Memoir in Five Weddings

by | Aug 11, 2020 | Fiction, Issue Sixteen

1. Wedding Poetry

We sip steaming mugs of coffee. Stevia keeps mine dark, sweet and mellow in the caverns of my cheeks. Between us, Wallace Stevens lies open on the bed.

“Want to hear a poem about a wedding? It’s called ‘Life Is Motion.’”

“Sure,” I say, hoping it isn’t long. I rub the creases of my eyes and cover a yawn. I’m not awake enough to understand Stevens or listen while he explains things to me.

2. My Cousin’s Wedding

On Saturday morning, Daddy catches me wasting whiskey down the drain. I flee his bulging veins, indigo ridges, topography of forearms like billy clubs. When I tiptoe back, a game’s blaring on T.V. and he’s snoring on the couch. Someone’s on Third. The crowd cheers. I don’t care who’s winning. I tip his smoldering Lucky into a well, into a ceramic swirl of muddy browns, blues and greens, into an ashtray from Niagara Falls, and cap another quart of Old Mr. Boston, already halfway gone.

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I’m five years old at my cousin’s wedding. Mother dances with the groom, a polka star. I bounce on Daddy’s knee, straddle it like a pony. He brushes a glass across my lips. Whiskey, sweat and Old Spice pinch my nose. “Cute,” Uncle Johnny says, wobbling over, hands reaching. My gut brims full of frosting and wedding cake. I beg Daddy’s bloodshot eyes and poke my tongue into his amber glass. The accordion crescendos, shards shatter on the floor and I puke a geyser of sugar crumbs.

3. A Strawberry Wedding

On the Summer Solstice, Lucy gets married at the Strawberry Farm. Bridesmaids pose in yellow rubber boots. Groomsmen hover translucent bubbles, fuchsia and orange, over their braids and twists and buns. My sister’s devastated by the menu: broiled steak and chicken strips, grilled portabellas, mixed greens and strawberry tarts. She craves tiers of cake—vanilla buttercream and pearly rosettes. She’s come all this way. Strawberry tarts would never be enough.

4. Greeting Cards

In the sanitarium, Mother occupies the room next to mine. She doesn’t want me here—a child knows these things. I say, “I’m leaving. Tonight. So you’ll be happy.” I roll down the corridor, clattering on linoleum, speckled like cowbird eggs. Double doors swing and flap into brutal cold, flap into rusty smells of blood on snow. White cotton flows over a slab, swelling and lifting like a river. I press my chin on the metal and peer under the sheet. “I’m sorry,” I say. Tears dribble on her blue tissue gown, fluttering in the air vents stream. Mother swivels her neck, flattens her cheek on the gurney and says, “How could you?”

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My sister answers. “When you eloped, Mama hyperventilated and the doctor made Daddy cover her head with a paper bag.”

“I’m taking my medication now,” I say.

“Good,” she says. “Mama’s bag is torn and drenched in saliva.”

I open a greeting card—a free card, like those in mass mailings, pleas to save wildlife, starving children and animal shelters, round trips to guilt and back with address labels. A parakeet peers between gilded bars through latticed windows at the rain.

There’s a silver lining to every cloud,

A pot of gold at the end of every rainbow.

Sorry you’re under the weather.

Hope you feel better soon

 Love,

Your Mother

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At night, a woman draped in ivory lace ascends to a crescent moon. Her daughters kneel at the foot of a silver birch as she floats away. She’s done with us and I don’t even know where to start.

Greeting cards lie and seed bad poetry.

5. A Venetian Wedding

At my first wedding, Daddy falls in love with the singer in the band. He swoons side to side at the bar, and croons, “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” Beside him, in floor-length cerulean chiffon, Mother puffs rose red lips and vague kisses. I press the photograph to my nose and swill Old Spice cologne and Evening in Paris.

At my second wedding, we shiver before September’s grasses. Plumes brush the purple horizon, rimming bronze between earth and sky, and bruise it like an omen.

At my third wedding, I want to be in Venice, on a gondola in an atrium where raindrops tinkle from the mezzanine like tiny, silver bells on frosted glass into a turquoise pond, where a gondolier croons Italian love songs and strokes meaning through flesh and air with his black oar. Up and down, back and forth, we’ll tip and seesaw above the Food Court, glittering and sprinkling poems over readers, shoppers, merchants, performers and wanderers. We’ll honeymoon on the water, eat every type of pasta smothered with fruits of the sea, kiss and suckle sardele, sardon and moeche, swim in sauce. All night long, we’ll listen to the lagoon. We’ll dance and sing, like Bonnie & Josie in Wallace Stevens’ poem, crying “Ohoyaho, Ohoo,” and no one will ever leave.

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