It really is bigger here. The churches look like office buildings, strip malls, and Costco’s. They have humorously named restaurants: Snuffer’s, Humperdinks, Hot & Creamy Donut, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. The pool outside my hotel room window is unnecessarily large – especially considering they didn’t bother to use some of the space to put in a jacuzzi.
This afternoon, I attended my best friend’s wedding. Not like my best girl friend, have-to-be-the-maid-of-honor-can’t-enjoy-the-wedding type deal. Bernie’s wedding. Bernie, my first love, confidant, and partner in many crimes over the last ten years, today married a girl whom, due to timing and distances, I’ve met only once, and though I liked her well enough, I still feel a bit uneducated about her, about them.
Last night, hanging out in the hotel lobby with the groomsmen, I asked the best man, whom I’ve known almost as long as I’ve known the groom, to tell me candidly what he thought of Lauren.
“I really like her,” he said emphatically. “She’s smart, and yeah she’s neurotic, but she’s neurotic in all the same ways Bernie is. They complement each other. She’s not afraid to put him in his place.”
Then as we were saying goodnight, I asked Bernie, “You’re sure you’re sure?”
He said that he was.
And I wonder if maybe I’m a little sensitive to weddings and marriages in general – if I look at the statistic that now roughly 50% of weddings end in divorce and that I’m still the only one of my friends to have divorced so far. It’s not that I don’t have faith in the happiness of the new couple, it’s just that… I’ve been there. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I’ve been through. And I know that somebody – maybe not Bernie and Lauren, but somebody – eventually will.
The wedding was lovely, loosely themed (Bernie’s great-grandfather played the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz movie, so there were emeralds, lollipops, even a yellow-brick-road aisle runner), extravagant but tasteful. Aside from the requisite blinked-back tears during the ceremony, I held it together really, really well.
Until I didn’t.
Toward the end of the reception, I found Bernie and asked him, “Was it this weird for you when I got married?” He said yes – weirder, even – and gave me a hug. And then I broke down. He must have mouthed “Is she crying?” to Doug who was standing behind me, because I heard Doug say, “Yeah, and she said she wasn’t going to.” Then Bernie started trying to reassure me that I wasn’t losing him – that in fact he’d be around more because he plans on his life being a lot quieter now that he’s married, that our relationship wouldn’t change, that he’ll still be there for me and still loves me.
Doug asked me afterward what I was crying about – because, oh yeah, I was still crying intermittently, even after we got back to our hotel – and I told him repeatedly, honestly, that I didn’t know.
Maybe I was crying because I was genuinely happy for Bernie, but I know myself to be a little less emotional and a little more selfish than that.
Maybe I was crying because of the associations I have attached to big, extravagant weddings, and the aforementioned fear that one of my friends will have to go through the same things I did. (Brought on or magnified by the similarities between this wedding – though not, to my knowledge, this relationship – and my own.)
Maybe I was crying because I think of Bernie as something very concrete: a bachelor, a cocky, kind of asshole-ish guy, who is confident and comfortable enough to fly solo, and now my perception of him has to change. (“It’s the end of an era,” I’d told him last night, to which he’d replied, “I know. Men everywhere are rejoicing.”)
Maybe I was crying because I always thought I would get married before Bernie. Which I did, but, you know, for real.
Maybe I was crying because, even though Bernie and I are like brother and sister more than anything else now, some part of me still believes that no one else will ever be good enough for him, and that no one else will ever be good enough for me. That we’re somehow irreplaceable to each other, in a non-sexual, non-romantic, I-was-here-first-and-have-dibs sort of way.
Maybe I was crying because, given the above, I feel like I should have been in this wedding. (Bernie said I almost was.) And I feel like Bernie should have been in my wedding – which he was, but only kind of, as an usher, because I had too many female bridesmaids to allow for him. So I promised him that next time I get married, he’ll be where he should be; and he promised in turn that, when that happens, he’ll gladly wear the dress I pick out for him.
Maybe I was crying because we’re all growing up – all of us – and our lives are changing: Bernie is married; Monica has a kid; my high school best friend, Ava, just got engaged. And I don’t think I like it. I mean, growing up is okay, but I liked how we were before. I liked showing up at Bernie’s work, sitting in a hammock and waiting for his lunch break so we could eat food court food and gossip for 30 minutes. I liked putting on loud music and getting dolled up with Monica, in preparation for a night out, knowing she had my back no matter how drunk and ridiculous I got. I liked sleeping over at Ava’s house every weekend, sharing her twin bed with her before I’d ever shared a bed with anyone with a Y chromosome. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” they say.
I did finally manage to catch Lauren at the very end of the after party. “Congratulations,” I told her, obligatorily. And then, “Take good care of my boy.”
And, for all her not-quite-23 years, she put on her best serious face, looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I will. I promise.”
And what was there left for me to say? Except: “I believe you.”