wedding-rings-251290_640This past weekend I drove all the way to Chicago to spend time with my girlfriend. She died (my heart pauses each time I say that) a few summers ago and her baby brother was getting married. I didn’t know this young man but I didn’t go for him. I went because I needed to feel close to his sister, by any means necessary. Even if that meant enduring more than 24 hours in an expensive rental car that devoured gas I could barely afford. Even if it meant staying in a hotel room that never got warm, no matter how much I begged the thermostat to move. I needed to spend time with my girlfriend and the next best thing was holding her mother in my arms (her chiffon dress itchy against my skin), carrying her full wineglass from the lakeside ceremony to the reception careful not to spill one drop, searching her eyes when the deejay played my girlfriend’s favorite Earth Wind and Fire song, waiting to dance with her when the mother/son dance was over. She is the one person in the world who doesn’t bristle when I tell stories of my girlfriend, ad nauseum. When I talk about (for the 200th time)the first time I met her daughter in the dorm hallway, she just smiles. Her daughter was wearing the tallest pumps I’d ever seen in my life. I was on the payphone learning my grandmother had just died but the news didn’t quite sink in because the fiercest girl I’d ever seen had just walked by slinging shining, black hair over her right shoulder. During the father’s toast to the bride, I leaned in to whisper to Friend’s-Mama how deeply her daughter had cherished those long ago days when her mother had gone back to school and, lacking a babysitter, had taken her tiny girl with her to morning classes. When the deejay turned down the latest Drake, just before the photographer positioned the dewy lovebirds for the cake cutting, I let my girlfriend’s mother know that not a day had gone by when my friend did not mention her, each time acting out her gestures, which she had memorized down to the tilt of her head. I wonder if she was watching us on the dance floor dropping it like it was hot, forgetting, for a moment, how broken we had been since two Augusts ago, our lives upturned like chairs stacked after the party has ended. I’m so glad I went. I may not remember her beloved aunt’s tremor as she boarded the shuttle back to Holiday Inn,the thousands of flowers just beginning to weep on the long dinner tables, the skewered jerk chicken, wine on the lawn, or the four-stringed quartet playing Lady GaGa. But I’ll never forget how HOME I felt sitting as close to my friend’s mother as the air would allow. I’ll never forget how she thanked me for coming, each of our words bathing us in my girlfriend’s water, now stilled. How she came to visit me through her mother. How grateful I am. I could almost smell her on her mother’s resilient skin and it was enough, for now.
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