Beyond good and evil, there is marriage: that antiquated social contract disguised as a torn page from a glossy magazine full of tampon ads, but lacking in explanations. All that preening and squeezing and upward pushing toward an amorphous ideal that is best qualified as — is indeed celebrated as — a mere moment, a connection of two watery eyes to two watery eyes over four trembling hands and a diamond. Everything before and after is liquor and fights and "Do I look fat in this?" and "Goddamn it, you're sleeping on the couch." Boo.

Don't get me wrong. The scene set here in the bridal party's hospitality suite on the first floor of the Hard Rock Hotel is no less amazing for its choreographed context. It's the scene of a very beautiful crime, as if a woman's mind has exploded — along with her emergency kit — and every inch of the room is a solution to a problem that has yet to materialize. Nail files and Band-Aids and eyedrops and prescriptions litter a round mahogany table, while airborne nerves suck out oxygen and exhale helium, all high-pitched and quick, both calm and hurried at the same time; anxious and giddy, messy and clean. My nine-year moment, Alan, and I have arrived just in time to confuse the already perplexingly angular symphony of feminine wiles.

"I'd better go find myself somewhere else to be," Alan ill-advisedly tugs at a wine glass, signaling another potential problem. "It looks like somebody in here is going to be naked soon."

And with that, I'm left here in a bedazzled "bridesman" T-shirt, dangling like a bleached-out participle on an inappropriate phrase. I shouldn't feel so separate; all of the applicable motions have been duly gone through — the downtown bachelorette-party "bitch" pins, the bridal shower Crate-and-Barrel squinches — lighting a path of unsubtle emasculation for all my chromosomes to see. I might as well just wipe the white crust from the corner of my mouth and announce, "I made the team!" Then again, this isn't about me. Or at least it shouldn't be.

"I'm totally going to cry," I wring an eyelash. "I just want to thank all of you for all of your support during these trying times of my nuptial endeavors."

The roomful of estrogen collectively bats an eye.

This is Karen Leigh's wedding, by all accounts a celebration of perfection that couldn't happen to a nicer, more stunning person. All of the ‘i's have been dotted with measured, symmetrical hearts by her maid of honor and cousin, Shannon, right down to a mouthy wedding planner who isn't afraid to be loud and a gracious Southern family that isn't (at least visibly) averse to this queer anomaly bracketing the end of the bridal party. Money has been liberally tossed, dresses have been pinned and plucked. All that should be left to do is for Karen to float like a soap bubble up the aisle and into the arms of her paramour, Miguel, and into happily ever after with a TV dinner. Ain't love grand?

"I didn't think we'd be fighting like this after just two weeks!" one of the other (recently married) bridesmaids slaps her newlywed phone down.

"Give it seven years," the kaffeeklatsch hens.

Soon, I'm wrestling with the three-point folding of my silk handkerchief while stepping into the pleated boxiness of rented formality — a clip-on tie, a vest, a boutonniere, cufflinks — and panicking.

"Take a Klonopin," Shannon doesn't even look up from her scripting while handing me a pill. Problem solved.

The wedding itself goes off without a hitch, if you don't count the ridiculous tears that fill my eyes throughout the Beyoncé rendition of "Ave Maria" backtracking my aisle ascension. That was baby Simon LeBon's first single! I peek over at Alan and try to register a moment, but fail due to his chronic romance deficiency. So what? Once again, this isn't about me, it isn't about us, it's about that gorgeous woman giggling her way through her vows of trust and forever and sickness and health to that guy doing the same. There could be nothing wrong with that, nothing wrong at all with love. My sidesaddle of cynicism is worthless here. Life is a blown dandelion of poetic possibilities floating in pink air.

Until the reception, that is, when that breath blowing in my face smells of table wine and that air gets bluer by the moment.

"We were just sitting here talking about Marcus Aureliusssssh and Epictetussssssh," Alan wobbles in his chair.

"You can't even see straight," I philosophize. Outside for a cigarette-and-scolding, I press a little harder. "So, I leave you alone with the guys and you get drunk? You know, this isn't about us (et cetera). They spent a lot of money on this illusion."

"What's money?" the slur slurs s'more slur.

Turns out that Alan's not alone in his tail-tucked inebriation; his whole gender is right there with him. While Miguel and Karen Leigh dance their first heavenly dance to Beyoncé's "Halo," one of the groomsmen (from Axis, tellingly) shoots off straight to hell with a juvenile Tourette's attack. "I wonder if Miguel's getting a boner. I mean, how could you not get a boner?"

What's wrong with weddings? Men.

It only gets worse, with Alan glazing over into that Southern Gothic nightmare blackout red-eyed enough to make anyone afraid of Virginia Woolf. A game of "get the guest" ensues with two unassuming 20-somethings at our table, finally ending with Alan blurting out "So, how many men have you two ladies slept with?" for everyone's listening enjoyment. And for a moment of still life, it's that same connection of eyes, that same drunken dynamic, that brought us together nine years ago. This is love. This is marriage.

"Hey, Alan, you've officially ruined my night! Did you have fun doing it?" I glare, then drag him out of the ballroom.

At home, he sleeps on the couch.

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