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There is practically nothing men need to do to get ready on the day of a wedding. We don't wear makeup. Our wedding clothes don't require complex zippers or buttons, and straps are only necessary if we've made the ridiculous choice to wear suspenders, but almost no one does that. We never do anything to our hair. After indulging in the obligatory pre-wedding cleansing of the self, there is never anything else to do other than get dressed and wait.
So when I woke up that morning and noticed the sunshine cutting through the windows in the bedroom and illuminating the empty side of the bed, I prepared myself for a morning of sloth. My toes slumped back into the sheets. My arms dropped to my sides after a brief moment of action where they helped me shift to my elbows to assess whether rising from bed was truly necessary. It wasn't. It didn't take much motion to turn my head towards the closet where today's clothes hung in their rental bag, the flat polyester blackness of the tuxedo visible through the space between zipper teeth, the whiteness of the shirt offensively bright, a limp finger of bowtie laying inoffensively on top of the pile, the slack position of the small strip of cloth emphasizing the stiff shoulders of the jacket. It wasn't the suit of my dreams. It was a worse suit than the ones I wore to work during the brief period when we were "business formal," a wooden phrase which didn't convey the authority of the suits themselves, which were woolen torpedoes that made others call me "Sir" with the right pacing in their voices. But it was the suit of today, and it would do.
Today began again a while later, the sun assuming a higher position in the sky as a warning, my elbows finally pushing me out of bed towards the tuxedo, the shower water alternating between cool and hot at will. But the glacial pace of the day stepped into overdrive the second the guys arrived, and when Jack put his foot down on the pedal to start driving down my street, the day began to flip forward in frames, only pausing when I stopped to think.
And the last pause of the day occurred at 2 PM on the dot, after Jack had parked the car and the four of us had walked over to the thin strip of sandy dirt over by the water with everyone else and I'd stood and shifted and paused and kept my mind studiously blank.
"Where is she?" I asked her dad, who I'd never seen in a suit before today. He wore his suit awkwardly with the collar tilted left and his yellow striped tie slicing his buoyant gut in half.
"I don't know. Don't worry about it." He said, clapping me on the shoulder with the same firmness he used to shake my hand the first time we met, a handshake I still remember for the strength of its vertical squeeze.
I took a few steps away from him and everyone else to focus, which requires closed eyes and a still mind in my case. It felt odd to close my eyes in public, during the day, in the tuxedo I was wearing for this wedding, and it felt odder still when the vertigo set in behind the blankness, coloring my mind with blue and purple spinning loops, but the loops dissipated like they almost always do, and I opened my eyes and decided not to talk about this unless it became necessary.
My watch said that our wedding had started six minutes ago, and the older relatives standing under the white tent near the water clearly wished that was true, their bony legs waving in the breeze as they struggled to stay upright for the flight delay. Jack rolled over to me to start a conversation no one on earth would ever want to have, regardless of its tone or topic. When your bride is late to the wedding, it's best for the groom to hide out in a padded bunker and hope she'll arrive.
"So, what's up?" he said, in an infuriatingly casual tone.
"I'm up. Upright as rain."
"You're actually slouching pretty badly, man. I just popped over to keep you company."
"I'm good, actually. Do you have a cigarette I can borrow?"
"Only if you promise not to give it back."
Jack had the thick fingers of a football player, and the single Marlboro he offered me was dwarfed by their scope. He handed me my own lighter, which I'd given to him after I quit smoking two years ago, and all the possible hiding places on this stretch of land displayed themselves in a single mental row like an art exhibit full of the same country landscape taken from different angles. I chose the steps of the ancient public toilet several hundred feet away because the door to the men's room faced the opposite direction from the wedding crowd. The sign marked "Men" had nearly crumbled off entirely, like the step itself, which was a combination of flat grey stone and rapidly disintegrating rubble. Or maybe it would have been better to say that the rubble was re-integrating with the ground beneath, falling into dirt as it detached from the step, each rainstorm forcing the visible pebbles into another inch or two of wet dirt.
The cigarette tasted comfortable and familiar and almost warm. I looked down at my watch and saw that our plane had been delayed for twenty-eight minutes and when I closed my eyes again I saw the red blinking alert panel and it said "Amira and James, expected takeoff 2:36 PM., thirty-six minutes behind schedule." The burnt end of the cigarette didn't stay lit for long after I smashed it against a rock and went walking around the side of the building, back to the party. When I had them all in view, I saw her dad holding the arm of someone who was wearing a blue dress with the right height and build, and I went running across the grass, muddying up my shoes with the effort.
Kashana Cauley is a native Wisconsinite who resides in subtropical New York City. Her work has appeared in Eunoia Review. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a novel.