08 September 2010

What You Don't Know

I think everyone has inside of themselves a little place they hide away bits and pieces of things – feelings, intuitions, realizations, what-have-you – so they can avoid processing these notions into something real and concrete. The reason behind it is primal, the most basic of all behaviors – self-preservation, an effort to protect oneself from that which might destroy.

At least, this is what I’m telling myself to explain what the hell happened at the wedding reception Saturday night. Blaire got things started off with a bang. I had made sure the DJ was all set to beam her into the reception via live feed to give her toast to the new couple. The DJ opened the live feed sooner than Blaire had expected, apparently, because when things got going, the big screen displayed an empty chair but the audio displayed a whole lot more.

Blaire: Yeah, well, the shitshow’s about start so I better let you go.

A pause, stippled with awkward silence as the crowd began to quiet.

Blaire: I know. I know. I should be getting married first, but Emily’s always got to be the center of attention. You know her. She hasn’t even known the douche bag a year yet! She’s got to run him down the aisle before he gets to know her.

I had practically crawled over people to get to the feed to disconnect it, but not before Blaire walked into view and realized she was live. I waited a few more seconds to let this register with her, so everyone could hear her audible gasp.

Yes, I know. It was bitchy. But the damage had already been done. Blaire might as well know it.

I realized then that someone had to deliver a toast on Em’s behalf, so I cleared my throat.

Me: Well, Chad, as the maid of honor, it’s my responsibility to fill you in on what you don’t know about Emily. You know, since she rushed you down the aisle and all.

 A few laughs.

Me: I knew Emily was my kind of girl when we met six years ago and she’d packed half of her suitcase with pencil skirts and blouses fit to wear to her internship assignment, and the other half she’d packed with Little Debbie snack cakes and a couple jars of peanut butter.

As I said “snack cake” my eyes involuntarily flitted toward Jack, and he flashed me a grin.

Me: Thankfully, she’s also one of the most generous people I know, and our friendship was quickly cemented over a package of Swiss Cake Rolls – okay, two packages. Fine, a box of Swiss Cake Rolls. And I know Chad loves Emily for many of the same reasons she’s one of my best friends: her vivaciousness, her unflappable positivity, her creativity and talent behind the lens, her generosity and her ability to make you feel like you are the most important person in the room. These two are meant for each other, and it doesn’t take years of dating to figure that out. I can only hope that someday someone will look at me the way Chad looks at Emily.

I was surprised when my voice cracked on the last bit. And a little embarrassed. But I saw Em’s mom wipe her eyes, so I figured my pinch hit was a success, if a bit saccharine.

Jack congratulated me on job well done, and whisked me out onto the dance floor, where we stayed for most of the evening, despite Jack’s two left feet. Every time I thought about leaving the reception with Jack and heading to the hotel, I felt a little fluttery and nervous inside. Like prom night. At 29. Of course, I was being ridiculous and clearly just running on maid-of-honor adrenaline or something.

Then I ran into Jill in the bathroom. Of course I did.

Me: Hey Jill. I haven’t seen you out on the dance floor.

Jill: You of all people should know that Preston doesn’t dance.

Me: I bet you could get him out there to dance to a slow one.

Jill: No. I couldn’t.

I noticed the distinct stress on the word I.

Me: Is everything okay?

It seemed like the right thing to ask at this point, even though I didn’t want to know the answer.

Jill: We broke up.

Me: Oh.

Jill: A few days ago. I’m only here because I’m a nice person and Preston didn’t want to come by himself. But yeah, we broke up.

Me: I’m really sorry. I’m surprised you still decided to come.

Jill: Yeah, not one of my better decisions. I figured I owed him though since I threw that plate at his head.

Me: He didn’t run into a cupboard?

Jill: No, it wasn’t a cupboard. And really it wasn’t even a plate. It was you.

Me: I’m sorry?

Jill: You’re why we broke up. You’re why I threw the plate. So that scar Preston has? It’s from you.

