Spying on My Ex's Wedding

From her vantage point across the street in the park, Jan Barker saw more than she bargained for-including a few hard truths about herself.

By Jan Barker
Photograph: Photo by: Craig Cutler

People tossed rice at my wedding. My mother and my Aunt Pat made little packages out of tulle, tied with pale pink ribbons, the same color as my bridesmaids’ dresses. My husband and I dashed under the shower of grain hand in hand while our friends and families clapped and cheered. I was 28 and hopeful. Now I’m 41 and cynical.
Through binoculars, I identify various other traitors. My ex walks out onto the church steps and waves like a politician. Beside him is a woman wearing a fancy white dress. I presume she is the bride. This is the first time I have laid eyes on her and I want to declare her heinous, but I can’t discern her features. She’s tall and thin, I can see, but other than that, she’s a blur.

It has been more than two years since my husband left, long enough for me to figure out that we were wildly incompatible. But seeing him standing there with his new wife almost makes me sick. If he had just told me that he was sorry or that he never meant to hurt me, maybe I could deal with this like a grown-up.

My girls appear next to their father. From this distance they look like dolls in poofy dresses. I want to know who dressed them, who helped them with their hair. I want to know if they are sad inside, or happy for their father. I want to dash across the street, snatch them off the steps and keep running without ever looking back.

Back in January, my ex asked me if he could have the children for this weekend. Knowing what he wanted them for, I went through the calendar week by week to figure out whose weekend it was while he stood by watching. Lo and behold, it was mine.

“Well,” I said, looking up, “we’ll just have to see how you behave between now and then.” He turned on his heel and stormed out of the apartment. I’m not so hateful that I would have refused to let the girls participate. I just wanted to provoke him.

I am trying to zoom in on the scene with the binoculars when Anne says, “Jan . . .  Jan . . .  Jan . . . shit!”
“What?” I ask, annoyed by the interruption. Then I look up. It is Bill (fake name, real tuxedo), the best man in the wedding, fast ap-proaching. I can’t believe he has made it all the way down the steps, across the street and 10 paces away before anyone noticed.

I wish for a massive earthquake or for a grizzly bear to emerge from the trees and swallow me whole. I close my eyes for a moment, the way a two- year-old plays peek-a-boo, as in, “If I can’t see you, then you can’t see me.”
When I open them, Bill is standing directly in front of me wearing the most patronizing expression possible. You were in my wedding too, Bill, I think. How could you betray me like this?

“What’s up?” I ask, as if I just happen to be hanging out in the area with a pair of binoculars.

“Not much,” he answers. “How’s it going?”

I start babbling about how happy I am, how much fun I’m having dating. My face is so flushed I can feel the heat rising off my cheeks, but I can’t make myself shut up. Bill doesn’t say much in response, just the occasional “Uh huh,” accompanied by a condescending nod. When I am finished with my spiel, he says, “Nice hat.”

Then I remember that in an attempt to go incognito, I am wearing a baseball cap. My friend Julie gave it to me to commemorate a date I had with a guy named Jeff. He’d stood me up with the excuse that he got stuck at happy hour, then called the next day to apologize and suggest that he just Rollerblade over. “No,” I said to him. “You’re not Rollerblading over.” Julie, single as well, had my answer emblazoned on a cap for my birthday. This is just peachy, I think. My ex is remarried, and I am a walking advertisement for bad dates. Fortunately, I have the sense not to explain the hat to Bill. Instead, I just say, “Thank you,” and snatch it off my head.

I want desperately to know who else knows I am here—my ex? His bride? Or god forbid, my children? I don’t dare ask. I don’t want to have to kill myself on the spot, which seems like the only logical thing to do if the answer to any of the above is yes.

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