being to timelessness as it’s to time, love did no more begin than love will end; where nothing is to breathe to stroll to swim love is the air the ocean and the land . . . Love is the voice under all silences, the hope which has no opposite in fear; the strength so strong mere force is feebleness: the truth more first than sun, more last than star
“Are you going to write about this?” someone asked me in the middle of the Cha Cha Slide. I laughed a little and glanced over at her, as she hopped three times in her wedding dress. I’d asked her a few weeks before if I could, if I could capture it the way I saw it. I wanted her to be able to see it through my eyes. And she said yes, yes, please do that. But on the dance floor, as sweat dripped down my satin dress and my best friend cha cha-ed in her wedding dress, my words seemed far too small to offer. There’s no way, I thought, that I can capture this. I waited three beats, the people moving and moving and the joy dancing right alongside them. And I worried that if I didn’t try, I might wish I had. So I left-foot-left-stomped, nodded at my friend, and said, “Yeah. Yeah, I think I’ll try.” I didn’t know I’d try so soon. I thought perhaps I’d wait for the photos to be edited or for the emotions to settle or for my feet to recover from the bridesmaid shoes and the wooden dance floor. But if I’m going to capture, I should capture now, capture the joy and the tears and the blisters and everything—capture it the best I can for her.
What I realized, though, is that I can’t capture it the way it was for them, only the way it was for me. So, Jane, this is how it felt to watch you get married.
I told a story at the rehearsal dinner about the first time I met my best friend. She sat down across from me in a dress full of colors. “That’s how I’ve pictured her ever since,” I said. “Full of colors.” And that’s how I saw her on her wedding day. We woke up early—she earlier than me, as per tradition, but both of us still earlier than the rest. She came down and flew into my arms and we squealed and danced because “IT’S YOUR WEDDING DAY!” I’d been thinking about it in the weeks before, how she’d be so pulled and distracted that day. So I gave her her letter and her hugs in the days before, so that she knew that I loved her and that she was free to be as distracted as she wanted. But when she came downstairs and she saw me, she flew into my arms. She wasn’t a bride yet, or a wife, or even Coston’s fiancée—she was just my best friend, full of colors. I waited all day for the shift, for her to become any of those others things, but until I saw her appear over the hill to walk down the aisle, that’s who she was, all colors in a white dress, all colors coming toward him, my best friend on her wedding day.
The morning was perfect. We ate muffins and squealed and had our hair curled and squealed some more. She’d find her moments with everyone, but of course, my favorites were the ones she found with me. “Linds,” she called, and when I came, she nodded her head at the stereo, where one of my favorite songs was playing.
Like the Dead Sea / You told me I was like the Dead Sea / You’ll never sink when you go with me / The nicest words you ever said to me
The other people in the room didn’t really understand, but we did. Later, when it was almost my turn to walk down the aisle to stand next to her as she married her man, I kept turning around, trying to catch her eye. The groomsman next to me asked what it was, if I needed to go back to her, but I shook my head. “She’s just my best friend,” I said, and I looked at her again. “I just love her. That’s all.” He patted my arm and nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “She is.”
This is how I walked through the hours before my best friend’s wedding. I murmured, “You’re beautiful,” and “It’s perfect” again and again, a soundtrack of reminder in case she’d forgotten. I swished blush onto her cheeks and mascara onto her eyelashes. I clasped a bracelet around her arm and adjusted her dress. I held her hands and looked into her eyes and said it again: “You don’t know how beautiful you are.” Because she was, the most beautiful bride I’ve ever seen. I kept watching my best friend do all of these things we’ve been dreaming about, and I kept seeing her the way I’ve seen her for the past four years, my friend all colors and sunshine. My friend. But then, I saw her come over the hill.
The ceremony took place in the valley, overlooking the trees and about three heartbeats closer to the sky than anywhere else on Earth, or at least that’s the way it seemed on Saturday. So we looked up the hill, and when she crested it, she looked different. She was still my friend, the girl who sat down in her colorful dress, the one who has known me and loved me and let me be a part of her family, but she was different. She came down and let her daddy give her away, and Coston, he took her. He took the hands of his wife, and I began to cry (I wasn’t the only one). I didn’t cry because I’d lost her—none of us have lost one single bit her—but because I knew that being his wife was what she wanted most in the world. I cried because I was so, so happy for her that I couldn’t hold it in, and when the tears stopped, I smiled. I smiled so hard that my cheeks turned red and began to burn by the time they exchanged the rings. And when I looked down at the rest of the bridal party, I saw that they had red cheeks, too.
As the night went on and we danced under the lights, I kept trying to say things to my friend that might capture how happy I was for her. All I could manage, though, was, “You are so beautiful,” “It’s perfect,” and “Baby, you’re a firework.” But it seemed to be enough from me, because she had Coston looking at her like he’d never seen this angel, like she’d appeared out of a dream he’d been dreaming for the past three years. At some point, I thought she might have had to lean over, kiss his cheek, and say, “I’m real. I’m real.” But then again, I hope she didn’t—I hope he always looks at her that way.
After they left, we went back home, exhausted and blistered and still smiling, and sat in our room at the lake house, the one I’ve slept in dozens of times. We talked about how beautiful and perfect it was, how beautiful and perfect she was, how we wondered what they were doing right then (we had some good guesses.) We talked about how we’d be leaving the next day, how we weren’t sure when we’d all be back. “We have to make sure we plan a weekend to come here,” Katie said, and we all enthusiastically agreed. I looked around and understood that things had changed, that Janie and I wouldn’t be bunking together, that we wouldn’t all use our spring break to flee to this place, that everything was shifting in the wind. For half a second, I almost felt sad about it, but then I remembered the look on her face all night long. This is a good thing, I thought. This is a very good thing.
I stayed there the next day, resting my poor feet. I ate watermelon and spaghetti and counted the leaves against the sky as I laid in the hammock and told everyone how much I loved them. When I left, it was hard to go, and for a second I saw old versions of my friend and me down at the dock, laughing, full of colors. I thought of her as Coston’s wife, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to tell her kids about their parents’ wedding day, or maybe about the day that I met their mother. “She sat down across from me,” I’ll say, “In a dress full of colors. And that’s how I still see her, you know. Full of colors.”Read about Janie and Coston’s engagement here