Rachel consulted her dashboard, a myriad of bridal sashes, sandy beaches, frosted donuts, NCAA players, and puppy snouts. She couldn’t help but smile. What a world she’d created for herself! How accurate and picture-perfect it was. She’d gloss over the checkerboard layout of Pinterest every morning after she’d worked through her emails and made the early morning calls.
Perhaps I will make myself a necklace out of buttons. Perhaps I will reserve a cottage in the Alps (like that one!) where I will ski down the mountainsides through the alpines. Perhaps I will bring along a case of extra-hoppy IPA with the perfectly-kerned typeface on the gold foil label. Perhaps those heels would better suit me in Venice than Switzerland. She grew hungry for more.
And, with so many options in front of her, swiss chard and yellow beets, candied yams and orange marmalade, she opted for a goat cheese encrusted crostini (with the smattering of parsley on top, for visual interest). She breathed in deeply. This was her life, her own personal stamp of approval. She clicked on the pane to print. The first sheet came out. She waited for the second. Accidentally, she’d failed to isolate the recipe she’d wanted to print. So, it kept printing. It printed and printed until she’d printed all of Pinterest.
Kennedy met his wife the Tuesday before last. He didn’t know it then, but six days later, he would marry her. She fit his specifications at best; they would have two children, at worst. Since so little time had elapsed, Willa hardly had the time to make the necessary arrangements. They cut costs by inviting close family and friends only. His flew over from the States and a couple dozen drove across Germany to attend. Her company, unfortunately, was much smaller, as it required a few round-trip tickets from Canada and more westward from the Pacific Ocean.
But this hardly mattered, as they were united, and the matrimony was about union, not wedding gifts, nor publicity, nor parties (even though, they would have two). Willa thought about her dress; it was “Western-style,” a white gown, satin with lace sleeves, itchy at the neckline and “dry-clean” only. She couldn’t fully express it in English, but, in this man, she was strength and promise; she saw him going places, them going places, searching and seizing the road ahead of them. She looked forward to – nay, she challenged – the tribulations in front of her. She wanted to see what they could handle; in fact, she thrived under pressure and he’d proven himself a tough competitor through years of boarding school, a deceased brother, and a debt left over to him from his late father.
His eyes glinted whenever he caught sight of her. He was worried, though he would never express it, that she was too unreal; that one day, she might disappear into the night, or the day, hopping into a cab and never looking because, because she’d found something better, and he would have nothing left but a handful of photos taken in a carnival booth, shot after the engagement, to verify its truth, a few brief days ago. These would provide him little solace for the days left.
Kennedy picked up his bride-to-be from the florist. They’d chosen irises because it was summer and it was to be an outdoor wedding. They wanted their fifty-something guests, mostly in their fifties, to feel comfortable roaming about, enjoying the late summer, like cows in a pasture, able to make light conversation. There were plenty of areas to hide, or pause, or cavort, if need be. They’d also decided on folding metal chairs because hell, they both came from immigrant families and understood the full meaning of pragmatism. They were certain that they would be admired for their choices, though they never communicated this to one another.
They day came sooner than they’d realized (they hadn’t been thinking clearly; they were stressed, over-worked, and sleep-deprived. The many bottles of brew hadn’t helped them rest, either). The grooms’ guests shuttled over in taxi cabs that snorted into the street. Everyone was exquisitely pressed and ready to draw on their reserves of patience to maintain what it meant to mean a pleasant evening. They moved amongst the garden and patio, cold glass in one hand and a friendly outstretched palm for the other. Sweet pictures of the bride and groom rested on the evening tables.
“Yes, so beautiful. They make a lovely couple,” answered the woman in a plain dress. “They make a charming couple,” concurred another. “I hear they share a passion for Joni Mitchell,” said the third, the groom’s uncle. “What do you, sir, think of the bride?” The videographer chased down a third couple.” “Very nice. She seems very nice,” they smiled for an extended while. The videographer pressed for more, unsuccessfully.
“Sorry, what was your name? Jeff?”
Jeff nodded. None of their stickers had their names written on them. This meant you actually had to remember the person you were speaking with, in addition to learning something about them. Farrah despised these sorts of guessing games, automated icebreakers. Sure, she was new. Sure, she wanted a welcome wagon. She could even tolerate the “party platter” from Costco with the same ranch dressing seen in every terrible boardroom west of 20th street and north of Constitution. But, no no no, she didn’t want her introductions to come under the pretense that she was incapable of finding common ground with an ordinary human being on her own. She was a consultant, after all.
“So, Jeff, I see you have a real problem with TYPING and LOSING.”
He looked down at his feet and nodded. Tears welled in his eyes. He batted them away with the back of his left palm, revealing a class ring, bronze, with a glass jewel. Next to the enameled coy pond, he stood, pale tie at the neck, wearing a white shirt trying pitiably hard to remember its crisper days. Under his left lapel was a string of white stickers, scribbled with his own notations.
“Yes. I struggle with losing. Typing’s not so bad. My fingers always fumble over the keys, and I get bored transcribing meeting minutes. Sausage fingers. No one even reads the damned things. But I’m still no good with it.” He spoke with a Jersey twang.
She re-read the list of flaws stuck to his shirt, scanning for the choicest one. “You’re avoiding the LOSING part. Tell me.”
“What about YOU, Joan? What about SEPARATION. Or IMAGINATION. Or EATING HEALTHY.”
“Hey mister, we’re talking about you here.”
“I just hate it. I’m no good at it. Pulls up feelings of insecurity and worthlessness, like I’m a good for nothing. I’m a good-for-something,” the accountant said. “I just really want to win, all the time. It’s not serving me well at the tennis club. I can tell you that much–”
“Sorry to interrupt, but I’m Mindy, the organizer for ACUMEN+. I wanted to let you know that we’ll be getting started in about five minutes. Remember the names of those you’ve been talking to who you wish to partner with. We’ll be forming teams after the presentation.”