Everything was beautiful. Incandescent lights reflected off the freshly polished hard wood floors. Unknown flowers with long tubular stems that explode into white canopy petals sat in tall vases at the center of all twenty three tables. Fine china, wine glasses, champagne flutes, and flatware were perfectly arranged on the unadorned linen table cloths. The moon, the Hudson, and the Jersey City lights created a surreal backdrop in the ceiling high picture windows. The scene was exquisite, elegant.
They stood in the middle of the floor wrapped in each other's arms. Him in a black tuxedo. Her in a shimmering white gown. Music filled the air, slow and melodic with words no one understood. It didn't matter. The meaning was clear. They were in love and now it was official. They were enchanted by one another and everyone was enchanted by them. I couldn't watch. I didn't want their joy to taint my sadness.
It was too perfect and even though I felt beautiful in my new dress that wrapped around my body, traced my curves and revealed my bust, I knew that I didn't belong. The night was about love, and all I knew was loss. I escaped to the patio. The open bar called.
"I want a screwdriver."
The bartender poured a steady stream of Kettle One into a glass, followed by a splash of orange juice.
"Thank you," I said, taking the glass into my hand. I took a deep breath. It was my fourth visit to the bar that night, but the first to yield more than a chaser. I prepared my throat for the cool burn it hadn't felt in over six years, and took a gulp. The vodka met my lips like a kiss from an old friend. I shuddered at the aftertaste and walked back to my table. I wondered how fast the drink could make me forget.
Being there reminded me that I was alone. I was surrounded by familiar faces that I had known for years, but never really knew. There was nothing to say in college, and even less to say that evening. The seating arrangement was strategic. All of the people who couldn't quite figure out how to find and keep someone were seated together at a table in the back corner, lest we curse the happy couples around us. Or maybe it was a set up so we could find each other. The only person I wanted to find wasn't present.
Two more sips and I was still empty. Red wine, then white wine, a swig of champagne. Nothing worked. I took my phone outside to try and fill the void.
"You're not!" Chesty LaRue was incredulous.
"I want to call him so badly. He would so understand what this is like for me right now. I mean c'mon. A singles table? Please shoot me."
"I know. Just give it some time," she soothed.
Too much time had already passed. He needed space and I needed him. I broke down and sent him a text.
"I'm drinking vodka and it's all your fault," I wrote.
He should've been there with me. It was difficult to remember that even if we were speaking he wouldn't have been by my side. My invitation was for one. I missed him anyways.
My unfinished drinks beckoned. Before I could touch them I was led to the dancefloor. I allowed the man to twirl me around and move in a figure eight. Then I moved to his friend.
"What you want, baby I got it!" I pointed at my partner as I sang along with Aretha. Faking it wasn't a problem. And when the song changed, I nursed more alcohol and hoped an empty stomach and a low tolerance would push me past drunk before I finished the glass. It didn't work.
So I flirted with the guy next to me over baked cod bathed in peanut sauce, with aspargus and potatoes. Then I danced with the best man's father, shaking my hips as fast as I could. I shared a dance with the groom, and moved on to a groomsman. I laughed with a bridesmaid and drank some more with a new "friend." And for a moment the fun was real and I enjoyed myself. When the groomsman took my hand and asked me for another dance, I obliged over and over again until the strains of the last song faded in the air.
I would've gone home happy if my text was returned. But it wasn't. Nothing could feel right because we were all wrong. I was hollow. And leaving with the groomsman's phone number safely stored in my Treo 650 didn't make me feel any better.