. . . on a New York story
Last January when my sister announced she was doing the Dublin Marathon and told me that I was also doing the marathon she threw me a carrot. The carrot was the gift of a flight to New York. As carrots go it was, as they say in Manhattan, a doozy.
“Do the marathon and we’ll go to New York,” she said with the air of someone who has her argument already won. So while I was the narkiest person in Ireland for around 19 miles of the event – “don’t talk to me, look at me, touch me or encourage me in any way” was the order directed every five minutes to my long-suffering support team – I was always going to cross that finish line.
New York is something I used to do before children, something I thought I wouldn’t be in a position to do for a very long time post-children. If it wasn’t for my generous sister I’d still be dreaming of the day I would once again eat a Magnolia cupcake while strolling around Greenwich Village idly wondering which Brownstone Gwyneth and Chris inhabited.
This very morning, all being well, I am in New York city feeling very pleased with myself. Naturally, I packed a large dose of parental guilt along with my warmest jumpers. But if all has gone to plan I’ve managed to leave it in the lost luggage at JFK. I’ll pick it up again on the way back, don’t you worry.
So projected status update: very pleased with self. Possibly have just eaten a hot dog from a street cart for breakfast. Very likely sitting in Strawberry Fields trying to commune with John Lennon. And also this morning I have arranged to meet someone to give her a wedding present. It’s only four years late. I know, I know. There is serious etiquette around this sort of thing but hang on a New York minute. I have my reasons.
I was only delighted to be invited to B’s wedding. It was a beautiful occasion – the gorgeous country church, the antique lace of her gown and the drinks on the sun-drenched lawn. It was only when my boyfriend and I walked inside the marquee that things took a turn. We couldn’t see our names on the table plan. We looked again. B lives in New York so the tables were all references to the city, Manhattan and Queens and New Jersey and so on. We weren’t anywhere in the big city table plan though. Anxious not to make a fuss and knowing from watching a lot of wedding reality TV that table plan mistakes happen all the time, I picked a table (Brooklyn, I am nearly sure) and asked the staff to bring two new settings and chairs.
I chose the table well. The people who had to squish up to accommodate us included a famous theatre director and at least one Booker-nominated novelist. They were very good about it as I recall.
We had a jolly time in excellent company guessing how long the speeches would be. I remember thinking that this was one of the best weddings I’d ever been to. Later I serenaded the bride with Caledonia, floating home on the good vibes.
A few days later I caught sight of the invitation on my desk at work and picked it up to relive all the happy memories. And that’s when I read the invitation properly for the first time. It was an invitation, alright. An invitation to the evening do. The afters, I think, is the technical term.
Yes, that’s right. I had turned up with my boyfriend to the church and reception of a wedding to which I was not invited. As my stomach did somersaults the day flashed in front of me like a horror movie with a cast of well dressed, smiling people. I remembered how I had congratulated myself for being so subtle about rearranging the seating plan on “Brooklyn”. I recalled how I had smiled so graciously at the famous theatre director and at least one Booker-nominated author, a smile that said “these things happen, I am not the kind to make a fuss”. I remembered the beaming bride in the church and the sort of, now you mention it, surprised look on her face as she clocked me taking a photo of her on my phone. A little bit of me died that day at my desk.
So I am meeting B in a New York diner today. I will give her the wedding present acknowledging it is four years late. And for the first time I will talk to her about that day and I will tell her what she already knows. That I wasn’t invited. But that, oh, I had a grand old time for those heady few hours when I truly believed I was.