My Sister’s Maid of Honor
MY SISTER’S MAID OF HONOR
Issue No. 6 – December 2014
R ight now I’m in a club full of sleazy men and frat boys, dancing to remixed pop songs at my sister’s bachelorette party. I’m her matron/maid of honor. When she asked me, I was married, so I was her matron, but during the time of her engagement, my husband and I have decided to divorce. Though it won’t be legally finalized by her wedding day, we’ve decided to go with the title “maid of honor” to minimize the attention to my marital status.
My curly-haired, carefree sister seems so young, though she is older than I was when I married. I was twenty-five, she is twenty-seven. I’m now twenty-nine, almost thirty. She is drunk and screaming and wears a white sash that says “Carrie’s Last Night of Freedom,” which makes me shudder. The strobe lights catch the glitter in her eye shadow, and her beauty is overwhelming.
She and her friends keep taking shots, but I just can’t bring myself to join them. The act of tossing my head back and letting poison roll down my throat is too reminiscent of recent bad decisions. I ask the bartender for a gin martini, but they don’t have vermouth at a place like this so I suck down two gin and tonics, hoping they’ll make the room spin so I can concentrate on standing instead of on much how I hate being here.
I dance with my little sister beneath the flashing lights. I twirl her and hug her and tell her I’m happy for her. The music is so loud, I can feel it vibrating in my chest, and she can’t hear me so I mouth “I love you” and she mouths back “love you more” and I feel like I might cry so I mouth “be right back” and she mouths “where are you going” and I mouth “to pee” as I run to the restroom.
I miss my husband. I want to call him to come pick me up. I want him to make sure the girls get to the hotel safely while I lay down in the back seat of his car. My husband was a dentist. He still is one. The man who was my husband is a dentist. I guess he’s still my husband on paper, too. But he moved into an apartment with the cat, and our house is now on the market. I get to live there until it sells, which our realtor says will likely be soon.
The name of this bar is The Whistle. It has two stories: a dance floor on the first and an open deck up top. The place is strange. There are moose heads on the walls and a blood-red stain to the sticky concrete floor. It stinks of body odor and alcohol. The restroom has a line wrapped around the corner with girls in animal print dresses and short skirts. If I had behaved like a real Maid of Honor and planned my sister’s bachelorette party, we would not be here. But Carrie’s friends volunteered to make the plan considering my state. My sister kept saying it wasn’t about me, it was about my state.
My state. My state is bad because I had sex with my boss. He asked me into his office after a team happy hour about six months ago. I walked in, buzzed from two shots and a margarita. We were celebrating a big win. He said to close the door and then he bent me over his desk. I bunched up my skirt and helped him pull down my panties.
We continued like this for weeks. He texted me constantly. He said he loved me, though I didn’t believe it and never said it back. He bought me a gold charm bracelet that I of course could never wear, nor would I have wanted to. It was very tacky. Others started wondering why the boss and I were having daily one-on-one meetings, why our bodies always seemed magnetically pulled to one another in the break room. One of the ugly girls on the team had lunch with his wife. His wife confronted him. He confessed, said he was seduced and human, stressed and lonely. That he loved her and their family. That he wanted to work on the marriage. They enrolled in counseling, he bought her a new Mercedes, and he never talked to me again. I of course never thought he loved me. I don’t know what I thought. Not much.
He couldn’t fire me or I could sue for sexual harassment. He was a civil attorney and knew better, but he had the office manager let me go for poor work performance and cited evidence that I couldn’t deny: sometimes I got on Facebook, I used the copier for personal reasons even though there was a sign that said not to, I once looked at porn, albeit on accident. Though I’d been a paralegal there for five years, I received no severance pay.
The line to the restroom is moving so slowly. My feet hurt. It’s been four months since I’ve worked, so this is the first time I’ve worn heels in a while. The backs of my knees are sweating, and I want so badly for my husband to tell me to quit worrying, that everything will be okay. He wanted us to have a baby and grow old together and be happy and normal. I wanted all of these things, too, yet I never believed they could happen.
A toilet stall opens and two girls spill out. I dash into the black metal stall and clink the lock shut. I’m relieved to have this tiny space to myself for the next five minutes. I’m alone. I pull down my panties to pee and rest my elbows on my thighs. There is a little residue of white powder on the metal toilet paper dispenser. I press my fingers on the snowy substance and wipe them across my gums. My mouth goes numb, but otherwise I feel nothing.
