No person actually appreciated highschool. Even the plastics and 17ft hair-gelled jocks it’s purpose-built for don’t make it out of your common teen comedy with out a few tears.
The impression it leaves is so vital, it stays with us for the remainder of our lives. Irrespective of how a lot weight you lose, how far you progress away or what number of zeroes you add to your financial institution steadiness, you’re nonetheless the identical chubby child, in the identical class, surrounded by the identical individuals. And we proceed to care what these individuals consider us. We wish them to trace us as we transfer by life, to see our achievements, to be impressed by us. It’s the one cause individuals preserve a Fb web page nowadays – to maintain an eye fixed from a cushty distance.
However what if these massive plans you needed to impress all of your outdated friends hav’en’t fairly labored out? And you end up returning to the place you left behind. How would you announce your self again on the scene?
Stephen didn’t have a good time in highschool. He felt invisible. Jazz band was his coping mechanism, a lot in order that he went on to review jazz in school.
Whereas residing as a struggling musician in Baltimore, there was at all times one thing hanging over Stephen: the household dental observe within the small city of Columbia, Maryland, and his dad’s dream that he would at some point take it over. So, he studied dentistry as a post-grad. However together with his dad approaching retirement, Stephen nonetheless hadn’t determined whether or not he ought to transfer residence and make the leap. Then got here an electronic mail that introduced all of it to a head: an invite to his ten-year highschool reunion.
Stephen doesn’t need all his old fashioned friends to suppose he failed in his quest to grow to be a musician. And if he follows in his dad’s footsteps, he’ll be the potential dentist of former crushes, bullies and pals – so he’ll have to make an incredible impression.
Fortunately, he noticed an advert on-line.
For Oobah, my “app”, which lets you order a lookalike of your self.
Stephen despatched off the next request:
I need to ship a warmer, extra profitable lookalike to my 10-year highschool reunion.
Final time, I helped a husband who was afraid of heights make his spouse’s dream of skydiving with him come true, by sending a lookalike to leap out of a airplane together with her. That labored. However that is totally different: we don’t have a flight go well with and a ten,000-foot drop to masks any mistake.
When the idealistic architect James Rouse – by the way, the grandfather of Hollywood actor Edward Norton – conceived Columbia because the mannequin harmonious, self-sustaining American neighborhood within the Nineteen Sixties, a resident feeling estranged sufficient from their hometown to do one thing like this most likely wasn’t what he envisaged.
After we meet on the morning of the reunion, Stephen is understandably agitated. The primary individuals he desires to inform are his dad and mom.
Bizarrely, they’re not that shocked.
“I would like someone who has travelled the world as a musician. Had a number of neat experiences,” says Stephen, portray his idealised self. “Someone extra charismatic.”
“However Stephen, you’re very charming, you’re very charismatic – you shouldn’t put your self down!” his mum interrupts.
“Simply calm down – OK, mother?”
As we decide on Stephen’s excellent traits, we uncover a second from his previous that haunts him. Round 12 years in the past, he was taking part in within the band on the faculty dance. It was his massive second to blow everyone away together with his lead sax solo. To be observed!
Stephen took his sax, strolled to the entrance of the stage and turned his again to the gang, revealing the message “CHICKS DIG ME”. The gang went wild for him! Or so he thought…
They had been truly in hysterics about his wedgie. This humiliation is etched in his thoughts. He’d love a do-over.
“Why do you not need to go to the reunion, Stephen?” I ask. He exhales and appears out in direction of the rain.
“I feel lots of people have already established themselves and are out of faculty. They’ve careers and household, and are actually getting settled into their lives.” He stops. “I’ve had a little bit of a unique expertise. Beginning with the music and going into the dentistry, initially pondering I might be wherever and now settling myself into this space.” Stephen swallows. “I’m not fairly the place I need to be but.”
“Do you suppose the individuals at highschool will bear in mind you?”
“I don’t suppose the vast majority of them will.”
THE NEW AND IMPROVED STEPHEN
That is Aaron. A Hollywood actor who has tattoos, an electrical guitar and can tonight be taking part in Stephen. These are his goals.
1. TO CONVINCE EVERYBODY THAT HE IS STEPHEN, A COOL, SUCCESSFUL MUSICIAN.
I’ve conceived a secret weapon to get this one over the road: subliminal messaging. For the previous few days, I’ve been hanging up gig posters round city for Stephen’s fictional band.
I’ve additionally named the band The Proper Man, so when his outdated classmates meet him on the evening, they’ll see his face and suppose, ‘The Proper Man’.
Though that’s exactly what he isn’t.
