Thursday, November 15, 2007

"I, Felicia, take you, Steven..."

Saturday, October 20, 2007, 4:12am
Residence Inn, Room 2104

I'm late.

Holy shit, I'm late!

I snap upright in bed and frantically fling the covers away, grabbing for the digital clock next to me and knocking it to the floor.

I was supposed to be there at 10:30. And now it's... it's...

It's still dark outside.

I exhale slowly through puckered lips, as if blowing cigarette smoke. My nerves are getting the better of me.

I weave my way through the living room, around my sleeping brothers and friends, and manage to drink half a glass of water before going back to bed. I sleep for what seems like forever, roll over, and check the clock. 4:49.

Northern Pines Country Club

"She's not ready yet," Chris says.

I peer out a heavy oak door and take a long look. Every ornate wooden pillar has been carefully adorned with tulips and silk bows; guests fill neatly-curved rows of antique chairs, and soft music plays over strategically-placed Surround Sound speakers.

It hits me that every one of those people are here for Tim and me. They all got up early on a Saturday morning, put on fancy clothes, and drove to a country club in the middle of nowhere to see us get married. If this many people care about me, I guess I'm doing all right.

"Steve, she's ready. She's ready!"

I take a deep breath and look at my watch. It's 11:21.

Chris and I walk out the door and across the room, stopping in front of a huge picture window which overlooks towering pine trees and an ocean of flawlessly green grass.

I look around, my eyes picking up friendly, familiar faces in the crowd: Aunts and uncles, old friends from school, and, in the front row, my dad.

I am so glad he got to be here, so glad that he lived when the doctors said he might die. This day would not have been the same without him.

He smiles at me and rubs at his eye. What a softie.

The opening notes of Kanon in D by Pachelbel waft from the speakers, and my niece MacKenzie bounds down the aisle, just like she did at practice, dumping handfuls of rose petals as she goes.

Next up the aisle is my best friend Paulie, striding purposefully, hands crossed at his waist, mouth and eyes turned downward, as if this were a funeral. He's probably trying to keep from crying.

Lila follows close behind him, a vision of beauty in her rasperry-colored dress, her long hair pulled up in an ornate bun, with one strand hanging down, just the way I used to like it.

Tim and Lila love each other. They have grown very close over the past couple of years, and we agreed right away that she should be in the wedding, as crazy as that may sound. With all the people that Tim and I have been with, Lila is the only ex here today.

She catches my eye as she sits down and gives me a bright-eyed smile, and I smile back. I wasn't always good to Lila, but seeing her face now, I know that everything is okay between us, and I am glad.

My brother Greg. He walks the aisle and takes his seat, waving sweetly to his daughter MacKenzie on the other side of the room.

Next is Tim's cousin, Ellie, who came all the way from California to be here. She and Tim have been close since they were little girls, and often called each other when they had no one else to talk to. As soon as we sat down to pick the bridal party, the first name Tim thought of was Ellie's.

Ellie is no waif. From across the room, she is all boobs and hips, and I am sure she will have her share of admirers at the reception. She takes her seat.

Next is Tim's sister, Drea, the Maid of Honor. A hush falls over the room as she walks past, maybe because it's almost time, and maybe because Drea is so beautiful. She really is like a younger version of Tim, except a bit taller, with darker hair. She walks with a straight back and a quiet confidence, like a runway model.

Drea is just 18, and therefore miles cooler than anyone else in the room, but she has been a huge help in getting ready for the wedding. Whether it be making phone calls, running errands, or reminding us about important tasks, she's been the Most Valuable Player for us. Thanks to Drea, the wedding planning was a lot less stressful than it might have been.

She walks past the chairs where the rest of the bridal party sits and stops at the front of the room, across from Chris and I.

As if on cue, the violins swell to a crescendo. Every guest in the room stands and turns around, and Tim makes her way up the aisle, her right arm holding her father's left.

The first thing I notice is her bare shoulders. The strapless, sleeveless gown was a great choice, given her long, dainty neck and toned upper body. Silk gloves stretch past her elbows, and she's holding a cluster of deep red roses.

The dress is smooth and blizzard-white, with a train that extends for a mile behind her. Her makeup is flawless, like a movie star's, and even from 20 feet away, my cheeks flush and my heart flutters at the sight of her denim blue eyes.

She is far too beautiful for words, so completely perfect that, if I drop dead this minute, my life will have been worthwhile for intertwining with hers.

The music fades. Marvin extends his hand and I shake it. "Congratulations, son," he says, and I am touched that he would call me that. He is not one to show emotion easily.

I take Tim's gloved hand in mine and it's almost as if I am in the presence of royalty, like I somehow lucked out and got to meet a celebrity.

"Hi," she smiles.

"Hi," I say back.


The vows come and go quickly, so quickly that I barely remember them. But as the Justice of the Peace says "You may kiss the bride," I know that, at long last, we finally made it, that I did not screw this up, and that despite my past, I have a great life ahead of me. Applause washes over us and we walk triumphantly back down the aisle together, smiling and laughing.

Now, it's party time.