The real Guy Warner, left, shares a collegial moment with...

The real Guy Warner, left, shares a collegial moment with Jerry Bilinski, who was mistaken for Warner at his wife’s 40th high school reunion. Credit: Alexandra Bilinski

My wife, Alexandra, and I attended different high schools, and we both graduated in 1973. Recently, we went to her 40th reunion. They can be fun, but also stressful and uncomfortable, especially for a spouse who did not attend the same school.

Such was the case for me. The first event of the weekend was a meet-and-greet at a local bar/restaurant. I walked around feeling much like an outsider, while my wife reconnected with old classmates.

After a brief period of boredom, a man approached me, smiling and pointing his finger. "Guy Warner," he said, "I would know you anywhere." Before I had a chance to correct him, he threw his arms around me in a big bear hug. I stood momentarily speechless while he went on about us playing football together. He then excused himself and ventured off to mingle. With Alexandra nowhere in sight, I again strolled around the now-crowded event until a woman came up to me with welcoming arms. She said, "Do you know who I am?" Of course, I did not. "Vivian," she said before I could respond, and then she called me "Guy."

At this point, I figured I would just go with the flow, have a little fun and embrace my apparent resemblance to my new alter ego. The woman asked how I was doing, where I was living, and did I have any children. Having had a couple of glasses of wine, I proceeded to pull answers to her questions out of thin air!

Moving on, I decided to be even more daring, introducing myself as Guy Warner. It worked. I got a few more smiles and hugs without anyone questioning my masquerade. I even was able to have conversations while learning more information about Guy. He had a sister, and his deceased mother was an elementary school teacher who taught in the same district. Several of those at the reunion had been her students. They expressed fondness for her, and one person even offered condolences for her passing. Now, I started to feel guilty and wondered what I would do if the real Guy Warner appeared.

Before I could implement an exit strategy, Vivian returned, asking me to sign her yearbook. I turned to the photo of Guy Warner. He actually resembled me. With 40 years gone by, I could understand how someone might mistake me for him. A pen was thrust into my hand, and my mind raced. Am I doing something illegal? I doubted it because I was not benefiting from this charade. Feeling pressured, I scribbled Guy's name as illegibly as possible and added "Best wishes to my friend Vivian." I was now starting to sweat and look for a way out. I spotted my wife and joined her in conversation with several other people.

She introduced me as her husband, and we made small talk. After several minutes I whispered to her that we should be leaving soon. A moment later, Vivian came over, dragging another woman with her. She loudly introduced her friend to me. "You remember Guy?"

At this point, I was unable to speak. My wife and the other people we were talking to just stood there silently, looking confused. I knew the jig was up.

I told Vivian that I was not Guy and was just playing along as a joke. She was not amused. Neither was my wife. I was called an unflattering name by Vivian, before she stormed off. My wife's steely glare gave me the impression that I had not heard the last of this.

It was a long and silent ride home. When we arrived, she reminded me that we had planned to attend a sit-down dinner the next evening as part of the reunion festivities. She asked how I could be such a juvenile jerk and embarrass her in front of her former classmates. She also reminded me that the real Guy Warner may show up at the dinner. What would I say to him and the others I had fooled?

The following evening, I accompanied my wife to the formal dinner. By this time, my charade had become known to many there. People I met the night before as Guy came up to me grinning and greeting me with, "Hi, Guy."

Soon, a man approached me and asked me if I was Guy Warner. There was something vaguely familiar about his face. His name tag told me this was real Guy. I immediately offered my apology and explained that I meant no harm, and just couldn't resist after the first time I was mistaken for him.

He was clearly amused and reassured me that he enjoyed a little fun at his own expense. I told Guy about the classmates who had great things to say about him the night before, and those who expressed fondness for his mother when she was a teacher. Guy clearly appreciated these sentiments.

When Alexandra came over, I introduced her to the real Guy. She took our photo, and I let Guy know that I appreciated his being a good sport. I also reminded him: "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."

                                                                                        --Jerry Bilinski, Riverhead


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