So far: Wendy turns Richard’s tie into a masterpiece.
“Wendy, is there anything more I can do to help before I go home?” Gary asked after Lucinda and Dewey had left. We were in the kitchen, putting the leftover food away.
“Listen, I don’t know how to do this. I’ve never had a best friend lose a mate before. I’m awkward and worried that I’m going to do or say the wrong thing. So what do you want from me?”
I took him seriously and thought about it. Then I realized what I wanted from everyone. “Tell me a story about Richard. Something you remember about him. Something you know about him that I don’t know.”
“A story?” Gary thought for a minute. “I’ve got one that I don’t think I ever told you. In fact, I’m quite sure I didn’t.
“It was right before you guys got married.”
“Richard asked me to meet him for a drink at the Viking Bar.”
“The Viking?” I thought of the funky old bar on the West Bank. “That’s a little odd. We never went there.”
“Exactly. He picked it for that very reason — because he was pretty sure you wouldn’t show up. I got to the bar a little early and ordered a strong Bloody Mary. I was worried. We had never gone out for a drink before, just the two of us, and I thought maybe he was going to ream me out for something. So I drank that drink fast, then ordered a Leinenkugel.
“Richard showed up right on time. He ordered a beer too and we talked for a few minutes. He seemed friendly enough. I started to relax. Then he said, ‘It’s about Wendy …’ ”
“He wanted to talk to you about me?”
“It gets better. So I go, ‘What about Wendy?’ He orders another beer. I do too. He says, ‘Well, I’m thinking of asking her to marry me. What do you think?’ He’s asking me what I think of him asking you to marry him. What do I know? So I say, ‘Cool.’ And he says, ‘Well, first I’m just checking to make sure it’s okay.’ I’m like, ‘Sure, it’s okay.’ He says, ‘I know you guys had that agreement that you would get married when you’re forty.’ I say, ‘Only if nobody better came along.’ He gives me this little smirk and says, ‘So you think I’m better?’ ‘Yeah, for Wendy you sure are.’ Then he asks me, ‘So do you think she’ll accept?’ Now, here I had to stop and think.”
“Sure. I’ve known you for a long time. Seen you go through quite a lot of men. For example, Carlos.”
“Oh, my god. You didn’t tell him, did you?”
“No way. But I knew you had never really had your heart set on marriage. You looked down your nose at the way normal people conducted their lives. You were so independent. So I said, ‘I think you’ve got as good a chance as anyone.’ ”
“That’s big of you.”
“I did like the guy. You called me three days later with the news.”
I was proud of Gary. It must have been very hard on him to keep quiet. “And you never let on you knew it was coming.”
“I didn’t want to ruin that special moment for you.”
• • •
Richard and I got married at the old Hennepin County Courthouse on December 1st in a snowstorm with three people present: my dad, his sister Susan, and Gary. I wore a white cashmere sweater over a long white wool skirt that I had sewn myself. I had hand stitched white sequins all down the skirt like white petals falling. Richard said I looked like the Snow Queen. Dad said I looked like a Homecoming Princess. Gary said I looked like a snowflake. Susan just said I looked very white and frothy. I took them all as compliments.
Richard wore his red T-shirt with a white star emblazoned on the front under a black tuxedo jacket he had picked up at a thrift store, and black cowboy boots. He looked like everything I wanted in a man.
We had written our own vows.
Mine went like this: “I will laugh at your jokes, I will cry at your sorrows, I will whoop at your successes, and I will stay by your side through this long life we will share. I love you, my dear Richard.”
Richard’s was: “I promise to love you as hard as I can through whatever comes our way. I want you in my life forever and always. I will try to be a good companion to you, my sweet Weed.”
When we were pronounced husband and wife, I laughed out loud with happiness. Richard reached out and touched me on the nose. We kissed a short and sweet embrace. As we left the courthouse, Gary and Susan threw snowballs at us.
We all took a cab to the IDS and ate at the 50-story high Alumni Club — my dad was a member. Below us, the city of Minneapolis was a wreath of lights seen through a mesh of falling snow.
Richard and I walked home to his loft in the blizzard. Halfway there, he gave me a piggyback ride and didn’t put me down again until he deposited me in bed — snow, coat, boots, and all. Then he jumped in too.
The next day the city was snowed in and we didn’t get out of bed all day long. Our honeymoon.
Tomorrow: Chapter 33 continues.