After the church service, minutes into the reception,
A call from Roger; you can deny him nothing.
Your new bride, senses piqued, eyes wide,
Knows that you are leaving; that you will embarrass her,
Slip out before the first dance, before the cake,
For one last hurrah—overdue, you think—
This last favor to Roger; to the scarecrow in jeans.
You ached for something decent, found it; it was dear.
But you would steal one last car—
Something complicated for old time’s sake,
Be back in time for apologies;
Back to dance with the bride’s mother,
To rub her father’s shoulders, toast his pride, but after…
You prepare for reproofs, excuse yourself,
Reach for and kiss her hand.
Roger is at the edge of the yard, a boot on the wall.
You see him through tent-poles. She does, too.
Roger’s eyes twinkle but he doesn’t smile.
He has a car in mind—three blocks north. You could walk.
You didn’t want to lead the kind of life
For which you would need to make apologies.
But there would be one last apology, had to be.
Roger would see to it.
You didn’t talk.
He sized you up in the tuxedo, seemed satisfied:
“Last things…” he started.
It wasn’t a sentence—a statement—that he would finish.
“Looks like rain,” you say.
It did, would,
And later you would hold her fast,
The rain untying her hair,
Flattening her dress, filling your shoes;
And with cheeks pressed, floating over flagstones,
A first dance, a last dance…
There would be no humor in it—couldn’t be;
It was a desperate marriage, a clutching marriage,
Something on which your very survival depended:
Collision or suicide…
Roger was giddy, twitching, walked briskly.
He smacked his leg with a rolled up copy
Of the Philadelphia Enquirer.
You weren’t three blocks from the reception.
You could hear the wedding band warm up.
“Simple,” he said, and pointed at a late-model sports sedan—
Keyless entry—hitched to the curb.
“Simple,” you repeat. It was impossible.
The muzzle of a baby collie
Appeared in the passenger-side window.
“For you,” he said, “And her.”
You will not see Roger again.
You walk the block and a half back to the reception,
A dog in your arms.
✖ From the Novel, Orchard Park and Other Works