Last weekend, my friends Ben and Philissa got married. Matt and I flew down to North Carolina for the event and stayed in a hotel near Chapel Hill, which was packed with Tarheel fans for the Saturday game. It was warm down south—up into the 80s during the day, a sudden step back into summer. It’s hard to imagine as I think about it now, sitting at my kitchen table in Cambridge, listening to the cold autumn wind whip past my window outside.
I had been to Chapel Hill once before. I went with the future bride and groom for a weekend last summer, when Matt had already been deployed to Afghanistan for a few months. It was a sweet gesture, bringing me on their trip to find a spot for the wedding. I think they hoped to distract me from thoughts of war, to show me where Philissa grew up, to eat some good food. I was perpetually anxious, however, and always on edge. I’m not sure I was all that much fun. I remember going on long runs through unfamiliar neighborhoods. The sky seemed always on the cusp of a storm. While Matt was in Afghanistan, I had a hard time staying still.
And despite going from venue to venue, farm to inn to antique home on that first trip, I had a hard time imaging that this wedding could actually take place. To imagine that would mean to imagine the end of Matt’s time at war. The months still left of his deployment seemed to span out before me forever right then. We still had to get through the rest of the summer, and then the fall, and then the winter, and then the spring. Hundreds of days of the constant unknown, the persistent fear, were still to come. Imagining an end point seemed impossible.
But then it happened. Matt came home. And now Ben and Philissa are married.
The wedding was held outside at a country inn, among willowy trees and Bocce courts, a photo booth, a klezmer band and a whole of lot of family and friends. The ceremony was beautiful and the reception fun.
At the end of wedding, as the sun began to set and the day careened toward evening, Matt and I sat next to each other under the tent where they had served lunch. I could hear laughter and a bit of music, the clanging of the caterers beginning to put away their wares. The temperature was sinking fast, and the mosquitoes had just come out to bite. The next morning we would have to wake up before 4 a.m. in order to make an early flight back to Boston. But right there, right then, we just sat, his arm warm around my shoulders. It’s easier, now, to stay still.