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Thank You for Having Me

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It was a wedding in the country, a half-hour drive, and we arrived on time, but somehow we seemed the last ones there. Guests milled about semi-purposefully. Maria, an attractive, restless Brazilian, was marrying a local farm boy, for the second time – a second farm boy on a second farm. The previous farm boy she had married, Ian, was present as well. He had been hired to play music, and as the guests floated by with their plastic cups of wine, Ian sat there playing a slow melancholic version of ‘I Want You Back’. Except he didn’t seem to want her back. He was smiling and nodding at everyone and seemed happy to be part of this send-off. He was the entertainment. He wore a T-shirt that read, thank you for having me. This seemed remarkably sanguine and useful as well as a little beautiful. I wondered how it was done. I myself had never done anything remotely similar. ‘Marriage is one long conversation,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Of course, he was dead at forty-four, so he had no idea how long it could really get to be.

‘I can’t believe you wore that,’ Nickie whispered to me in her mauve eyelet sundress.

‘I know. It probably was a mistake.’ I was wearing a synthetic leopard-print sheath: I admired camouflage. A leopard’s markings I’d imagined existed because a leopard’s habitat had once been alive with snakes, and blending in was required. Leopards were frightened of snakes and also of chimpanzees, who were in turn frightened of leopards – a stand-off between predator and prey, since there was a confusion as to which was which: this was also a theme in the wilds of my closet. Perhaps I had watched too many nature documentaries.

‘Maybe you could get Ian some lemonade,’ I said to Nickie. I had already grabbed some wine from a passing black plastic tray.

‘Yes, maybe I could,’ she said and loped across the yard. I watched her broad tan back and her confident gait. She was a gorgeous giantess. I was in awe to have such a daughter. Also in fear – as in fearful for my life.

‘It’s good you and Maria have stayed friends,’ I said to Ian. Ian’s father, who had one of those embarrassing father-in-law crushes on his son’s departing wife, was not taking it so well. One could see him misty-eyed, treading the edge of the property with some iced gin, keeping his eye out for Maria, waiting for her to come out of the house, waiting for an opening, when she might be free of others, so he could rush up and embrace her.

‘Yes.’ Ian smiled. Ian sighed. And for a fleeting moment everything felt completely fucked up.

And then everything righted itself again. It felt important spiritually to go to weddings: to give balance to the wakes and memorial services. People shouldn’t have been set in motion on this planet only to grieve losses. And without weddings there were only funerals. I had seen a soccer mom become a rhododendron with a plaque, next to the soccer field parking lot, as if it had been watching all those matches that had killed her. I had seen a brilliant young student become a creative writing contest, as if it were all that writing that had been the thing to do him in. And I had seen a public defender become a justice fund, as if one paid for fairness with one’s very life. I had seen a dozen people become hunks of rock with their names engraved so shockingly perfectly upon the surface it looked as if they had indeed turned to stone, been given a new life the way the moon is given it, through some lighting tricks and a face-like font. I had turned a hundred Rolodex cards around to their blank sides. So let a babysitter become a bride again. Let her marry over and over. So much urgent and lifelike love went rumbling around underground and died there, never got expressed at all, so let some errant inconvenient attraction have its way. There was so little time. ■

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Image courtesy of Michael Kircher

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