When the alarm sounded off at 4:30am I thought for a second that I’d finally
succumbed to the peer pressure to join a boot camp-style exercise class. As I pounded the covers in the direction of the phone, it all came back to me: I was the Maid of Honor at my best friend’s wedding, and we were heading to the flower mart in San Francisco to pick up bushels of blue hydrangeas.
Flowers get up so early. Donned in sunglasses and sweats, I gave the bride a feeble smile and we headed to the car.
“I’ll drive,” I offered in my throaty morning voice. “You’re the bride. It’s luxury all the way - for the next 48 hours, anyway.” She mumbled a thank-you and we both blurted, “Coffee” at the same time. I thought about the many times we’d finished each other’s sentences over the years, how many times we’d witnessed each other in a similar disheveled state while boarding a plane or the dreaded morning after an all-nighter. We had shared two decades of each other’s triumphs, dreams, mishaps and celebrations and now, one of us was branching off to Happily Ever After.
“Are you nervous?” I asked, maneuvering through the morning commute across the bridge.
“Not really. Maybe I will be later. Right now, there’s just too much to do.”
We did have a long to-do list but that wasn’t unusual. I had relocated to Los Angeles years prior and though we talked or texted several times a week, when we were together, time was our bitch. There was a list of things to do, people to see, fun to be had and that was that.
“I hope you brought the list,” I said. “I hope you put breakfast on it.”
A laugh and a grunted, “Of course. I’m no amateur.”
By the time we made it through traffic, the city was fully awake. At the stop light, I watched as a worker begrudgingly put down his coffee to load boxes into the back of a truck. Across the street, a woman was ushering two kids to the car. Cafés were opening up for their hungry regulars and commuters were making their way to the BART station.
Honking. Green means go.
The flower mart was way too bright for anything but a hopeful bride. This was no place for cynical singles. I put my sunglasses back on and entered the movie set of Bright Lights, Big Flowers, Little City. Be of good cheer, I thought. You’re the Maid of Honor – a very prestigious role. I caught my heinous reflection in a decorative mirror and kept walking.
“Let’s see that list,” I said. She whipped it out of her purse like a dutiful task master. It was an impressive directive, penned in her artistic handwriting, complete with doodles of flowers along the sides.
“This is a lot. Should we split up?”
“It’s a flower mart, not a war zone.”
Rodger that, Soldier. The day quickly became a whirlwind and the bride’s decorative list soon resembled a war-torn map through a chaotic land of errands, craft stores, and last-minute lunches with relatives. Our final to-do item was the rehearsal and traditional rehearsal dinner. We arrived breathless, giddy, and triumphant.
Everything was done. The bride was ready, mostly.
The ceremony was being held at a historic mansion on a lawn that was a little too green not to be soggy, I noted. The wedding party lined up to practice the bride’s succession to the marital throne and I looked over at the groom who was fiercely holding on to a clipboard containing detailed lists of last-minute reminders. I smiled. This marriage would be successful. My best friend was in good hands with a fellow list-maker.
As the wedding party lined up and made their way through the wet grass, I noticed that the bridesmaid was teary-eyed, apparently overwhelmed by the display of true love. I didn’t understand. This was all meant to be. These two people had found each other in a sea of other people, and had fallen in love. Now they wanted to show the rest of the world that on a planet of 5 billion people, you too, can find love. Weddings are Love’s end game, so why did people cry at weddings? I didn’t have time to analyze the situation as I warned the best man, “Whatever happens, don’t drop me in the mud tomorrow.” He nodded a confident yes, took my arm, and off we went trotting into our best friends’ future.
The rehearsal dinner was hosted by a close friend and was a combination of laughter, music, and rich food. One of the dishes was a corn casserole, destined to become King of all Vices. This casserole was good. As the bride and I dished up a second helping, we gave each other a knowing warning glance, then thought better of it. Indulge! It’s a celebration, after all!
That night, we checked into our hotel room which soon resembled something out of a Tim Burton movie. It never took us long to trash a hotel room. We pushed aside the various costume changes, makeup and hair products, and sat on our respective beds, champagne in hand.
“So this is IT!” I managed to say as effervescent bubbles tickled at the roof of my mouth.
“Finally!” she sighed. “It took long enough!”
True. She had found love later in life, but it was the right love, and it was so much sooner than never. Conversely, I had found love early in life, married and divorced by the time I was 21 years old, and was now haphazardly looking again, sometimes forgetting the first marriage had happened at all.
We dozed off in the middle of a joke or another long story, as we often had, with the beat of a laugh ending in a snore. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of groaning in the next bed. Again, I wondered if I’d finally agreed to join that boot camp exercise class and somehow had fallen asleep on some jagged trail in the woods.
“Are you all right over there?” I whispered through the dark.
More groaning and shuffling. “I’m super bloated. Ugh.”
