Melissa and Mark got married at an indoor garden in Calgary. It was minus twenty six outside and the windows outside the artificially-warmed foliage glistened with razor sharp ice. Melissa wore a dress with a puffy skirt and a green sash and Mark’s eyes were red-rimmed with emotion and a few rounds of Grasshopper.
The atrium was in a mall equipped with ashtrays, HMV was the anchor retailer, the Internet existed only sporadically — chat rooms, sordid bulletin boards. The diamond ring was small, garnered with waitering tips. We watched in ill-fitting ties and weather-inappropriate slinky dresses: we were an army of skinny-armed waitresses and slick-haired bartenders, mostly hungover.
I went to at least a dozen weddings like this in my early twenties, during a different Universe. Melissa and Mark are divorced now, with brand new families. There’s no more record stores, the Internet pervades in our pockets, stupid shiny twenty-something hope has been replaced with something wistful. My friends from that long-ago time are all separated or getting divorced. They have teenaged kids and motor homes and I wonder if they wake up in alarm some morning too, thinking, God, slow down, I need to plan out my life and this is all going down too fast.
I married Corey on a fog-lit Tofino beach a few months before my 35th birthday. I’d experienced: 7 previous long-term boyfriends, one loft, two houses, a rescue dog, and a mangle-beaked cockatiel named Jorge. I knew heartbreak, and single Motherhood. I knew that I had a predisposition to lose lids, that I tended to flee when things got choppy, that I avoided confrontation to a fault. I knew exactly, precisely what I wanted and I couldn’t believe I found him on a sketchy dating website.
I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I’d listened to my 22-year-old heart. In a dusty Prairie town, I imagine. Possibly still balancing trays and blowing smoke, circling Internet chat rooms. I don’t know that everything happens for a reason, but I’m so glad I finally truly followed my heart when I was finally in a position to know which direction was the right way to go.***
Unrelatedly: Man, fall is awesome, no?