Chapter 12: The Wedding
We pulled into the already crowded church parking lot, fixing our ties and finding our clear and present paths to destruction. Joy, Fred, and Alanna all walked towards the back of the hall, as I walked Violet inside, Harriet and Fiona two steps behind. We walked down the middle of the aisle past the crowded pews, the faces met on joyless business trips and those who were unfortunately still considered family. It was an obligation to send them invitations no matter how terribly construed certain situations were, drunken Christmas’s and birthday parties usually turning inward, making all the problems on any of their minds magically resurface.
I sat down in the front row next to Kieran: Neil, Sue and Jeannie sitting next to him. Violet sat on my right, as we waited for some sort of eventual start. Fiona and Harriet sat on the right side in the front pew across from us as Kieran tried to hide his dirty thoughts in a house of worship. It was more than likely not going to work for him or any of us. Wedding ceremonies felt like pent up death wishes. All of us couldn’t help ourselves, there was far too much to stare at, crucifixes not included.
“So you guys took longer than expected.” Kieran leaned in, whispering.
“It was my mom.”
“Oh, well that makes sense.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“So is it wrong that I really don’t give a shit about any of this? I kind of just want the reception to happen.”
“Not at all. That’s normal as far as I’m concerned.”
“Yeah, I figured you’d agree.”
We cut communications lines after that, both of us retiring to our plaguing thoughts stationed at the opposite side of the church. It was weird to think about all of the separations that were occurring in a linear fashion. I had decided to lose track of my sister and where her life was going long before I heard of such an engagement. My parents were the equivalent of loud speakers at that point, nailed into the wall from up high to merely screech out lonely questions that they both felt were of some kind of importance, and yet they would never know what it was like to be so lost in every individual aspect of life. It was a weird concept, thinking about my parents as people who at one point were passionate about anything. Their careers and dumb-founded decision to get married and quickly repopulate only further led to my existence, which was slowly becoming incredibly difficult to stomach.
Then there was the separation between Kieran and myself, Harriet and Alanna, and how all of us were trying so hard to not get to the point where we couldn’t be ourselves anymore when we were surrounded by it. Kieran and Harriet would tell their friends in school about that one weekend where nothing seemed to matter, and yet at the same time, everything did. It was potentially plausible to think that everybody thinks in such a way when they’re younger. Songs became engraved anomalies into every aspect of my younger self. I would associate them with certain girls and all the moments that did or didn’t happen. In that sense, I was vicariously living through other people’s mistrials in an almost exact science. They were making art that I was being slowly torn apart by.
That was the main problem. I couldn’t separate the two at least not at that point in my life, not in the same way that Kieran and Harriet would. So much of myself simply wanted to tell Alanna that our shared plights were sputtering off in opposite direction, and yet I knew that I couldn’t. I was unable to distinguish between the moments that meant more and those that were simply forgotten by the other party. In that way, I suppose we all should have simply known better, thought life through more, turned into something that wasn’t simply black and white. I loathed the idea of having to make a decision that would indefinitely effect the rest of my life. It shouldn’t have to ever be that way. There were simpler solutions, possibly hidden away from the more interested parties, but still silently breathing somewhere.
The organist stepped out from the back of the church. She was in her late thirties, skinny with bleached blonde hair. She looked lonely or at least consumed by her trusted position of being there for all church-related events. I could never see myself getting involved in the least bit with such lost caused. It was a continually repeating drone. The verses, the scripture, standing, kneeling, thinking about not going to confession, taking communion anyway, and yet I remembered all those in attendance from my frantically confusing catechism days. The majority of them weren’t bad people, just somehow lost in one way or another. They were looking for forgiveness or something to get them away from their Jewish wife and kids. I thought about what would have happened if they took the drastic turn, viewing life and the surrounding overly shattered world around it as something full of lackluster possibilities.
The truth of the matter was, at that very moment, as I saw the reliability of the Catholic church in the suburbs of Chicago as nothing less than familiar, I decided that I was far from ready to settle on anything, whether it be a position behind a desk, a bedroom, or a predictable discourse for the rest of my life. It was time for me to see the unknown, and take it all at an arm’s length. I wouldn’t be alone, and they couldn’t necessarily blame us. Both sides of the illuminated parish would understand, even if it were only from their one-side point of view.
