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Shoulder Season - Friday, Oct. 08, 2021
Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 @ 5:52 pm
Married Not to Me
She kisses the ring, a simple gold band, and pushes it onto his finger. They hold hands while the ceremony finishes, and I stare at it, the ring, there on his hand. Married. I look at him and there’s his face and his body and the ring there on his hand. It doesn’t make sense. He’s always been unmarried. The ring makes him look like someone else. A married man? Chris isn’t supposed to be married.
Earlier that morning, I ran with Russell around the park. We got up early and had coffee and then went out to run. We have a route that we do, a bit of forest and garden, and then the better part of a lap of the seawall. We were out before the tourists arrive, before the bike rental shops open for the day. In these morning hours, the seawall is quiet. We run and talk and then, towards the end, we fall into silence. Me focusing on my breathing. Our pace matched. Crows pecking at the mussels exposed at low tide. A sailboat cruising on motor towards the islands. I’m glad for this - to have him - because I’m not sure how else I could bear the day, today, Chris’ wedding day.
After our run, we shower and dress for the church. I find a pair of heels from a storage bin. Waterproof mascara. Scrunch my hair, which I trimmed myself (while slightly drunk) earlier this week. Lipstick? The first is gone rancid, shows how much I use this stuff. The second is ok and a better colour anyhow. Earrings. Bracelet. Done.
At the church, Chris is inside the vestibule greeting guests. He’s in a black suit that makes him look handsome, with a dove grey tie and a sunflower boutonniere. As we hug he says, “You look nice.” He’s never seen me dressed up. He’s also never commented on my appearance.
The ceremony lasts an hour. Stand and sit and kneel. Terrible songs. Readings and prayers and the Eucharist. I’m uncomfortable, and I don’t find any of it compelling, and I alternate between trying not to smile at the weird parts (it’s being video recorded) and staring off blankly into space.
The ring, though. When I see that ring on his hand, I am suddenly deeply sad. Happy and sad at the same time. The Father (?) there at the front comments that it’s ‘about time’ that Chris gets married. A punch to the gut. There are others here, in their forties, who haven’t been married. And maybe never will.
Afterwards, sandwiches and fruit are served in the parking lot out back of the church. I talk with Mike and Hannah and their kids, Amy and Denis, Adil, Kevin, Tracey, his parents and brother (who doesn’t recall meeting me before).
I meet his mother for the first time, “Oh yes,” she says, “Shannon, of course, I know who you are.”
There is an awkward bouquet toss with seven unmarried women. I stand at the back with Tracey, and we conspire a strategy for the bouquet to be caught by one of the younger women. Another woman comments on the outdated tradition. The bouquet is tossed and comes towards us all in slow motion. The bouquet is hefty - all of those sunflowers - and lands with a thud in front of a woman in the front row. There is hesitation. A terribly silent second. And then she rescues us all and picks up the bouquet while a cheer erupts from the crowd.
We leave a short while later. Drive home across the bridge.
We are in the kitchen making coffee together.
“I’m surprised that you two never dated,” Russell says.
“I know,” I respond, “There was the Catholic part which I was never quite sure about, but he never made a move, and I also didn’t want to jeopardize the friendship, which I valued above all else. Maybe someday in the future, if we are both old and alone, maybe then we’d move in together. I don’t know. It’s maybe simpler now, with all of that off the table. Not that I know that it ever was for him? Anyhow.”
Chris. The hours we stood side by side in the laboratory, listening to music and laughing while we processed samples. Together in the rain in a mountain pass in Alaska, the wildflowers quivering on the tundra around us. Kayaking beside each other, through deep, dark, clear waters thick with jellyfish. Cycling around the city in the rain, him pouring tea from a thermos into a cup for me. Hiking for hours together. Setting up our tents side by side, and then listening to him snore through the nylon walls. Him in my kitchen slicing strawberries into a bowl beside me. The warm glow on his face in the kitchen on his fortieth birthday as he pulls a big ham out of the oven, the air redolent with cloves. Us standing quietly beside each other watching eagles fish from the river, leaves blowing around our feet, me desperately wanting to hold his hand. Him, as a tow-head boy, dropping the paper on the stoop of my house, me peering out at him from behind the sheer curtain.
This was supposed to turn out differently.
How can this, this epic love story, end in this way?
How can this be the ending?
As we were leaving, I noticed a piece of the bouquet on the ground. I picked it up, a charm, a token. Hope? Will I be next? Will I be ever?