Title: "My First Wedding Night" Author: Unknown
I crossed Sixth Avenue twice on my wedding day. The first time I was trailed by a bridesmaid, holding my skirt, and my photographer. I beamed under the Empire State Building. Handbag vendors cheered. A mother told her daughter, ``Look, honey, a bride!''
The second time I crossed Sixth Avenue I was already a wife. I was trailed only by my husband and my anger. I was crying. Hysterically.
I'd met B in a Guatemalan caf. I was twenty years old and I'd taken a semester off from college to learn Spanish, nurse a lonely heart and take a hiatus from the misery of being an overachiever. He fell for me just slowly enough for me never to feel entirely rejected and never overtly pursued me enough for me to push him away. He was twenty-nine and had a confident, quiet wisdom that the college boy who had just smashed my heart would probably never possess.
B's only real problem was a birth defect: he'd been born and raised in Europe. After a year-and-a-half of crossing the ocean at every chance we got, I packed a duffel bag and moved in with him. I was 22 years old. I planned to stay for six months. By then, I figured, I would be able to wash that old Europe right out of his hair and get him to move back to New York with me, where I'd pick that overachieving streak right back up again.
There were many problems with this plan (the least of which being that B is balding and has pray little hair to wash anything out of). B was settled here. He had an apartment here. He had friends and the job of his dreams here. The only thing on that list I had at home were friends and they were all still living three to an apartment style, trying on careers for size. Why, B said, would we leave this for that?
So I reluctantly tried to lay some tracks. I got one of the only jobs available in the industry I would have wanted to work in at home. I learned how to grit my teeth and make friends with people I never would have spoken to at home: a wannabe housewife, a corn bred-blond sorority girl, a British geneticist, a boy from England who told me, proudly, one night that he had never read a book. in his life.
And all along, I mourned home. Homesickness crawled in my chest like a worm in a rotten apple. It ate at me. Sometimes, I could feel it crawling right under my skin. It made me jumpy. It made me hate B. I used the bulk of my vacation time to go home for weeks at a time and pretend I still lived there. I bought all my clothes on Broadway and my shampoo on Drugstore.com. B imported 64-ounce bottles of ketchup (no, European Heinz does NOT taste the same) and fat-free Kraft singles every time he went to the U.S. Hemingway in Paris this was not.
``Oh,'' some of my friends would say breathlessly as I recounted stories of work trips to Zurich and Paris, ``you have the coolest life! All I ever get to do is go to Cleveland. ' I longed for Cleveland. I would be able to read People magazine in Cleveland, I thought.
I decided the only way to end my homesickness was to get married. On Sept. 11, 2001, B and I were in Kay Seri, Turkey. The homesickness worm became a snake. I'd never so much wanted to be home in my life.
``Let's get married,'' I told him. Marriage to me meant family. There was a big difference being stranded in Turkey with your boyfriend when the worst thing imaginable had hit your home, where both your aging parents lived, and being away with your husband, I decided. Living abroad for a boyfriend sounded like a teenage pipe dream. Creating a family was another.
It took him another year and a half to propose to me and another year for us to actually get married. I spent much of those three years imagining the homecoming such a wedding would receive. I'd have all my friends together again! I'd be the center of attention. I would bask in the glow of friendship and warmth. It would erase the many long weekends alone in my new city, where nothing was familiar, even after all these years, where my tongue fumbled in this language that was still so foreign.
A wedding, yes, a wedding would solve everything.
And it did. For about 7 hours.
My wedding day was the happiest in my life, truly. And for all the wrong reasons. Instead of it being a celebration of our love for each other, it was a chance for me to see all the people I'd been missing for so long. My husband, a stranger to weddings of any sort much less Italian-American ones, wandered around bewildered as I led him from table to table, giving kisses and collecting envelopes.
At an impromptu after-party at a local bar, I did tequila shots with The King. I snuck a cigarette on a bench outside with my friend, The Doctor, who let me tell him all about my latest in birth control. I let my friend from New Mexico tell me the story of that College Boy who had broken my heart all those years ago, how he'd been so sad he hadn't been invited to the wedding. How she'd screamed at him, you're not invited because you FUCKED HER! What don't you understand?
It was the best part of MY wedding day.
Until my husband walked out on me.
We were married for about 9 hours and already he was leaving me. It was three a.m.; he was exhausted. He hadn't slept all night from nerves. It was, he pleaded, our first wedding night. (I, ever the editor, felt the need to laugh at his grammar. Unless he meant to suggest that we would be marrying each other again, it was really our ONLY wedding night. He didn't appreciate the English lesson).
He walked out of the bar with his little suitcase and walked out to hail a cab. I, mortified, chased after him.
He was getting into a cab with his friend, a friend from the country in which we lived, who we had paid to travel to come to our wedding. I could see that friend anytime. I started sobbing immediately.
``How could you do this to me!'' I moaned over and over again as our car hurtled over the Manhattan Bridge, while his friend and the cab driver exchanged embarrassed looks. We were only going back to Sixth Avenue, but I felt like I was leaving home all over again. I'd wanted a proper departure this time. I wanted to stand up on the bar, one last beautiful time as a bride, and wave goodbye to my youth, my independence and all those people I'd loved so much.
It turns out, in all that missing and regret, I'd forgotten to love the one person who loved me enough to make me his.