weekend with Rachel and John, going out to Nectars on Friday night
to meet up with Howie and Meg (neither of whom showed), instead being
joined by Sean Hutton, who was passing out flyers for the show tonight.
Rachel got lit and was really funny.
Saturdays whirlwind. It took us about 2 hours to get to Meriden,
navigating with Martha Doolittles directions. The mansion was
the same as ever, a load of laundry out on the line to dry -- Jerry
offered drinks and made some popcorn, someone pulled out one of the
albums from Beths wedding to show Rachel and John pictures of
"Janice in a dress." (I was wearing pants and a jacket for Robins
wedding.) It was surprising how seeing reception pictures with Thad
in them brought back the memory of arguing with him, fruitlessly, about
driving back to Burlington the same night, when he was still drunk.
Back when he was still semi-rational, yet implacable -- I was afraid
for him that night.
Rachel and John had to go, more visits in the air, following Jerrys
scenic route to I-91. Beth showered and changed into a dress and pumps,
and we were ready to head to the church.
reached the church early because Beth was planning on covering Robins
limo with crepe paper streamers (didnt happen until later). I
recognized very few people among the guests -- Sarah Fletcher was there,
with her boyfriend Jim, and Laura and Joe came. Robins mom and
step-father and her brother Donald were the only other people I knew.
ceremony was the usual, though the Rev. Ingraham made a point of taking
on the subject of divorce. (Both Robin and Kens parents are divorced,
so this struck me as a little odd.) Also, there seemed to be a lot of
the receiving line ("running the gauntlet"), pelting Robin and Ken with
birdseed (I declined), taping the crepe paper to Kens mothers
car, since the limo had failed to appear
Mass exodus to the Radisson
for the reception left KUA hill surprisingly empty. Beth, Sarah, Jim
and I walked down to Miller Student Center so Beth could use the bathroom.
The building was completely deserted -- apparently everyone was at sports
practice or the soccer game down the hill -- and it was eery to see
how so many KUA students still leave overflowing backpacks and piles
of books spread everywhere -- the second floor lounge looked like a
tornado had just passed through. Considering how much time has gone
by, the place was surprisingly close to my memory of how it used to
be -- the same stained orange rugs, the soaked in odor of food and cleaning
fluid near the dining hall doors--
the hill at the Meriden general store, Beth looked over the KUA T-shirts
for sale and we scouted out how things had changed. A man came up to
us and said, "Sarah, Beth Doolittle, Janice Dawley! Hows it going?"
Sarah had had a conversation with him earlier and knew that he had been
in our class, but couldnt remember his name -- I looked at him
and made a baffled gesture at my head and his face, asking him who he
was, but before he could reply, Beth burst out, "Lucil!" Sure enough,
it was Dave Lucil, who used to be skinny and wear glasses and was the
good-natured brunt of many jokes. Now hes been through school
(Hobart and William-Smith) and is living in Brattleboro studying for
a degree in international something-or-other. He says he loves the Spanish
language, thus his graduate work... I couldnt understand why I
had had no idea who he was. He looks completely different, of course,
but Beth was able to figure it out... Then it turned out that the guy
working behind the counter, whom I had glanced at when we came in and
decided at once I didnt know, was in fact Jamie Bishop, back from
Poland and staying with his parents. According to Beth, who had heard
the story from her parents, Jamie had finally been beaten up badly enough
("for being American," she said) to warrant retreat from Eastern Europe.
Pummeled unconscious and left for dead, she said. He wasnt talkative
had definitely taken our time getting to the Radisson, but there was
still no sign of Robin when we arrived. We joined Laura and Joe and
idly chatted, waiting... At one point, Robins brother Donald approached
me and said hello -- if not for his distinctive copper hair, I probably
wouldnt have recognized him either, since its been at least
five years since we last saw each other (at Robins graduation,
I think), and hes gotten taller, lost all his pudginess and shed
his specs... He told me that he had been in the Navy for two years,
then decided he didnt like it and provoked them into discharging
him. Now hes living in a trailer in Virginia doing construction
and partying in the off hours. How familiar it seemed, the story of
another intelligent yet incompetent young male (Hugh and Derek leaping
to mind) -- why does it amuse me so, I wonder...
the wait over, progression to the dining room, dim light, a candle at
the center of each table, #5 for us, joined by a woman named Tina, an
older college friend of Robins, apparently as in the dark as we
about Robins recent life.
salad, champagne toast, entree, Beth joking about me being her "date"
and loaning me money to buy drinks, discovering another R.E.M. fan in
Jim... all in that peculiar wedding atmosphere, of heady finality, life
choices and all that surrounds them.
of course, could not be expected to forego her usual high-jinks. First
she convinced Tina and Sarah to rush the high table with her and kiss
Robin during a glass-tapping frenzy (which was funny enough to spawn
imitation by a group of guys from another table, one of whom kissed
Ken when he couldnt reach Robin). Then, after the food was gone
and the obligatory first dances were finished, the bouquet toss was
imminent. Beth dragged me out onto the floor (I wouldnt have gone
otherwise) and somehow, like fate, the bouquet landed perfectly in my
hands. How? I wondered. I couldnt stop laughing.
of all the women there, I believe I looked the least feminine. Wearing
a white shirt and black pants, Dads old wool suit jacket, and
Converse All Stars, my one concession to femininity and/or formality
had been some borrowed lipstick from Rachel. The upcoming garter toss
thus took on an aura of the absurd. But before I could think too hard,
Beth urgently told me to come with her to the womens restroom,
where she fairly ordered me to strip and switch clothes with her. There
was a time when I would have fled from such a situation, but no longer
-- instead my amusement reached even huger dimensions. It was almost
as if we were performing a spontaneous and ingenious piece of theater.
Minutes later, we emerged from the restroom, each with the others
wardrobe, roles reversed.
more humorous, to my mind, was the fact that Donald caught the garter.
As I sat down in the chair that had been placed in front of the high
table, Robin and Ken came to stand behind me and Robin kept saying,
"Janice, Im so sorry!" For what, I wondered -- she must be thinking
of the old me, after all, she doesnt know this new one... Donald
was nervous as hell, but managed to push the garter an inch or two above
my knee before quickly and properly pulling the skirt back down and
fleeing the dance floor.
the oddest symmetry was: Beth had given Robin the garter I was now wearing.
at the last, Laura and Joe must leave with hugs all around, and Beth
must drive me to the bus station to catch the 9:30 pm to Burlington.
Robin and I never did get a chance to have a conversation. At the bus
station the ticket window was closed and Jim generously handed me a
$20 bill to pay the bus driver. A feeling of closeness, of banding together,
spilled out of the car and followed me across the pavement to the waiting
Andy Weislogel once said: