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I’ve never been a big fan of weddings. I liked my own okay, but I completely didn’t follow tradition. I won’t go to them anymore, unless they’re for someone I really like.
So when Maggie’s invitation came that she was marrying her long-time beau Guy in his hometown Montreal, I sighed a long sigh. Maggie, a close friend from my former life as a career-oriented woman, was one of the people I adored enough to put up with bad buffet food, air travel and sitting at a table with people that I don’t know for six hours, so that I could be present on her day of bliss.
I’d fly in Friday and fly out Sunday. I was dying to get away from the house as it was, so the invitation came at an opportune time.
The wedding was taking place at an old inn in Vieux Montreal. I had never been to Montreal before, so I was looking forward to exploring. Instead of staying at the usual large American hotel chain downtown, I opted for an independent boutique hotel closer to the inn. The web site for the Hotel St. Paul was pretty swank.
When the cab arrived at the hotel, I felt excited to be in a new place. The building had been gutted and glammed up on the inside but left the old school façade on the street. The staff was all amazingly bilingual as I watched them interact with guests in person and on the phone. Once I got checked in, I went up to my room. I’d lucked out that weekend and somehow got upgraded to a queen suite on the top floor overlooking the street in front of the hotel.
The room was kind of a muted brown/gray with a bright red bedspread on a dark wooden bed. Plus, the large loft windows had giant, dark brown wooden blinds. I pulled them back and let in the late afternoon sunlight. The windows were so large that they had a ledge running across in front of them that I could sit in and look down on all the people scurrying around on the sidewalk below.
The bathroom was very modern. It had a sunken rectangle tub and a square sink bowl with square faucet handles. I really wanted to soak in that tub and then drink an espresso in the fluffy hotel robe while sitting in my windowsill reading a book for the rest of the night, but I had to get dressed for a pre-wedding party.
That Friday night, the Maggie and Guy were having a get together for a small group of close friends and family so the two sides could mingle. I guess I qualified since Maggie and I spent more time together in the five years we worked together than she saw Guy during that time. The cookout was being held at Guy’s brother’s house on the west end of town on Monkland Avenue.
I changed out of my grubby travel clothes and into a light lavender skirt and white twin sweater set. I looked rather domesticated, but I was comfortable, which as I get older is more important to me than a lot of other things. I applied a little make up, brushed my hair, slipped on my low-heeled sandals and was ready to go.
On the cab ride over, I got to see many beautiful old homes. Most of them were duplexes of one kind or another, and they were separated into different neighborhoods mostly by economic status. The cab stopped in front of a small, brick duplex with a one-car garage. I paid the driver, thanked him and stepped out onto the curb.
I had gotten used to going to things like this alone a long time ago. My spouse’s work kept him on the road most weeks out of the year, and now with a baby at home, we played a lot of tag team parenting. This was his weekend to make sure the baby didn’t forget who he was, while I was off remembering who I was before becoming Mommy. It was good for them. I wanted our child to be able to trust and find comfort in his father, and I wanted his father to appreciate what it’s like to be home with a baby, even if it was just 48 hours.
I knocked on the door, and it swung open. Guy’s brother Marc answered, welcomed me in and introduced himself. “There’s a buffet in the dining room; everyone is either in the basement playing pool or out in the backyard having a beer. Please make yourself at home.”
I thanked him and went to the back porch. I saw the grandmothers sitting alone in folding chairs underneath a rental tent, the kids running around screaming and playing tag and my friend’s soon-to-be mother-in-law bemoaning having to travel to the States to visit any of her unborn grandchildren.
Guy’s best friend Ben was at the grill. I’d met him once before when Maggie and I had taken a weekend trip to Chicago. She had met Guy over the Internet about 7 years ago, and had agreed to meet him for dinner in a city at a midway point between where they both lived. I was only 25 at the time, and Maggie was offering me a free weekend in Chicago using her father’s frequent flier miles, so I went. I had been married a year at that point, so Ben and I had gotten along amiably while the nervous couple tried to get to know each other in a strange city.
“Beer Ben. I need beer,” I requested not even saying hello first. He shook his head at me, reached into a cooler, twisted off the cap and handed me a Molson.
“It’ll get better after the grandparents leave, but I’m following mobilbahis güvenilir mi your drinking plan. This is my fifth,” he said as took a sip of his own beer and turned the hamburgers on the grill.
