The International Writers Magazine: Wedding Day
It's my wedding day. I'm dripping with glamour. I'm iced to the gills. I'm sucked in at the middle and powdered on the breast. My hair wouldn't move in a wind tunnel. My nails wouldn't crack under a toffee hammer. My eyelashes are longer than any desert-dweller's. I can hardly breathe, I'm dead around the eyes and my left hand keeps itching like a bug lives under the skin.
All of that saying “yes” was never a good idea. All that business. All that fear of the embarrassment. Imagine what those lip-biting people in a quaint little faux-Mediterranean eatery would have thought if when I looked at his bleeding tears begging face, down on his knees, catalogue ring shoved between me and my stuffed mushroom trout, I'd yelled “This is the stupidest fucking question you ever asked me.” They would have pushed me in to the kitchen and set fire to it. He looked that pathetic and hopeful and full of comedy, pushing love. I was pressured in to saying “yes”, by them; those people I would never see again and by my own sense of pity and shame.
They all stopped to see him grind the gold-plating on to my finger. When I picked up my fork to continue with my fish, they were still applauding. He had poured himself back in to his chair and was glowing at me, a setting sun on the horizon through a curtain of candlelight. I looked at him with a mouthful of grilled fungus and that's when the itching started. A twitch at first, only ticking away at the useless end of the cutlery. I only swiped at it, brushing the irritation away. And I smiled at him, knowing well that a bit of rocket leaf hung from my teeth. I hoped this might induce him to snatch back his proposal, but no, far away in the dim recesses of his loving soul, he had married me already and for better or for worse was the now the order. And indeed the worse was upon us as he beamed and reached for my mouth, trying to pick the criminal salad from my smile. And I let him. My kidneys rang with shivers as I realised the marriage fans still watched us and sighed at how trusting and comfortable we were. God, what an awful night.
And now that night has been bettered in terms of crass humiliation and insipid loving stares. It has been eighteen months since that night. For eighteen months, I have been the only bride-to-be who has tried to put on unflattering amounts of weight. I stuff hamburgers and cakes, sometimes both at once in to my crazed gullet and force peristaltic waves with banana milk from local supermarkets. I am doing everything but melting chocolate and taking it intravenously and I am actually losing weight. I have been since this stupid business began. My recommendation at this point is to ladies who join the weight loss clubs – don't bother. And don't bother with aerobics either. Just get engaged to someone when every capillary inside you screams that it's a shit idea. He thinks I have been starving myself and has warned me, as if I care, that my ever-decreasing body mass is unhealthy. He doesn't want to see tendons and blades. In which case, I'm sort of pleased that now I have got this lousy dress on that he will be able to see my collar bone from the altar.
There's a bridesmaid hovering close to me. She's married already and she tells me that she and others have been waiting for my big day for a lot of years. It matters not that marriage has been a slow crawl through a muddy cave for her. She thinks this is what I want. A name at last. A bit of security. I want to tell her that I was born with a name, one that is my own. I don't want to borrow one. She says that it's all finally come true for me, that the biggest day of my life is finally here. Meaning that life gets smaller after marriage. In her case, this is true. Later today she will be watching her husband drink the free-bar to a crumb and stand next to my sixteen-year-old cousin, trying to smell her skin. After that she will not say anything, because if she does, he will explain to her in concrete etching that she is wrong and he is right, because she is an idiot and he is slumming it.
I won't ever suffer that sort of talk. The husband I am about to have would never fling it at me. I know that., but it doesn't matter to the bridesmaids and the mothers of this world though. A crappy husband is better than colliding with forty years of age with the name that you were born with. The name that is your own. I like my name.
The bridesmaid notices a strand of eyebrow that wings out of place. No room for imperfection today. She rustles off to find some tweezers and I am left alone, staring at my own reflection. She is all so white, this doll in the mirror. Everything is white. Skin white, probably through sheer horror. The dress is all white as if purity was something I even knew how to pronounce. And there is white, pearly jewellery dancing from my ears and around my neck. I don't remember choosing all this stuff. It doesn't seem like me. The lips are red though. A flowering pout in all this pillow-case blandness. I look like a Disney villain. I think the idea was that it's supposed to be regal and crystalline-delicate. I think chalkiness is fairly unsuitable for someone bursting with never-ending love. It suits me perefectly.