The priest stepped up front, holding his bible and Brinker paycheck in his back pocket. Then, they all started pouring down the aisle, after Brian stepped out of the back, a larger than life smile on his face. The flower girl from the other side took her time along with the upset ring bearer, another unknown Brinker relation. My mother followed, escorted by one of the ushers, a job I could have easily filled if I had any enthusiasm directed toward said ceremony in the first place. She sat down next to Violet, turning and giving me a look. I nodded back, pretending like it was all gradually starting to sink in, that particular form of happiness floating around was breath-numbingly contagious.
The Brinkers were advocates of it, Ken and Colleen brighter than what some would consider plausible, walking down the red carpet next. It was never a difficult factor to determine whether or not they were faking it. From that point came the bridesmaids and groomsmen. I hadn’t met any of them yet with the exception of Alanna, and later wouldn’t remember their names or faces. The majority of things learned would quickly turn to obsolete information anyway.
As Alanna walked past, her arm interlocked with Brian’s overweight friend from work Denny, who was invited out of pity and placed in the wedding party for the same reason. Alanna would later mention how her pairing with Denny was some form of upper-level punishment that everyone discussed when she was out trying to discover a simple reason why nothing was coming together. I couldn’t help but buy into such a conspiracy theory, her subtle smile as she passed once again reconfirming our eventual flight from an undesirable future. I was abruptly nervous every time it came to mind, which was beyond frequent at that point in the pew.
The bridle theme made us all stand and whisper comments of varying perspectives to the person sitting next to us. I was lucky enough to have the always-reliable Kieran trying to make eye contact with Harriet, and Violet wondering what the next thing she would forget was. Fred walked Gail down the aisle faster that what some would expect. Her dress dragged at a pace that was heard from all angles of the church. He stood at the front, waiting for the normal exchange between the priest. “Her mother and I do” seemed to be something he had been practicing to say upbeat.
It couldn’t be nearly as dull as we all perceived it to be, and it wasn’t as if Fred didn’t care that his one and only daughter was getting married. He most definitely did. It was just that somebody such as my father really lost the motivation to participate in any and all activities his children decided to become accustom to, after about ten years or so of softball games, chorus concerts, musical, honors banquets (for Gail, not myself), graduations and so forth. They were all unfortunately the same. It was his children doing something that they felt was important; he had the right to decide not to care: a particular trait to which I was on the same wavelength. It wasn’t as if we ever really cared about his vigorously dull activities, bike rides, drunkenly watching football games and shooting the shit with old friends from high school, all of which were somehow guided by the same principles when they got together. There were no off-limit topics, no ritzy artistic movements to comment on. They were all working-class during the game.
Yet despite Fred’s lack of enthusiasm, he still looked reasonably relieved to give Gail away to another family, walking over and sitting down next to my mother with the smallest of grins on his face. We were moving on, a unit now consisting of three separate rooms and people who were more or less destined to argue about every subject that didn’t involve at least one member. Those were the worst, because it always went one way or the other. My father and I on the same side, or my mother and I, and on a most frequent occasion my father and mother both deciding what it is I should do with the rest of my life.
If I had only been the first born, then my potential to completely fuck up every seemingly important part of growing older could have easily been blamed on their lack of parenting. Such wasn’t the case, though. They hit all the right marks with Gail and then never grew out of the denial that they simply stopped caring with me. Maybe I was a bit problematic, but at the same time, I didn’t see it as anything to break into a sweat over. Second-child syndrome just seemed to be a highly controversial disease to which I determined my own medication for. I needed steady doses of music and marijuana to level my head and ease my mind. It wasn’t such a difficult plight to understand. Besides, weren’t we once all the same?
I zoned out once the typical exchanges began. It was all mostly repetitive, their vowels generic offshoots of their own personal lack of creativity. I thought about my own, not necessarily associating them with Alanna, but somebody equally as perfect, and yet the whole hoopla with marriage had worn off a long time ago. I was never sure if anybody could love me nearly as much as I love them and from that token, I wasn’t sure if I could love anybody nearly as much as the media that regularly consumed my everyday. Songs were reliable, as was every action I had become so used to doing alone.
It was different with Muriel, every movie we watched would slowly turn into something I couldn’t think about or see again. The playlists were similar, but not nearly as restrictive. I could occasionally allow myself the time to not think about it. It became reasonably simple as each day slowly passed that first week after the party. Maybe everything was better that way. We could never completely devote ourselves to someone else. People always manage to fuck shit up. If anything, that was an epiphany in and of itself.
