opened it randomly and smiled as the pages fell open to reveal a girl who was very familiar to me. I grinned inwardly and gave a nervous glance over my shoulder, down through two flights of stairs to where my new wife was clearing out our kitchen.
There she was, Shirley Cassini. My first. Preserved forever in the photograph, she looked as delicious as ever. Blonde, blue eyes. Great body. I gave another quick, unsure glance over my shoulder even though I knew Erica wasn’t there. I let my mind drift back to Shirley and me in my dad’s car, which I’d stolen one night and driven to her house. That look on her face when she realised what a ‘rebel’ i was.
It was a far cry away from Ikea furniture, second wife Erica and my comfortable job. Did I really steal his car? Did Shirley really do all that stuff to me? I smiled again at the memory. Wild days.
Then I noticed the quote under her photograph. We’d been told to discuss what we thought of our futures. What we wanted from life. Shirley, the beautiful popular girl in school, had went with something pretty predictable.
Shirley Cassini – I’m not going to be happy until I’m famous. You’ll all remember me for being a star.
Odd. I thought. Shirley had actually done quite well. She’d become an actress in a reality programme about our area and then married a pretty wealthy golf pro. Now she was hot property in reality TV and had a show about her. I didn’t watch it, she hadn’t aged well and I preferred my memories of her intact.
I flicked the pages again. A familiar face. A hulking guy I used to go to wrestling practice with.
Trevor Mellor – Hey Julia. If I can’t have you I’ll go crazy. Love Trev.
I smirked at first. Cheeky of him to include a message to Julia Kravitz, a girl in the year below us but who would obviously have read it. After all, she helped put the yearbooks together.
My smirk vanished as I remembered a reunion a few years back. Trevor hadn’t been there. People had whispered to each other about it until one guy had told me that Trevor and Julia had dated, then married.
Then they’d divorced and Trevor had shot himself.
I stared down at the words. “I’ll go crazy” They said. I looked at the young guy’s face, full of humour and zest. I tried to match that up with a guy who might shoot himself after a divorce and came up short. Even my own divorce hadn’t made me feel quite that low.
In a haze now, I flicked forward to another page. This time the face was very familiar. My best friend, Danny Garbett, giving his best cocky fuck-you grin from our childhood days. We’d been like chalk and cheese for years after high school…Even when Danny started climbing high in the autotrading business. We’d still been inseparable up until the cancer. It pained me to look at his grinning face and remember the skeletal one I’d said goodbye to in the hospital.
I looked at the quote and my chest fell like an anchor had dropped onto it.
Danny Garbett – I’m so good that only a deadly illness will ever stop me reaching the top!
Three quotes. Three truths.
I began to panic. I looked down at the young face of my friend and then started racing through the pages. Through the pictures of people who were both alive and dead. Immortal youth accompanied by seemingly harmless quotes.
Quotes that all looked true.
Even though I shook my head and told myself it was a coincidence, every single page brough new truths with it. Here was an entry by Todd Williams – ‘You’ll all be voting for me someday.’ Now he was a politician and soon to be a senator. There was Marie Glanville. ‘Live well, broaden scope and chase your dreams.’ The girl became a travel writer. I owned a few of her books.
As I frantically thumbed through pages, with sweat beading on my neck and pooling on the back of my shirt, I looked around the darkness of the empty attic. This used to be my home. Now it’d be someone elses. This yearbook used to be all of us, immortalised as happy-go-lucky kids. Now it had become a fortune teller.
The page opened at my lap and I looked down at it. I squinted at the stranger there. Biker jacket. Mullet. Rebellious scowl.
There I was. The guy who’d had sex with Shirley in the back of his dad’s car. A stranger to me now, two-wives removed and a couple of life-changing career hops.
I looked down at the quote and my mouth opened involuntarily.
Nathan Tate – Live fast, die young. Screw the future, I won’t make it past 50.
You stupid little punk, I thought to myself. What were you thinking?
My hands trembled as I closed the book and put it back in the box. I could hear my new wife calling me down above the rumble of the moving van. I thought of our new house. Of the big back garden and long summer nights we’d planned there.
I dumped the yearbook in the box and and turned away, back to my new wife and my comfortable life. Away from the teenage rebel in the picture, in the book of corpses and prophecies. I turned off the light with one last glance at the box, lurking in the darkness. I left it in there. The words contained in the pages hidden away from everyone.
Next week is my fiftieth birthday.