As she ponders her relationship, her orientation, I ponder these things as well. I ponder her movements, body language. I respond with inane, ten-cent words. I regret them. I want to say, “Don’t marry him! You can’t! Be with me!” I want to scream it. I want to cry, to shed the tears of my frustration.
She says she thinks about me before she sleeps. Every night. She parks the car instead of slowing. What does she want from me? What can I give her, without pushing her away? I want to kiss her both softly and vehemently. My heartbeat quickens. I rest my head on the top of the bucket seat and close my eyes. I want to stop dying.
When I open my eyes again, we are in Missouri. We are speeding away from a banquet hall, where she is supposed to be the guest of honor. Almost a year has passed now, and she will soon be someone else’s wife. A rehearsal lunch had driven her to tears, and she had asked me, making her way to the exit, “You wanna come with me?”I didn’t think twice about it. In her car, I light a cigarette as she says, “I just want to run away. I don’t want to go back.”I know in my logical mind that we are on our way to her friend’s house to change our clothes. But for just a moment, my mind contemplates the ramifications this moment could hold if this really was a “getaway”. I have to scold myself: I thought I’d stopped these foolish thought patterns from occurring. After all, I do love Johnny, my new boyfriend. So why dwell on such impractical romantic notions as running away with the bride on her wedding day?
Then I begin to realize that it’s not exactly romantic. It’s ill-conceived, poorly-timed, and, above all, rude. I also realize that all of the reasons I had given myself in the past for disliking her fiancé were not solely based on her happiness and the possible lack thereof, but on my own selfish wishes. And even after my intense love for her had faded into a comfortable memory, I had kept my guard up around her groom.
“I pleasured myself quietly and gently, imagining that it was not my own hand, my fingertips rough and almost masculine. Instead, I was being stroked by those long, beautiful fingers that belonged to my best friend. The one who was getting married in approximately fifteen hours.”
I suddenly remember how I got to Missouri. There was a plane ride from Portland to Chicago, a train ride the next day to Iowa, and then her car met me at the station. We had slept in a small town in Iowa, not very far from the Missouri border. The bride and groom were from the Midwest, but I had never seen it. Never seen so much flat land stretching out infinitely.
In our hotel room, I told her about a dream I’d had in Chicago. Not the first dream I’d had about her, and certainly not the best one. In the dream, I had been at a party. She was there, and she lured me into a stranger’s darkened bedroom. She began to undress, clothes falling softly and slowly to the ground like petals.
They could have landed on an ashtray that was holding my perpetually lit cigarette, causing them to immolate and set the entire place on fire – it wouldn’t have fazed me.
I was engrossed by her flesh, an aspect of her kept hidden from me for the last year. She lay down next to me on the bed, and explained, “I have something to tell you. I knew I wouldn’t be able to remember it all, so I wrote it down on my leg.”I glanced at her thigh, and sure enough there were words written all over it, all fancy-font and spiraling and spilling over into the mysterious ravine between her legs. As she began to read, the scene began to turn sour like a bad trip. Her eyes seemed larger than usual, while her mouth became smaller, her lips tighter and thinner. Her legs were suddenly way too thin to support her body. Luckily she was still lying on the bed. The most terrifying distortion was a darkness which suddenly corrupted her veins, making them visible through the skin of her entire body.
They looked like vines which had grown over her (or out of her). It looked like a strange disease. Her voice became shaky and breathless as she tried desperately to get to the point, which was that she wanted to sleep with me before she got married. Before I could respond, she vanished, and someone new appeared her in place, like some horrible miscast in a film. It was Johnny, looking confused as hell, though probably not nearly as perplexed as I was.
When I told her of this dream, she laughed, and recalled how several times she had suggested that we have sex, just once. I also laughed, and told her I thought it might make a good wedding gift. She agreed. Our laughter melted into sighs and stares, concentrated gazes in the direction of nowhere. It was a place we often visited together. We resigned ourselves to sleeping in separate beds, in separate rooms. I lay in my lonely bed awake for hours, until finally allowing my fingers to wander. I pleasured myself quietly and gently, imagining that it was not my own hand, my fingertips rough and almost masculine. Instead, I was being stroked by those long, beautiful fingers that belonged to my best friend. The one who was getting married in approximately fifteen hours.
Now, here, in this car, on this empty Missouri highway, I must not let myself think such things. She interrupts my thoughts with her own lament: “God does not want this to happen!”You know how hysterical a bride can be on her wedding day. I turn to her somberly and say, “Aw, honey, you know there is no God.”We share a brief, much needed laugh.
An hour has passed, and we are back at the banquet hall. Late. The wedding goes smoothly. It’s time for me to sink into a drunken stupor. I watch the bride and groom dance, and feel that I can let go of all of this now. I leave to catch a cab to another hotel room, where I sleep before catching a bus to another airport. But not before giving her husband a warm hug, and saying, “Congratulations.”