Tuesday, April 30, 2013
The hotel lobby is empty, save for the doorman chatting with the receptionist. She is vaguely amused by the presence of a uniformed porter in an airport hotel, an obviously perfunctory setting. She had skipped breakfast and the coffee she ordered on rising was soapy and weak. She walks towards the door, spiky heels clicking sharply on the shiny floor. The porter hastens towards it, in obsequious effort to fulfill his duty.
His cheerful "Have a good day now!" greets her like a saucepan crashing suddenly on tiles.
" Yes, thank you", she manages mutely.
A line of taxis awaits her outside. 'Thank God I'm out of this bloody country' she thinks.
Traffic isn't heavy, as she anticipated on a Saturday. The radio creaks and stutters in the front, conveniently diverting the driver's attention. She sees the church in the distance. Discreetly, she withdraws a little bottle from her clutch, takes a quick swig of brandy, and replaces it.
Cars are parked along both sides of the road, so the driver pulls up abruptly, a bit away from the gate.
"Here do you, love? That'll be fifteen so"
She hands him a twenty, doesn't wait for her change and makes for the church to claim her seat near the back, though not so near either as to stand out from the crowd.
The church is unfamiliar, a decided advantage. She knows she will be seeing plenty of familiar faces throughout the day, something she is no longer used to.
The church is awash with excited whispers, greetings, last-minute checks, photos, with the usual strains of a quartet defiantly playing the wedding standards in the background. The noise, people, sense of anticipation, from which she feels removed, is not unlike that of the airport yesterday. There is already quite a crowd, and she scans the seats on the right hand side to choose her spot, her vantage point, when she feels a hand on her elbow.
"Del?! I thought it was you! I said it to Benj. 'I'm sure that's Del', but we weren't sure. We were behind you coming into the church, late as usual! But, it is you! How are you? God, it's been years!"
"It is me! Surprise!", she manages to respond, unable to come near the level of gushing enthusiasm that greeted her.
"Are you here on your own? Never mind! You must sit with us. Leah and Gus are keeping us a seat. Come on..." She links her arm and leads her towards the side aisle, ushering her up towards the centre, where Leah is sitting, guarding space on the pew with her bag. As they approach, the noise of the crowd quietens to a whisper, as news of the bride's arrival spreads.
"Look who I found, loitering at the back of the church!" proclaims Amy, just a little too loudly.
Leah, poised as always, greets her quietly, gently squeezing her hand, while Gus winks at her.
All eyes are on the bride. 'Nessun Dorma' heralds her majestic entrance, as the crowd behold her, gracefully approaching the altar. Amy is gasping beside her, her elbow sharply angled close to her face, straining to take a photo. She draws back from her, not bothered about being deprived of the view.
The ceremony unfolds like a film: she, watching the action from afar.The figures at the altar are hazy in the distance. Everything back here seems so, since she moved away. Like a film, that she can tune in and out of, with the safety of distance, disociation, even. And just like in a film, when she does become involved with the characters, she must work hard to contain her emotions.
"I, Ian Collins...do take this ring..."
A tear falls down her cheek. She cannot help it.
His voice, crystal clear through the microphone, makes him immediately present to her. His voice, with its distinctive West Cork deflections pronounces without any hesitation that this is his, Ian's wedding. This is no film, no make-believe. This is real, this is happening, now.
Leah, discreetly offers her a tissue. She focuses intently on her smokey blue dress, her Jaegar that once made her feel like someone. Now, as she gazes at it, all she can think about is all she threw away in the name of 'feeling like someone'.
'Why did she come here?' she wonders. She painfully endures the rest of the ceremony. After the bride and groom make their exit through the back of the church, she mumbles something to Leah about needing some air, and slips out the side entrance.