I don’t know about you, but most of the time if someone were to ask me where I was yesterday or what I had to eat or drink, I would seriously have to think about it and even then I might not be able to come up with an answer for you. If it was a weekday, I’d most likely say I was at work…but as far as actually remembering the details of that day? That is far less likely.
Today though…today sticks out in my brain. And not because it’s 4/20. Although I can appreciate those who celebrate the day for that reason. Today sticks out in my brain because I can tell you exactly what I was doing twenty years ago today.
Today marks what would have been my hubbys twentieth wedding anniversary with his first wife. (Side note: how the hell are we that old?!)
Twenty years ago today, I know exactly where I was. Exactly what I was wearing. Exactly what I was drinking. Exactly what song was playing. Exactly the feelings. I remember all of it.
I was in love with him for a long time. Honestly, long before I had any right to be in love with him.
During their engagement they took dance lessons, like many engaged couples do. There was a week that she couldn’t go due to prior things on her calendar. With her blessing, he asked me to go with him. Saying that he didn’t want to miss the weeks worth of lessons and that he would lead her in the dance. I went with him. I learned the dance steps. I knew what it felt like to be close to him when we were messing around, but now I learned what it felt like to be close to him in an intimate yet okay way.
I remember getting the invitation in the mail. It was happening. He was getting married. He was fucking around with me every chance we got, but he was getting married to her. I tried to convince myself that it was okay. That I wasn’t in love with him. We had been messing around for 3 1/2 months. I was 18 years old. What did I know about love? When I first met him, they were only dating. Fast forward and now I’m holding the wedding invitation in my hand. “Bri and Guest.” Guest? Fuck. I didn’t have a guest. I didn’t want to have a guest. I wanted him. Who did I know that I could bring along? No one. I couldn’t risk it…what if they saw me cry over him. It was best if I ignored the invitation of a guest.
He had told me that he needed to end what we had. He needed to give his marriage an honest shot. And that he couldn’t do that to me. He told me I deserved someone better than him and someone closer to my age. He didn’t understand that I didn’t want that. That the promises that I had made about emotions not getting involved were so far gone for me.
I knew that I had to look good. It was the only way that I would be comfortable enough to watch the person I had fallen in love with, commit his life to someone else. I had a black dress that my mom had made for me. It fit me perfectly and I felt pretty. For someone who could barely walk in heels at that point, my shoes had just enough of a heel to make my long legs look even longer. My hair and my makeup looked nice but not like I tried too hard. Like I said…I felt pretty. I needed to in order to get through the next few hours.
On the outside I looked calm, but inside I was a mess. I couldn’t look at him, yet I couldn’t look away from him. Before that day, I hadn’t thought about it…about what I wanted out of my “relationship” with him.
It was a gorgeous day. Cool. Mostly sunny. Bright blue skies with puffy white clouds. The church was decorated with calla lilies and ivy. It was gorgeous. A string quartet was playing. I knew a core group of people and quickly attached myself to them so I wouldn’t be alone. Maybe if I attached myself to people and pretended to laugh alongside their jokes no one would be the wiser.
Fuck. He looked handsome in his tux. Although I think back to it now and style-wise I can see how it was the early 2000’s with the long jacket. But at the time, he was as handsome as I had ever seen him. A definite change from what I was used to seeing him in (or not in as the case may be). He had a single calla lily as his boutonniere. I vaguely remember his groomsmen looking good too, but I only had eyes for him…despite the fact that he was the one that wasn’t available. Her bridesmaids walked down the aisle. Fuck. They were wearing dark green. Didn’t she know that was my favorite color? Didn’t she know that that was the color I had envisioned my bridesmaids wearing some day? Guess I’m giving up that dream. I was sitting in a pew along the center aisle. I had a perfect view of his face. He was smiling as he looked out at everyone. I remember making eye contact with him as he looked down the aisle. I did my best to smile at him. I saw the twinkle in his eyes when he saw me. Despite the fact that everyone else was looking for the bride, I saw him.
She was a beautiful bride. I’m not going to take that away from her. She was glowing and looked happy. Her dress fit her perfectly and not a hair was out of place. She was super thin and the spaghetti straps at the top of her dress had a way of accenting her collar bones. As she walked down the aisle and passed directly next to me, I felt the pain. She was walking towards him. She ended next to him. Smiling at him. Holding his hands.
