Sunday, October 19, 2014

Essay a Day #12: What You Don't Say in the Speech

Where is EaD #11? Well, that would be my maid-of-honor speech itself, written last week and delivered last night. Unposted, but reflected on here, in EaD #12.

I married off my best friend yesterday. Of course, I use that verb like I was somehow central in the marrying, when in fact I was just holding her bouquet, or straightening her train, or filling her champagne flute. I gave a speech, but I did not speak words of covenant or ceremony over her and her husband. I did not walk her down the aisle, but I gave her away in the way women have always done: quietly, and with tears.

Thirty-six hours before, her mother and I talk across the marble island of her childhood kitchen, two glasses of wine and twelve years of friendship set between us. "You're unrepeatable," she summarizes, and I say this is true of her daughter, too. She recalls angles that I did not see, bonds forged before I could fully feel them. I remind her that depression is, at its root, utter selfishness--seeing nothing but one's own darkness. I could not see until Sydney told me how my dark was bleeding on to and through her, and it was in saving her that I saved myself. So when I say my best friend saved my life when we were eighteen, it isn't hyperbole.

And these are the things that do not find their way into my speech. You don't bring such demons, leashed and shackled and beaten as they may be, into the glowy carnival light of a reception tent, the hum of happiness nearly palpable at your throat and fingertips.

With her mother nights before, your palm on the cold marble brings you back and you remember your forehead pressed to shower tile, contemplating how hard you could manage, how able you would be to crush your own bones and drain slowly out of the world. But in this happy tent there is no place for that thought, and you don't find it again until later.

Here in the tent, you say things that are equally true, and more powerful than those bleached-out memories. You say that you knew you'd have to lose your best friend to her husband, but you'd assumed it would hurt. No one told you it would happen so smoothly, so naturally that you wouldn't notice until it was done. A pain outweighed by sweetness. Faces blurred not by wine but by joyful tears.

How often does the father say, "I'm not losing a daughter, I'm gaining a son"? Poetry I had loved but not fully understood until now. I was afraid of losing her--a truth I had buried in to-do lists and put-on busy-ness. But in the embers of the night, when I call her new last name and both of them turn toward me, I see the truth of it. What is lost is overcorrected by what is gained--not a second person, but a couple fully balanced and filled out by the other. My best friend as she was always meant to be, her best friend as he always aimed for, the both of them together as a united and singular thing. A love let loose into a world that in return will try to darken and crush and drain it--a love in need of allies and defenders, maids of honor, best friends.

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