A Wedding, New Years And My Old House
by Michele Christopher
New Years and I have a long sordid history, mostly filled with me drinking more than my fill and passing out in a futon by myself. But there was that one year where I couldn’t drink my fill, no matter how hard I tried.
My best friend was giddy. In my memory, he was literally grinning from ear to ear. He’d just shown me the single most expensive thing he’d ever purchased and asked me what I thought. It was an engagement ring for pregnant girlfriend, a woman he’d met during a cross country trip that he promised to come back for. After several more months of traveling, he was good to his word, riding a single bus for more than three days to get back to her. He was tired, broke and had nothing to offer her except himself. Luckily for him, Aidan was a hell of a guy.
Together they packed up her car and moved to Philly. They’d had their share of ups and downs, but when it came right down to it, the two of them were made for each other. Aidan wasn’t a complicated man, but Ann understood him and fully accepted him for who he was. And he thought that she was the bee’s knees. When he found out that she was pregnant, I thought the boy would burst with pride. Because he was that proud to call her his girlfriend and now he had no excuse not to call her his wife. The ring was beautiful and I told him so. And he asked me to be his best man. How could I turn him down when everything seemed to be so right for him ?
If I had been a selfish prick, I could have turned him down quite easily. I was living in a little run down Southwest Philly row home with two other guys. My wife had kicked me out a few months beforehand and marriage wasn’t exactly on my good side. But he seemed so excited at the prospect of becoming a husband and father. He was my best friend. And besides, he’d been my best man. So I said that I’d be his best man and told him to go propose to that girl before he lost the damn ring.
A month or so went by. They’d decided to get married during a mass wedding on New Years Eve. It’s something the city does every year and it went over like gangbusters with these two cash strapped but very much in love kids. Aidan called to tell me that his mother had planned to have a reception after the ceremony with all the friends and family. There would be food and drinking and dancing. All in the comfort of my old house. The bottom dropped out of my gut.
I guess this is the part where I should do some explaining. Aidan was not only my best friend. He was also my brother in law. He and I had met at a local skate park many years ago. We’d hit it off right away and discovered that we ran in a lot of the same circles. After hanging out and skating together for a few weeks, he’d asked for a ride home, as his sister couldn’t come pick him up. I told him it was no problem and we headed over to his house. We walked in, dropped our gear by the door and I came face to face with my boss. His sister was the one who’d hired me a few months earlier at the bookstore. She and I had been getting pretty friendly at work and apparently I was getting friendly with her brother, too. We all laughed once the initial shock wore off and you know how the rest of that story went.
So Aidan’s mother had decided to throw her reception at my old house, the one that my ex-wife was still living in. The one that we were desperately attempting to sell because we couldn’t afford the mortgage. This was his mother’s last hurrah in a house that she loved more than her own. Her son was getting married. Her family and friends would be gathered in her daughter’s spacious home for a combination New Years Eve party and wedding reception. It was a party in my own home, a place that I hadn’t seen the inside of since I’d been kicked out of it, which I had to be invited to.
Part of me really wanted to bag out of the whole thing. But Aidan had always been there for me. He’d backed me up in fist fights, he’d run with me from the cops, and he was the best man I’d ever met. I couldn’t do that to him. But I told him that I probably wouldn’t stay long after the reception started. I’d be there for him like he was there for me, but I wasn’t hanging out for the after party.
The big night came and Aidan and I showed up at City Hill in our tuxes. We met Ann and her Maid of Honor outside, headed in and these two crazy kids got hitched. Afterwards, we grabbed a cab back to my old house and that’s when the fun started. Immediately after I got in the house, I said “Hi” to my ex wife and headed for the bar. And I’d been in the house for five minutes when the digs from my old mother in law started. I had half a highball glass of whiskey in me, so I told her to shut her pie hole or I’d ruin her party. She shut up.
Needless to say, the entire experience was uncomfortable. Things had been shifted around in the house, like the silverware drawer, so I couldn’t find anything when I went looking for it. The entire place didn’t feel right and more than once I drifted past or into a conversation that related to the size of my balls for even showing up. I quickly grew tired of the whispers and forced smiles that were made my way, so continued to refill and drain my highball glass and make sure that the happy couple was doing okay. I kept drinking more and more, but the simple fact was that this whole situation was incredibly surreal and it kept killing whatever buzz I tried to tie on. After an hour or so, I told Aidan I was going out back for a cigarette. He knew that I had every intention of leaving, so he hugged me and said “Thanks”.
I cut out the back door and started to light a cigarette. “You know those things’ll killya, kid,” came a voice from the darkness. I looked over, near the garage to find my ex’s grandfather standing there. “You mind letting me borrow one ?” he asked. I reminded him that he’d quit twenty years ago and that if I handed him a cigarette half the people in that house would kill me. “Yeah,” he said, “but that doesn’t make me want one any less. You’re leaving awful early.”
“I’ve got somewhere to be,” I lied. He chuckled a little bit and fixed me with a stern look. “You change your mind about the girl, yet ?” he asked. I told him that it hadn’t been my decision to make. “I’ll see what I can do then, son,” he said “and maybe you and I can start going to the track together again.” He smiled at me and gave me a hug. I told him to have a good New Year and said that maybe I’d see him around the track. I went back to my shared home to pass out on my futon.
thefinn still likes a drink now and then on New Years. There just won't be any more weddings.