I can’t see the ball, but I can tell she’s given it a solid whack; her toes lithely kiss the court as she dances back into vigilant anticipation. I try to find its trajectory, to meet its speed with equal or greater speed, but my legs go loose. I begin to panic. The anxiety of what is coming—still silent of its intention—has taken on proportions of physicality, presaging an ominous and unknowable arrival. The grass surrounding the court, now covered in a thin powder of electrical dust, is catching fire with each pop of a synapse. I can feel porcelain needles spawning exponentially through the arterial map of my hand. I clutch my chest, knees buckle. She screams and runs “to get help.” She’s not coming back.
I awake to my cell phone rattling in my blazer pocket, and navigate my way up the dark aisle to the theater’s blinding lobby.
“Thanks for the wake-up call, Cigdem, I’ll see you guys at the wedding, hopping in a cab now… I’m at the Landmark Sunshine theater… No, I wasn’t watching it, just catching a quick nap… Dude, it’s like 98 degrees out, I’ve got a suit on and had an hour to kill… Beasts of something or other, I’ll catch it again when it wins its obligatory two Katrina Oscars… No you’re lonely and ridiculous, you big jerk… Hello… Hello… Hellloooo?”
The cab leaves me at an abandoned industrial warehouse in Long Island City. What’s up with all these wacky Bard weddings? Wrong address, so I gotta hoof it, which means I arrive fifteen blocks later coated in a layer of last night’s whiskey sweat and a bad attitude. Cheeks kissed, hands shaken, memory lane walked, the wedding is officially swinging. I post up a safe distance from the dance floor with Cigdem and her husband Artun.
Cigdem says, “Your Facebook photos make you look gay. It’s all you and another guy at a beach. I think next you’re going to have a photo of you two in the grocery store.” Artun politely pretends not to understand. If you’ve had the pleasure of befriending a Turk, you are well aware that they don’t mince words. Just mash ’em.
I move on to an old college friend who asks me if I’d be interested in doing voice-overs for the Victoria’s Secret commercials he’s editing. It’s no La Perla, but I tell him yeah, of course, at least on the condition that I get to write my own script: I’ve got a lot to say—none of it at all creepy—about the topic.
The touching ceremony, not recounted here, ends and we all head outside for the foot race. I’ve been told that, according to tradition, all the single men at a Spanish wedding are to race the groom, and whoever wins gets to marry the bride. Makes sense. What doesn’t is the outcome: the stoplight hits red, and one guy, shockingly barefoot and nicknamed—no joke—The Greyhound, jumps the gun early for an easy, victorious dash across the finish line. It occurs to me that maybe I don’t even know The Greyhound, that he isn’t an old friend from college, but rather a dude that just shows up at Spanish weddings casually blessing the world with his polygamous lifestyle. Gotta respect that.
I pile into a cab with four of the other wedding guests to chase the night in Brooklyn. When we get to the backyard party, my attention is torn between a bikini-clad girl repeatedly hurling herself down a Slip n Slide into the mouth of a garbage can, a late thirties couple who’ve adamantly refused to outgrow PDA, and a group of hipsters who have taken notice of my suit and are now shaking each other’s hands with hyperbolic business douchery. I approach the group to attempt small talk: “Hey guys, how’s it going? You all pretending to dislike Coldplay over here or what?” They quickly disperse into the neighboring apartment. Cigdem preternaturally appears behind me with several pieces of chalk in hand.
“Chris, I am going to draw you.” She quickly etches the outline of a skinny figure clothed in a midriff exposing muscle tee.
“How do we know it’s me?”
She adds an arrow and “Chris” inscription with the delicacy of a second grader. We both stare intently at her creation, exposed to the night’s instinctive puerile wit.
“I’m going to miss you Cigdem. Text me when you reach New Orleans.” I give her a hug, shake Artun’s hand, and catch a cab to the hotel.
The following night I walk to Penn Station. My car on the nine pm train to Boston is mercifully desolate, the stiff air-conditioned interior a welcome purge from the weekend’s excess. As I recline the seat, I rifle my hand into the large overnight bag resting next to me. The racquet’s tattered Wilson double grip meets my open palm, ridges of worn latex prepared for this embrace. My knuckles go pale under the pressure of the vise, and I pass out.
Has spent an inordinately large amount of time in school. He now lives in Boston/New York.