4 min

A wedding conversation

Hoping for change at an English wedding

Credit: Capital Xtra files

I’ve introduced myself to a number of people, perfumed, aglow and smiling. We follow Emily and her new husband onto the manicured lawn of Riding Vale Mansion, the palatial 18th-century home in which they exchanged marriage vows moments ago.

I gaze at the willows dangling their tendrils into the small river that runs through the property. Plucking a flute of champagne from one of the many cocktail trays in circulation, I take a drag from a cigarette. The “fag” – as they refer to cigarettes in England – is my preferred companion until I find a conversational partner amongst the wedding guests.

The last time I saw the bride was 10 years ago on her first visit to Canada. We’d met the previous year when I’d gone to school in London. I’d only escaped from the closet one month before her arrival. The anxiety surrounding the unveiling of my blossoming lesbianism ensured that I hid the truth of my life from her.

Then, as now, the glue that holds my friendship with Em together is her keen perception of me. For whatever reason, she’s fascinated with who I am. A small example of this is the morning of her nuptials when Emily’s new husband commented that I always blow my nose before peeing. After giving him an astonished look, he informed me that Emily told him of my habit the night before their wedding. In the same way, reading a book, writing, looking out a window or sleeping in garners similar careful observation from Emily. As for Emily, I know that she is not nearly as superficial as those in her life have always taken her to be, and that she does indeed possess a soul that reckons with its existence on a daily basis.

Needless to say, Em was quite delighted to learn of my lesbianism those 10 years ago.

Once I’m on to my second “fag” in the garden, I have a conversation with Suzanne about the jetlag that plagues us both. Suzanne is an Australian who’s come to England for the love of a man she met while on a working visa. I soothe Suzanne’s worries in regards to finding a job as a publicist in London. It is the same line of work that I happily stumbled into and I encourage her with the story of my good fortune. Together, we strategize her future in England, and extrapolate on the mysterious god-and-goddess-driven serendipity that often plays itself out in life. By the end of the conversation, I feel I’ve made a new friend.

As it turns out, Emily has sat me between her childhood friend Jonathan and Suzanne at the reception. Suzanne and I continue our conversation about work, which acts as a segue for me to ask Jonathan about his own. He tells us he’s a full-time volunteer, and spends his days comforting people who are dying of a terminal illness. His selfless life choice intrigues me. Suzanne listens as I question him, drawing out his story. He explains that he almost died last year. A few times, Suzanne gives me a glance of approval, which I return. I’m honoured to be sitting beside two people of such substance.

Emily pulls me onto the dance floor after dinner. Yelling over the music, she tells me that she’s been observing the friendly ease with which I connect with people, adding that I haven’t changed one bit.

After hours of dancing, I take a seat and watch bodies whirling under the spotlights, revelling in contagious happiness.

Suzanne joins me, filling my glass with wine. She tells me how good it was of me to come all this way for Emily’s wedding. Although I’ve heard this comment several times already, I’m gratified to hear it once more.

A few minutes pass, then Suzanne asks me if I am interested in Jonathan. She thinks we’d make a good match. I tell her that I find him intriguing – charming, even – but that he’s not exactly my type because I’m a lesbian.

The smile comes off her face. She asks me to repeat myself.

My hand is suddenly shaky as I take a sip of wine. I come out to her again.

Suzanne settles back into her chair. She looks up. Lights from the dance floor flash over her features, which are suddenly transformed into mocking laughter.

I take a cigarette from the pack on the table. It takes me three matches to light. When I look back at Suzanne, she tells me that this is absurd. I must be joking. I’m far too attractive to be a lesbian.

I look to Emily on the dance floor, who waves at us. Suzanne waves back before turning to me once again. She looks me up and down before saying that I’m wasting my life. She tells me that all the lesbians she’s ever seen are sporty and masculine, and that what I’ve just told her makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

She grabs her glass of wine roughly from the table, spilling some on my knee again. This time, she doesn’t wipe it off.

Trying to make myself heard over the dance music, I tell her that my lesbianism has nothing to do with my outward appearance.

She interrupts. She wants to know what kind of disease I suffer from.

I have no time to respond, because Emily pulls me on to the dance floor. I tell her what Suzanne has just said to me. Emily sends her a look.

I spend the rest of the night dancing with Em. At four in the morning, Emily and I hug goodnight. I’m staying at a bed and breakfast in town.

Suzanne approaches. She tells me that it was nice speaking with me and reaches her arms out to give me a hug also. I let her. As I turn, Suzanne grabs my ass hard. I am stupefied by this gesture.

I return to the house five hours later, because we’re all going on an early morning hike. I sit beside Emily in the dining room, which is bustling with people eating breakfast. There’s been a constant stream of people, except for Suzanne and her boyfriend. I ask after her. Emily tells me that Suzanne left a note that they had to get back to London.

Something has transpired, something very significant, only I am unsure as to what it is. Their sudden departure seems suspect, and so I am left with nothing more than the hope that she will one day change.