Tyrell Hayward pours himself a mug of coffee, adds a drop of milk and two heaping spoons of sugar. He heads for the living room, grabbing his high school yearbook on the way. He sets his coffee on the end table, plops down hard on the couch, kicks off his sneakers and rests his long lean legs on the coffee table. He reaches for his mug, takes a big gulp of the hot brew, smacks his lips and starts flipping through his yearbook.

“Ten years, hard to believe,” he says in a whisper; “Thought I’d be a best-selling novelist by now.” The 10-year reunion is tomorrow night and Tyrell Hayward didn’t want to go, but his buddy Nick Martelli talked him into it. Nick is married, three years and counting, with a baby girl and a second child pending. “Sure, Nick wants to go,” Tyrell says in a snit. “He wants everyone to meet his wonderful wife, Shannon and show off photos of their sweet baby girl. And knowing Nick Martelli, he’ll probably bring along sonagrams of the kid that’s on the way.” Instantly, Tyrell regrets being so petty and reminds himself that Nick is a true-blue friend and he shouldn’t begrudge him.

Why’d he agree to go? “You’ve got a wife; I’m not married,” Tyrell had told Nick as if that was reason enough.

But Nick wouldn’t budge. “You’re dating LaTasha. She’s charming, smart and pretty. You’d be a fool not to show up with her,” Nick insisted.

“True,” Tyrell said, “But it’s too soon; we’ve just started seeing each other. Bringing LaTasha to the reunion is like bringing her to a wedding. She’ll read way too much into it. I mean, damn, we just started seeing each other.”

Nick shook his head, “This is a ridiculous conversation. You know damn well you’re going and you’re bringing LaTasha, so stop wasting time going through the motions of making a decision you’ve clearly already made.” Nick was right. Two days later, Tyrell sent in his RSVP with LaTasha Jones as his Plus One.

The more Tyrell flips through his yearbook, the more apprehensive he becomes. “Stop it,” he tells himself; “It’ll be okay. I’ll have LaTasha by my side. Nick and Shannon will be with us. Yeah, it might be fun.”

Nick Martelli is the only friend from high school that Tyrell is still truly close with. But thanks to social media, Tyrell keeps tabs on the meanderings of his former classmates as they obsessively brag about their lives, posting pictures of their cars, kids, pets and vacations and their new shoes, new tools, fresh haircuts, manicures, pedicures and whatever they’re having for dinner as if anyone cares.

What Tyrell does care about, is the chance to see them face to face, curious to see if there’s even a remote resemblance to their profile pictures. He’s certain those tight facial close-ups hide cropped-out double-chins and those head and shoulder shots are hiding big bellies.

Tyrell continues flipping through the pages, then stops at his own senior picture. He is less idealistic now, more weary. How young he was in that picture. How proud he was of that haircut and the clothes he chose to wear. He looks at his list of extracurriculars: African American Students Association, Creative Writing Club, Hiking Club, Student Newspaper. He looks at the goals he listed for his future and reads them out loud: “College. Write the Great American Novel. Become rich and famous.” He laughs sadly, “Well, college; got that one right.” He takes a sip of coffee.

“Oh well, when I see them face to face with their double-chins and big bellies and they start bragging about how great their lives are, I can do some bragging of my own. I’m dating a fine woman, living in a rented rustic cabin by the lake with an option to buy, working as an assistant manager at a bait and tackle shop and currently contemplating growing a beard, all of it true.” He strokes at his clean-shaven chin. If they ask about that Great American Novel he was going to write, he can say he’s working on it, which is not true. But he can point out that he’s had several short stories published in literary magazines. Yeah, he can brag about that. “So what! It’s not like anyone else is famous yet either,” he says in his own defense.

Tyrell downs the rest of his coffee, draining the mug dry. He rubs at his eyes, stands up, stretches and sits back down. He continues flipping through his yearbook, looking at his classmates, the brainiacs, dumb jocks, band nerds and Glee Club dweebs and those applause-craving drama prima donnas. As far as he knows, none of them are famous. None of the smart kids have discovered a cure for cancer, won a Nobel Prize or reinvented the wheel. None of the athletes are playing in MLB, the NFL, the NBA or the NHL. None of the music students are rockstars, rap sensations, pop icons, Grammy winners, opera divas, jazz greats, renown cellists or celebrated concert pianists. None of those drama kids have won Oscars, Emmys or Tonys and he isn’t aware of any of them being in films, on TV shows, in commercials, on Broadway or even way off-Broadway.

“Yeah, none of them is famous,” Tyrell says in a snit. He takes a deep breath, exhales slowly and continues flipping back and forth through the pages of his yearbook. “I suppose 10 years isn’t that long,” he muses, “Just six years really if you factor in four years of college. Yeah, there’s still plenty of time for any of us to become famous.” He twists his lips in deep thought. He doesn’t want to say it out loud; he doesn’t want the rustic walls to be privy to his thoughts. But yeah, it’s possible that someone, anyone, could still become famous. And Tyrell Hayward still desperately hopes that it’s going to be him.


Paul Germano lives in Syracuse. More than 50 of his stories have been published, in print and online magazines in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and India. His story, “Tennessee Williams in the Wind” was published in *The Ravens Perch* in December of 2023.