Do you remember when we used to pick our bridesmaids? We would count on our fingers, ticking off names. Ashley, Anna, Katie, Sarah, maybe Nicky. We’ll have to see about her, I’m not sure. Is five too many? Maybe I should do an even number. Maybe six. And then of course my sister, she’ll be Maid of Honor. Of course. My mother wouldn’t let me pick somebody else, even if I wanted to. An apology, another way of saying, I would pick you, if I could.
It was a serious conversation, but not about love or men or marriage. We used our choices like a friendship ledger. Who claimed spaces in our platonic hearts. Who mattered most. Whose credit ran deepest. Sometimes we would recalculate, drop a name off, add a name on. If I ask Hannah, I have to ask Irene, or neither, but I can’t do just one. If I ask Elisa, she’ll have way too many opinions about the dress. I want blue, everyone in blue.
Those were days when we dreamed of adulthood in tulle skirts and champagne flutes and pearl-trimmed bouquets of white roses. Of lanterns lighting the summer night, soft with cool breezes and twinkling fireflies. Bare feet on grass, dancing after midnight, a million summer stars and a white dress. Everyone had a wedding and every wedding was beautiful. It never rained.
Maybe it was a sign of things to come, that we always picked bridesmaids and never grooms. Other little girls did this, I think. Chose his tux and his smile and whether or not he cried when the church doors opened and she took her first steps towards him. Other little girls picked veils and honeymoons, cakes and themes, flower arrangements and dinner menus. Band or DJ. Rice or bubbles. Church or beach.
But not us. We only ever picked friends.
And then we stopped. Let the conversation fall away from our repertoire. The idea of marriage became so much more real, and so much less real, all at once, and so we stopped talking about bridesmaids. We realized, didn’t we, that we might not ever need any.
I wonder how it happened to us. Were we different always, destined for cities and transience and uncertainty and, if not bigger things, then perhaps just the craving for them? The need to move on, to feel more, to see further? Insatiability, we could call it, or insecurity, or plain old dissatisfaction. Or maybe the idea that we’re not good enough. It could be something like that, couldn’t it?
Sometimes a wedding seems so easy, so routine, so impossible to miss. Everyone gets married. And here we are, the misfits, the broken toys. But then I think, I won’t move to Tahoe with him. I want a dog but I don’t want a two-year-old. I want cheesecake for dinner tonight. I want to write a book, I want Paris in the rain, I want things that are mine that I have built, just me. I want aloneness, sometimes. A lot of the time. I guess I don’t find it as lonely as most people.
Do you remember the day we sat on the couch in that apartment in Brooklyn with the swing and the cats and the million tupperwares and promised ourselves we would be single together at the end of the day? It was warm outside and we went down to the water and looked at the city lights from across the bridge and I was happy in the way you can only be happy when you’re 23 in the city watching the lights shimmer on the river water. I wonder sometimes if you were sad, though. If, for you, the promise was a fear, a resignation, a negative assessment of your chances in life. Would you really be happy at 65, wandering through farmers’ markets and city parks with no one but me for company? Now we look forward and we don’t know what’s there and every choice is some kind of gamble, but when we’re old and looking back, will you regret it?
I might regret it. But not because I never picked a groom. I might regret it because my bridesmaids, from all those old lists, my bridesmaids will be gone. Even you. I think one day even you will renege, and then everyone will have disappeared. Swallowed by marriages and kids and moving to Tahoe. It will be a different kind of lonely then. A harder kind.
Is that why everyone gets married? Is it because even the holdouts have to have something left over when the friendships dissolve into babies and long hours and soccer practices and moving to the suburbs or to Texas for his new job? Or is it really, really truly honestly, because everyone falls in permanent love? That seems so improbable. So utterly, completely too good to be true. Something little girls believe when they are choosing their bridesmaids. Not something real.
I love you. The permanent way. Will you promise to remember that, when you get married? I don’t know why it’s so easy for me to believe in forever friendship but not in forever love, not the romantic kind. Or maybe I do believe in it, but not for myself. I’ve never believed in it for me.
If I ever do get married, though, I want you to be a bridesmaid. For doubting with me. For living differently. For wanting something people think is worth less because we don’t know what it is, can’t name it, can’t give it a diamond ring. You understand that the universe is infinite and I can go anywhere, we can go anywhere, and marriage is this tiny, tiny star in the galaxy. But every star is beautiful. Nothing is inevitable. We might not end up there. We might not care.