Friday, March 07, 2008
Third installment. Thanks for reading! Stay out of the cold today if you can!
After filling our plates with chicken and mashed potatoes, we settle back at our table and watch everyone. As people take seats, there seems to be some subtle, unspoken rule about who sits where and why, and it makes me glad we're far enough back not to matter.
"I forgot what a production these things are," I say.
Jeff nods, forks a green bean, and makes a yum-yum gesture, rubbing his stomach.
Krista is running behind schedule. Most of my other college friends got married in the four year period after graduation and for a while, every time I turned around, there was another engraved invitation in the mail from parents I'd never met, imploring me to join in a celebration of love or to witness a holy union or something to that effect. I wonder if there's some sort of correlation between the type of wording a couple uses and how long the marriage lasts.
When I start to say something about this, Jeff manages to work the subject back to Joy. Tonight he's like one of those toy boomerangs; it doesn't matter where you try to throw it, it always finds its way back to the beginning. I say "toy" because what a lot of people don't know is that most real boomerangs are used as weapons and don't come back; they stick in the victim.
"What gets me," he says, "is how fast it all was. Just like that," he snaps, "Joy was gone. She never gave me a chance."
Concerning Joy's rapid departure, well, it didn't seem all that quick to me. The few times I'd seen her in those last months they were together, she had this desperate look, the look people get when they feel themselves slipping off something they've been holding onto with all their energy and can't anymore. She wanted more than his vague promises; she wanted a ring.
"Never?" I ask. "No chances?"
He shakes his head.
Jeff's situation reminds me of a joke. A man sits on a roof as water rises. A lifeboat comes to rescue him, but he sends it on, telling the rescue crew to go save other people because he has a relationship with God and when things get bad, God will give him a sign. Then another life boat comes followed by another, but the man ignores them both. When the flood threatens to overtake him, he yells, "God why didn't you let me know I was in trouble?" God answers, "Didn't you see the lifeboats?"
I saw each chance float past Jeff like those plastic ducks at carnivals. Remember that game where children stand and look into the pool, select one, and get the toy that matches the number written on the bottom of the duck? When I saw Jeff floundering, I wanted to say, Pick one up and you get a prize, there's no skill in this game, you just have to be there, that's the point.
After dinner, someone decides the bridal party should make toasts to Krista and Leland, centered on the idea of what marriage means. There's no alcohol at this dinner, so we're toasting with lime punch that nobody actually likes, but everybody feels they must serve for these occasions.
"Here's to the last night you'll ever spend alone. That's what marriage means to me." This comes from the best man, Leland's brother, Steve, who wears a turquoise shirt and bolo tie, not a good look for him, to be sure.
"When I met my wife, I heard music when we kissed," another groomsman says, raising his glass and spilling a little of the punch onto the paper tablecloth.
"I always hear music," I whisper to Jeff. "Usually the soundtrack to The Omen."
He rolls his eyes. "Can't you be serious?"
"I am serious," I say, feigning hurt. "I always hear the soundtrack to The Omen."
One of Leland's relatives gives me the evil eye, and I shut up.
"Ha ha," Jeff says, laughing like Nelson Muntz off The Simpsons.
Another evil eye, this one for Jeff.
After the toasts, everybody starts to mingle, except us. It reminds me of those times in church when the preacher made you turn around and greet your neighbor with a hug or handshake. I would sit in my pew and pretend to be digging something out of my purse. It wasn't that I couldn't be bothered to greet my neighbor; it's that I didn't want to touch anyone because of that awkward feeling when you let go and you're left looking at the person with nothing to say.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"When choosing between two evils, I always like to take the one I've never tried before." Mae West
Drinking music suggestion: Phrenology Roots
Benedictions and Maledictions