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Last summer, in an effort to clamor together money to move out and on to the next destination, I found a gig as a server for a wedding. Not a small wedding either. The couple came from money—all 100 'friends' dressed in outfits that cost more than my rent. When their family members took turns speaking at the dinner following, I found I couldn't listen too well. My mind was elsewhere; I was immensely uncomfortable and I wanted to be anywhere else. I shouldn't take these sorts of gigs, I was thinking. I'm ruining the whole thing, people aren't relaxed. I wanted to be anywhere else.
We both can call it what we want, but it boils down to this: I knew I should be somewhere else, doing something my mind requires for predictability, in exchange for money or not, and here I was, nameless handmaiden to someone else's happy moment.
I can't recall any chuckle-worthy stories. There might have been something about a horse and the now-reformed woman at one time saying she was never going to get married, as a young, naive girl. Isn't it weird, I might have noted, how as kids we believe we can't be loved better by anyone than our parents. I didn't, really note it, not then, though. I do now only as I try to make this into something chronologically sound.
I wasn't dressed the way that everyone else was. I stood out because I thought that a sleeve-less black button-up would work on a hot summer evening when the code for the catering company was long-sleeve. I didn't read that part, and in fact, uncharacteristic to my dotted-i's-and-crossed-t's nature, I had spent less than 5 minutes with the handbook and event guidelines. Long-sleeve and I might have been thinking clearly, walking in step with my fellow servers. I'm laughing as I write this because the most un-true things can be dangerously, and so subjectively, funny.
Code is code, it has a meaning whether it's Morse or dress. Short sleeved, I actually thought for a moment, like a crazy person, that I might be upstaging the bride. I wished I weren't doing this gig alone and that I could confide briefly in another server for relief. But I don't know what people do in L.A. Do they confess insecurities to strangers like I can?
Really. I didn't like anyone there. I wasn't grateful even though I should have been. Being chosen to serve at an upscale Hollywood wedding, my photo and resume had probably beat out more than a few other applicants. I had had it in my head before the whole thing that if I spoke well or made an impression, the gig could lead to more (and more glamorous) gigs, which would eventually lead to meeting cool people, which could eventually lead to some extra-ordinary conversation or opportunity that would inspire some kind of high/medium/ordinary-ass art. I might 'break in' to an industry I'd only ever demurred at behind closed doors.
I felt I was owed something and maybe this would be payday.
But I don't much like people who never really had to work for anything. Having grown up in one of the poorest areas in the Northeast, I find it hard to look up to people who have had it good their whole lives. And at the same time, what was I even working for? I wasn't working on something essential in my free time... I couldn't, living in an illegal hostel (that's another story, for later). I didn't really want some recent college grad to talk to me about their script, some of my own lying in a coma somewhere between my book collection and the my journal collection. Having been that person in the past, I knew I wouldn't like them if I couldn't follow through. I knew I wouldn't try.
I know I'm tricking myself into thinking this was all a learning experience, even as I write this. It isn't. I am there for the same reason I'm anywhere and the same reason I'm trying to squeeze some writing into the evening now: boredom and desperation.
The smell of green ink everywhere around me, so I try to tune the whole affair out and lose myself consequently to the appearances of things; the white table cloths and the flowers we placed carefully into napkins. They are real and I was thinking that was special, really more important than the pronunciation of the 'menu' items. Quite a nice touch.
Working diligently and with some kind of calm before the guests arrived, I feel like the tall, weird one with curly hair who's curiously quiet unless it comes to encouraging the work itself to move smarter rather than faster, which, by the way, didn't end up making for a nicer reception. I'm pretty sure I had no effect at all.
I can't turn off my brain completely.
Folding the napkins just right, I listen to the sounds of the Italian chef yelling at his cooks about the time and dishing (not unlike the guests, surely, though them behind their bourgeois clinking glasses and Tiffany bracelets). I'm almost gleeful to be sent to tackle the mundane and non-social task of folding additional napkins, alone, perhaps my due after playing at assistant organizing with the plates and utensils. The chef offers me a taste of something delicious. I relish the gesture, his disheveled hair and accent, and the ingredients themselves: combined, their ordinary significance rivals a knowing glance between fated strangers in a crowded bar.
What I remember first about this day, when it comes to mind for whatever reason, is the way in which I felt when I saw the bride for the first time, up close.
The cake was about to be cut. I was walking around a brick overlook with all of Los Angeles glittering lights in the distance, offering glasses of water to the birds and bees now right buzzing with plans to consummate, or climb, or parachute somewhere off the coast of Argentina.
Her dress fit her perfectly. Her face was the most symmetrical I had ever seen, I suspect because she had done something with it using the latest advancements in science, but I couldn't fault her for it if so, you could see that in any case her natural beauty was preserved and intact, if not accentuated. Her breasts might have been augmented, I couldn't really tell, and being polite, looked away immediately. She then looked at me briefly as she walked by like a vision from another world—which she was, to me, as if a train coming towards a camera to a first-time film-goer—and my eyes clung to her hand holding her lovers, leading the way with supernatural confidence. That's important, I remember thinking.
I noticed him briefly but as she walked by, she looked into my eyes for what felt like a significant amount of time. Or maybe I just saw it in slow motion, my inner romantic basking on the indistinct edges of someone else’s moment.
She was moving and looking into my eyes and I was looking into her eyes and...
She was happy.
More than happy, she was intoxicated and higher than I’ve ever been on anything or anyone, higher than any meth or coke addict I've ever seen, higher than the flow of ecstatic writing I cling to closer than my own self.
She was giving her exhilarated love away and absorbing exhilarating love, in and out, eyes dilated at the highest level. Every particle of light I could almost see funneling into them.
She didn't break eye contact quickly, but she did break.
I wonder, with one part optimism and two parts the comfort that comes with calm loneliness and detachment, how they're doing now.