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.
Then 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.
Soon 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.
We 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.
The 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 religion.
Then 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--
Down 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 like Dave...
We 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...
Then, 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.
Conversation, 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.
Beth, 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.
Because, 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.
Even 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.
And the oddest symmetry was: Beth had given Robin the garter I was now wearing.
And 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 bus.
As Andy Weislogel once said:
"Its a wrap."