“If anyone objects to this marriage, speak now.” Do I yell? Do I cry out loud? Do I confess my love? No. I stay silent. Choking back my tears. He’s choosing her. If he didn’t want to marry her, he wouldn’t be standing up there. I was good enough to fuck, but not good enough for him. “Do you take him to be your husband…” No, not her. I do. I want to. I love him. I love him more than you…I have to. I don’t have that choice. She does. She takes him as her husband. “Do you take her to be your wife…” He does. What?! I know we aren’t supposed to have feelings for each other, but how can you take her as your wife? What about me? Talk about a kick to the gut. Why did I think coming to this wedding would be a good idea? He just said he does. He does. He just promised everything I wanted from him to someone else.
“…this ring as a sign of my love and faithfulness…” Faithful? I wonder if she knew that he hadn’t been physically faithful to her in months. But now they were here…getting married in front of me. I wonder what would happen if she knew that he wasn’t faithful to her. Still, I stay silent. I know he hasn’t been faithful to her, but yet I feel a faithfulness between me and him.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife.” I’m not even sure what is happening anymore. Everyone around me starts clapping. My arms are heavy. I can feel the tears in the corner of my eyes but I plastered the fake smile on my face. No one could know how I felt or that I wanted to scream. I hadn’t thought this through very well because as they walked down the aisle and people are reaching out and hugging them, he passed by me. Had I wanted to, I could have allowed our hands to graze against each other with no one else knowing. I avoided eye contact and looked down. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bare to see him and his new wife together. Not yet.
Our group of friends gather at the back of the church before going outside to go through the reception line. Everyone is loud and rowdy…it’s just who we were when you put us all together. I didn’t know anyone else in the wedding party. It was obvious that I was younger than the rest of them. Polite smiles here and there. Then I get to her. Fuck. I considered her a “friend” although I barely knew anything about her. I told her congratulations and how beautiful she looked before giving her a hug. What the hell kind of monster am I? Hugging her? Telling her congrats? He was next. I wanted badly to run and not turn back. Maybe I should have. Instead I smiled and said congrats. What else was I supposed to do? This day wasn’t about us. This day was about him and her. Their marriage.
Their first dance was not what I expected. He and I had done the dance lesson less than two months before and learned how to swing dance. Their first dance was a slow song. One where she smiled and he held her close. They weren’t fancy dancers who took up the entire dance floor, they went in small circles and taking moments to kiss as they went. Taking moments to pause for a picture. Looking out at the crowd of people before focusing back on each other. It was like a train wreck. I was destroyed while watching him but I couldn’t look away. I wanted him to look at me and see me but I couldn’t risk his eyes meeting mine.
He showed up at the table with a drink in hand for me. I was underage. I legally couldn’t drink at his wedding and he knew it. Sex on the Beach. The drink was chosen on purpose and I knew it. So I was on his mind. He didn’t completely forget about me. He made sure to let his friends know to take care of me and make sure that I got any drinks that I wanted. I tried to sip on my endless drinks for the rest of the night without slamming them. As much as I wanted to drink the events of the day out of my memory, I still had to pretend nothing was wrong.
His dad stood up and gave a toast “welcome to the family. You are the daughter that we never had and we love you.” (Side note: this is almost the exact same toast he gave at our wedding ) I hope someone feels that way about me someday. Even if he had chose me, his family loved her. His family chose her. His friends chose her. Everyone chose her. Including him.
After all the formalities of first dances, toasts, dinner, cakes, and numerous drinks I wondered if I could finally start to relax and try to enjoy myself. It was simple in my mind. Get just drunk enough to flirt with someone and forget the pain of the day. I couldn’t do it. It was his wedding day and everywhere I turned I saw him. I saw the reminders of why I should have said no to the invitation. I saw him smiling and visiting with friends and family. I saw him and his new bride laugh together and exchange kisses. They were everywhere. All I wanted was to get away. I had to get to the bathroom. It was the only place I could go and be alone and have a moment to think. I heard the swing dance music come on. It couldn’t have been better timing. We had done those dance lessons together. We had been able to pretend we were a real couple for two hours as we danced during that lesson. The last thing I wanted to watch after everything else I had experienced was him swing dancing with his new bride.
He catches up with me as I come out of the bathroom. “There you are. This is our song. We’re supposed to be dancing together.” What?! She had requested that a swing song be played so he and I could dance together since I had stood in for her? Fuck. I really am a horrible person. We only dance for a little bit. I had purposely tried to waste a majority of the song in the bathroom. I had the smile plastered on my face. I didn’t want to take away from his night. He had made his choice. Besides I couldn’t bring myself to tell him how I really felt. He was well on his way to getting drunk and the flirtatious side of him was on full display. We smiled and laughed as we clumsily (and drunkenly) danced our way through the rest of the song. Everyone cheered for us as we ended the dance. I wanted them to be cheering for us because we were good together. We were comfortable and safe with each other, but no one knew that side. We hugged before leaving the dance floor and I knew that the extra squeeze was meant to give me comfort, but all I really felt was that pit in my stomach. She came up to me afterwards and said thanks for dancing with him. I smiled. What I wanted to do was puke.
“We need all of the single ladies out on the dance floor.” Shit. I hate the idea of throwing the bouquet. I don’t want to be a part of it. Let me just take my drink and sink into my chair. I don’t need to catch it. I know that the person I love is not available…don’t remind me by having to go out there and catch a bouquet that is supposed to symbolize the next person to get married. We all know it’s not going to be me. “Bri. Where is Bri? She says that Bri needs to be up here for the bouquet toss, so Bri…get on up here!” Fuck. She called me out? She wants me to catch the bouquet? If only she knew that the person that I wanted had just chose her. She wouldn’t want me catching her bouquet. But I have to put on a good face, so I smile. I go up and stand at the back of the small group of women to catch a bouquet…all while hoping that she throws it to the front where maybe they actually want to catch it. He is standing next to her and gives me a small smile when he sees me in the group of ladies. I know it’s his way of saying that he thinks I deserve nothing but the best and that I should have someone in my life…but in reality it doesn’t do that. I don’t want someone else in my life. It makes me take a step back when the bouquet leaves her hand. I don’t even attempt to put my hands up to catch it. I can’t catch it. I refuse to catch it. I can’t live with the reality of catching my lover’s wife’s wedding bouquet. I don’t know if anyone saw me step back. Honestly at that point, I didn’t care. I was doing everything I could do to keep it together.
It had started as a purely physical thing that I had grown dependent on. He was my friend and had become my go-to person for certain aspects of my life. But I didn’t realize what I wanted out of him until that day. I wanted him as mine. I didn’t want to share him. I didn’t want to be the secret. And now my life was shattering before my eyes. Because not only was he not mine, but he was taking himself away from me. He was doing what he should have done in the first place and going to be faithful to her. I admired him for that, but it made it even harder. I didn’t really have a chance to tell him what I thought or what I had appreciated about our time together. I knew they were leaving for their honeymoon and that the next time I would see him a couple of weeks later that everything will have changed.
I went back to my hotel room that night. Tipsy and alone. My door hadn’t even fully shut before the tears that I had been holding back all day started streaming down my face. I was distraught. Gasping for air, yet not making a sound. I curled up into a ball and sobbed. No longer caring whether I looked cute or if my hair was getting poofy. I finally allowed myself to process everything that had happened over the last 10 hours.
I don’t remember taking off my shoes or my dress. I don’t remember crawling into the giant king-sized bed. I remember getting up multiple times wishing that I would puke…and not because of the alcohol, but because I needed that pit in my stomach to go away. I needed to get it out. Everytime I closed my eyes that night I had nightmares. “I take you to be my wife.” “I love you” “promise to be faithful.” The words were bad enough, but mixed with the visual memories of his smile when he looked at her was enough to rip me apart. Everytime I started to nod off, I would wake with a gasp and a new memory in my head or a new question that was going through my head. Did he mean to smile at me like that? Did he bring me that drink because he wanted me? Was he having a night full of passion with his new wife? Was his passion with her anything compared to what he and I had together? 1:00am. 1:30am. 2:15am. The clock wasn’t helping.
I got up at the break of dawn the next morning. I hoped that I had just woken up from a horrible nightmare. I looked like a racoon with dark circles under my eyes. They were practically swollen shut from crying so much the night before. It wasn’t a bad dream. I had no idea where to go or what to do, but I knew I couldn’t stay. I packed my bag and checked out of the hotel. I knew that I couldn’t run the risk of possibly seeing someone mutual friends or even worse, what if I ran into one of them. I knew that by leaving early, most everyone would still be sleeping and I wouldn’t have to worry about explaining why I looked like shit. I packed my bag and left not knowing where to go or if I’d ever be able to move on.
I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to him. Not in the “have a great honeymoon” type way, but in the “I love you” type way. I was destroyed on the inside and the one person I wanted to share that with the most, I couldn’t. So I had to leave…not just the hotel, but him.