My sister. My little seester. She is glowing. She has no doubt, no question, just excitement. She has hope and a future. She has no fucking clue. I wonder what I’ll say at her wedding. To my little sister and new brother — I wish you better luck than me! To my sister and brother, may the road go on forever and the party never end. To my sister and brother, try really hard to only fuck each other. To my sister and brother, consider that this might not work out. To my sister and brother, love each other, but please don’t ever forget: it’s hard being human.
Someone starts to bang furiously on my stall door. “How long does it take to drop a shit? There’s a fucking line out here,” the lady screams.
Yes I know, bitch, I think to myself. I wish I cared enough to yell back. I pull up my panties, flush the toilet, and duck out of the bathroom without even washing my hands.
I elbow my way back through the sticky, dank crowd. My head hurts from the flashing lights and pause in alcohol consumption. I get another gin and tonic. I climb upstairs and see my sister and her friends have moved to the more loungey second floor deck overlooking the city. It’s airy and I can breathe.
“You okay?” my sister asks, her sash slipping down her bare shoulder.
“Totally! That line was crazy.”
“Why are you tapping your foot like that?”
“You’ve been crying,”
“No I haven’t.”
“There’s mascara down your face.”
“Mary,” she says. “Can’t just one night be about me?”
My knees buckle and I trip over my own artless body. Gin and tonic splash across my sister’s white party dress, and the smell of alcohol sickens the air.
The other girls flutter to her aid before I can respond, a few running to grab the thin bar napkins. They wipe her down gently while staring at me, half drunk with stern eyes and hair sticking to their foreheads. They look like owls. I have ruined the party. The fun has been killed, and I hold the dagger. I wish I could float above and lift my sister with me far, far away, but instead I just stand there.
“I’m so sorry,” I finally spit out. “Do you want to trade dresses or anything?”
“No,” she says coldly, sucking on her bottom lip.
I’m doing the best I can. What the hell did she expect from me? I’m here after all. For her everything is good and that’s great but I don’t know how to act different than I am right now, though however I am right now is bad. I slouch my head down and feel my face burn. It’s not that I don’t feel bad, it’s just, I’m doing the best I can. What the hell…
“Let’s all take a round of shots?” I say. “On me? Ladies?”
I look at my sister and my sister looks at her friends and her friends look at her. No one breathes. One squatty girl named Jane, she seems a little dumb and thank God for her, nervously nods and then more begin to nod and then all heads are bobbing, and my sister forgivingly shrieks, “I’m getting married in a week!”
We all scream and run to the bar. My little sister picks tequila and reaches for my hand and squeezes it. I feel the squeeze in my heart. The bartender hands us bright lime wedges and a saltshaker. We rub the lime on the backs of our hands and then shake salt over where we made our skin sticky. He lines up six little glasses of liquor, one for each of us. We cheer! Glasses clink. We lick the salt, down the tequila, and sink our teeth into the lime.
I try to laugh and be smiley with the girls, but inside my head I can’t stop asking myself the same questions over and over again. What made me agree that evening in my boss’s office? What made me agree the next time and the next? He wasn’t even attractive. He was paranoid and short and had yellow teeth that would have made my husband vomit.
When I went home after that first night, I thought I’d feel guilty, but I didn’t. My husband asked if I had enough to eat and I said no, so he heated me up some leftover pizza and made me a Caesar salad. He filled a glass of water and asked that I drink it. I did. He then filled it back up and placed it on a coaster next to my plate. He poured himself a glass of white wine and sat down with me. He prefers white over red because red can stain your teeth.
What happened with my boss felt like a foggy dream, this peculiar, not real, not good dream. I kept waiting to wake up, and one day I did. It became real when I was fired and also when I learned that I was pregnant. I wasn’t sure who the father was. Which felt like a movie. Which felt like a cliché. Which in some ways still didn’t feel real at all. How could a man’s dick in my vagina make a baby in my stomach?
I decided either way I didn’t want it — not like this. I asked my sister go to with me to the abortion clinic. She held my hand as we passed the protestors telling us we were hell-bound, and she didn’t even comment on how the place smelled of cleaning products and dead babies. Carrie was kind, but angry. Not about my situation, she said, but that I scheduled the appointment on the day of her engagement party. I didn’t mean to ruin her day, I just couldn’t keep track of time. All days seemed like one long night, so unreal that it was laughable.
