Thanksgiving. The time to visit your family, to give thanks for what you have; your loved ones, your health, your path in life. An opportunity to return to your old room, to dig through your old stuff, to admit that you’re glad to be outta there. And then it’s late at night and the whole house is snoring, except for you. You find yourself wide awake, dusting off a copy of your junior high yearbook, lit only by the glow of the MySpace welcome screen. You type in the first name, hit “Search,” and it begins:
Your middle-school tormentors. Still living in that town you left behind. Wait, are they still living with their parents? Ha! Their top friends – your other tormentors from junior high. You think of all the people you’ve met in your life – on a train in London, at a gig in Rome, on the playa at Burning Man, on a photoshoot in Portland, in class, at a roller derby, on LJ, that time you volunteered – and you wonder, is this tiny slice of the world the only thing they know? Yes, you decide for them. It is. With great delight, you page through photos of their greasy significant others, and their babies, with their stained bibs, who look so heavy. A sense of poetic justice settles on the story you’ve been playing in your head, in which you’re the main character in the universe. Yes – the boy who put garbage on your desk grew up to be a garbage man. You won. They lost. And you all deserve everything that you got. It’s so simple, after all.
After a while, you find that the schadenfreude has an aftertaste, and it’s not something you expected. You begin to feel melancholy, and somehow very alone. Why are you clicking on their pictures, by yourself, in the dark? You try to tell yourself that you only wanted a laugh, but there’s something there. “Does what they did still hurt me, after all these years? Why else would I need to look up their crappy pictures?” What would happen if you suddenly found one of them in a wheelchair? Is it right to laugh when maybe they lacked something you had – say, a nutruring upbringing that made you succeed? And finally, what does this impulse to raise ghosts from the past say about you?
Readers, if you’ve ever engaged in this type of “research,” fess up. What did you find – and how did it make you feel?