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

The plot was hatched last night. It began as a dare by my friends Anne and Sarah, and after a couple of drinks it was settled. We would go as curiosity seekers, observers of the human condition, anthropologists of a sort. So now here we are, lurking behind a low stone wall on the edge of Central Park, across the street from the church where my ex-husband is taking a spanking new bride. We are here to spy.

Friends of mine tipped me off to where the wedding would be held. They were invited, but boycotted the festivities in a show of solidarity. Why they gave me the information, I don’t know, but it’s safe to say they had no idea what I would do with it.

As Anne, Sarah and I wait for the happy couple to emerge aglow in connubial bliss, I imagine myself a Pygmy armed with poison darts: thwack—straight into their necks. Down the church steps they would tumble, a tangle of tulle and Armani. Blood would trickle onto her lovely white dress; her high heel would impale his heart. “Such a pity,” their friends would say. “They were so in love.”

My 10–year-old daughter is a flower girl in the wedding. I never asked what her dress looks like. I don’t know who will sit with her three-year-old sister during the cere-mony or how the girls feel about this event. When their father picked them up yesterday, they were unusually quiet. “Have fun,” I said, as I kissed them good-bye, wishing I really meant it. They’d said almost nothing about the wedding, and I had no idea how to approach the topic. I felt guilty about my silence until my therapist told me that if the girls wanted to talk, they would, but not to press them. “Children of divorce are conflicted,” she said. “They find it hard to bridge the two worlds.” I know how they feel; I find it hard to bridge the two worlds too.

“What if the children see me?” I ask Sarah, as I peek up over the wall. “The last thing I want is for them to see their mother conduct-ing covert operations. They’ll think I’m pathetic.”

“You are pathetic,” Sarah replies. “But it doesn’t matter. They’ll never spot us here.” The park is lush with greenery, and we are posi-tioned approximately a hundred yards to the left of the church. I pray she is right. I wouldn’t be on this mission if I’d had time to adjust to the idea of my ex’s remarriage, but this is May and we were officially di-vorced only last August. After 10 years of marriage and two children, he left with the simple explanation that he “didn’t want to be married anymore.” The day after my attorney informed me that the divorce was final, my now-ex called to tell me he was engaged.

With the children to focus on, I’ve barely had time to figure out how to be single again—and he has a whole new wife. I have no idea who she is or how they met, which is just as well, I suppose. The less I know, the less I hurt. But still, I wonder, what kind of fool would leave a girl like me? What does she have that I don’t, other than my husband?

I don’t share my questions with my friends for fear they will answer honestly. Instead, I engage in small talk, pretend that skulking behind a giant oak with a pair of binoculars is perfectly normal behavior. Anne has appointed herself lookout, and she takes her responsibility seriously. The binoculars are hers. We pass them back and forth, adjusting the focus until we have it just right. After an interminable 45 minutes, people begin emerging from the church.

“Give me those,” I say, grabbing the binoculars out of Anne’s hands. I realize as I peer through them that there is something twisted about this. It’s sort of like watching your own open-heart surgery. Without anesthesia.

“It’s Paul and Ellie. Those turncoats!” I gasp, even though I never liked either of them. I have a similar reaction every time anyone I know walks out, including my former in-laws. Somehow, I’d hoped they wouldn’t attend.
The guests mill about the church steps in the warm spring sun. They must be preparing for some pagan ritual like throwing rice or rose petals or maybe pebbles. Pebbles would be a new and interesting thing to throw.

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