My cousin Glenn is getting married today, and the happiest day of his life is making mine miserable. I never imagined that someone else’s wedding would cause my life to go bat-shit crazy. I mean, ever since I was asked to be a groomsman, it’s been one thing after another. The first indignity was having virtually every female member of my family gang up and collectively nag me about cutting my hair, the long hair I had spent nearly a year growing. Glenn’s sister, my cousin Corine, told me in her usual condescending tone of voice, “Why don’t you cut that mop on your head? It’s going to look horrible in the pictures!”
To which I replied, “Says the woman whose hairstyle never made it past the year 1962! Hello, it’s 1993! Jackie Onassis called, and she wants her hairstyle back!” Then there was Glenn’s eldest sister, Susie, whom I can only describe as the human equivalent of grinding teeth. She snapped, “Cut off your hair! It looks awful!” This coming from a woman who has a terminal case of bed-head. Sometimes I don’t know if I should offer her a brush or slap her awake.
I don’t know why I expected my mother to take my side, her and my cousins practically share the same brain- all hypercritical and passive-aggressive. The only reason I gave in was to shut them up. And honestly, Glenn wouldn’t have cared what my hair looked like as long as I showed up. Just to piss them off, I seriously considered getting a mohawk, but going through life looking like an extra from THE ROAD WARRIOR isn’t my style. Plus, I don’t have the butt to fill out a pair of ass-less chaps.
To think I woke up feeling so good this morning. That alone is a dubious achievement considering how much drinking I did at Glenn’s bachelor party the night before. Just about the only thing I can remember clearly is one of the strippers trying to straddle his shoulders. The folding chair they were sitting on collapsed under their weight, so when they hit the floor, Glenn was laying down face up, the stripper’s crotch buried in his face. Glenn flailed his arms like a drowning victim gasping for air. If it were me, I would have laid there like a dead starfish. It was hilarious. All in all, not a totally horrible way to die, but somehow, I don’t think I want ‘asphyxiated by vagina’ written on my gravestone.
Since the wedding was at three, I thought I had plenty of time for a leisurely cup of coffee and a nice, long, hot shower, but just as soon as I began to get dressed, that was when everything went straight to Hell. The moment I slipped on the dress shirt of my rented tux, I noticed that the shoulders were too narrow, the collar was too tight, and the shirttail reached up to my navel. The damned thing was too small!
I nearly shit a brick. Ninety minutes until the wedding, and I wasn’t going to be ready on time! The first thing I did was dive for the phone and call the rental place, explaining the situation. They assured me they could replace it, all I had to do was get to the store as soon as I could get there.
Throwing on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, I tossed the remainder of the tux on the passenger seat of my car and hauled ass. Maybe it was the fact that I was in a major rush, but it just seemed as though the traffic and all the signal lights were conspiring to keep me from getting to where I needed to go. On the way up, flashes of all the things leading up to the wedding ran through my mind. Three memories in particular popped into my thoughts:
A week after agreeing to be one of the groomsmen, they announced that Paul McCartney was going to be playing at Dodger Stadium on the same day as the wedding. I seriously considered dropping out, but my Mom went on one of her typical hysterical rants and guilt-tripped me into blowing off the concert. I’ve only waited my whole life to see him live, and I had to let it go in order to go to a family function for people that I saw pretty much once a week. “You can see Paul McCartney anytime,” my mother said, “but your cousin Glenn is only getting married once!” How the Hell would she know? Considering that the divorce rate was over fifty percent, the odds were pretty much on my side. Still, I did give my word, and as my Dad always said, “Son, when you give your word, you gotta keep it, because it’s all you really got in this world.” Besides, if I dropped out of the wedding for a concert, Glenn would’ve forgiven me eventually, but his fiancée, Becky, sure wouldn’t. She’s the type who holds a grudge.
When I found out about the wedding, the first thing I did was call my girlfriend, Erika, and ask her if she would be my date. She initially agreed to go, but then she backed out at the last minute because her study group scheduled one last cramming session before her college finals the same day. I was super-pissed. I was like, “What, you can’t study on your own? It’s not like getting a ‘B’ is the end of the world! Do you know how many of these dumb things I’ve been to for you?” She didn’t even really need to study. She knew the material as well as she knew her way around the mall whenever she dragged me shopping. I think she freaked out at the thought of meeting my extended family. I guess I couldn’t totally blame her; if I had the nerve, I would forget this and go to a movie. I hear good things about JURASSIC PARK.
The last thing wasn’t so much a memory as it was picturing my mother nagging at me in her shrill voice, “See, this is what you get for not trying on your tux when you got it! I told you something like this would happen, but you wouldn’t listen!” I mean seriously, I’m driving at seventy-five miles an hour, and I think I’d rather die in a fiery car crash than listen to that. At least my suffering would be over.
I made it to the tux shop in fifteen minutes, a personal best, considering I was driving my Jeep Cherokee, a car not known for its speed or maneuverability. I jumped out and ran for the door. “Hi, I just called about my shirt! Do you have the one with the right size?” I asked the clerk, a skinny, blonde-haired, blue-eyed kid who looked like he had yet to lose his virginity.
He lobbed a wrapped parcel at me. I tossed the ill-fitting shirt on the counter, turning back out towards the door. “Wait!” The kid yelled, “Don’t you want to change here?”
“No time!” I snapped, “I’m already running late!”
Hopping into my Cherokee, I gunned the engine and shot up to the chapel, which wasn’t much farther away. I parked in an empty lot across the street, and I changed into my tux in front of God and everyone. I probably should have been embarrassed, but I had no time for modesty. I only had five minutes left.
I made it just as everyone gathered in the chapel vestibule. As I found my place, my cousin Glenn saw me and said, “There you are! For a second, I didn’t think you were going to make it on time!”
I sighed. “Come on, have I ever let you down?”
Glenn rolled his eyes and laughed. “I guess not.”
If he only knew. I looked up at the ceiling of the chapel, and said a little prayer, “God, if you take it easy on me for the rest of the day, I swear I’ll never take your name in vain again.” I reached into the little bowl filled with holy water, flicked a few drops on myself, and made the sign of the cross.
My cousin Susie saw me and snapped, “What did you do that for? You’re not even Catholic!”
I flicked a few drops of water at her. I said, “Well, what do you know? It didn’t boil off!” I was genuinely surprised by that. I thought for sure they would.
Once the ceremony started, everything pretty much went off without a hitch. I was grateful for the fact that it wasn’t one of those long, boring, drawn out services where the minister drones on and on about the importance of marriage, then someone starts quoting bible verses…. blah, blah, blah. Short and to the point, just the way I like it. Weddings should be like an execution- just pull the switch and kill the poor bastard already. Friends and family gathered around the happy couple to offer their congratulations, so I tried peeling myself away from the crowd when a dark-haired guy dressed in a blue sharkskin suit blocked my path. He said, “Hey, man! Good to see you after so many years!” He hugged me the way you would a long-lost sibling.
Smushed in his arms, my face rubbed against his cheek, and my chin rested on his shoulder. He patted me hard on the back. “Umm… thanks,” I said, “I’m getting a little too old to be burped, though.” I politely shrugged him away. “Good to see you again,” I lied.
Judging from the confused expression on his face, he didn’t buy it. “You don’t know who I am, do you?”
I stared at him from top to bottom, trying to place him in my memory. “Nothing comes to mind, I’m sorry. Who are you?”
“I guess it has been awhile,” he offered his hand. “I’m Gary, Glenn’s cousin on his father’s side. This is my girlfriend,” he reached over and squeezed her hand. She was pregnant.
“Right, right. Been a long time. Well, it’s good to see you again. Not to be rude, but I better get going. I have to join the rest of the wedding party to take pictures. See you at the reception!’
“Totally, man! We need to catch up!” Gary turned to his girlfriend and said, “This guy and his brother were maniacs when we were kids! Wait until you hear those stories!”
“Uh, right,” I said. Way to make an awkward encounter even more awkward. I had no idea who this guy was, and now he’s fabricating a whole relationship that didn’t exist. “See you later.” I walked away.
I spent the next two hours sweltering in my tux, trying my best to not look miserable. I was tired, my feet hurt, I was hungry and dying of thirst. How James Bond can survive saving the world in a tux, I’ll never know. My armpits felt like they were growing mushrooms. Glenn’s new wife kept arguing with the photographer, acting as if she wanted to beat him to death with her bridal bouquet. The photographer looked as if he was ready to throw the new bride into a nearby woodchipper. Whenever Becky smiled for a photo, I imagined her penned up in a straight-jacket trimmed with lace, wearing a veil, and grinning maniacally, as if she were the Joker’s Latino sister. It wasn’t that hard to visualize with her squinty eyes and deep dimples. Every time she had a mini-episode, Glenn wisely stayed silent. See, stuff like this is why I plan on getting married in Vegas, if I’m dumb enough to get married at all.
By the time I made it to the reception hall, I was so dehydrated that even drinking out of the toilet sounded appealing. I took my assigned place with the wedding party where Glenn’s best friend kept talking my ear off about my cousin Corine. I could tell he was already sloshed. Guess I don’t have to wonder too hard where he vanished off to in-between photo sessions. The stench of tequila off of him was overwhelming.
He put his arm around me. “Dude, your cousin is soooo hot!”
“I guess she is kind of attractive,” I acknowledged. It was as far as I was willing to go. This ain’t FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC, and I’m not V.C. Andrews.
“Dude, look at her! She’s beyond attractive! I’ve been crushing on her since we were kids!”
I said, “She’d probably be flattered by that. But aren’t you married?”
He rested his head on his hands, arms and elbows propped up on the table like a lovesick pre-pubescent. He actually sighed. “I hate to admit it, but my wife doesn’t compare! How you grew up not lusting after that every day, I’ll never understand.”
