Friday, August 26, 2011

The Man Next to the Best Man

I'm too far from sea for shipwrecks. Here, the yachts knot themselves in circles, so the party never ends. It's just a matter of stepping to the next vessel when company gets old or the alcohol runs low. Elsewhere, skiers trail behind small engines, drone during the most important part of the wedding ceremony. At a certain time of day, they seem to glide on sunshine instead of water. All eyes are on the bride and groom, but he--a groomsman and my date--looks out on the lake in the same way some fortune tellers look into a cup of tea to read the leaves.

Where is he?

The day before, I'd accompanied him to the tux store for the final fitting. I sat on a couch and waited. Frat boys with faux hawks spilled out of dressing rooms, already high on the idea of sowing their wild oats. I busied myself looking at the technicolor vests and posters of grooms serenading their brides on guitar. A little boy with bed hair ran around the room as him mom and dad got ready for their big day. He had red hair and skin so pale I thought I could see through it.

When he came out, the woman looked down at her clipboard. She noted his weight loss from the initial fitting. He required new pants, and the woman cinched his vest as tight as it would go. He paid the lady and left with a body bag draped over his arm. "Are you all right?" he kept asking.

He's the one who wasn't eating. And I kept thinking, I wish it was as easy to make him happy as it was for the mother of that pale-skinned boy. When he'd fallen and skinned his knee on the tux store carpet, all it had taken was a box of animal crackers in the shape of a cage.

I had nothing of the kind in the car. No remedies. I imagined feeding that hurt, that gauntness like we had fed the car earlier, stuffing it with backpacks, tents, sleeping bags, and a box full of booze that rattled and chinked when we took corners too quickly.

And it seemed the drive was all corners if that was possible.

When we arrived, he unpacked a bottle of tequila first. He took a pull and grimaced a bit until it turned smooth behind his lips. "Ready?" he asked. And we walked hand in hand down that gravel path to where it was all happening. The camp had been double booked, wedding party and bible camp. Activities were oddly parallel. In some cabin, foal-legged pre-teens were turning yarn into eyes of God, while the women were arranging sunflowers in blue vases.

Beneath a neon cross, children were pledging their love for God and their crushes on fellow campers. And we had our own neon. We called it the moon, and we swam beneath it the night of the wedding. He was no longer looking out across the water to avoid
it. He was wincing across sharp rocks until he'd reached the deep with me--the deep where the rocks turn smooth, where the water turns inexplicably warm, where the past is as distant as the shore, and in the arms of the right person, shipwrecks are the stuff of children's books: the pirates are on some page you've already turned, and treasure glints on some future page.

1 comment:

  1. I was just checking to see if the story after this one was a fluke. It wasn't.