Oh God, pre-wedding jitters; sweaty palms, itchy scalp, soggy crotch. Better change my underwear, dab on some eau de toilette; careful, you don’t want to traipse up the aisle with a honk of tart’s handbag. I’d have a fag only I haven’t put the last one out yet. This will be right. You haven’t rushed into it. There’s been plenty of time to pause and reflect. And, if you’ve a mind for it, run.
Three years you’ve been together; three, blissfully happy, years. Was that a question? Or a statement? Trying to reassure myself.
Soul mates. They wear open toed sandals, eat brown rice and lentils and talk about ley lines and karma, don’t they? We had common interests in music and cooking even though we met in a noisy club. I remember that night so well. I didn’t want to be there that night. Or any night. I was clubbed out, back then. Christ, it’s corny, tiny hairs rising on my neck with the memory. Jeez, our eyes met across a crowded room. Three years on and we’re laughing about that, still. We couldn’t hear each other talking so left for a quiet coffee shop where we sat and drank cappucino and espresso, nibbled almond biscotti and then a bottle of the Sicilian nero d’avola – since, our favourite wine – and talked and talked and talked. What a Gobshite. A grandparent, closer to 60 than fifty, walking up the aisle, like a giddy virgin? Am I mad? Is it the loneliness? We walk, we talk; we go to the pictures and the theatre shows. We dine out for a treat when we have the money. We have our garden. But where’s the passion? Would you listen to me? Passion, at my age? We took it slowly, knowing, ironically, time was not on our side. But at our age there’s plenty of baggage.
My first marriage fell apart. We were in love. I’m pretty certain of that. I think. There’s no way to be sure, y’see. All that shite about preparing you for marriage, well, it’s all bollix, isn’t it? The fact is, you’re first love is about nature, isn’t it? Or is it? I mean, we were taught to find someone to make a home and raise a family with. And in marriage, of course. It became a war. Surrounded by an ever rising wall of interest rates, unemployment and soiled nappies, we imploded. We fell out over curtains in the end.
Well, things have changed since then.
Honking car horn, a ringing doorbell, a clenched fist beating the door. Christ, they’re here already. Have I everything? I scanned the room, stopped at the portraits of my beautiful daughters and grandsons. I’ve put them through so much. Am I such a selfish bastard, I’ll put them through it again? Do they know what love is? Do they know they’ll lose the love they began with and have to discover new ways to love within what they’ve built already? They saw and heard us fighting. What sort of start was that? What sort of nurture was that?
Life takes us down some strange paths. Perhaps that’s what my first marriage was, just a detour. But where does that put my children? If I’d ignored that detour, they wouldn’t be here. That’s the long and the short of it.
I slammed the door of the taxi shut, louder and harder than I intended. ‘Sorry,’ I said to the taxi driver. He waved my apology away. ‘It’s the nerves, is it?’ Oh great. A philosopher. ‘Do you know where you’re going?’ ‘Don’t worry. I’ll get you there on time.’
My phone rang and I answered, welcoming the intrusion.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’m in a taxi. I’ll be there in five minutes.’
Right, I’m here. And so’s everyone else. Even the ex-wife.
‘You can run, if ye want but it’s now or never, bud.’ Jean Paul Sartre and Elvis, on another day I’d love it. I handed him 10 Euro, waving the change away. It’s only two Euro, the mouthy bollix.
‘You’re late,’ someone said.
‘You’re up next,’ someone else said.
I was rushed through the front hall crowded with families and friends, the gathered support groups. I don’t know, I thought in terror. The Registrar speaks. Her lips move. I strain to hear.
‘Do you John, take James, to be your lawfully wedded partner?’