I kneeled, took communion, clapped at the appropriate time, and waited for the ride back. It took longer that what I thought was considered possibly. There was far too much schmoozing going on everywhere. Family members and old friends trading recipes and golf handicaps. Gail and Brian standing at the front of the church, shaking hands and giving out hugs when appropriate. I stood in the long line, next to Kieran; both of us watching the suits and dresses walk by. Alanna was still inside; potentially sitting alone, searching for guidance, or engaging in conversation which contained all the right programmed responses. This is what I’m doing with my life, and although it’s somewhat shitty, I’m always considering my options.
Violet lit a cigarette as she walked out of the church alone, stepping over next to me, and exhaling.
“That was a long ceremony,” she said.
“So when are you Alanna tying the knot?” I confusingly turned to my grandmother, who didn’t seem in the least bit disoriented about such a randomized question. It felt strange to even consider her comprehension of such a subject. Possibly those who weren’t in the least bit busy figuring out their own plans and how they were going to drag persons like us around, noticed all the apparent problems that were keeping us slightly balanced at check.
“We’re not anything Violet.” It was the first time I called her by her first name. It felt appropriate, as if she had been waiting to discuss future endeavors with me the entire time, despite what everyone else had passed off as senile randomness.
“Well you’re obviously something. Everyone’s something.”
“Yeah, I know. I just… I’m not sure I know enough about anything to talk about it.”
“Well, okay.” She walked over towards Joy, who was irritated by the cigarette smoke, but couldn’t do or say much about it. She had to stay in character; at least until we all got back to the house and vented our temporary frustrations before the reception. The house would be louder than the morning was, all those in attendance needing somewhere to pre-game lightly. I started looking around for her, wondering what the secret was. I found Alanna standing in the church, bullshitting with one of Brian’s college friends. He was tall and built; lacking substantial intelligence and tact, hitting on the groom’s sister before the booze-soaked reception even started. She excused herself quickly walking over in my general direction, taking my hand and leading me out an unused side door on the right side of the church.
We stood in the small area by the stairs leading up to the balcony, tightly tucked away from all those who were first looking for and later noticing our absences. She placed her hands on my waist fast, as the two of us were soon making-out in God’s sanctuary like it was the apocalypse. It seemed like normal routine at that point. Our sinful escapes away from prying eyes, and yet there was an underlying sense that we were both simply getting them in faster than expected. The timetable slowly ticked away at our expense, and with each moment of irritated exchange with other people, we each sinfully yearned for such fast-paced motion.
She pushed me against the white brick wall, as I began to breathe heavily, catching my breath and waiting for her to stop. It didn’t take nearly as long as I expected. We weren’t as uniquely lost as we both thought.
“I’m sorry to just jump you like that.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s fine. I mean, it was only a matter of time, right?”
“So uh… Are you going back to the house?”
“Don’t think so. I have to drink with the rest of the wedding party in the limo before the reception.”
“Well, that sounds like a shitshow.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m not really looking forward to it in the least bit.”
“Yeah, well I’m not looking forward to the house.”
“At least you have Kieran.”
“Harriet will be at the house.”
“That’s true. I’m not sure what the deal is with the two of them at this point?”
“What, you two didn’t have girl talk last night after we got back?”
“No, she passed out pretty quick, why, what did Kieran tell you?”
“Bullshit. You two were probably up and talking like a bunch of housewives. Tell me.”
“Alright fine, he told me that she gave him head in Everett’s basement.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, fraid so.”
“Well uh, that’s kind of weird. She’s fifteen.”
“You weren’t giving head at fifteen?” I couldn’t resist asking such a question; the church no longer being in the least bit constrictive to my horribly simplistic thought process.
“No, I wasn’t, believe it not.”
“Well then when?”
“You honestly wanna discuss this in probably the five minutes we have before we get pulled off into opposite corners for awhile?”
“Yeah, I kind of do actually.”
“Jesus Christ Noah, you’re fucking unbelievable.”
“Hey, not in a house of worship.”
“What do you suppose is worse here the ‘Jesus Christ’ or the ‘fucking’?”
“Ya know, I’m not really sure.”
