Jake and I were married when I was 34. The wedding was on an island, at a time of year when the ferry lines are long and the sunlight is so soft and filtered, it soothes resistance. Late summer roses decorated the gazebo that looked out over the harbor, and voices carried over the marina. My mother and her friends still talk about how strikingly beautiful the setting was. They expected nothing less from me.
It was years before I could think about it without wincing. It was a bruise that couldn’t be touched. Like one of those dreams about a beautiful place that ends up being a stage background someone can roll away. One that has a void behind it.
Jake was calm. Awed, I think, to be taking this step, pleasing his family, measuring up to his friends. He may have been a bit bewildered about being the one in the tuxedo, but he liked it. His high school friend came in pajamas made of Chinese silk, and his best friend’s twin boys were our ring bearers.
But I wanted it to be over before it started. I felt like a gawker at an accident, watching my past meet my future. Family and friends from various eras tried to mingle. The maid of honor nursed a grudge. My best friend brought her cheating husband, who sat at the head table with the wedding party, holding their four month old son. My aunt got drunk and gave several overly sentimental toasts. Jake’s sister sized me up, holding her baby, flaunting evidence that she would always be one step ahead.
Friendships imploded that day. The caterer had a fit when guests uncorked their own wine. My parents forgot their keys and were stranded back on the mainland until late at night, when guests finally came to their rescue. Our reception photographer left without saying goodbye. (I have never seen the pictures he took.) And my new husband suffered his first disappointment of many when I, exhausted by the day, fell asleep before we could consummate the marriage.
Very little about the wedding felt right. Did I force it? Had we moved too fast? Had I picked the right guy for the wrong reasons, or the wrong guy for the right reasons? It wasn’t that I didn’t love Jake. But it wasn’t love that motivated me that day, it was gratitude. I was grateful to have the question of who was going to love me answered. I felt grateful and relieved to leave the old me behind. From this day forward, until death do me part, I would belong.
What I didn’t feel was happy.
Photo credit: onewed.com
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