We got to the Holiday Inn Express, our home in Hillsborough for the weekend, and relaxed in the lobby with apples, waiting for Ben. After getting situated in our rooms (I shared room 320 with Jordan), we met Ben and Stephanie at their house on Leak Lane: a gravel road winding through the woods, with old fashioned post boxes at its entry. They sat on the steps of their little red house, eager to see friends who had come to celebrate the beginning of the rest of their life- together. The house was probably smaller than my apartment in NY, boasting a bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom and a back porch. It was adorable! Their cat walked about, and the sound of silence outside was deafening.
I drove with Martha (the last friend of theirs to arrive), Moque, and Michelle to a potluck dinner at a commune to which Stephanie's step-mother used to belong. According to Stephanie, it was a group of socially inept families who had built these 30 homes around a pedestrian-only walkway, and held weekly meetings to discuss community issues and invent guidelines for living. The dinner was held in the communal house, a large place in the center of it all with a big kitchen and guest rooms. It was a delicious meal, and the company was very nice. I saw the families of the bride and groom, and met new people such as the father of a one year-old named Owen- a child with a scar on his cheek that looked like a kiss. And there was Sarah, an older woman with a daughter named Elsa who would host the wedding at her property days later. Adele was there with her quiet, bordering-on-mute boyfriend Thomas, and a 4 and a half year-old Maddie (Ben's niece) who had completely forgotten me from our Phoenix Inn Christmas dinner two years before. Jordy went to a meeting, and got lost on the way to Ben's afterwards.
Moque, Martha and I walked in the pitch darkness, through the suburban commune to Martha's car, and quietly discussed how different a community it was. On the wall of that house was a class picture of sorts, labeled "Arcadia 2001," with photos of children aged six through thirteen. It was so random it was almost mysterious, and stood out amongst rules on bulletin boards about buying paprika, and maps of gardening plots.
At Ben & Stephanie's, we drank red wine, talking politics and listening to the Young Marble Giants. Jordy finally returned after being hopelessly lost on the highways, and he and I went to pick up Wil for his post-midnight arrival. No matter how tired we were, we still managed to watch senseless television until two that morning in the hotel room. A man had rigged a street luge with rockets to attain a top speed of 98 miles per hour, and we were told by a cheesy host of an even-cheesier children's show, entitled "Getting Along," to tell people how we feel.
The rehearsal was the next day. After scarfing down lemon-garlic chicken at James Pharmacy restaurant on Churton, we got dressed up and headed down poorly-labeled country roads to get to the spot. Some woman had lost her gold wedding ring, and we combed the grass for it with metal detectors and eyes. The rehearsal itself was short and, before we knew it, we were at Tupelo's for the dinner. Moque and Mike sat at another table, as did Jordy, James and Michelle, so I sat with Adele, Matt (Jordy's roommate who had arrived that day) and Sarah Gellin and her husband, Joaquin. It turns out they went to Lincoln Park high school, and Christy-Claire was at their wedding! How small of a world.
We went to M&M's billiards afterwards- everyone except for Stephanie who was still setting up- and played pool. With dwindling pitchers of beer, we interspersed our musical requests on the jukebox with the horrendous barrage of country music the townies had chosen. And as Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again" blared on the system to a room full of incredulous hicks, we raised our glasses in cheers to Ben's last night as a single man. He looked happy and simultaneously blown away, humbled by it all. Any of us would've been.
Back at the hotel lobby, a little drunk, we sat watching the presidential debate re-broadcast and laughed or screamed at the television, marveling at how surreal it actually was. And, meanwhile, it was more than just the debate: it was us, friends since high school, with some new additions, now in out mid- and becoming late-twenties, sitting as adults in a hotel lobby and preparing for another election, another four years, and another monumental change.
There was very little time to eat before the wedding the next day, and Wil and I walked along the grassy highway shoulder to Wendy's to grab something fast- the laminated menu at the Waffle House was a bit of a turnoff. A double cheeseburger later, Wil, Jordan and I were dressed up and ready to go. We sat and did nothing but watch television at Sarah's house, wondering why we had rushed! But, Ben was nervous, drinking Yerba Mate in his Benetton suit as all the bridesmaids got ready upstairs, and we were his willing support team.
The Bulgarian bagpipe player started his serenade, and the guests all turned to look up at us slowly descending the hill in between poles, topped with red fabric. The ceremony was very quick, but I bet for Ben & Stephanie, it felt like an eternity. They looked so deeply in each other's eyes I felt Stephanie's stare through the back of Ben's head!
After pictures, we had food and wine. Jordan delivered a touching speech, and sparklers danced around the in dark night, both in- and outside of the tent. I couldn't believe it, but everyone wanted to go back to the hotel and watch a movie! Well, there wasn't much going on, I suppose. The high school girls that had been do-si-do-ing around with Moque were going to some high school party. They were all 17, and that means trouble. Yet, no one even wanted to go and explore Chapel Hill! So, we said our goodbyes, and went to the hotel, stopping along the way for a pack of Newports. We piled up in my room and flipped channels, ending up on "Talk Sex with Sue." It was definitely entertaining, though.
Returning to NY, I ate a chicken gyros in Jackson Heights and took a nap before going to Olia's. We watched three depressing episodes of Sex in the City, which I am convinced I am supposed to be watching right now. Why? Because I feel I am being prepared. I feel I am going through a shift romantically, maybe it's because something is going to happen, maybe not. Whatever it is, I feel like things are culminating, and I am learning lessons and changing my attitude. I am more and more interested in love rather than sex, less and less interested in meaningless things, and I am becoming more sensitive to the differences between them.
Tonight, Jamie reminded me that the universe has perfect timing, and I definitely believe that. Whoever/Whenever/However any of this happens, I am becoming ready for it, and I also have friends who are there for me through it all. Seeing Ben and Stephanie this last weekend- seeing how they looked into each other's eyes- I realized how much I want that in my life. I want love, and don't need anything else. I need to stop looking for it, yet I feel I already have. I will let it come to me, just as she will let it come to her, whoever she may be.