The title was in a passage of a story I read recently, unfortunately that's the only thing that stuck, or I'd give credit.
Looking around the room, I couldn't help but smile. Jerry deserved this happiness, he'd had a rough couple of years. I was surprised I was here at all. I called him when I got the invitation.
"You sure about this?"
He actually laughed.
"Yes, I'm sure. After all, if it wasn't for you I would never have found Anna. I owe you, if you had been a different person I could be dead or in jail by now. You helped me when the most natural thing in the world would have been to turn your back."
So I went to his wedding. Even sat at the main table, though I had no part in the ceremony. His new wife hugged me when we met, whispering in my ear.
"He told me all about your history, but I'd like to hear it from you. I've never heard anything quite like it."
I smiled, watching them. He was forty two and she was forty-six, but they acted like teenagers around each other. I wished the best for them.
I was dancing with the bride when I saw her. I just stopped moving. Anna looked up in confusion, and followed my gaze. I was trying to get loose but she had a death grip on my arm.
"Calm down. Please don't ruin my wedding."
I exhaled loudly, trying to center.
"What the fu... , what is she doing here? Does Jerry know? If he doesn't it probably will ruin it."
"He knows. He actually invited her. He says he did it for you. Now calm down and let's finish this dance."
We did. I was thinking about just walking out, but Jerry was waiting at the table. I got right in his face. "I can't believe you'd invite your exwife to your wedding. What the hell was going through your head?"
He was shaking his head, smiling slightly.
"I didn't invite her to the wedding, just to the reception. And I invited her for you. One way or another, sometime tonight, you're going to sit down and talk to her, for just a few minutes.
I don't want you to do this for me. I want you to do it for you. And her. Neither of you will ever get over it if you don't. But I gotta tell you man, she really does love you."
I sat, I brooded, I fumed. Jerry and Anna alternated staying with me to make sure I didn't leave. I know I must have pissed them off whining, until Anna snapped.
"Will you please just shut the hell up! For man who went to war, you're sure a pussy when it comes to her. Man up, talk to her, get it over with. Then leave if you want. You're bringing us all down, and I want my memories of tonight to not be of babysitting a whiny little bitch disguised as a big strong man."
I was shocked, more from her using the words 'pussy' and 'bitch' than anything else. Then I realized she was right. Plus she had fed me four really strong drinks pretty close together.
SHE choose that exact moment to appear beside me, tears in her eyes and hand outstretched.
"Dance with me? Please?"
I could have been an asshole and screamed at her. I could have sat there and ignored her. I could have gotten up and left. I took her hand.
We swept out on the dance floor, her achingly familiar body molded to mine as we slowly twirled to the song the band was playing. I felt her shake a little and looked down to see the tears falling onto my jacket. I started to disengage, trying to speak. She raised a hand to my lips.
"Please, don't talk. Just hold me, and let me pretend, just for a moment, that you still love me."
And that was the heart of my problem. I did still love her. So we moved slowly across the dance floor, each lost in our own memories and thoughts.
I reviewed all the women I thought I loved, including her, wondering why she had to be the one. The ONE. The one I wanted. The one I intended to spend the rest of my life with, only to find out she was never really mine. That's why it hurt so badly. I held her and let the memories continue to flow.
I saw it coming, I just didn't believe it.
He was about five seven or eight, and weighed under one fifty. And he had to be in close to forty. I was thirty one, six two, two hundred ten, mostly muscles.
He rushed up to me, two of his friends trying to slow him down. I was feeling pretty good, it was a Thursday, I had just gotten paid, and my girl was supposed to meet me for drinks and dinner out, followed by dessert in. I had started early, a couple of beers while I waited and shot the breeze with my friends.
I didn't know him, never saw him before in my life. He planted himself directly in front of me. I was wondering what he wanted, when I saw his arm move.
It started somewhere around his knees, gathering momentum as it traveled. I saw his hand ball into a fist, he was moving so slowly I could tell he'd probably never made a fist before.
