If only Ryan could stop crying, but the damn tears keep coming, gushing like geysers, dribbling down hot cheeks, rivuleting in the creases of his quivering jowls. Ryan hasn’t bawled like this since he was a kid. He’s heaving relentless sobs that feel lethal, like an asthmatic gasping for breath. But Ryan’s not ill, he’s just pathetic. He’s already soaked the pocket square he’d folded-just in case-in the inner pocket of his tuxedo. His store-bought tuxedo. Now he clutches that damp and useless rag in a trembling hand. He’s too stunned to get off his ass and grab tissues from the obscenely huge, strawberry-stenched bathroom of this Honeymoon Suite. Ryan had been prepared to cry on this momentous day, his wedding day, the day he and Julie were to bind themselves like twisted ribbons. Knotted at both ends. Together forever. But Ryan had anticipated tears of joy, of ecstatic release, not these clucking wails.
Ryan sinks to the floor, his cummerbund a vise grip as he doubles over sturdy haunches.
“Tree trunks,” Julie had sighed stroking his linebacker thighs a mere two nights before, “My very own Giant Sequoia.”
Julie and her airy fairy homilies. What did Ryan expect, falling in love with a girl raised by hippies on a commune outside Bolinas? Nothing Julie ever said made much sense. What made sense was how she held Ryan captive with those sighs, the sex, her model looks. Her boobs for god’s sake, what a pair. What he’d thought made sense was Julie choosing Ryan over all those other dudes. That banker Chet, the one who scurried around San Fran on a dorky recumbent bike. Elliot, the egghead from Harvard who did some-kind-of-something that was pure gobblety gook to Ryan. When Julie explained it, Ryan nodded and aha’d, pretending to comprehend.
But Ryan was her Giant Sequoia. Her big, dumb, football-playing idiot with a pro ball contract. A millionaire by way of grunting, passing, sweating, running, colliding, assaulting. Her big lug who offered rescuing hands to tackled compadres and opponents alike. Genuinely nice, the kind of guy who glugged Gatorade from a spigot attached to a plastic tub, but always made sure to leave enough swigs for the next thirsty beast.
Julie’s text came in before the wedding guests scurried out of the church like a bunch of released convicts. For over an hour they’d had to sit in the pews, fidgeting as they watched Ryan stare down the aisle, wiping droplet after droplet of sweat from his shelf-like brow. All of them waiting for Julie to be escorted by Willow and Raven, her dickweed parents with little or no brain cells left after all the pot they’d grown, smoked, sold. Who could blame anyone for wanting to flee the church once Ryan looked up from his buzzing phone and said in a flailing, choked voice that careened across two octaves,
“The wedding is off, folks. You can all go on home.”
In the end Egghead Elliot scored the touchdown. Now Ryan sits in this Honeymoon Suite alone, leaning massive shoulders against the satin spread of a bed made for the likes of him. A king-sized atrocity, a squishy, bouncy crash pad for fucking, for fermenting in newlywed juices. Instead this jilted giant is deep in his own cavernous stew.
Alice Kaltman is a writer, surfer, and parenting coach. Her stories appear or are forthcoming in Across the Margin, 34th Parallel Magazine, Storychord, Luna Luna Magazine, Dialogual, The Stockholm Review, the Atticus Review, The Victoria Rose, People Holding, and Joyland, where her story STAY A WHILE was selected as a Longform Fiction Pick of the Week. Her articles on Parenting can be found at Family Matters NY, Babble, and A Child Grows in Brooklyn.