The bridesmaid is back, sighing from behind me at how beautiful I look. Her bare, serpent arm, needle-nose pliers in hand (the tweezers are AWOL) squirms over my shoulder, nearing my eyebrow and I fight the urge to seize her forearm and pull so that her solar plexus sits perfectly behind my bony elbow. I wonder if I could bring it back hard enough to wind this woman so she doesn't talk for a while. She is supposed to be my friend. They all seemed to pile in to this idea, all of them squashed in shouting directions as if they were in a mini driven by a fool in a white dress.
No one knows that I don't want to be here. I have smiled in all the right places and turned all the right corners and still I don't know how I got here. Maybe all the pearls have cut off the circulation to my bride's brain. My face may turn grey, peel away the swan-feather pallor and turn ashy, dirty and my head may fall off. He couldn't marry me if I had no head. They wouldn't say I looked pretty with no head. I would feel a lot prettier. Nobody knows that I want to keep my name and want to live by myself. Nobody knows that I want to go and sit in the mud in this frilled up nightmare. Nobody knows that I just don't want to be married. It's not even him. I just don't want to be married. The only awareness of this other than the growing green pool in my mind is the ratty, agonising tickle in my hand. It got worse you see.
That night, the night of my engagement, it began. Just a whisper, but it started to burn. When I took the ring off, later that night in distaste – thrown at my bedside table, I saw a thin white band around my finger, like a scar. I scrubbed it with disinfectant and it calmed down. I left the ring until three days later when I went for a sushi lunch with my misintended. I put it back on so he could look about him proudly with a “we're grown-ups” expression. And any other times I saw him, which I kept to a minimum, I wore this glittering magpie-fodder and he would pick my hand up and kiss it as if I were Papally heightened. Every time he did that, the skin beneath would almost bubble.
One day, he took me to his parents and I wore the ring. I offered to wash up merely so I could take the bloody thing off and dump it on the tiles. Whilst I scraped clingy remnants of a gateau from cool blue plates, my mother-in-law to be stood, leaning in the doorway chatting about that one great big day. I struggled to keep my left hand below the bubble line as by that point, the line around my bare finger had become an ugly red-brown stripe that lessened the longer the ring remained on the dresser. She chattered, carrion-feeder constant about flowers and photos and grew teary-eyed as she mentioned her own wedding. I munched on a giggle as I wondered how she could be nostalgic about the day that manacled her to the vicious cretin who sat in the living room barely communicating with his son. He didn't even speak to her on a good day. He was non-moving, non-speaking, but he did give her another name. The one I would have.
So in the last hours of having my own name, I stand and look at myself. Me as I know me now is not the real me and will never be me again. I am bride, I will be Mrs whatever-his-name-is. Bridesmaid has pulled out my stray eyebrow whilst I have been thinking and everything looks perfect to her now. She keeps asking me if I am nervous and wishes me the best of luck. What luck do I need to do a bit of walking and nodding? The worst thing in the world would no doubt be my falling over this stupidly long dress and crushing my explosive bouquet beneath my uplifted tits. I would never recover from such a tragedy, surely. They would feel so sorry for me, even the groom, but he would have to think twice about marrying me after I'd made such a catastrophic fuck-up. I'm considering sawing one of the heels down on one of the satin slippery excuse for shoes I wore. I'd have to wait until she was gone. Off to the venue in the bridesmaid's car. They have their own car. And I have one of my own. Me and my Dad with his name. My name. It'll be a different car for the new name I guess.
She is still here, sipping bubbling orange out of a plastic flute and generally being pink all over. Another one in matching garb comes in to the room and they squeal at each other a bit. She is married too and I can see the golden sparkle through their little lace gloves. They clap their hands together, gazing in to each other's eyes as if they were the happy couple, then they turn to me as if I am a paid photographer. Both are brimming with foolish emotion and both, though one is fair and one is dark, both look exactly the same. Wild, overwhelming terror grips my bouquet and throws it in to a sea of snapdragons as I realise I shall look just like them in a few hours. The itch in my hand has become insane and I am rubbing the flat of it against the rough tongue of my veil.
