We spent our Saturday at the gorgeous wedding of my gorgeous friend. She is an old friend in the sense that we’ve known each other for over a decade, though also in the sense that one of us, at least, is much wrinklier than when we met.
It was the most beautiful wedding. The service was conducted by a sassy female minister in an old village church, bell peals showering over us as we arrived. Thankfully one of our group had remembered tissues, because we made it through our readings and then bawled. After the ceremony and some confetti, we moved to a reception at a nearby farm barn. We had the happiest afternoon I can remember in a while, eating canapés, taking photos, sitting down at an exquisitely laid table for an amazing dinner, sniffling through speeches, applying celebratory temporary tattoos, hogging the vintage photobooth, roasting fist-sized marshmallows over fire pits, dancing shoeless next to a smoke machine, and eventually turning down the pizza and cheese that kept appearing at our shoulders, because I’d eaten so much my sternum was bruised. And if you didn’t know it was possible to do this, you clearly haven’t been trying hard enough.
Everything was beautiful, thoughtful, understated. Em is that sort. She’s one of the kindest, loveliest people I’ve ever had the good fortune to know. She’s a good egg.
Spending time with old friends always gets me thinking about old friends. It is such a sweeping relief, spending time with people you’ve known for ages. There’s no need to have awkward first-time conversations about the fact that you don’t drink, or that you think nightclubs are a bit of a gross unnecessary faff, as it happens, because you got all that out of the way years ago. You don’t need to try to be cool, or worry that you’re not. You can talk about Elizabeth Barrett Browning; you can tell them how work is actually going (even if the answer is Not That Great). You can tell ancient jokes that are still funny. You can say things you didn’t quite mean and not worry about them thinking the worse of you. You hand over insecure confidences at odd moments without worrying they’ll be mishandled. You have twelve years’ worth of leeway to give them, and yourself, whenever it’s needed.
I am not so good at new friends – I am taking deep breaths and fixing on smiles twice a day in the school playground, and it makes me come out in cold sweats. But old friends, yes. Any day of the week. As long as we’re not in a nightclub. As long as we’re eating beef and cheese.
PS, I read this poem during the service. I practised it twelve hundred times in the weeks leading up to it (‘I HATE THIS POEM’, Henry exploded, towards the end), and managed to stay dry-eyed less than twice.
PPS, I missed out the stanza about thighs. I dunno, I might be a bit stodgy, but I don’t think thighs have a solid place in church.
That word on your lips
is a kiss;
is a promise already made.
We made it.
Love did not turn from hurt
or hard work.
When lights failed, it did not switch off.
When love had no road,
we willingly built it.
We shouldered its stones
and its dirt. So thank god
there are days like this when it’s easy.
When we open our mouths
and the words flood in.
Put the word of your hand
We have learnt to hold to each other
when nothing was given by right;
how love will insist
with its ache; with its first painful
tug on the guts;
its snake in the nest of the ribs;
the bomb in the chest;
in the Y of the thighs; the red, red
red sun of it, rising.
How love must, at all costs,
be answered. We have answered
and so have a million before us
and each of their names is a vow.
So now I can tell you, quite simply
you are the house I will live in:
there is no good reason
to move. Good earth,
you are home, stone, sun,
all my countries. Vital to me
as the light. You are it
and I am asking.
Love opens a door
then slams it. It does.
It loses its touch and its looks.
But love needs its fury.
We have fought
and when times make it necessary,
we will again. When night draws in,
we won’t forget
how once the streets ran wet with light
and love. Like blood. They will again.
But for now,
we make our promises gently.
This extraordinary day we have made.
the birds in their ordinary heaven.
Tonight the sky will blaze
with stars. Today, my love,
rooms bloom with flowers.
The sky is ours.