I remember thinking whatever he hit better be soft or he was going to hurt his hand, when he connected with my eye. I was just so fascinated watching it never occurred to me to defend myself. Down I went, and he started trying to kick me.
I'd been out of the sandbox long enough to let him slip under my defenses, but not so far that instinct and training didn't kick in full force. I rolled and did a leg sweep, dropping him to the ground beside me, quickly grappling him into a submissive position. I may have gotten a kidney punch or two in, judging by the grayness in his face.
His two buddies tried to jump in but they were outnumbered and outgunned, so they resorted to calling for the bartender to get help pulling me off him. My cousin was the bartender and owner, had seen the cheap shot, and just kept polishing the glass he was holding. I got my breathing back to normal and snapped at him.
"What the hell is wrong with you, dude? You got some kind of death wish, jumping on strangers half your age and twice your fuckin' size? I ought to knot you up some, send you home to the wifey bruised and contused!"
He continued to struggle.
"Let me up, you lowlife motherfucker! You need a lesson about fucking married women."
I looked at him, wondering if he was high or just delusional. Shoving him away, I jumped to my feet.
"Mister, I don't trespass on private property. That being said, if you come back at me, I guarantee you a first class ass whipping. Do you understand me?"
Apparently he didn't, because he came up screaming and swinging. I jabbed with my left, and landed a roundhouse to his jaw with my right. He dropped like a rock and laid there. I looked at his buddies.
"Haul his ass out of here, and I think I can speak for management when I say he needs to drink elsewhere. And tell him that jumping younger, stronger, meaner strangers is a sure way of not living to a ripe old age."
They wanted to argue, but the bartender cut them off. Finally they carried him out, and we laughed a few minutes before my date showed up. She saw the beginnings of my shiner and went into mother mode.
"What happened, honey?"
I made a joke of it.
"Some guy came in and accused me of sleeping with his wife. He punched me before I could react. Sad, really. He had to be in his forties, was small, and had no idea how to fight. He had nerve, though. If some guy is screwing around with his wife, he'd best watch his back."
Her face had gotten paler as I recounted the episode. I noticed and tried to reassure her.
"Relax, honey. I'm fine. However if you feel the need to kiss it and make it all better, I won't object."
She immediately covered my face with light kisses, before pulling back with a smile.
"There now. Did Momma make it all better? No mean old man gets to hit my honey. He had to be a pretty big man to attack you. Did he not notice all those lovely muscles?," she cooed, as she rubbed my bicep. I found out later she was just wanting me to describe him again.
"Actually, he was an older guy, short, with a bit of a belly. He had no skills but plenty of nerve. If his wife is cheating on him, it might be pretty bad if he finds the guy."
Melody got quiet again, before excusing herself to use the restroom, saying she didn't feel well. My cousin Bob, the bartender, had heard most of the conversation.
"It's always the quiet ones, you know? He was probably living his version of the American dream, happy as a clam, and he finds out his wife is a slut. Those are the ones you have to watch, the ones that could kill you in a fit of rage. I've seen it to some degree a hundred times or better, I hope you straightened him out enough to leave you alone."
I nodded, agreeing totally. "I hope he finds the motherfucker and kicks his ass. I saw a few men go down when they got Dear John letters while I was in service. Still, he better get his facts straight and be careful, he ain't much of a fighter."
Melody reappeared, looking sad.
"Sorry honey, the hospital called. There was a big wreck on the interstate and they're shorthanded. They begged, so I have to go in. I'll call tomorrow, if I'm not too tired. Love you."
She kissed my cheek and dashed out. This had happened before, as she was a trauma nurse at the local hospital. Luckily for me, she worked twelve hour shifts during the first of the week, so she was available from Thursday until Saturday.
Me, I worked out of town, a lot.
No, I don't have a high paying executive job that has me jetting around the country, solving problems for megacorporations or saving the world for the government. I lay stone.
That's right, stone. Big rocks, you follow?
.... There is more of this story ...