July 30, 2008

I’m not supposed to be here. I was good friends with Ashley in middle school, friendly with her in high school, lost touch with her in college. There was no reason why I would have been invited to her wedding reception if I hadn’t spoken to her in four years. But when Julie, a mutual friend who I did talk to now and again, called and asked if I wanted to go with her, I said I did.

“I’m not invited,” I told her.

“That’s okay. Ashley won’t care,” she said.

It’s not that I thought she would care. It’s that I didn’t know if I could really crash a party on the most important day of someone’s life. In the end, Julie told me there would be a chocolate fountain and I knew that I could.

I walked in with Julie twenty minutes ago. The first face I saw was Ashley’s mom, a tiny, pale woman who I remember made Mickey Mouse ear-shaped blueberry pancakes for breakfast in the morning every time I spent the night at Ashley’s house. I didn’t like blueberries, but I liked those pancakes.

“Hi!” she said. She gave Julie a hug and smiled at me. She had no idea who I was.

“Hi,” I said, smiling. It was okay. I wasn’t offended. In fact, it made me more confident that I could navigate the party in relative anonymity.

Julie and I went to the backyard, where the guests were seated at tables with pink rose centerpieces. I recognized several people from high school that I had not seen for years, excluding perhaps the occasional awkward Christmas break run-in at Rite-Aid or TGI Fridays. Many faces looked the same as they had on graduation day. I wondered if I looked the same. I figured I probably did and I didn’t mind that.

“Ashley’s over there,” Julie now says. She points to the far end of the yard, where Ashley and presumably her new husband are talking with a group of adults. Ashley was always very pretty, but I’m struck with how strange she looks at this moment. Her normally stick-straight hair is curled into dozens of tiny ringlets and half of it is piled high on top of her head. If that isn’t bad enough, she has an indecent amount of makeup on. Basically, she doesn’t look like herself. I detest when brides insist on this kind of transformation for their wedding days.

We decide now is a good time to offer our congratulations and walk over to where Ashley and her husband are conversing with their guests. Ashley sees me and squeals. “Amanda!”

“Hi!” I squeal in return, hoping it sounds convincing.

“It’s so good to see you!” she says, wrapping me in a hug.

“You too,” I say. “Congratulations! You must be so happy!”

“Thank you,” she says, pulling away and embracing Julie. “I am!”

Her husband smiles and says hello to Julie. “Hi,” I say. “I’m Amanda.”

“Nice to meet you,” he says, and we shake hands. There is nothing uncomfortable about our exchange, but I think he must be wondering who I am and why I am here. He probably has never heard my name before in his life.

“Go and eat,” Ashley says. “There’s chocolate fountains!”

Julie and I grab croissant sandwiches and cheese cubes and sit down at an empty table. Mark, a guy I was vaguely acquainted with in high school by virtue of two shared Spanish classes, sits down next to me a few minutes later.

“Amanda, right?” he says. I nod. I irrationally expect everyone to know my name because I know theirs. My memory is sharp and in high school I liked putting names to faces in my classes, even though I only actually spoke to a quarter of those faces.

I take a bite of the sandwich, turkey and Swiss. It has tomatoes in it, which I didn’t notice at first, and I hate tomatoes. Now a piece is in my mouth and I want to spit it out, but feel it would be uncouth. I swallow it.

“What are you doing nowadays?” Mark asks, the question I hate to answer because it assumes that I am, in fact, doing something nowadays.

I clear my throat and say, “I’m living at home and tutoring at a Korean learning center.”

“Oh,” he says. “That’s cool.” He clearly expects me to reciprocate and ask him what he’s doing. I don’t. I’m more interested in the turkey and Swiss than his current state of existence.

Dutifully, Julie asks the question and he says, “I’m in grad school. Math.”

Now I am even more uninterested and feel the conversation, already lagging, can go no further. I’ve only met one math person in my life that I liked. The rest were too logical, too concerned with the order of things. I act on my emotions and rarely make rational choices. Fundamental differences in personality such as this make friendships – even conversations – between thinkers and feelers difficult, and I’m not in the mood to put forth effort. I’m in the mood to eat my sandwich, sans tomatoes, and dip Rice Krispie treats into the chocolate fountain.

“Excuse me,” I say, leaving Julie at the table with Mark. It is not very nice of me, I know, because I don’t think Julie will particularly enjoy talking with Mark either, but I do it anyway.

I finish the sandwich and go into the front yard. There is no one here and I dig in my purse for a cigarette. I find one, light it and stand in the driveway smoking. I have seen what I came to see. I wanted to see Ashley and her husband. Just see them, not interact with them at length. I wanted to see if the kids from high school looked the same. I wanted to see the chocolate fountain. Technically I wanted to eat from the chocolate fountain, but I could forgo that if it meant successfully persuading Julie to leave early.

I have a feeling that won’t happen. Julie is better friends with Ashley than I am and will want to stay for the whole party, the first dance, the bouquet toss. I suddenly feel silly. I am wearing a blue sundress and black heels. I look like I belong here, but I don’t. Why did I come? Was I such a voyeur that it wasn’t enough to simply hear about Ashley’s marriage?  Did I really have to inspect her new husband with my own eyes when I hadn’t even seen her since high school graduation?

I smoke another cigarette. I’m not going back there. I call Julie and she comes out to meet me.

“What’s the matter?” she says.

“Nothing,” I say. “I just feel weird.  I’m going to wait out here.”

She protests for a while, but then sees that I’m serious. She shrugs and tells me to call her if I need anything. Of course she drove, so I’m stuck until she wants to leave.

I sit down in the driveway, take my heels off and smoke. This is not unlike how I spend most of my nights.


One Response to “Analogy”

  1. PJM said

    Nice personality type reference. The isolation embedded in this entry has a solipsismal Catcher in the Rye feeling to it. Love it.

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