2. ESTABLISH HIMSELF AS ONE OF THE ‘COOL KIDS’ BY BEFRIENDING JESSE, THE MOST POPULAR GUY IN SCHOOL.
3. TO CHARM STEPHEN’S HIGH SCHOOL CRUSH, KATIE.
Though we’ve been knowledgeable she will now not make the reunion, so it’s simply these first two we have to nail.
Now, for the Aaron to Stephen makeover. The very first thing we have to cope with—
—is his hair—
—with some state-of-the-art engineering. Subsequent,
We have to remodel his eyes from blue to brown.
And right here we go.
It’s a chilly November evening in Columbia, and busy within the metropolis’s resident “English pub”, Union Jack’s.
We’re over the street, undercover, at the back of a van. To permit us to be silent spectators to conversations about work, outdated rivalries and heartbreak, we’ve bugged the joint (with a full digital camera crew, there underneath one other pretence).
Stephen 2.0 arrives. Poised, we hear him enter.
Aaron grabs a reputation badge, a drink, and hovers on the sides of conversations – earlier than diving in.
“Do you bear in mind me?” he asks. The previous classmate takes a minute, looking at his face.
“I bear in mind your identify.” Her eyes slim, suspiciously, earlier than – hastily – the music cuts out. A person jumps up on to a desk.
Jesse, the most well-liked man at school, launches right into a rousing speech. Because it wraps up with a Budweiser cheers, Aaron realises that is his shot, so takes a deep breath.
Jesse stops. His eyes drift to the identify badge, after which again up.
“Stephen Fasteau! I knew it. Good to see you!” They embrace.
“You’re trying good nowadays!” Jesse says, as they commerce success tales. It’s occurring: Stephen has been accepted as one of many in style guys!
Subsequent, it’s certainly one of his rivals from band complimenting his new look.
As a girl laps up Aaron’s story about touring in Previous Kyoto, we realise Stephen 2.0 is precisely the type of dude you thought was cool in highschool. For a second, Stephen is successful.
Then, one thing modifications.
“You’re not Stephen Fasteau.”
Opposite to what we’d been advised, Katie – Stephen’s highschool crush – has turned up, and he or she doesn’t purchase a phrase of it.
Katie loudly quizzes Aaron on their time collectively.
Quickly, a flock of her pals encompass and interrogate Aaron. The hearsay of what’s happening is spreading across the room, and rapidly. “Similar to highschool,” Stephen says to himself sombrely.
With issues on the flip, we have to end this and get out of right here. I instantly placed on a chef’s outfit and enter the premises.
I hand Aaron a slice of edible paper and disappear in direction of the kitchen as he eats it. On the paper are three phrases: CHICKS DIG ME.
Aaron now has the chance to place proper what as soon as went so incorrect. So he determinedly takes the guitar we planted and yells for the music to be minimize out.
“Y’all knew me as a saxophone participant. However right here’s one thing you’ve by no means seen earlier than!”
Aaron launches right into a face melting guitar solo because the room falls into silence.
Then, an audible gasp. Aaron’s shirt hits the bottom. Naked-chested, he spins round.
Revealing this henna tattoo. If in any respect attainable, I’ve managed to take advantage of embarrassing second of Stephen’s highschool profession even worse. Twelve years on, it’s not inspiring laughs or schadenfreude amongst classmates, however anger. Sat beside me, Stephen appears depleted. I ask if he’s OK.
“I don’t know. I’ve not seen these individuals in ten years. Is that this complete factor going to shit on my profession? Being a dentist within the space. However, you understand, I signed up for it.”
Then, from among the many raised voices, we hear one thing.
“The place is the true Stephen?”
“It is a bummer; I’d like to see him.”
It’s then that it dawns on us: The individuals within the room aren’t indignant concerning the trick. They’re indignant as a result of they needed to see Stephen. They’ve missed him. Perhaps Stephen wasn’t as invisible as he thought he was at highschool?
In a second of defiance, Stephen tears off his wire, tosses down his baseball cap and bursts by the van’s doorways. He’s getting in!
As he walks throughout the automobile park, individuals drunkenly yell his identify. He barrels by the door.
And is welcomed with heat and cheers. Individuals who he thought wouldn’t recognise him defy his enduring interpretation of highschool. A lady who used to work with Stephen’s dad at his dental observe explains how his father had impressed her and adjusted her life. She’s blown away by the thought Stephen might grow to be that very same individual for someone else.
With each tipsy dialog and embrace of a former classmate, the “insufficient” Stephen dies. There was by no means any want for him to need to be something apart from himself – he was at all times adequate.
With out the assistance of a lookalike, Stephen manages to do one thing the youthful him hadn’t for the entire of highschool: ask the very woman who rumbled him, his crush Katie, out on a date.
“You already know the place to seek out me.”
We do. In Columbia, Maryland.
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