I didn’t feel so good myself. I grabbed my cell phone to catch a glimpse of my stomach under the spotlight. “Uh-oh! Look at my belly!” I exclaimed, as I pulled my tee shirt up to reveal the half-moon shape of a woman about to go into labor.
The bride howled, trying to sit up, doubled over in laughter and gassy pain. “Do you think it was that casserole?”
“Probably. Jeez! What was in that thing? I knew it was too good.”
“Right? Corn, obviously. Corn chowder. Cream of corn and some actual cream, I think she said. Butter, sour cream, cheese and maybe some buttermilk.”
“Wait. You knew the ingredients and you still let us eat it? Are you nuts? We might die before you can get down that aisle.”
This was good for about an hour’s worth of laughs until we located some antacid tablets and finally fell back to sleep – on our sides, like pregnant women.
The next morning was a blur of hair and make-up stylists, pre-wedding photos and the constant buzz and ringing of phones, selfies, and more champagne. When it was time for me to get dressed, I slipped into the bathroom. Minutes later, I was grunting and struggling like a heifer in heat, a sweat mustache covering my upper lip and a fine trail of dewy regret threatening to compromise my perfectly made-up face.
“Jeez!” I gasped, totally out of air. “This. Is. A. Nightmare.”
The bride came to the bathroom door. “What’s going on in there?”
“These Spanx.” Huff, huff. “I think I got the wrong size,” I confessed as I met with a reflection of a panicked woman in a ruthless tug of war with her underthings.
I could hear stylists and friends laughing and someone blurted, “Just let it all hang out, girl! It’s fiiiiine!”
I eyed my casserole baby belly that had now grown into a toddler whose parents were searching for the ideal pre-school. “No way,” I replied and resumed my battle.
The wedding was spectacular. It was an unseasonably warm, autumn day. The leaves were doing nature’s dance between summer and fall, oscillating between colors, some remaining steadfastly green, and others turning brown and falling into a delicate pile on the grass. The sky was a welcoming, cloudless blue. The kind of sky that offers up its blessing for all things beautiful and new.
During the ceremony, I noticed a bevy of tears – from the bridesmaid to the audience to the caterer to the new relatives. Everyone seemed to be sniffling and blotting the corners of their eyes and hugging each other. I felt nothing except happiness for my friend who’d found the love of her life. It went on like this for hours. Every photo, every selfie, every time someone stopped to say hello at the bridal table, they were crying. What was wrong with everyone? Relax. Have more wine. It’s a wedding!
After the wedding, the bridal party joined the family at the hotel bar for a final toast to the bride and groom. I thought it sounded fun; my Spanx did not. I rubbed at the top of the band. I was being cut in half by this well-meaning smooth operator. This was becoming urgent. I needed to get back to the hotel room and let my corn belly have a party of its own.
I looked over at the bride then, bustled up to the bar with her new husband and his family and it hit me – he’s her best friend now. It was all good, exactly how it was supposed to be. Her life was taking its natural course and that’s all we had ever wanted for each other – to live our best lives, loved, healthy and happy.
Their laughter rose above the crowd and floated there; a delicate bubble of a beginning, oblivious to history, the future something to be nurtured and adored in each other’s arms.
So sweet…but it was time for me to go.
I felt as if I might implode if I didn’t rip off those Spanx. I issued awkward, hurried goodbyes and headed to the car, feeling strangely dizzy. Was it cutting off my circulation? My heart was pounding. I imagined riding in an ambulance, two devastatingly handsome paramedics working on me and one saying to the other, “Scissors, stat! Her vital organs are collapsing under the pressure!”
Once inside my hotel room, I plopped down on the bed, kicked off my shoes and slipped my thumbs under the waistband of my captor. As I rolled the Spanx down ready for sweet relief, hot tears brimmed at the corners of my eyes.
What? Was I going to cry? How silly!
Then I watched, from a parallel universe, as deep, wrenching sobs tore through my body. The more I freed myself from the Spanx, the harder I cried. By the time I got them all the way off, I was face down in my pillow, covered in wet tears, mewling like an orphaned animal. I fell asleep in the fetal position, half in, half out of my dress.
The next day at the airport, I was comfort eating a wedding cupcake, wondering whether chastity belts, strait jackets, and Spanx were actually made of the same material when the phone rang.
“Why are you calling me? You’re on your honeymoon.”
“I know, I know. Just checking in. Is your flight on time?”
Outside, a plane took off into that same, welcoming blue sky, carrying people to their futures, known and unknown.
“It’s right on time,” I said, licking frosting off my fingers.
“Great! Want to hear what’s on the honeymoon list?”
Laughter. Same as always.
Katie Love is a writer, comedian, and the author of the novel, “Cubicide," and the forthcoming memoir, “Two Tickets to Paradise," a comedy-tragedy about growing up Jehovah’s Witness, losing religion, and finding the truth. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the creator, writer, and producer of the live comedy talk show, “The Katie LoveShow." Katie resides in Los Angeles with a 20lb cat and no regrets. She is represented by Peter Steinberg of Foundry Media.