“Me neither, but uh… He told you about him and Harriet, did you tell him about us?”
“How do you want me to answer that question Alanna?”
“You piece of shit. I can’t believe you.”
“He’s my cousin. I couldn’t help it. We’re like brothers almost. I mean, there’s that bond there, and it’s not like I have it with anyone else in my family.”
“Plus, he can’t tell anybody because I know about him and Harriet.”
“A thought that I still can’t get out of my head.”
“Well that’s too bad. I mean, maybe you shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Right, blame this on me.”
“I’m sorry, but uh… You know you’re gonna end up telling Amanda and probably the rest of the crew about us.”
“Possibly. I mean, if Amanda asks me at the wedding then I will, but after tomorrow, I’m not sure I’m going to see any of them again.”
“You’re really dead set on this whole fleeing scenario, huh?”
“Yeah, about as dead set as I can be at this point Noah.”
“Well, I’m still not sure.”
“That’s funny. You’re the type of person who comes to a decision at the final moments. That’s cool. I mean, most guys are like that.”
“Yeah, except for the fact that most guys don’t have to think about something like this.”
“Sure they do. There’s always gonna be some kind of fateful will pulling people apart. I mean, that’s how the world works.”
“Really? So we’re either fated to run away together or doomed to tear each apart?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this right now.”
“Yeah, you’re right.” I leaned in and kissed her for the briefest of moments before we both heard Colleen annoyingly calling her name in the church. She pulled away and rolled her eyes.
“Shit… I guess I’ll see ya at the reception.”
“Yeah, you’ll be sitting at the big kid’s table, right?”
“Yeah, but you’ll be close.”
“See ya in a few.”
“Bye.” She gave me one last drifting kiss before walking back into the church. I opened the back door and stepped out into the alley. Violet leaned against the building, smoking yet another cigarette, this time away from the loud noises and phony nice-to-meet-you’s. I started walking towards her, wiping the ruby red lipstick off of my face. It wasn’t in the least bit convincing, though.
“Where were you Noah?”
“Uh, I was in the church, talking to Alanna.”
“You’re not even going to come up with some load of shit.”
“Not for you Violet.”
“Well okay.” She flicked her cigarette down on the ground and followed me back to the crowds. We stood around for awhile, watching a barrage of separate conversations. Finally, we threw rice and waited for the reassuring sound of silence. Fred drove back to the house, mostly quiet and reflective, Joy commenting on every little detail, new face and potential reception conversation she met. I was more than a little tired, the majority of the hangover symptoms having lied dormant for the time being.
Yet, as I stepped back into the Brinker house, ready to possibly lie down and let the sound of Kieran boringly flipping through the channels filter away, I realized that such a possibility wouldn’t occur. My safe haven known as the basement had quickly shifted to a birthday party for seven to ten year olds from the opposite side of the church, attempting to beat my high score and my brains into submission at the same time. I regretfully returned to the first floor, wondering into the kitchen to steal some food, avoid a few familiar faces, grab a beer and walk the whole way to the top. Shep found me in the attic in record time, assuming his regular position on the shag carpet. I opened the small shoebox, finding enough shaky remains to pack myself a bowl. I searched for a record to fully capture such a jumbled moment. I hid in her hiding spot, without her infectious presence, out of what felt like habit after two days.
I knew she wouldn’t mind my temporary borrowing of the last of her narcotics that I at least knew about. She would have done the same thing in my position, a wedding in Pennsylvania, my hypothetical brother forcing champagne down my throat while she silently hid in the dust-filled attic, letting Blonde and Blonde explain what neither of necessarily could at that forked road in our lives. I smoked quickly, alone in my own addictive thoughts. I then lied on the floor, staring at the blank ceiling, Shep a few feet away, sipping the beer and contemplating existence as normal. I thought about possibilities of running and staying in one place, eventually letting the lyrics fill my thoughts with other sporadic wonders. “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” eventually rolled around after two flips and a quick switch of the record.
I didn’t hear Jeannie’s footsteps as she stumbled upon me out of accident, a few stolen small liquor bottles from downstairs, stationed perfectly in her purse. I sat up in unison with Shep and tried to pretend like I wasn’t the person they all thought I was. The stoned cousin, who thought about page breaks far too much. She seemed to understand better than I thought, taking a quick sip of vodka and sitting down on the floor across from me.
