My ex-wife was getting married again, and she asked me to be the ring bearer. The original ring bearer was to be in a regional soccer tournament that day. She was desperate, wet static. I could never say no to her. Her fiancé grabbed the phone, asked me to do double duty as best man. The original best man had died on a boat. Not a crash, but an overdose. A sad story we all saw on the news. I had no plans. How could I refuse him? He was my baby brother after all.
The child’s tuxedo fit small. The ring pressed taut against the fabric of the high water pants. My nipples bled, and I nearly passed out from the heat. The priest took time from his sermon to praise my posture and consistent smile. I surrendered the ring. I hadn’t been to church in years, so I wasn’t sure if I should salute or what. I did a quick bow and heard the seam of the pants tear. I wasn’t going to say anything. It wasn’t my name on the rental.
When I led the procession back down the aisle, everyone in the church clapped. I pretended it was for me. The organist was at the wrong gig— doing key slides and playing with his feet. White people danced and white doves rocketed from the gloved hands of a man in an eyepatch. Praise Jesus and the day I was born.
The outside air smelled of rain and dead blossoms pasted onto the concrete. I reached out and squeezed two sets of soft fingers, leaning forward. We formed a human tunnel for my brother and our wife. I did not cry. A grain of rice got caught in my eye.
I rode to the vineyard with the bridal party, a bottle of Wild Irish Rose inside my jacket like a gun. I stuck my head out of the limo’s sunroof— tongue out and dogged sideways. People honked their horns as they passed, and I screamed along to the jangle of the cans being dragged behind us. I wanted to be like them.
We did the choreographed dance entrance. I slid in on my knees. I burnt off a layer of skin. The DJ introduced me as “Big Man,” and my speech killed. Rest In Peace, Great Uncle William. We held a moment of silence while the EMTs wheeled him out.
To the bride and groom.
To the bride and groom.
The chicken was dry, but there was a margarita fountain. I got my fill of both. A man who was not my cousin anymore filled his glass next to me with a wink. The spoils of goddamned war, he said.
I danced until the little pants ripped off my body. I grew taller in the disco light. I was the last one on the floor, drunk, balls slapping against my thighs as friends and coworkers said goodbyes.
My ex-wife’s sister slung her arm around me and said, nice moves. She was a girl when we first met. You got a big hole in your dress, I told her. People can see your whole back. She led me by the hand to the bathroom where we played a quick game of checkers on the tile. King me, she said over and over. Please king me. I wiped my face with a wet paper towel when the game was over. I hated losing. She buttoned my shirt’s top button and smoothed the fabric flat over my chest. She said, you remind me of someone and I know how hard that can be.
I weaved around the tables, beating busboys to dinner rolls left on crystal plates. I tucked them into my socks. The photographer was packing up his stuff when Dad slipped him a twenty. He insisted we take one, big family photo together with grandma before she passed. So we situated our wigged matriarch in the middle and gathered around her wheelchair.
Say cheese, the photographer said.
I’m not allowed to have cheese anymore, sighed Grandma. Her sense of humor would be missed.
Wait a damn minute, Dad said. Hold on. He removed his top hat and gave it to me to cover myself up with, shaking his head. What the hell is the matter with you?
My brother laughed and our wife rolled her eyes. The whole thing was taking forever, but we got on with it. And at the last second, before the flash, I removed the hat from in front of me. I stared straight into the sun of the bulb. When they got the prints back they would see. This was the best day of our lives.