I happened to be the one to go out and get the mail the day it arrived. I don’t normally get the mail, but for some reason, on that day, I decided to hop across the dew-covered grass on tip-toe, retrieve the contents from our stilted mailbox, and rifle through the envelopes before my parents got home. I figured I just needed a breath of fresh air after having been cooped up doing homework all morning. Looking back, I realize God may have compelled me to see it while alone, in order to give me time to swallow the news before facing the others in my home-not to soften the blow, but to enable me to absorb it without prying eyes upon me. It was a relief to not shroud my feelings. I was able to just cry openly, my dog the only onlooker.
It was a beautiful invitation. The envelope and card both the color of pearls, the script flowing elegantly down the page, announcing the joining of Giovanni Balducci and Nina Perez in Holy Matrimony. The invitation was for me, plus one-an attribute that bit at me with irony. It stated that six weeks from then I would have to watch the only man I had loved in 21 years pledge himself, before God, to another woman. And I would have to act like it didn’t bother me. I would have to play the happy friend, laughing with the bride and congratulating the groom on the match made in Heaven.
He was always such a good friend to me that while I knew he was devoted to Nina, there remained a niggling sense of hope that one day he and I may end up together. Every joke, every look, and every insignificant moment we shared together crookedly spun my fantasies further away from reality while I thought it only gave them more credibility. I began to tear the expensive pearl paper, confronted with the cruel realization that I had been little more than a way for him to pass time, or a comfort while we both dealt with similar life circumstances. I was his friend-nothing else.
I thought about how he never did more than hug me and converse with me about on-the-surface matters, but I nursed the hope that he was mine, shirking the knowledge that he was invested in and committed to another woman. The fact that he is a good man, who loves God first, who has a delectable sense of humor and maturity, and who will do right by Nina, only made it worse. He embodies everything I have ever wanted in a man. I began to rip the papers more violently then, cursing as I watched the pieces float serenely to the ground.
I was lying on the floor in the kitchen, feeling absurd, but too shattered to care, when my family clambered through the front door. Jumping up, I whisked all the tattered pieces of invitation into my hands and poured them into the trash can. I did not fear that I looked like I had been crying, for it had been about an hour and a half since numbness had settled in.
“Hey.” I said in greeting to my mother, who set a number of shopping bags upon the counter.
“Hey.” She replied. “How was your day?”
“It was fine.” I said, deciding to tell her about the wedding some other time when I would not be asked to produce the invitation upon its mention.
“Well, I, for one, am exhausted.” She turned away and started walking to her bedroom, most likely to change out of her jeans and into something more comfortable.
I let her go, walking to my own bedroom, where I let the apathy wash over me.
As I sit three rows back on the right side of the congregation, I almost take pleasure in the aching induced by the wooden pews I have been confined to for the past hour. Feeling anything other than anguish over the event I am attending is practically a blessing. I wonder idly how God could let me fall for such an unavailable man. I wonder what part in His plan my heartbreak plays. I almost laugh out loud as I think about how I have to get over someone I never even had. God said he would be here for us, but I suppose He never said it would be easy.
Giovanni is announced man to his wife, and I stare straight ahead, more at the pink flowers that surround the pulpit than anything else. In my peripheral vision, I am aware of their kissing and the excitement that erupts from the pews around me. I stand up with the crowd, feigning indifference, and grin at him as he walks by with his shiny new bride.
Everyone trails behind them, chattering about the ceremony and their modes of transportation to the reception. I already know that I will be driving myself to the venue, my chosen plus one having decided to show up with someone else. I take a deep breath as I prepare to endure the time for which my relationship with the happy couple obligates me to remain in their presence. Only then will I be permitted to move on and begin the life that will allow me to one day send out my own pearl-colored envelopes.