I’d had enough. I told him, “Listen, buddy, this isn’t the deep south, and I’m not a hillbilly. Corine is my first cousin and a close family member. I don’t think of her that way. And if the moment comes when I do, I’m going to gouge my eyes out and rinse the sockets with hydrochloric acid! End of discussion!” I got up from the table and walked away in disgust. Behind me, he burped so loud that even the hairs on his moustache vibrated. The toxic vapors emanating from his breath made me wish I’d had a zippo to ignite the fumes. Watching him combust would certainly liven up the party, but the clean up would be a total bitch.
Walking up to the bar, I decided to get a beer. The way this day has gone, the only way I was going to make it through the rest of the night is if I did it in an alcohol-induced haze. I’m not touching the tequila, though. I don’t feel like bending over a toilet bowl and bobbing for road apples. As I waited for the bartender to get my drink, I felt a light tap on my shoulder. It was the guy I met at the chapel.
“So now that you’ve had some time to think about it, have you remembered me yet?”
For God’s sake, is this guy’s life so empty and pathetic that he needs me to validate his existence by reaffirming that I grew up with him? “Listen, Gary- I don’t want to be rude, but it’s been a long day. I’m sorry, but I honestly have no recollection of you.” I grabbed my beer from the bar and added, “If you have fond memories of me as a kid, great. I just don’t recall them. Maybe I was too young. Try not to take it personally.” I walked away before he could say anything else.
Around eight p.m., I called Erika from a pay phone outside the hall. I wanted to leave a message to let her know that I was thinking about her and that I hoped her cramming session was going well. You know, the usual boyfriend crap. You can imagine my surprise when she picked up.
“Hello?” She answered.
I didn’t bother hiding the annoyance in my voice. “What the Hell are you doing home? I thought you were going to be studying!”
“No, I said we were going to be pulling an all-nighter! I was just leaving when you called!”
I asked, “Then what have you been doing all day long?”
“I was with my sister, helping her shop for a prom dress.”
I could feel my blood pressure bubbling up to the boiling point. “You could have come with me to the wedding! I really needed you here, Erika!”
“I know, but….” She trailed off.
I was so angry that I hung up without another word, slamming the receiver back on its cradle in the process. Better to say nothing instead of something I’d regret later. I went back inside. A shot of tequila sounded pretty good right about now.
An hour later, I was drowning in a bottle of Jack Daniel’s to kill my anger. I know drinking whiskey is a mortal sin at a Mexican wedding, but I was too buzzed to care. I loathe the taste of tequila. Seriously, that stuff tastes like a mix of pepper and rubbing alcohol. I bet the guy who invented it probably meant it to be used as a solvent to clean a donkey’s balls with. Glenn got me drunk on it one time, and for the next two days, my mouth tasted like a Tijuana hooker the day after Cinco De Mayo. Never again.
“Hey, bro! I just thought of something that might jolt your memory!” Gary said.
Oh, dear God, not this frickin’ guy again. I guess that makes it official, God HATES me. From this day forward, I am never setting foot in a house of worship ever again. I don’t care if I have Satan himself bearing down on my ass with a boner the size of a blue whale!
I didn’t bother trying to hide my exasperation. Gary continued rambling, “Remember that time you, me, your brother, and your cousin David were riding around on our Big Wheels, and we kept teasing David because he had a Green Machine? Huh? Come on, your brother made a ramp out of a piece of plywood and some cinderblocks to jump off of! Does that sound familiar?”
In all honesty, yeah, I did vaguely recall something like that, but I don’t remember him being there. It doesn’t really matter because of this clown annoying the shit out of me. I snapped, “LOOK, I DON’T REMEMBER YOU, I DON’T KNOW YOU, AND I’VE NEVER SEEN YOU BEFORE IN MY LIFE! NOW GET OUT OF MY FACE!”
He shrank away from me like a puppy who’d just been kicked and stomped on for good measure. He said, “Sorry I bothered you.” He walked away.
I sobered up pretty quick from there. By the time eleven o’clock rolled around, the party was barely starting to break up. I probably should have gone home, ripped off this filth-ridden monkey suit, stumble into bed and forget this day ever started, but I needed to apologize to Gary, if only to clear my conscience, which was eating me alive so bad that the whiskey couldn’t keep up.
“Excuse me, Gary?” I asked while he was saying goodbye to Glenn and his new wife.
“What do you want?” His tone was pure ice.
“To apologize,” I said, “That was totally uncalled for, and I’m sorry. It’s just been a crazy and stressful day.”
“It’s okay.” Gary said.
“No, really. I am. Horribly embarrassed, too.” I said.
“It’s okay. I guess I got overexcited running into you again,” he said.
“No problem.” We leaned in for an uncomfortable hug. “You know, you’re right- I do remember you now. I remember that time with the Big Wheels. That was a fun day.”
“Yeah, it was.” Gary pulled out his wallet and handed me a business card. He said, “Give me a call sometime. We can hang out and catch up.”
I took it. “I’d like that. See you later,” I nodded to his girlfriend and said, “Nice to meet you.”
“You, too.” I’m pretty sure she was lying.
Gary hugged me tightly. “See you around.”
As soon as they were out of earshot, Glenn smirked and said, “You still have no idea who he is, do you?”
I tossed the business card over my shoulder. “Not a clue.”
Oh, and you know what? I never did get to see Paul McCartney in concert.