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Feb 15, 2020

Creative Nonfiction Coming of Age Contemporary

I can’t remember his name. 


Most of the minor details, yes. Her dress (beautifully cut satin but much too shiny to be elegant), the bouquet (pink and white roses, even though she was slightly allergic), the church (which still smelled tragically like moth balls, despite her mother’s best efforts to air the place out the night before).


But I can’t recall the groom’s name. Donnie maybe? Ronnie? I know that in those years there was definitely a Ronnie and a Donnie, but I don’t know which was the groom. I am tempted to call and ask her, but that would be cruel. We don’t speak about the First Wedding. Somewhere along the line we just stopped talking about it, perhaps hoping that ignoring the event completely would permanently erase it from history.  


If I’m honest, I was surprised to even be invited. After Tracy had unceremoniously removed me from the wedding party, we hadn’t spoken much. I was to blame. We had once been inseparable, but I was in my freshman year of college, in a completely different state surrounded by completely different people, and it was all far too exciting to be interrupted by the goings on back home. Tracy had stayed close to home, to no one’s surprise. Tracy fiercely loved her family, and she loved to feel needed. Her parents were proud people; grounded, salt-of-the-earth types who worked themselves weary to provide a modestly comfortable life for Tracy and her sister. They knew that Tracy deserved a college education, but Tracy knew that college would mean tuition, and tuition would mean years full of double shifts for her parents. So she opted for night classes at the local community college and full time day shifts in the accounting office of her parents’ grocery store.  


Jeff always said that Tracy met DonnieRonnie in her Psychology 201 course, but that is more faded memory than fact. Jeff had secretly and silently loved Tracy throughout high school, but the fact that he ended up in the same junior college classes and not at a music conservatory where he belonged was strictly coincidental; he wasn’t up to snuff, academically speaking. Neither were Jen and David, both of whom rounded out their little Hometown group. This left me as Odd Girl Out, far away and expanding my horizons through new friends and even newer drugs, long before Facebook or Snapchat, or even cell phones- were able to keep us connected.


I had spent that summer at home, and I saw them all a few times, but Tracy and I had different schedules, different interests, and different lives by then. I met DonnieRonnie only once, at a bonfire at someone’s cabin. He was perfectly pleasant and obviously wild about Tracy, but I didn’t particularly care for him. He stood close to the fire, telling me a story about buying his first car, and as he talked he crushed a red Solo cup in one fist until it was nothing but hard plastic shards. When she asked, I told Tracy that I didn’t think DonnieRonnie was her soulmate. In June, Jen and I halfheartedly browsed for bridesmaid dresses, but by September, I found out through a series of “so-and-so-told-me” that a girl Tracy knew from work would be replacing me. I wasn’t hurt or sad or angry. I wasn’t anything. I returned to a new school semester and let “my old life” slowly fade away.


The wedding was the next spring, on a remarkably foggy Saturday morning. My parents, who had known and loved Tracy for all the years that I had, were also invited, and my mother slipped an extra $50 into the wedding gift card when my father wasn’t looking. As we walked into the mothball-scented church, I asked her what she thought of DonnieRonnie. She pretended not to hear the question.  


As we took our seats next to Jeff and David, I caught a glimpse of Tracy’s mother, who looked like a stranger in shapeless peach lace. Her smile was bright as she greeted guests, but the shadows under her eyes betrayed her. She was crying-”Happy tears!” she insisted to a man who offered her a handkerchief. I heard David tell my mother that he hoped there was booze at the reception.


Tracy and DonnieRonnie’s ceremony was short and unimpressive and after the groom kissed the bride we retreated to the church’s basement, which was decorated in flimsy tulle and white Christmas lights. We were seated at Table 9, a detail that will forever be burned into my memory because my mother made up a song about Table 9 after she was about three Sloe Gin Fizzes into the night.


The reception consisted of the usual rituals; bouquet toss, first dances, sloppy speeches. The newlyweds cut their simply decorated cake, and DonnieRonnie smashed his piece into Tracy’s face with an uncomfortable amount of force. I watched as Tracy laughed through the thick layer of icing on her cheek. Later I found her in the ladies’ restroom, still laughing as one of her cousins feverishly picked cake bits off of the wedding dress. I hugged Tracy long and hard, and suddenly we were friends again.


It was when I pulled away that I saw the bruise. It was light but sickeningly purple and yellow, and it was right above her cheekbone. She saw me staring and instinctively touched her face.


“Is that from the cake?”  


It was such a stupid question.  


“Nope. Opened my car door onto my face this morning. How dumb am I?”  


She said it with such ease, such grace. The words rolled out of her mouth as naturally as if I’d asked her about the weather. The beautiful bride that stood before me was broken. She knew it. I knew it. She knew that I knew it. But we left that bathroom arm in arm and chatted about the green bean almondine her Aunt Kathy had made.


Later, I bummed a cigarette from Jeff. I didn’t consider myself a smoker and neither did he, but we stood in the foggy, soggy parking lot of the First United Methodist Church and smoked and didn’t talk about that bruise. I danced to “Kiss From a Rose” with David and didn’t talk about that bruise. I did Kamikaze shots with Jen and my dad and didn’t talk about that bruise.  


We all knew, yet none of us talked about that bruise.


The marriage ended in 18 months and two Protection from Abuse orders. The wedding day bruise hadn’t been the first, but the bruise that accompanied the three broken ribs had been the last. Today they’re long lost memories. They healed, and Tracy healed, and the Second Wedding-the one that happened at the courthouse-was the one that counted. There are still bruises in Tracy’s life, but they are all from her wild little boy’s sports and outdoor adventures. Tracy’s husband-the only one that counts-is a kind man; the sort of genuine kindness that is felt more than seen. They laugh together, and it is magical music.They are happy.  







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1 comment

Bruno Lowagie
00:17 Feb 20, 2020

Great story! I also had two weddings, albeit with the same woman. As far as my wife and I are concerned, the second wedding never really counted, though :D

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