“So, what do you do for work?”
“Where are you living these days?”
“How are things going with you and that one guy?”
She could already hear all the inevitable questions she would be asked tonight, the questions nobody yet had a chance to ask as she had snuck into the back of the church as close to the start of the ceremony as possible to avoid such conversations.
Now, as she looked at herself in the bathroom mirror, she could not work up the nerve to go out to the reception. She had snuck a peek at the whimsical fairy lights twinkling in long rows strung above her head, the ornate blossoms set so carefully in the center of each table, the beautiful linens with a place card made special for each person, their name emblazoned in gold, sitting on top waiting to be read and had rushed to the nearest room to gather her thoughts.
She had not wanted to come tonight, but she could not miss it. People only got married once in their life (if they were lucky) and you couldn’t catch a rain check on a wedding.
All day leading up to this her stomach had been in knots. She had skipped breakfast and lunch and though there was an audible rumbling coming from her midriff, she was too overcome with anxiety to eat anything.
There was not just a slight chance they would be there, all of them, but an RSVP confirmation that they would. She had seen the list with her own eyes and watched the comments on the Facebook Group pop up as people exclaimed their excitement for the day to come or sent their regrets they could not attend. Several of them had driven hours to be there, some had even flown in, her being one of them. Though they had a flicker of a connection to who they once were simply through their link to each other, she felt she was grasping at air trying to remember what those commonalities they had all shared so long ago were.
What was she supposed to talk about with people she’d grown so disconnected from? People who had moved on with their lives, gotten married, bought houses, had babies, had hit milestones, milestones that she had found out about through social media. There were no facetimes, no text messages, no phone calls, not even an email for fuck’s sake. Just her scrolling through her feed at 1 am on a random Tuesday night and seeing, along with everyone else, her old best friend getting engaged. Only a few short years ago she would have been sure she would be a bridesmaid in her wedding, but as she sat in the back of the church and watched the happy couple read their vows to each other (this girl she once knew to this man she had never even met) she could not help but think about how bizarre it was that she had received an invitation at all. They all had, the whole group.
And though they did not keep in touch with her, she was just as guilty of dropping the ball on them. She only knew them through a screen these days. She saw what they wanted her to see, no more. Everyone prepares you for all the new and exciting things you’ll experience once you leave high school, but nobody talks about how to hold onto the familiar things you’ve built over the past several years. Nobody tells you that keeping friends is not a guarantee you can depend on but a privilege you must cling to. You have to make an effort to check in with them, to schedule lunch dates, to plan annual trips and book plane tickets and rental cars, and hotel rooms. But you also had to go to your job, take care of your house, pay your bills, and take care of yourself. Adulthood was a balancing act, and she had learned a long time ago that she was no good at balance.
So she stood in front of the mirror, staring at herself, trying to work up the courage to go sit at the table with the group of people she had once known so well but who were now practically strangers to her. She took a deep breath and swung the door open, walking into the room aglow with twinkle lights. She could hear smooth jazz coming from the DJ booth and could distinctly smell mashed potatoes and garlic wafting from somewhere close by. She knew her place card with her name swooshed across it in gold lettering was at table eight, along with Briella, Isaac, Megan, and Katey. Her feet moved her slowly toward the table, her eyes scanning the room to distract herself. She couldn’t believe how nervous she was. She was planning different conversation starters she could use when she felt someone grab her elbow gently.
“I thought it was you! Oh my goodness. I’m so glad you made it!”
And before she knew it she was in an embrace, their arms wrapped around her and hers around them.
“Isaac. It’s so good to see you,” she said as they peeled themselves from each other.
“I love that color on you. You look gorge-OUS!”
She patted the front of her dress, the lavender ruffles crunching in response under her hands.
“Oh, this old thing? Target, can you believe it?” she patted his shoulder teasingly.
“Well, I love it. Come, everyone else is at the table,” he said as he motioned toward the table she knew was number eight.
She followed him closely, afraid that if she got too far behind then whatever ease they had just conjured up between them would slip away and she would be left struggling to spark a connection again.
“Guys, look who I found!” he said giddily as they approached the table. Katey began to stand from her seat and walked around to hug her, another warm embrace she was not expecting, but was more than happy to indulge herself in.
“Oh my god, you look fucking fantastic,” Katey said as she stepped back and took in her dress.
“Oh, you flatter me,” she replied. She could feel her cheeks getting pink.
“Where is the cocktail lady? We have got to get you a drink!”
Katey hurried off in search of a waitress.
She quickly took her seat at the table, her place card neatly set on top of her linen napkin, which was on top of her plate, which was in between Katey and Megan. Briella was across from her, smiling wide.
“How the hell do you look the exact same as you did in high school? I swear, it’s like you don’t even age,” Briella shouted across the table.
“My body would beg to differ with that,” she shouted in reply.
Katey was back with a copper cup in her hand, a slice of lime wedged onto the lip.
“A Moscow mule for the lady,” she said as she set it down next to her.
“Why, thank you!”
She took a sip and glanced around the room, trying to keep herself occupied, when the music began to shift to something more upbeat. She instantly recognized it as Party Rock Anthem and noticed people starting to stand and clap. She stood too and could see Aisha and her now husband making their entrance into the room.
Katey leaned toward her. “THIS is her entrance song?”
They both laughed, quiet and controlled, as if keeping a secret.
She leaned toward Katey, Isaac right next to her listening in as well.
“Have either of you met her husband before?” she asked shyly.
They both shook their heads, Katey adding, “I barely even talk to Aisha anymore.”
Megan then leaned towards all three of them.
“I have no clue why she invited me. I haven’t talked to her for at least two years.”
Then Isaac chimed in, “Girl, I haven’t talked to her since graduation day.”
At that, they all burst into laughter and the music changed tempo to the beat of We Are Family.
And she knew then that it was going to be fine. It would be like it always was, like she should have remembered it would be. She finally exhaled, letting all the stress that had ballooned in her over the last 24 hours deflate. She took a sip of her drink and soaked in the moment, feeling silly that she had forgotten how easy it was to be with these people. She had forgotten that it was like riding a bike. You may not do it for years, but once you pick it back up again, it’s like you never missed a day.
She drank her fill, ate to her heart’s content, danced like nobody was watching, and laughed more than she could recall in the last year with anyone else. She told stories about her boring job and her mundane life, listened to her friends tell stories about their own lives (which they also felt were boring and mundane), and relished each moment.
As she said her goodbyes for the night, hugging each of her friends close to her once more, she was reminded of how beautiful life can be. How even when you think you’ve lost touch with someone, the invisible string that binds us to each other keeps holding on just enough for you to pick back up where you left off.