Hell, it isn’t like I was even a virgin when I got married, but I still wore white.
Because for all my experience playing grownup in that little house in Berkeley where we lived and loved, when it came down to it, I was seeing the world through a filmy veil of good intentions.
Those were easy times spent eating $4 sushi, and sipping Sierra Nevadas on Friday afternoons on the south side of the city where the houses were handmade and the flowers bloomed all the time. Easy times spent sharing a big red umbrella when it rained and a tiny kitchen space where we’d cook pasta with butter and garlic, getting stoned then watching Spaceballs.
Easy times spent thinking it would always be like this. Sure, the kids would come, but nothing would really change unless we let it which we wouldn’t.
Just a few steps from where we lived, there was a twist in the road that I loved with all my heart. It was just behind the main drag with all the restaurants and cafes, three steps away from the doughnut shop where I would get a rainbow sprinkled doughnut on the way to the book store that smelled like patchouli and hydroponic pot that was run by a man who swore he was 200 years old and Merlin’s long lost cousin.
I loved that little bend of road because in early Spring the cherry blossom trees that lined it would turn to blushing brides in gauzy white veils.
And I was a bride to be, floating in dappled sunlight even when it rained and I’d walk beneath that big red umbrella we would share when we’d head down College Avenue to the place with the cheap sushi.
And during those early days after I told the man I loved that I would, like, totally move to Israel some day and raise our kids there, for sure, when the ring on my finger sparkled extra bright, and while I’d dream about all the Very Important Things a marriage needed — like a really good kosher caterer and a DJ who would play Hava Nagilla, Flock of Seagulls, Eminem, and Billy Holiday, I would walk past the elegant trees swathed in white and think about the most important thing of all: My wedding dress.
The most important thing of all: My wedding dress.
My wedding dress?
But at the time, a marriage meant a ritual and a costume change — What would really change between us? We were in love.
I saw myself each night just before slipping into sleep — the awkward, off-kilter girl with the bad skin and hopeful eyes standing beautiful on her wedding day like those exquisite trees that would bloom those few short weeks each year.
Blink and you will miss it.
And I found my dream dress online on the first click, like it was bashert: Fated.
So I spent $150 of my father’s money on that creamy white satin gown with its lace overlay and the pearl seeds that gently caught the light.
This was a dress that would erase the past that I had spent living on my knees with my head pressed to the ground pleading for redemption from every mistake, every misstep.
This was a dress that would make me beautiful.
(This dress, now rotted to grey, and laced with mold. This dress that my daughter will never wear even when playing dress-up. This dress that I can only remember from the pictures in the Facebook album that I’ve set to “private.”)
“Behold, by this ring you are consecrated to me according to the laws of Moses and Israel,” we said to each other while our rabbi looked on and smiled as we read from the wedding contract that we had written ourselves, that I had sketched with colored pencils, and outlined in gold pen.
I was barely 26 when I stuck my index finger out beneath the huppah my preschool students had painted for us with watercolor paints and droplets of gold glitter, when the man I loved slipped the gold band halfway down. When with a deep breath and the sound of breaking glass, so it was sealed.
I wore white on my wedding because that’s what brides spoon fed fairytale dreams do — despite the years of living that came before, that bruised the bloom off this rose. The fights that I should have paid more attention to. The churlish silences that stuffed the spaces of our studio apartment. My (over)reactions born of seething neuroses — the memory of another man from long, long ago who knocked me down and crammed his foot against my throat, the memory of my mother dying next to me.
That desperate need to be seen always for who I wanted to be but soooo wasn’t.
So, I painted my finger nails a pale pink, not because I liked the color but because the name on the bottle read “Blushing Bride,” and that’s how I wanted to be seen.
But two weeks in, I was puking my guts out while a teeny tiny life made her presence known deep inside me, and our lives sped up to Ludicrous Speed. (Because Light Speed is for amateurs.)
Two years: two kids.
Two years more: two separate homes.
And two years of living in two, we stood clear-eyed the two of us, one before the other, my hands outstretched as if beseeching waiting for that folded sheet of paper that would end what we thought would never change but did, while surly old men in long white beards told the man I once loved what words to say.
“Banished, banished, banished.”
Just a simple costume change: I stood there silently, in a long black dress I bought for this occasion that skimmed the hips that had born our two children. The tan line from the ring I once wore has long ago disappeared. My nails painted in my favorite color: Red. Red like cherries. Red like blood. Red like the first traces of dawn.