It got to the point where no one even knew her name; she was less than a character in a story, not even worth a bag of bones.
Laney and i got married in a very simple civil ceremony with a handful of witnesses; oddly enough, one of my former students performed the ceremony. Both of us have little family and didn't see the point of a big wedding; we did, however, throw one hell of a reception. She is well liked at the publishing office where she works, and the staff at the local branch of one of the big box book retailers had found out we were getting married and refused to let it go unacknowledged; at the same time, all of my colleagues at Dufresne wanted to come to a place where they could come ad wish us luck, and i think several students would have lynched me in the Garden Square on campus if they didn't get a chance to do the same... so, suffice it to say our guest list was pretty huge.
It was a lovely gathering of people; we had made it alcohol free just to avoid any problems and yet people were still laughing raucously and dancing with abandon and being as friendly as they could be while still keeping their clothes on; there was a catered dinner of what seemed like a thousand different delicacies, and we even did some of the cornier things people do when they get married, like stuffing each other in the face with cake in an act that started out as childishly prankish but turned into one of our fonder memories of that day. We did a guest line, too-- Laney's brother is a Marine drill instructor for their base at Quantico, and when he tells a group of people to line up and stay alert, they by god do it: leaving without meeting Dr. and Mrs. Johnathon Wainwright was not an option. There was a 21 Harley salute where the local chapter of a certain motorcycle club rolled by in all their hoggish glory, rumbling their pipes and sounding for all the world like a long parade of mightily roaring lions; and one of the geekier kids from Dufresne's ITS department had come out and set up a digital disc jockey station, where people could use a touch screen to pick songs that would play so they could dance or do whatever they liked on one of those portable dance floors that you don't even know exist until you plan something like an outside graduation party or wedding reception of this size. It was one of the most wonderful days of my life, which is exactly what it is supposed to be.
It was also one of two reasons i decided to tell this story.
The other thing Laney's brother did for us-- with the help of a couple of his Marine buddies-- was to gather up the gifts and cards and disposable cameras, almost like they policed the celebration after it was done; he dropped the disposable cameras off at the photo place we use, had the cards arranged and stacked by size, and neatly stacked the wrapped gifts that could be stacked; the soft sided items that wouldn't stack lined the back wall of the dining room in the house we were renting (lined up from tallest to shortest, of course, from left to right). i was very impressed by the savage beauty and precision of it, and got the giggles when i imagined him in his training fatigues, yelling at the gifts to get closer together to fill the hole in the middle of the stack.
We had gotten back from London very late the night before and since we weren't required back at work for another few days, we opted for one of those long, lazy mornings that only the newly married can appreciate, those mornings where you both wake up but wake up something else, too, that other being that is the two of you together; it was a gloriously languorous morning full of fresh Blue Mountain coffee and fresh pastries from the local bakery and simple basking in the joy of newly officiated love, if you can dig that. We were opening gifts-- Laney was opening them and telling me who they were from; i was keeping a list so we could send out thank you cards-- when she made one of those noises that i was still learning the meaning of. "Jackie?" she said, making my name into a question; i looked up from the pad of paper i was making my list on. "Do you know what this is?"
i got up and walked over to where she was and, after i had kissed her, saw the bag of M&M candies nestled into some of that annoyingly thin paper that is only good for packing things in; Laney was already opening the envelope that had been tucked into it. She made another one of those noises that i was still learning the meaning of. "What?" I asked, looking at the paper and seeing the handwriting i had all but forgotten, that odd fusion of Copperplate and Tin-Type scripts with a backhand slant that was unmistakably unique.
In ink the colour of ancient burgundy wine, Meredith had written we're both very happy for you and wish you love you've never known; Morgan had added, in her own script that made me think of spiders marching across a page, thank you for helping is find the joy we have now; we hope you find your own quite like it. Neither of them had signed the card; they didn't have to.
"Who are these from?" Laney asked.
And so i told her everything.
About a week after that i was getting ready to make supper for the two of us-- we had settled into a routine that was comfortable, and it found me in the kitchen more often than not-- and realized we were out of just about everything we'd need to make just about anything; Laney wasn't due home for another hour and some change, the weather was good outside,and since i only needed a couple things for dinner, i decided to walk down to Maretti's. Maretti's is something of a landmark in Dufresne, one of those grocery stores that becomes almost legendary because of the depth of its catalogue, one that people drive sixty or seventy miles to visit. There are a few of them in Michigan, but Maretti's is still my favorite. Probably aways will be.
i was standing in the produce section, admiring some beautiful morel mushrooms and thinking of making mushroom pie when i heard footsteps behind me, coming in my general direction. "Excuse me," a woman said, "but aren't you Johnathon Wainwright?"
i turned to see if i could put a name with a face; there were faint bells ringing way back in the grey matter, but nothing i could use right away. "Yes," i said, putting some of the morels in one of the large waxed boxes Maretti's uses for its mushrooms; the cover sad "BRING HOME SOME FUNGIS TONIGHT" and it never failed to get at least a smile out of me. My friend Pete sometimes says i only buy mushrooms so i have an excuse to point the pun to people, but that's mostly not true. "And i'm horrible with names. You would be...?"
She touched my hand, briefly, then put it back with her other one. She looked very timid yet bold at the same time, and it really screwed with my people radar; her facial expression was even worse, like she wanted to confront something but was steeling herself to get punched for doing so. At first i thought she might look familiar because i teach a free Creative Writing seminar at the Battle Creek branch of Daughters and Sisters when she said, "I'm Colleen McFarley. i don't know if you remember me or not, but we met..."
i thought she had stopped to do the same thing i was trying to do-- put us together somewhere and somewhen else so we had a common frame of reference to work from; turned out she was just working up her bravery because of the reactions she had gotten from other people when she said what she said next-- but then she won whatever wrestling match was going on with her internal demons and she looked up at me, her chin coming up and poking out a little, her hands clasping tightly together in the basket part of the cart she was pushing. "We met at the celebration party for Meredith Bronner...?"
...and it clicked in my head. "Sure, when she published last book, Circuits, the one that disappeared off the shelves and the Internet first, the one that doesn't come up in Google anymore."
i have never seen another human being look so relieved in my life.
##### 30 #####
27 may 2006 @ 4:12 a.m.
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