Until I told my husband. Then it felt really real, for real.
The girls want to play truth or dare. One of them, a tall, pushy girl with dark hair, Lydia, asks me: Truth or dare?
“Dare,” I say, matching her stare in intensity.
“I dare you to kiss someone.”
I look around at the sleezeballs in polo shirts. I want to slap the cocky grins off their faces.
“Eww — truth,” I say.
“You can’t switch,” Lydia says.
“But everyone here is disgusting.”
“That’s not true,” she says. “We’re here. Are you calling your sister disgusting?”
“Fine,” I say. I hate this chick. I walk up to her and slam my lips against hers and squirm my tongue between her teeth.
“What’s wrong with you?” she screams, spitting and stepping back.
And my sister laughs. God, my heart might explode, hearing my sister laugh. It’s the same laugh as when she was four and I was six. When she was eight and I was ten. We spent so many summers rolling on our backs in giggle storms, playing pranks on the neighbor boys or spying on my mother and her boyfriends. We’d lay in the backyard and watch rollie pollies move from one strand of grass to another, wondering who we would grow up to be.
My turn. I ask my sister: Truth or dare?
“Truth,” she says. My sister leans on Jane for support. Even when she loses her balance, she looks poised. My sister was a dancer in high school, and she still moves like one. Effortlessly.
I want to ask her what she thinks of me. If she thinks there is any hope. I know I can’t, so instead I ask: “What, in your mind, was the best part of my wedding?”
She pauses and looks down. The other girls raise their eyebrows and look like owls again.
“You just seemed so happy,” she says. “You smiled like when we were kids, walking down the aisle.”
“I was excited.”
“And you looked bangin’ in your satin dress,” Carrie says. “That’s how I want my day to be.”
“Thank you,” I whisper. I want to sit down but there is no place besides the sticky floor. “Should we head out soon?”
“It’s only midnight,” she says, frowning.
“Maybe I just need water.” I head to the bar.
My husband was frying eggs when I confessed. His response surprised me.
“Do you know how important prenatal care is to babies’ teeth development?” he said. “You’ve been eating nothing but sugar. And you’ve been drinking.”
“Did you hear me? Who cares? There is no longer any baby.”
“I care,” he said, beginning to cry. He dropped his spatula and slid down to the kitchen floor. I joined him on the ground and leaned against the white cabinets.
“It might not have been yours, in fact I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.”
“So what? That’s not the baby’s fault. Stranger things have happened in this world than you and me raising that baby. You could’ve at least talked to me.”
“I’m talking to you now.” I reached for his hand, but he pulled away. The room smelt like burnt egg.
“Now is too late.”
“I didn’t know you felt so strongly against abortion.”
“I don’t feel strongly against abortion in general — I feel strongly against people like you getting an abortion.”
“People like me?”
“Yes. People with husbands and jobs and who are old enough to know better.”
“Well, I don’t actually have a job, remember?”
“Damn it, Mary, that’s beside the point.”
I get a drink and join back with the girls. We lean against the edge of the top floor balcony. The illuminated buildings are spinning.
Sometimes I think of my unborn baby, what it was and what it might have been. A little thing with a fresh smell and perfectly clean slate, in absolute dependence of me. But the second it would have entered the world, it would have had to start changing. In some ways, I kept my child from having to fail, to be overripe. And the baby did get a brief experience with life, albeit in utero, but still. I’ve heard life is very safe and happy and beautiful then. Like swimming in a lake of nutrients and love. Plus, you can’t do anything wrong yet. I protected my baby from ever having to be real, to be me.
The city lights glitter around us, and I feel the night sky in my hair, it has a slight chill. I have an idea.
“Let’s play a game. As boys walk past, we’ll rate them. When we all think someone is a ten, we can cat-call ‘em.”
The girls look at each other for confirmation and begrudgingly agree.
I stare at the men walking by and each time I hope it’s my husband, though I know none of them will be. I imagine him walking by in his blue scrubs and white tennis shoes. We see lots of fives, men with big guts and stupid hats. Probably the men of my future. I’m a five, or even a four or two or zero. I feel like a zero.
“He’s at least an eight or nine,” One of the girls points to a blonde man with a broad chest wearing a black t-shirt and jeans.
