My Cousin’s Wedding

My Cousin’s Wedding

Erin M. Murphy

I arrived at Cocoa Beach around 5:30 A.M and the sun was just about to rise. Sitting there on the beach, watching the birth of a new day set me into a trance. I thought about how many people, even me, often fail to appreciate the beauty of this world we inhabit. I thought about photography and how it might be the hardest form of art known to man. It’s nearly impossible to recreate something as beautiful as an ocean’s dawn through the snap of a picture. It would take an extremely talented photographer to recreate even a fraction of the feelings I felt sitting there in the sand that morning. Watching the clouds trail across the horizon in thick puffs of patterns shaped like people, it reminded me of “heaven”. It made me think of my friend who passed away. I imagined him up there amongst the puffy pattern people and I fixed my eyes on a cloud that could have resembled my old friend if I squinted my vision hard enough.

I wonder if that’s how it works. I wonder if the ones taken away from us spend the early morning hours sitting on the horizon waiting to greet the sun. Then when it finally rises, they float upward away from the golden light and yield to its every need. Maybe the temporary shade of a summer day on the beach is merely the sun taking a lunch break and the clouds beginning their shift.

That makes it seem like the people taken from us and from this world, become nothing but slaves to the sun. But I doubt they dread it the way living people dread becoming slaves to office cubicles. I think they might consider it more of a privilege—a small task expected of them and in return they receive the freedom to float. The freedom to spread out and dance in the wind, and even the freedom to scream out and cry when necessary. The sun never keeps them from doing any of this.
And yet for us, the ones who are left here, it’s different. We consider the sun our friend—we feel good when its around. We bask in its light and forget the details of our sad lives for several moments, maybe an hour if we’re lucky. But we don’t give anything back to it like the clouds do. A selfishness we’re too distracted to even realize we practice. And the sun is too far away to understand such selfishness, which is why it feels no remorse when burning our skin.

Then even after the pain, and after the scars have healed, we go back outside to bask again.
We lay there considering the sun our friend, blind to its cancerous rage.

***

Wedding’s are wonderful. I’m a romantic person and I’ve never had any objections when it comes to two people celebrating their love. Despite my own love life, I’m always routing for romance and happy endings. Some people are incapable of feeling this way if their own life lacks fulfillment in such desirable areas. I guarantee there was at least one person at my cousin’s wedding cursing the newlyweds through a tightly clenched jaw disguised as a smile. Waving and clapping, while secretly reflecting on flashbacks of his or her own failures. I think there is at least one person like that at all weddings.

Perhaps I’m not old enough to feel this way. There’s a seemingly infinite amount of hope inside the walls of one’s youth. Or perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of a poet. Just because I don’t have the love of one other person doesn’t mean I can’t see it everywhere else. On good days, it’s all I can see. The combination of those two facts must be why I’m not like the teeth clenching guests who have become bitter from being alone.

I fucking love being alone. That might have something to do with it too.

Immediately upon arrival at Cocoa Beach and seeing my cousin for the first time in years, I paid close attention to her words and her actions. The more I examined these details, the more I became confused. She was so calm, so relaxed. Aren’t brides supposed to be nervous wrecks? Isn’t she supposed to be yelling at someone? I thought this to myself and waited for signs of anxiousness to come bubbling up from her soul and spill mercilessly through her pores only to soak everyone in sight. But the bubbling and the spilling never came, and before I knew it we were all standing there in church watching her walk down the isle.

I’ve attended several weddings, but standing there watching my cousin hold hands with her groom ignited a feeling inside of me that I never experienced. It’s difficult to explain, but most of the other ceremonies I’ve attended made me feel as if the bride and groom’s love relied on the celebration and tradition of a wedding in order to continue growth in the relationship. As if the wedding never existed, their love might cease to exist as well. I wasn’t aware of feeling this way at all until watching Dani and Peter. It wasn’t something I simply suspected, it was an undeniable feeling of truth. Whether this day ever took place or not, they would continue to love each other for the rest of their lives. Even if there were no beautiful dresses, no suits and ties, no buffets of food, and no nightlong dancing, they would still be it for each other.

That must be why either of them didn’t seem as nervous as I expected. Marrying one’s soulmate must be a breeze.

As Dani and Peter said their final vows, I sat there in the second row holding a pencil I found placed behind the first pew. I looked down the isle and noticed several other tiny pencils protruding besides the psalm books. How strange, I thought. I’ve never seen pencils provided in church before, though I’m sure the fact that I hardly ever go to church had something to do with my curiosity. So I sat there and thought, fucking perfect! And I wrote a couple of words on the wedding program with my new church pencil. I couldn’t write all I was just thinking without taking an extended amount of time and appearing rude, so I just wrote “Weddings are wonderful. So is beer.”

It didn’t matter what words I chose to write. It wasn’t like I was going to be able to forget what I just felt watching my cousin’s wedding. It didn’t need to be recorded right then and there. But holding that tiny church pencil in between my fingers felt more natural than having an empty right hand.

Someone coughed and my attention shifted behind me to where my wedding date was sitting.

Fuck. I’m an asshole. Poor guy, I shouldn’t have invited him.