I stood there for a moment, the soggy wad of paper towel limp in my hand.

Jill: Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. He spent hours making you that CD, and he forgot my birthday a couple of weeks ago. He just forgot it. I spent far too long believing that you guys were just good friends. Best friends. And you have too. Wake up, Elizabeth. Wren. Whoever you are. Pull your head out.

Me: I’m so, so sorry. I don’t know what else to say.

Jill: The worst part is, I really think we could have been friends. But that was before you both broke my heart.

With that, she swung open the door and disappeared, leaving me standing alone in the bathroom.

I’m such an ass. For so many reasons.

The reception hall was noticeably more empty when I finally came out of the bathroom. It had taken me a bit to gain my composure and figure out what to do next. Which risk to take. I still had no idea what I was doing when I came back out.

Jack: Where did you disappear to?

Me: Sorry. I was feeling a little sick. Too much wine.

Jack: You want to go?

Me: Sure. Yes. Let’s go.

Jack left me standing by the door to go get our jackets from the coat room. I felt a light touch on my shoulder.

Preston: You weren’t going to leave without saving me a dance, were you?

Me: I thought you didn’t dance.

Preston: Just one?

Me: One dance. And then I have to say good-bye.

Jack came out of the closet with my coat draped over his arm.

Me: Do you mind?

I gestured toward Preston, who was waiting at the edge of the dance floor.

Jack: Nah. I don’t mind. I know who you’re going home with tonight.

He leaned against the door frame, and I turned toward the dance floor where the lights had dimmed, the music slowed, and the disco ball was casting small circles of light that moved slowly across the dark shadows of couples dancing close. Preston grabbed my waist and pulled me toward him.

That’s when "An Easy One" by Hem came over the speakers.

And so we swayed.

Here's an easy one
Since it's getting late
Since you're half asleep
And I couldn't wait
For the tired sun
With its tired light
To wake up the world
Just to see you tonight

Me: I really love this song.

Preston: I thought you might.

I put my head on his shoulder.

I know you don't believe me
But I have something to tell you
I know it's not so easy
But Baby, hold me now

Preston: Before I forget, I want to tell you how spectacular you look tonight.

Me: Preston, stop.

Preston: Stop what? Ever since you walked down the aisle I haven’t been able to take my eyes off you.

If I have to leave
Like I always do
Will you look for me
As I look for you
In a passing glance
From a passerby
I could cross the world
To be near you tonight

Something – some tiny piece of something atomic from some unplumbed part of me – broke loose at that moment and socked me right in the gut before settling at the base of my throat.

That’s when I began to cry. Sob really. Right through the chorus. Right there on the dance floor.

Preston pulled me away from him. Jack was beside me almost immediately.

Preston: What is it? Pheasant, what’s wrong?

Me: I can’t. I can’t.

Jack: You can’t what?

Me: I just can’t – I can't go home with you, Jack.

Jack: Did he say something to you? What did he do?

 I looked at Preston, my breath coming in thick staccato gulps.

Me: He didn’t say anything. He didn’t do anything.

But Preston had. He’d said it all. Just not in so many words.

Me: Preston, I’m so tired of this. I’m exhausted. We have to stop this.

Jack: Stop what?

Oh God. It would take me a while to forgive myself for what I was about to do to Jack.

Me: Jack. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.

Jack: Sorry about what? Wren? What’s going on?

I was still crying and gulping, but I managed to say exactly what was going on.

Me: Preston, I can’t keep pretending I’m not in love with you. It’s killing me. Only I didn’t know it. Or I didn’t want to know it. I’m sorry because I know this isn’t the right place or time, and I don’t even know if I should say it at all. But there it is. I love you. And I think you might love me, too. Tell me I’m not crazy. No more games. No more CDs and magazine articles. Just say it so we can stop pretending.

Preston took his hands from my shoulders and lowered his head.

Then he turned and walked away.

1 comment:

  1. Holy cats, so GOOD. What on earth is he walking away for?