The day of our wedding, it was a blizzard. And in North Florida, that means: fifty degrees and overcast.
I was supposed to be nervous—that’s what everyone told me. They said I’d feel sick, that my knees would shake.
But no shaking.
The chapel was within spitting distance of the beach. I had time to kill, so I parked near the Gulf. The sun was setting. The sky looked like orange sherbert.
I squinted at the chapel in the distance. Headlights filled the parking lot. Half of Brewton, Alabama was attending the wedding.
A few nights before, my pal asked if I wanted a bachelor party. No, I answered. I hated bachelor parties worse than bachelorhood.
“What about a cigar?” he’d suggested.
I don’t care for them.
So he gave me a pouch of Red Man chew and a racy Congratulations card. They both sat on my dashboard, unopened.
I don’t chew. But, since I had nothing better to do, I tried a cheek-full. It had been a long time since I’d touched the stuff.
As a boy, my father gave me my first pinch while we sat on his tailgate. It made me dizzy, but not sick—which impressed him.
Few things impressed him.
“Whatever you do,” he’d said. “Don’t swallow your spit.”
Times have changed. A father could go to jail for doing such today.
I spat on the sand. I wished he were alive. I wished someone would’ve been around to toast me at the reception, to show me how to tie a bowtie.
Wedding-time: I arrived at the double doors and saw the preacher on the sidewalk. The first thing he did was straighten my tie and remind me not to lock my knees.
“No matter how tough you think you are,” he said. “Everyone’s knees shake.”
Not me. Mine were oak limbs.
I stood at the altar— it was decorated with lit Christmas trees. The piano started to pound a familiar song. People stood, they sounded like a stampede.
I saw her.
A girl. My breath got stuck. I’d never seen anyone wear so much white. I wish I could tell you she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, but that would be selling her short.
She was the rest of my life in a dress.
She was breakfast, road trips, singing with the car radio, arguments in Winn Dixie, homemade biscuits on Saturday, chicken soup when I’m sick, long nights in a hospital waiting room, the other half of my closet. Home.
The preacher touched my shoulder. “Breathe, son. You’re shaking like a leaf.”
The shaking I’d heard about.
Nobody ever told me a thing about crying.
Happy anniversary, Jamie.