“I’ll be back for one of those,” I said eyeing the meat.
“Drink lots and drink often,” he said to me, before he turned to an older woman in her fifties who had lined up with a paper plate and an empty hamburger bun. “Avec Fromage?”
I sighed and walked down the length of the yard next to the four foot chainlink fence that divided the yard from the neighbor’s. A jazz quartet played in the corner close to the grandmothers. Periodically a relative would go and check on them to see if they needed anything. I stood at the fence for twenty minutes and watched as the three elderly women consumed an enormous amount of ice tea and potato salad.
When Maggie and Guy found me, I was still standing at the fence. I had finished my first beer and was going to go get a refill.
“You’re looking great!” I said smiling at Maggie. “I’m so excited for you both… I wouldn’t imagine being anywhere else this weekend…” It was all the small talk speech you give when you can’t really sit down and have the bride say what’s really on her mind: “His mother is driving me batty. My mother is driving me batty. Please tell me you have prescription drugs in your purse, because I’m going to need them to get through the next 24 hours. I just need to get my ass on the plane to Aruba, and everything will be fine.”
During our conversation, Guy had gone to fetch me another beer. He returned with the tiniest woman I had ever seen. Her waist was the circumference of one of my thighs. She was flitting around Guy deep in discussion in French, like she was a hummingbird. She had long wavy dark hair that glided down the hardly there red halter dress. Her high heels sunk into the ground, but she maneuvered like she could run hurdles effortlessly in them.
When they got to us, they changed to English and Guy made introductions. Emilie. Emilie was beautiful. She was older than I was, but I couldn’t pinpoint a good estimation. Her beauty was, of course, matched by a witty and wry sense of humor. I finally felt completely at ease at the party while I was chatting with her. It made the time pass more quickly, especially when Guy and Maggie moved on to talk with the rest of their guests.
“I seem to have lost my husband somewhere,” Emilie said looking around the now crowded backyard. “I can’t believe I don’t see him. It’s like not seeing a redwood in an open field, and I want him to meet you. He’d adore you,” she said.
I took a sip of my beer as she looked over my shoulder. “Ahh, here he comes! He’s juggling refreshments.”
I started to turn around to meet her husband, but as I did I felt the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It was an odd sensation of trouble and excitement. I apparently didn’t need the power of sight. I knew her husband without it. But I watched as his eyes went from happily staring at Emilie to horror when taking me in. It was such an ugly look of disdain and fear that I dropped my beer and had to lean against the fence to stay upright.
It was Lover.
We were out of place, and it took us both several heartbeats to understand that the unimaginable had happened.
“I want you to meet my husband…” The rest of Emilie’s sentence was drown out by a baby near us that had started to cry.
Like in all emergency situations, my autopilot kicked on. I suddenly knew what had to be done, and I did it.
“It’s so nice to meet you,” I said to Lover before bending over to pick up the empty bottle that I had spilled all over the grass. “I’m afraid, I make a clumsy first impression.”
He stared at me with a slight smile on his face like I was a new acquaintance.
“Well, you guys enjoy the food. Ben really put his all into those burgers,” I said quickly. “I’m going to go find another beer.”
I fled up the yard and onto the deck. Ben was passing his apron and chef’s hat onto Guy’s father. “Ben, I need a real drink. In fact, I need a bottle.”
“Come with me,” he said. “I know where Marc keeps the good stuff.”
So there I was in the basement of an old girlfriend’s fiancee’s, brother’s house in an entirely different country doing shots of tequila in front of a 46″ plasma television watching the highlights of Major League Baseball with said girlfriend’s fiancee’s best friend.
I was enjoying my eighth shot in as many minutes when Lover found me.
“Hey, you look like an able bodied person,” he said to me nonchalantly. “Can you help me go on an ice run?”
Ben was so engrossed in the baseball discussion that he wasn’t paying attention to the crazy-eyed glare I gave Lover.
“One minute,” I said pouring another shot. I drank it straight, poured another one and sucked it back too. “Okay,” I said, “But we should take a plastic bag, because I’ve had nothing to eat, and I just chased beer with loads of tequila.
