I pulled my cigarettes out of the breast pocket of my jacket and left the din of the reception for a silent smoke. The water’s edge was cool and the air was salty with the coastal spray. The lighter took three tries before producing a light. The first drag was release.
Exhaling, I looked back at the wedding reception. Little girls in sleeved dresses were running from suit and bow tie boys, as their parents crowd around the open bar. Somewhere in the crowd, a brunette with a short white dress and white flats is walking around thanking guests and family and friends and strangers for coming to celebrate with her.
”Honey, come say hello to the Doyles!” she shouts across the crowd. A tall, dark, and handome type bounds over to her and lifts her, spins her round, and sets her down with a kiss. They start talking, and they’re all smiles. The Doyles, our friends, everyone.
Me, I just smoke alone at the edge of the party thinking about all the reasons I shouldn’t have come. I flick my butt into the sand, and ready another cigarette, guarding from wind as I light. The first drag is melancholy. What reason was there to show up anyway?
I started searching the sand for larger stones, and threw them as far as I could into the inky blue water. My thoughts jumped around, and I thought of how I could leave without anyone noticing. I also wondered if Jacky (everyone calls him Jacky) really made as much as everyone says. No wonder they got hitched, I think.
A voice startles me from my calm rock tossing. “Can I toss a few with you, Mick?”
My heart sinks to hear her voice. I turn and extend an open hand with a few stones. She smiles, and her small fingers graze my palm as she wraps them around a marble sized stone. She turns and gives a short flight to the pebble. She laughs, and I offer a chuckle. I discretely toss my cigarette on an impulse—I didn’t smoke back then, though it shouldn’t matter now.
”The wedding was nice,” I say as I throw another stone.
”Thank you. I was actually surprised you came.”
I thought, “Me too.” Instead, I said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have missed it.”
We were then consumed by the silence that overcomes former lovers thrown together in later days by circumstance, as happens in the social lives of overlapping friend groups, or in this case, a marriage within that overlapping friend group. To them, I was just the object of scorn in the end of a relationship that threatened to put a rift right down the middle of us all, before I bowed out. To her, I was now just a detail to be left out of stories that dated back to that summer two years back.
”Well, thanks for making it out. Take—yeah, take care of yourself.” I don’t know what to say, so I say nothing.
I start walking along the edge of the water, determined to avoid people on my way out—away. I lit a cigarette as I neared my car, and inhaled deeply. The first drag, was just smoke. I walked to my car, and drove the long highway back. I thought the whole way home that I was only a chapter in a story much bigger than my own.