“I say ten.”
My sister laughs. The few of us that can, whistle, and the rest make whistle-like calls. The guy looks up and grins.
“My sister is getting married next week!” I yell. “Come join us!”
“Why’d you do that?” Lydia asks. “This is girls’ only.”
My sister is still laughing, but looks a little flushed.
A minute later the guy taps on my shoulder and says his name is James.
“Hi, I’m Mary. The maid of honor.”
“Matron of honor,” Lydia says.
“Can I get you ladies a drink?”
“Sure. We’ll take a round of tequila shots,” I say.
He smiles and grazes my arm before heading to the bar. I follow behind because I can tell he wants me to.
“Where are you going?” my sister asks.
“Helping him get the drinks!”
We go to the bar but he only buys two shots, and we take them down. The tequila burns. He says he knows a place and grabs my hand greedily, pulling me through the smothering mess of drunk, screaming people. I close my eyes and let him guide me downstairs and around dark corners.
When I open my eyes I see we are in a single unit bathroom with one toilet and a shelf of cleaning supplies. It’s cooler in here. “The staff restroom,” he says, grinning. Despite his cocky smirk and stench of cologne I let him slip off my dress. At least he isn’t wearing a polo shirt. I like feeling his smooth hands run up and down my body like water. He shoves me to my knees and I unzip his jeans, hoping his cock will be my husband’s. It’s not, but I put it in my mouth anyways. He moans, and I keep going, my knees sore on the white tile. He presses my head down harder and I feel like I might choke, but then thankfully he finishes quickly. He zips himself up and walks out of the bathroom without a word. By the time I get my dress back on and exit the room, I know he’s left the club. I stumble my way back to the girls.
“What’s wrong with you?” Lydia hisses.
“What’s wrong with you?” I say back.
“Let’s chill,” my sister says, though her face looks a little green. “I’m hot.”
“That wasn’t the game,” Lydia says. “Besides, we don’t even know him. He could put roofies in our drinks.”
“Oh my God, really?” I say. “He left, so you can chill out.”
“You look like a mess,” Lydia says.
“Excuse me?” I say.
Carrie leans over the railing and vomits.
“Look what you’ve done,” Lydia says. “You’ve no clue how much you hurt your sister, do you?”
“I didn’t make her vomit — taking a million shots made her vomit. Carrie, let’s get you to the bathroom.”
“I’ll take her,” Lydia says.
“I’m taking her,” I say. “Try not to get date-raped while I’m gone.”
I peel my little sister off the railing and guide her to the bathroom though my vision is slightly blurred. There is no line when we arrive, but all the stalls are occupied. I go up to the large handicap one and bang on it, tell them to hurry up, my sister is sick. A girl in a wheelchair rolls out and I feel like a jerk. I’m too embarrassed to apologize. My sister and I slip into the stall and she crouches to her knees and vomits into the toilet. I sit beside her and hold her curly hair back. I hand her a piece of toilet paper to wipe her mouth. Her vomit smells like liquor.
“I didn’t mean to get so drunk,” she says, starting to cry. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s your bachelorette party. It happens.”
“This party is lame. I don’t even like drinking. I’m never drinking again.”
“Everyone says that when they get sick,” I say. “And the party is not lame.”
“You hate it.”
“No I don’t.”
We scoot back so our bodies lean against the cold wall, our legs splay out on the red concrete floor.
“You don’t hurt me constantly,” she says, wiping her lip. “But you do hurt me sometimes.”
“What do you mean?”
“You make me scared.”
“Oh, Carrie. Please. You aren’t me.”
Someone bangs on the door.
“We are having a moment!” I scream.
“Fuck you!” the person screams. “I gotta pee!”
“FUCK YOU!” I yell back. It feels good.
“You shouldn’t do that,” my sister says, pulling her knees to her chest.
“Too late,” I say.
“I wish you wouldn’t act like your life is over,” she says. “It’s terrifying.”
“You never mess up, so don’t worry.”
“That’s not true,” she says. Her head falls to my shoulder and my eyes water. I hope my sister doesn’t realize I sucked that sleaze off in the bathroom.
“What was it like?” I ask.
“What was what like?”
“The procedure. I was pretty loopy on laughing gas, so I don’t really remember.”
“You mean your abortion?” she says.