I’ve always been comfortable being alone, but it wasn’t until this trip to Florida that I realized I might actually PREFER being alone. This was the first time seeing my family since my new adventure began which was undoubtedly great and an overall pleasant experience, but it was also overwhelming. The moment my date arrived at the rehearsal dinner, I immediately started feeling uneasy, like I was no longer in control of my own feelings. It’s been so long since I’ve had to really worry about another person, had to cater to another person’s needs. My time in the Smoky Mountains has already changed me, or made me more aware of who I’ve always been.

I’d grown so used to going wherever I wanted whenever I wanted without having to explain it to someone else, and without having to invite them to come along with me. And there I was at the rehearsal dinner and I was no longer solely responsible for my own happiness and comfort, I felt responsible for someone else’s. All because back in the fall, I demanded I would need a wedding date. Probably because I was fucking someone at the time and I was giving whoever it was the benefit of the doubt despite my true feelings.

Fuck. I’m acting like a selfish bitch and I can’t even control how I feel. My wedding date is one of the best people I’ve ever known and I’m not treating him fairly. But if I were to treat him any other way, I’d be lying and I’m not sure that would be fair either.

Standing next to my beautiful tiny mother as we watched Dani and Peter walk up the isle as husband and wife, we all clapped and whistled. I watched my wedding date too and felt sorry again for a minute, then shrugged my shoulders.

“Welp, I guess there’s nothing left to do now but dance, Theresa.” I told my beautiful tiny mother before intentionally pocketing the tiny church pencil and exiting back outside into Florida’s heat.

***

I started the car’s engine and for the second time this summer, I watched my Mother’s tiny figure wave goodbye while wiping away her tears. She started crying back in the hotel room before I said goodbye to my Father.

“I miss you.” She said and it broke my heart. Seeing someone as small as her become sad is almost like watching another person’s helpless child suffer. You want to make it stop, but there’s nothing you can do.

I missed her too, which caused my own tears to begin forming around my contact lenses but I didn’t let them fall.

“Let me walk you down to the car,” She said.

We walked and I silently was still trying to figure out how my Mother and Father could possibly miss me at home. I wasn’t a pleasant person to be around most of the time. Always hung over or exhausted from working double shifts at the restaurant walking around pissed about something, and still they missed me.
The moment you begin loving a person, you also become fated to missing them inevitably. No matter how much you love someone, it’s impossible for people to always be together. Whether it’s only for a few moments, a couple of weeks, or even several years, missing a person comes along with the loving. It’s part of the package and it’s something we learn to deal with despite the hurt we feel each time. Missing someone never gets easier, it just becomes routine.

When it comes to family members and unconditional types of love, most people rarely stop to think about this fact. It is unlikely for someone to sit and ponder, “Missing someone is too stressful. I wish it wouldn’t happen anymore,” because a person who is lucky enough to have unconditional love in their life knows better. Wishing to stop missing someone is the same as wishing to stop loving that person.

I can’t remember the first time I missed my Mother and Father. They probably can’t recall the first time they missed me or missed each other either. It happened long ago and will continue to happen for as long as we’re all alive despite our distance or time apart.

Watching my Mother’s tiny figure in the rearview mirror as I pulled out of the hotel parking lot made me think of this, but I became too overwhelmed with crying, with feelings of missing her, to think about any of it in detail.

Hours later I was still driving, and my eyes were drooping from the exhaustion brought on by a days worth of crossing state-lines. My mind was zombified by skipping white road lines and repetitive radio songs. For the first few hours, when I was still driving through Florida, I kept my mind occupied with imaginative thinking. I pretended the white road lines were nothing but the afterlife of a firework. I envisioned the bright white explosions I saw on the Fourth of July being captured from the sky, then whipped across the highway’s pavement and thrown into orderly patterns. Patterns that would appear unrecognizable and ordinary to anyone at a standstill, but for those dangerously speeding towards freedom, an explosive skipping reminder of what once was and no longer is.

This sort of thinking didn’t last as long as I hoped, and it became more and more difficult to entertain myself through such exhaustion. It wasn’t until about forty minutes outside of Asheville that I was freed from the zombie trance and my body jolted back to life.

I was still forty minutes away, but there they stood in the distance. The Blue Ridge Mountains curved confidently across another North Carolina dusk, stealing the spotlight from the sun’s final show. All of a sudden the lyrics blaring from my car’s speakers were no longer just noise, they had purpose. Through the secureness of my seatbelt, I felt my insides begin to swell with balloon-like emotions. What the fuck is happening? I thought to myself as I attempted to wipe the unexpected tears away from my vision without swerving. Why am I crying?

It took me half a moment to understand. My mind needed to catch up with everything else going on inside me. I increased the volume of the stereo and smiled with damp cheeks. I thought of my Mother and Father and the rest of my family. I still missed them as much as before, and it still hurt just as bad. The moment you start loving someone, is the same moment you begin a lifetime of missing that person. Only, it doesn’t always have to be a person.

I continued to drive with the windows down and I kept on smiling and crying. This was the first time I missed the mountains and their magic. And it wouldn’t be the last.

***

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