Part of me always wondered if it was more insulting or flattering that they saw fit to invite me. On the one hand, it meant that I was still close enough to justify my presence at the most important day of his life. On the other hand, I couldn’t have been that serious with him, otherwise the bride would have undoubtedly vetoed my invitation. It would have been weird, and inappropriate, and like one of the final few scenes from a Nicholas Sparks novel. I guess I was somewhere in that middle ground where we know each other but we don’t, you know, know each other.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure the invite was extended because our parents were friends. But as that answer doesn’t allow for nearly as much torturous self-reflection, I figured it couldn’t possibly be the reason.
The ceremony was lovely. It was one of those events you can describe as having nothing wrong with it, but it’s more of a compliment than it sounds like. Everything went well. The food was good, the champagne was limitless, and the people were beautiful and well-dressed. The bride looked amazing, but she always did. I think part of the reason that he and I initially separated was my tendency to let everything sort of… hang out. I am a constantly-bleeding emotional wound who is always the happiest or saddest she’s ever been, and his wife is as level-headed and reasonable as I am the opposite. Even in jeans and a t-shirt, she had this unmistakable air of poise and organization and calm. In a wedding gown, she looked like a goddamn angel.
I was frequently embarrassed when people started putting two and two together and realizing exactly who I was. I think, on some level, they regarded the move to invite me as a selfless act of kindness on the part of the bride. It made me feel even more like a child who was mistakenly allowed a seat at the adult table for a meal, and there is nothing I hate more than pity. As with most things, I started to make a joke out of the whole thing, preempting their strange look of judgment over the fact that I used to date them with an anecdote about how terrible I was, and why we broke up in the first place. It seemed to cut the tension.
At around 11:30, I was standing off the edge of the dance floor, on the grass just enough for my heels to start sinking into the dirt. I didn’t care, I was champagne drunk and incapable of feeling anything other than pleasantly numb. He came over to me and thanked me for coming. I immediately worried that people were going to find it inappropriate for us to be talking by ourselves, but then I realized that I would never see most of these people again. He put his hand on my shoulder and called me a pet name that I hadn’t heard since we broke up three years before. It made me feel strange, and uncomfortable, and immediately suspicious of his motives. But then he walked back to his stunning bride, and I realized that he was just trying to make me feel less alone, and I felt more alone than ever.
I didn’t want to marry him, even when we were dating. I knew that he wasn’t the one for me, and I wasn’t particularly jealous or bitter to see him taking that leap with someone else. She is a better person than I in many important ways, and definitely the kind of person you’d want raising your children. I did feel lonely, though. Weddings are strange in that you can completely hate the whole idea until you’re standing there in your nicest blue dress, holding a glass of champagne, and you suddenly want the same boring things that everyone else does. I wanted this, because it seemed so beautiful and adult and committed in a way I felt completely incapable of being. I suddenly wanted to get married, to someone that I loved as much as they seemed to love each other.