Ah, popping.

Not the dance, the actual word.

At its worst, I think pimples, weasels.

At its best, I think salty popcorn, champagne bubbles tickling my nose during celebrations.

I also think about the bursting of bubbles that hold delusions.

I was recently at a high school reunion – never mind which one, just suffice it to say most of the men had lost hair and most of the women had gained pounds.

I think nostalgically about my high school self: a basically good-hearted teen, naïve enough that I missed the signals of one unresponsive boyfriend until he kindly came out to me years later, bobbing along on the outskirts of the crowd, touching few and hurting no one.

And that’s the somewhat less-naïve self I brought to the reunion. A benevolent outsider, prepared to merely observe my classmates’ foibles from afar and not really connect. I had no impact in high school, so why should the reunion be any different?

Until my delusions about who I was in high school slammed right up against other people’s realities.

I was an outsider, right?

“This is Helen,” a classmate I barely remember tells her husband. “She was a friend of mine all through high school.”

I was? I like this woman, more so now that we are Facebook friends, but in high school? Where was I during this friendship that was news to me?

Pop, there goes that delusion.

But even if I was clueless, at least I hurt no one.

“Honey, this is Helen,” says a guy I dated for a nanosecond, to his wife. “Hey, I’ve always wanted to ask you. What happened? Why did you break my heart?”

What?! We weren’t serious enough for anyone’s heart to get broken, right?

Pop, another delusion.

So maybe being clueless didn’t mean being blameless. But at least now, I’m generous and clued-in enough to be sensitive to people’s cues.

“Sorry you weren’t at the reunion,” I say upon my return home, as I catch up on social media with a newly-rediscovered high school classmate.

“No, I couldn’t get away, but I can come to Charleston this Fall to see you,” she responds.

Wait, here?! Like in my house?!

“I can help with finding you a hotel,” I counter, inhospitably and ungenerously.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

Helen Mitternight is a former AP reporter and current freelancer living in downtown Charleston. She headed up public relations for the Humane Society of the...

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