I stumbled up the stairs and out of the house onto mobilbahis the street. This was his world. I was a visitor, so I wasn’t going to start the conversation. I was just going to sit in my impending drunken stupor pretending to disappear from existence.
“My car is this way,” he said. I followed him to a moss green, four-door Volvo sedan. I know how to make him orgasm instantaneously with the touch of a finger, but I had no idea the model of car he drove.
He held my door open while I got into the car and put on my seatbelt. It was obviously Emilie who sat their last because the seat was pushed up to the point where my knees were slammed against the dashboard. I cackled at the difference. The whole situation was intolerable.
As he pulled out into traffic, he didn’t say anything. I didn’t say anything. We stopped at a stoplight two blocks down the road. He opened his mouth to speak and then shut it again. I felt like we’d just landed in Oz on top of the Wicked Witch. But where were the little happy, singing munchkins when you needed them? Then again, that thought process might have been due to the tequila.
Finally, when he pulled into the lot at the store and had parked the car he spoke. “You’re here,” he said. It was a start.
I pinched myself in the arm just to be sure. “Yep. Turns out Disney was right, it is a small world.”
It was like he was in shock. He couldn’t really form words in either of his two languages. Suddenly, I felt like I had invaded his world, even though I had no idea that with millions of people in Montreal, and the hundreds of weddings taking place that weekend in the city that we’d end up at the same one.
“She’s gorgeous, Lover,” I said quietly. “She’s fun and brilliant, and you never told me how amazing she is.” I never understood why he was with me before I knew who he went home to. Now, I was ready to have him committed to an asylum for even looking twice at me.
“My marriage is not without—” he started. Then he sighed and thought for a minute before he spoke. “It has its problems, some big, some small, just like any other relationship.”
I understood what he was telling me. It was the same discussion I have with myself when considering my feelings for Lover and my own spouse. No marriage is perfect — because that person sees you every day at your best and at your worst. With Lover, even though I am always honest, I can muster all of my energy to be the best person I can be for him because I know after a couple hours or a couple days I can walk away. With our marriages, they encompass all parts of us, as marriage should.
“Can we get me some liquor somewhere? And would you mind just taking me back to my hotel?” I asked quietly.
“I can do both of those things, but first I have a question.” I looked up at him cautiously wondering several things myself.
“You knew I lived in Montreal.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to be in town?”
I held his gaze for a few minutes and then stared at where my knees were crushed into the dashboard. I didn’t answer.
He sighed. Then he reached over like he was going to put his hand on my knee, but instead, he reached below the seat and pulled back on the adjustment bar. The seat rolled back into place, giving my legs space. I know he was trying to give me comfort, but what it did was strike a blow to my self-confidence. If I was petite and hot, I’d fit in the tiny space between the seat and the dash.
“I’m going in for the ice. We have to go to another store for the liquor.”
I nodded and he got out of the car. When I was sure he was safely inside, I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. Huge tears rolled down my cheeks, my nose started running and I gasped for breath.
When he came back 15 minutes later and put the bags of ice in the trunk of his car, I turned my head to face out the window, so he wouldn’t see my swollen, red eyes. I wiped my face and nose clean with the sleeve of my sweater.
But instead of going around to his driver side door, he opened mine. I looked away to the other side of the car as quickly as possible, but it was too late. He bent over, unclasped my seatbelt and brought me toward him in a tight hug.
“I could hear your panicky brain and its massive thoughts in the checkout lane,” he said gently.
I started to cry again. This was new for us. Lover had never seen me cry before.
“In my life, you’re the only thing left that’s just mine. I don’t have to share you with anyone. You’re the one thing that reminds me of the individual I am outside of my family unit,” I said starting to tear up again. “But here, here you’re not with me at all. It’s like I don’t exist. It’s like I — it’s like we — don’t matter.”
He held me tighter. My tears ran down my cheek and onto his shoulder. “That’s why you didn’t tell me,” he said. “Because we’re in my time and space, and you didn’t want to mess with that?”
I nodded my head yes.
“Give me a minute, okay?” he asked. I nodded. He kissed me on the forehead and then stood and leaned against the mobilbahis giriş backdoor. He opened his cell phone and made a call. He spoke too quickly for my basic university French skills to comprehend, and then he clicked the phone shut. He knelt down in front of me again and took my hands in his before he spoke: “Here’s what we’re going to do: we’re going to get you food, rather than alcohol. We’ll take it back to your hotel, and you’ll eat, and we’ll watch television, and you can pass out in my arms, okay?”
