It’s not that I dislike weddings.
It’s that even my reckless brand of optimism cannot pierce the too real veneer of impending failure that accompanies most invitations I receive.
Or maybe that’s just what I tell myself because there is a not insignificant corner of my mind that wishes for a woman who inspires this carelessness.
This, however, was a good wedding… which is to say that there was a small batch bourbon behind the bar, less than 100 people, and a DJ who could be bribed to play a song. Also of note was the fact that the bride and groom were long time friends and their pairing made sense to anyone who’s met them for more than five minutes.
After the dinner and the numerous toasts but before the party had begun, I was making idle conversation with the bartender when I saw Genevieve headed towards me as quickly as her four inch heels and above the knee cocktail dress would allow. Absent the cover of other people at the bar, and lacking clean routes of escape, I decided to hold my position and hope for the best. When Genevieve was within earshot, I said “the lady will have champagne” to the bartender.
“I thought you were going to ignore me all night” she said by way of conversation starter.
“Ignoring you hasn’t been that effective of a strategy for the past three years, but I am not sure I am changing tactics as much as I am just getting you a drink.”
“Ferfuckssake, Refugee, must it always be so, so, difficult with you?”
I wasn’t sure if my half smile was the product of having gotten under her skin, or a defense mechanism used to extricate from what could be a difficult conversation. Either way, I partly curled the corners of my mouth, handed her a glass of champagne and said “enjoy the party Genevieve.”
About an hour later, I was standing under a patio umbrella smoking an H. Upmann Petite Corona while an early summer rain – more annoying than refreshing – steamed the air. Backlit from the doorway, I could only see the frame of the woman walking towards me, but I knew it was Genevieve.
“Stalking me now?” I chided.
“Shut up and give me light” she snapped back, her words having the distinct feel of bitter candy with a sweet and sour shell.
“Whatever you wish, Lady Genevieve.”
“Why do you always insist on using my full name when everyone else calls me Genny?”
Our history is sufficiently complicated that I gave real consideration to ignoring the question, providing a meaningless answer, or telling uncomfortable truth. Uncomfortable truth won.
“Genevieve, despite my general feeling that your parents did you a disservice by rearing you to be spoiled, overly self-indulgent, and enamored with the belief that the world owes you far more than you have actually earned, I believe that they blessed you with a beautiful name. Lyrical even. And that name should not be truncated for the linguistically lazy who would sacrifice poetry for the saving of a syllable.”
The courtyard lighting was dim, but I could still see Genevieve’s cheeks get flush. She took a long drag of her Parliament Light, and exhaled – not quite in my face but close enough for effect.
“Did you enjoy that” she rhetorically began. “Do you take some pleasure in being mean to me? It was one fucking date… years ago. And you’re still hanging on to that grudge like toddler with a rattle. Are you so pissed off because I didn’t just melt in the presence of the mythical Restaurant Refugee charm? Would we be friends right now if I’d been one of those cliché chicks who lets you talk your way between her legs just so you could leave like you always do?”
“No, Ophelia, there is not some grand scheme or lingering grudge behind this. I don’t trust you, and I haven’t since that one date of which you are so casually dismissive. It’s the ease of your deception, and duplicity that drives my general discomfort. I know, from too real experience, that I could be as sweet as Chess Pie to you and somehow, someway, faster than you could buy another pair of shoes with daddy’s credit card, the story you would share with our friends would be twisted to paint me a spectacular shade of asshole. So let me add one more problem to the list, you lack discretion.”
Genevieve took a deep breath, a half step towards me, and gently placed her left hand on my right hand that was holding a glass with couple of drams of bourbon. She took the tumbler and downed the contents before saying “You don’t know anything about me” and walked away.
There was a wounded note buried in her tone.
No matter how certain I was that I spoke truth, and spoke in a voice she had earned, I felt a measure of guilt for causing that pain. I took two more puffs of my cigar, extinguished it and went back inside.
Genevieve was standing at the bar closest to the entryway and I chose not to avoid her. As I reached the bar, she looked at the bartender and said “the gentleman will have a bourbon.” The look of fighting back a tear was all over her face.
Looking away from me, she said “Don’t look at me. I hate this. I’m not crying because of you. I cry when I get really angry and you, Mr. Refugee have really made me angry.”
“Are you sure you don’t wish to follow that with ‘and you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry?’” I teased trying to lighten the mood and assuage my guilt for causing both the hurt in her voice and the tear in her eye.
“I’m tired of feuding with you” Genevieve almost whispered as she dabbed at her eye with the linen handkerchief I had placed in her hand.
“Then stop” I said in the same hushed tone.
An hour later, the last dance had been completed, the bride and groom had retreated to their suite, and six revelers piled into a cab to search for a place to continue imbibing. Though Genevieve and I had been true to our promised civility, it was an awkward accident that had her sitting on my lap as we clown-carred to the bar the concierge suggested.
Once inside the somewhat crowded bar, Genevieve and I stood slightly closer than the crowd necessitated as we waited to order drinks for our crew. Just after requesting two bourbon’s, three chardonnays and a glass of champagne, my once nemesis placed her cheek against mine to say “I like that you call me Genevieve.”