“Now? You want me to bring that up now?”
“Obviously. Yes. Now tell me.”
“Fine. It was really quick. I sat by your head and just kept touching your forehead. You kept your eyes closed even though you weren’t asleep. Once you were deemed drugged enough, they put a giant vacuum-thing up to your, you know, and sucked out this clump of stuff,” she said. “It looked like a snotty, bloody oyster, not like a human at all.”
“Do you think it died the second it left me?”
“No, probably when they scraped it off your uterus.”
“I just hope it didn’t hurt — for the baby.”
“Well it probably hurt at least a little.”
Someone bangs on the door again.
“This place sucks,” I sigh.
“Do you want to go swimming or something?”
“Yes,” she says eagerly. “But where could we go?”
“Let’s go to that place we’d go in high school — off of Town Lake.”
She nods yes and we exit the bathroom. I tell her to wait right by the door and I run and collect her friends. Lydia seems hesitant about the idea, but she agrees.
After a short taxi ride, we walk down to the empty dock that during the day offers kayak rentals. The water is black, but the moon is out, round and reflecting on the lake. The night sky is spinning, and the other girls say it’s spinning for them, too, like cartwheels. It’s spinning because we are drunk, but I wonder if our visions all spin in the same direction. I ask, and the girls feel sick trying to notice if their sight is moving clockwise or counter-clockwise. When I get the spins, things always move on a titled clockwise axis. Carrie says she isn’t spinning anymore and feels sober after vomiting.
It’s hard to focus, but I soon realize all the girls are staring at me, wondering what’s next.
“My feet hurt,” I say. I take off my shoes and sit on the edge of the dock, letting my toes dangle and slip beneath the dark water.
My sister kicks her heels off and then the other girls follow. Carrie sits next to me and grabs my hand, leans her head on my shoulder. I then lean my head on her head. I really don’t want to hurt her. I really do want her to be happy.
It’s shocking how quiet the night sounds here. There is a barrier of trees that protects the road from our vision. We could be out in the country. We could be in outer space. We could be anywhere.
“You know it’s illegal to swim here,” Lydia says.
“Who cares about a little bacteria? We’ll shower when we get to the hotel,” I say. “Carrie and I’ve dove off this dock a million times.”
“It’s not because of bacteria, actually. It’s because the current is really strong,” a girl whose name I can never remember adds. The squatty girl, Jane, raises her eyebrows and chews on her lip.
“That’s part of it. But there is also rebar and construction trash dumped all in this lake,” Lydia says. “Just last week someone jumped in and had a rod pole stab him. He died like a piece of meat on a shish kabob.”
“Let’s live a little,” I say. “We should do something wild and commemorative — for the bride!”
“Mary, maybe we shouldn’t,” Carrie adds.
“Are you serious? We used to jump off this dock all the time!”
“That was ten years ago.”
“You were the one who wanted to swim,” I say.
I slip out of my dress once again. I look down at my bloated thighs and bruised knees. I’m getting older, almost thirty, but the darkness is kind and forgiving. I know I’m pretty. Not my sister-pretty, but pretty enough. I let my hair down and close my eyes. I feel dizzy but strangely awake. All the girls are watching me. They think I’m crazy, but they don’t know life yet. They are still waiting for it to start, not understanding that the clock started the moment they were born, or even more, the moment they were conceived. There is no on switch. There is only an off. This is it. Carpe fucking diem. I stand toward the edge of the water and brace myself for the cold.
“Don’t jump!” My sister screams. “Mary, please!”
My sister begins to sob, and Lydia strokes her back while glaring at me.
I want to jump more than anything. I want rebar to stab me and the opposing currents to tear me apart and duckweed to wrap around my ankles like weighted chains. I want to look up from underwater and see the moon. But I know if I jump all that will happen is I’ll be cold without a towel and made into a villain.
I hate seeing Lydia hold my little sister, and I don’t want to make her cry. I really don’t want to scare Carrie — I want her to have hope. I don’t jump. Instead I lie down, my back against the wood dock. I look up at the night sky, feeling my chest rise and fall with every breath, thankful my sister hasn’t pressed me on what I’m going to do once the house sells.
Shannon Perri lives in Austin with her husband and menagerie of pets. She is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Texas State University and holds a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. Her writing has previously appeared in Fiddleblack and In the Fray.