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" Knowing Everyone | 2008 | New Years Odd "

12.30.08 11:31 p.m.

Marriage is our last, best chance to grow up.  

-Joseph Barth


Something Borrowed

Emily says - in that needlessly suspenseful way that I loathe in others but occasionally use myself - she has something to tell me. It's a good effect, though it gives me ulcers when the other person takes their time about their revelation. I wish they wouldn't preface their remarks and would just hit me full force with whatever they might need to tell me. In fact, she once told me that she would have broken up with me on the spot if I ever left a message telling her we needed to talk, if only to save herself the anxiety. I never want to be given time to think the worst and thus begin imagining which of my beloved cats has been mauled by her newly acquired, tattooed Mexican hairless dog... though she did start the conversation saying she is excellent, so...

"Tim and I got engaged yesterday. I didn't want you to find out from MySpace or Facebook," she finally types.

"Well damn," is the first thing I can think to type as I rally the rest of my thoughts. Last year, around this time, Emily ended our engagement and then our relationship entirely. In fact, her new engagement is exactly a year and a day from when she left me. I recall this especially keenly because I'd made a point of mentioning the importance of this date to Merideth over Chinese food the night before. And, thanks to the aforementioned Facebook, I happen to know that Emily and Tim were in the City yesterday, celebrating something. I am quick to point this out to her, after advising her to avoid using Movable Feast in Woodstock as the caterer (they had ripped us off when Emily cancelled our wedding without giving them half a year's warning). I don't think it is mere coincidence Tim proposed then, rather than on Christmas or New Years Eve/his birthday; I think he proposed on an anniversary for them and am surprised she won't say as much. Even on Facebook, when I eventually do check, they are both listed as engaged but strangely not to one another. I'm not sure of the exact etiquette of stating one's connections on the internet, though I was always fairly keen to shove pictures of Melanie at friends and yell, "Isn't she pretty? I kiss her!"

I get the feeling that Emily is expecting something more of a negative reaction out of me, which I am not inclined to give. I laugh audibly - grateful that my office is almost abandoned in preparation for New Years Eve tomorrow - when she intimates that I will now propose to Melanie, especially when I ask for the return of a matching moldavite ring Emily has because hers was the only one of the pair I bought that actually fits my ring finger. She goes so far as to give me her blessing for something I do not intend to do for years and years and years. I love Melanie a ridiculous amount and would certainly marry her, but I am also not rushing into marriage after knowing her a year, wonderful though it has been. When I tell Melanie this and teasingly propose hitting up the court house when she comes back, she responds, "You just want to beat Emily to the altar." With such an opening, I can't help but reply, "No, I just want to beat Emily."

I ask various friends to guess who just got engaged and have to report a bit of disappointment that no one thinks it could be me (one person even guesses Hannah over me). Apparently, I come off as a bit too reasonable to these people, though several amuse themselves placing wagers whether Emily or Tim would get cold feet first. I don't know whether they are doing this because they believe it or because they feel it is the supportive thing to do, though they do suggest it without colluding with one another and with the awareness that I don't seem to need any support, as I am mostly smirking. One friend, whom I have never heard offer a harsh word to anyone, promptly lets loose a string of profanities about Emily that I find unprintable without a dozen asterisks, the only reaction that actually shocks me.

Emily asks whether I am upset. I immediately shoot back a question in response to her question, "Does it matter if I am?" As I feel she hesitates in answering, I clue her in that it absolutely doesn't. I'm really not any part of this. In fact, had only Tim changed his profile, I wouldn't have much noticed or cared. He'd been listed as "married" since July, as part of some joke even Emily doesn't get. I inform her that she would have to kill whoever was married to Tim up to this point, unless she believes in bigamy. She says she would get right on it.

Objectively, I do think they are rushing things, since they have already decided they will be getting married the first week in September, giving them less than nine months to plan and execute a wedding after having dated for a year. She went from dumping me, claiming she wanted to find out who she was on her own for the first time in her adult life, to living with him in under a month. It all seems too hasty. Getting to know you can stand on your own two feet is a beautiful thing I am only just acknowledging and, given her wanderlust and changeability, it seems all the more forced along at an unnatural pace. (Given my interjecting myself between Hannah and Arthur recently and regrettably, I have been mulling the beauty of organic relationships.) Unless someone is terminal and we are on the Lifetime Network (or if someone is knocked up and a shotgun is being pointed), jumping into marriage seems unwise. It is even shaky as the premise for sit-coms. Though I do know couples who have met and married in less time, their situations were different. The fact is, of course, that I have never personally known anyone else in quite this situation. When I look at the comments to Emily's change in status, I find it funny to read one stating, "Congratulations! Who are you engaged to?" Maybe it is another joke, but it seems like this year went by so quickly that there wasn't always time for introductions.

I ask if I am invited to the wedding, because I don't see why I shouldn't be but don't believe an invitation will be forthcoming unless I remind her. It isn't as though I would stand up when the Justice of the Peace asks if anyone has any reason why this couple should not be married (a tradition Emily thinks she is going to overlook so Tim's ex doesn't storm in on a battle elephant). Melanie and I will enjoy our meals, dance, and be relatively well-behaved as long as we aren't at the kiddy table. (Though if we are, I promise nothing.) Emily is surprised that I would want to come, though I am quick to explain that there are definite story-telling possibilities in my former fiancée getting hitched to the guy I feel she left me for. This answer is perhaps not what she is looking for, but it is the truth. With an opportunity like that, I would be remiss not to attend. It'll give me closure I no longer need. Plus, I like weddings if I am not dateless. Were she having it before Melanie returns for the summer, I would need either Hannah and a large dog or Melissa and a small monkey as my dates to even things out. I do like festive gatherings, after all.

Let me make this clear, though. I don't regret having had a relationship with Emily. I regret some of the ways I behaved initially, I regret very much how she had it end, but I don't regret having known her. She was my best friend for the majority of my adult life and, before Melanie, was the person who I believed knew me best. Again, I have been going back through the old entries and I see this girl who is someone who I can very much love. She tried hard when I was having problems, kept me feeling lovable when that was the last thing I truly was. Late night games of hopscotch, making cakes in formalwear, diner visits in blizzards, trivia battles... these things still make me smile and I am grateful that these were once a part of my life. While I whined because I did not feel I was socializing properly by not living in dorms, I socialized with her and made a better self, one who is a direct ancestor to who I currently am. In seven years, despite a rough starts and some struggling that persisted throughout the relationship, we grew as much as one could expect from something that bordered on a common-law marriage. I think, given what I'd written and my penchant for including potential foreshadowing, that I knew my relationship with Emily would not be my last relationship. How I panicked when I proposed to her, because it didn't feel wholly organic... That should have been a sign to me that, even five years in, part of me felt like I was rushing. Part of me knew that you don't marry your best friend, even if you are sleeping with her and have been for years. Part of me knew that she wasn't the one who should be my wife, even though I would have made it work. No matter this, I know I deserved something better than the ending I got, it could have been kinder and quicker (and quicker, in itself, would have been kinder).

Emily says that she feels she should apologize and I cut her off with a joke about a game she has of mine, facetiously implying this is the only thing for which I am accepting apologies. There is either much too much to apologize for or nothing at all. Either way, it seems too intimate to bring the conversation to that point after her pronouncement that she is getting married and it is nothing I really need. In this incarnation of our relationship, things have to be kept fairly light. She laughs and thanks me.

Soon in Xenology: Independence. Drive. New Years Eve.

last watched: Slumdog Millionaire
reading: Confirmation
listening: Regina Spektor

" Knowing Everyone | 2008 | New Years Odd "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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