“When is curfew?” I asked, skeptically, knowing he’d been talking to his wife.
“Hey, I’m trying to be a better man here.”
“I know. But hanging out with you, it’s not going to work. Just drop me off at the hotel.”
“I don’t want you to be alone.”
“Lover,” I said quietly. “I’m fine.” I looked him straight in the eyes as I said it hoping to sell the line.
“You’re a terrible liar,” he mumbled standing up and walking around to his car door.
At the hotel, the bellhop greeted me and opened the car door. I could tell Lover was disappointed at my rushed exit. When you only see each other in person every year or so, you want to milk every moment and make it last. But my heart was already broken, so I gave him a quick kiss, climbed out of the car and went up to my room.
When I was safely inside, I tore the clothes from my body, ran a hot bath and climbed into it sobbing.
The next morning, I was a bit hung over. I slipped on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and wandered down to breakfast where I consumed eight mini croissants with jam, six 20 oz glasses of water and some pineapple. Then I went upstairs to my room and involuntarily threw it back up.
“This is going to be such a lovely, lovely day,” I murmured closing the lid to the toilet and sitting on the floor.
There was a quick knock at my door and suddenly my stomach felt woozy again. I didn’t even have to look through the peephole. I knew it was Lover. I gripped my hand onto the tub and waited for him to go away. He knocked several more times, before I turned on the shower and got in it to keep myself from answering.
In the shower, I did regular shower things. When I got out, I checked the peephole. He was gone, so I sat in my bathrobe and watched TV for a while before I needed to leave for the wedding. It was a 10 a.m. service at the Notre Dame Basilica, followed by a lunchtime reception at a quaint inn closer to the riverfront.
At 9 a.m., I did my hair, slipped into a short (but not too short) red flowered skirt and complimentary-to-my-cleavage black top, put on my low heels and made my way to the church. My stomach turned with every step, now more from having to see Lover with Emilie again rather than from my hang over. I had done a pretty good make up job, and in my own opinion, despite the shitty night and morning, was having a “pretty” day. On a “pretty” day, I look at myself in the mirror and think, “Not too bad.”
I stood at a side door to the church until five minutes to 9 a.m., and then I entered with an extremely late altar boy. The church was awesome and huge inside with impressively grand pews set wide enough apart to allow room for folks to kneel, per the usual Catholic service requirement.
I slipped in the back and sat on the bride’s side of the church in the far corner. I didn’t actively look for Lover or his wife. Instead, I focused on a spot at the back of the church near where the string quartet sat playing joyously. Marc stood next to Guy at the front of the church waiting for Maggie to make her appearance. They looked calm and happy. The music relaxed me, until I saw the wedding planner nod and the music changed to “Here Comes the Bride.” The congregation stood and turned to watch Maggie and her father walk down the aisle, but I watched Guy.
He was staring at Maggie with a huge grin on his face. Marc put his hand on Guy’s shoulder and gave it a squeeze. The tears started to roll down Guy’s cheeks, and by the time Maggie stood next to him they were both blotting tears and blowing noses with Kleenex from Marc’s pocket.
The ceremony was long and traditional from that point forward. Marriage in this Catholic Church was about love, but it was also about duty and discipline and procreation. As an agnostic, I found it fascinating from an anthropological perspective.
When the ceremony ended, everyone hopped to their feet and applauded. The happy couple seemed to skip down the aisle, followed by their parents and then row after row of guests. I was in the last row. So I would be the last one through the receiving line before the bride and groom left the church and went to take photos before the lunch reception at 1 p.m.
I couldn’t wander into that hall knowing what would be waiting, so I stayed in my pew until everyone had gone and the door was shut. I sat in the peace and quiet and tried to figure out the idea that is church. These were thousands of buildings erected hundreds of years ago for worship, each with their own intricate, ancient designs and amazing architecture. When the musicians packed up their equipment and left the chapel, I rose and walked to the center aisle and stood staring up at the altar. Then my eyes followed the flow of the ancient carved spiral staircases from the main floor to the balcony. I tried to feel for whatever spirit was supposed to fill the room.
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