They talk of magic time and go chirruping off down the stairs. Their butterflies are gigantic man-eating (woman-eating) moths. They flutter in to a shiny car and wrap the door around them. I haven't moved but I can see the car pull away with dignity and menace. And I am back to looking at myself in the glass. There is no chance to stare for much longer because my father is looking at me with a resigned smile. I want to tell him that I don't want to get in to the car, but the words have turned to confetti in my throat. My hand spasms though and throws down the bouquet. It lands at my feet and one of the white white roses loses its head. Now my hand feels scalding all over and vibrates as I try to shake away the pain.
My Dad is smiling. Poor worn-out Dad. My mother would be at the church already, wearing a garish hat made of pasted roses and a look of dismay. It wouldn't be good enough for her, I'm sure, even though she had the biggest hand in arranging it all. Nothing is ever good enough for her. Always someone has lifted the tray of teacakes just out of her reach as far as she is concerned. She never quite gets to have her marshmallow chocolate and eat it.
Dad picks up the bouquet and puts it back in my china hands. Its feels very heavy and the itch is blistering to beyond tolerable. I think that in a minute, I will start screaming and Dad will make me sit with a glass of water. He won't make a fuss, he never does. I haven't started screaming yet, but I am keen to excuse myself and be alone properly. He warns me that I have less than five minutes. I feel like I have had less than five minutes since the whole sorry mess started in the restaurant. I should have known that it was coming then. In a way I did, but like a pigeon in the road, I sat and stared at the oncoming splattering.
I pick up the hem of the dress and gather it all in two hands, holding it all above my knees as I take a step of the staircase one at a time. My father follows and utters something sad and beautiful before he wanders out of the front door, heading to the waiting car. He leaves the front door open.
I go and stand in my mother's kitchen and run my burning hand under the cold tap. I lose feeling in it as the water fills it with colder blood. I can see my father sitting, head bowed in ancient thoughts, slumped in the back seat of the car. He has a spray of lily-of-the-valley jumping from his lapel. My mother will be straightening it as soon as he takes his assigned place in the pew, not affectionately. He looks miserable and saggy. And yet he got to keep his name.
I keep running the water and watch the continual splashing. In every drop of bouncing fluid, I see a tiny reflection of an unhappy bride. It's probably not even possible to see such a thing, but I see it anyway. I can see it coming, all of it, years and days and comings and goings and all of it the same because all of it will belong to someone else. Not to the waiting groom. His days will be the same. Our lives will belong to marriage and not to us, not even to each other. I'm not going to cry.
Dad must have done the washing up last night because the knives and forks point upward in the rack and my mother will berate him when she notices. There aren't just mundane eating implements. There are big, exciting serrated edges in my mother's kitchen. An old-school cook with antiquated aids. Sharpened, glistening silver and big powerful wooden handles that can give you splinters. An enormous chopping board of thick, wood lounges at an angle by the sink.
The horn sounds painfully loudly and I'm startled from my cloud of dizzy nausea. My steps toward the front door are timid and wobbling and I could go right down at any time, but I feel so happy now. I can get married now. I hold the bouquet in my right hand, in front of me and walk like a bride should down the garden path.
My father is scrabbling at the inside of the car door and shouting, but I cant hear a thing. I just smile back at him as my legs threaten to buckle with each coming footfall. I have used a tea towel to wrap around my forearm, but it hasn't stopped the flow to much effect and my dress is now a brand new colour. Drips are already drying on my face
My father pushes the door open in time for me to fall in to the car and he slides backwards in horror. I am face-down on the white white leather turning red red and I am aware that the driver is screaming. Like I wanted to. But I am not. It's trumpeting out of me now, turning everything a living shade. And I am gasping for some air. My laughter doesn't help. Seems to require more oxygen. My right hand reaches for my father and I wave in the direction of the house.
“I'm ready now, Daddy. It's all behind me.” I say, losing focus. “I can say it. Listen: 'I do'. Good huh?”
I am now set to go. Happy, blissful and definitely blushing bride. It was only my hand that disagreed with them all, after all. Dumb, itchy hand. Unfortunate ( I feel very sleepy), unfortunate that he will have nowhere to put his new ring...
© Tessa Foley March 2010
isnt Going to Rain
furniture. It's always an issue for me. I'm appalled by it. I never
understood the idea of a room in brown slash beige oblique orange
that might impress the neighbours
More Dreamscapes stories