“So I see you managed to find the one available hiding place in this house.”
“Yeah, well it’s not even mine, it’s Alanna’s.”
“Oh, well I get it.”
“So were you smoking up here?”
“I don’t indulge in any kind of nicotine habit Jeannie.”
“Yeah, I know. I meant, weed.”
“Oh. Well yeah, I was.”
“Oh, well that’s cool. Not my particular drug of choice, but still cool.” She took another sip and offered me the remains of that small bottle. I took it and drank it down without thinking too much about my strange developing addiction to alcohol.
“Yeah, well I wasn’t sure if you would care or not.”
“I don’t. I… Well can I ask you something?”
“Why wasn’t I a bridesmaid? I mean, did anyone say anything about it?”
“I don’t know. I mean, I didn’t hear anything. Then again, I mostly zone all of them out.”
“Well, I can understand why.”
“Yeah, I’m sure, but uh… You shouldn’t really worry about the whole bridesmaid thing. I mean, it’s stupid.”
“Yeah, I know. I just… Well Alanna was one, and I wasn’t.”
“Gail’s more confused then she lets on.”
“Is that your explanation?”
“Yes it is. I mean, everything’s so goddamn thought out with her. Her life doesn’t have any other plans.”
“Man, you’re really high, aren’t you?”
“No, not nearly as much as you might think. I’ve been up here listening to this record for awhile, so some of it’s worn off.”
“So why did you wander up here?”
“I’m sick of the bullshit. I mean, my mother won’t stop talking about my minor achievements and dad keeps pulling me over and introducing me to assholes he’s just met. It’s a little strange, the whole wedding thing, ya know?”
“Yeah, definitely. Of course, sometimes you meet people who are worth it.”
“You mean like Alanna?”
“Yeah, or anybody really.”
“Ya know, most of us are aware that the two of you are hot for each other.”
“Who’s ‘most of us’?”
“My mom, dad, your mom, dad, Fiona, Harriet, probably some others who both of us don’t even know.”
“Well whatever. It’s not really any of their business despite the fact that they might think it is.”
“Well, here’s a better question. What are you gonna do after all of this?”
“That’s the million dollar question Jeannie.”
“Apparently.” She didn’t bring it up after that, as the two of us collectively decided to return to the hell of downstairs after the record’s finish. It was slightly calmer, some of the booze having sunk in. We found Kieran and Harriet standing in the kitchen, attempting to steal some alcohol unnoticed. I caught Kieran with a beer in hand, quickly asking why he hadn’t just come to me first.
It was better in the backyard, nobody deciding to leave the source of intoxication. The four of us threw a Frisbee around more than a little bored at the dullest of moments yet. It was only four, meaning there was another solid two hours of time to pass. We all went down into the basement, looking at the OnDemand choices for a movie and eventually settling on Billy Madison, none of us wanting to think about the reality of possibly confused adults attempting to figure their lives out. It made sense that we were all on the same page, and as the movie slowly died down, Jeannie and I attempted to mediate between Kieran and Harriet; the two of them not having lived long enough to develop casually believable excuses to wander off into the woods.
We soon got the call from upstairs, all of us deciding to hop into separate cars and drive to the Stevenson Hotel. I had become reasonably sick and tired of my parents, switching over to the car with Fiona and Harriet who drove Alanna’s car back to the house. Kieran and Jeannie followed suit; both deciding that Fiona was the best potential parent present, despite her lack of knowledge on the mischief her daughter was participating in on a regular basis. The slow line of cars all followed Ken and Colleen at the helm, Ken occasionally reconfirming his sense of balance along the highway.
We all made bad decisions when other people started to contagiously spread their happiness on the rest of us. A wedding was such an instance, as along with the complicated concept of spending the rest of your life with just one someone, there was booze, family and potentially lost singles who didn’t know where their lives were going thrown into the mix. On top of that, a barrage of different emotions, family members crying over spilt Jell-O shots and dead relatives who couldn’t be there.
In this sense, no one could necessarily blame Alanna or myself for being slightly irrational all weekend; the two of us eventually landing on an unknown planet without much space experience. It didn’t matter, though, whether or not everyone saw it coming or would later simply write us out of their wills. We understood where our lives were taking us. The wedding was more than just an excuse to be recklessly confused. It was the reason for things finally changing.