Home on a Spacious Caravan
“I believe I requested a refill,” Our Best Man said as he reached the stage. “That’s fine, I’ll improvise.” He rose an empty champagne glass into the air. “If the wedding party were here, I think they would agree.” Microphone feedback came through the speakers, partially deafening the half captured audience. “Agree that this whole place stinks with romance. But, of course, they are here and they probably disagree.” As gorgeous as she was on this day, the Bride could not feign a smile any longer. She let her face droop as she shot a glance towards the Groom, who’s Best Man was well on his way to an unhappy morning. “I say disagree in the best way possible though, of course. If that makes any sense at all, which I don’t expect it to. I, and you shouldn’t either, expect any of this to be even remotely coherent.” The Best Man stopped, gaging the room. His eyes made their way to the Groom and the Bride. He saw them two staring. They had the unmistakable look a particularly confused, slightly embarrassed, subtly post-pubescent female dons when her absent minded, undeniably innocent, male friend does nothing. Or, rather, does something so inconceivably dimwitted, only looking for a laugh, that stops any romantic advancement. Mouths agape.
“The great thing about Jay and Rita here though, is their romance. But goddamn does it stink.” He let his arm rest, but keeping the empty glass in an upright position as any heavy drinker would. “But it’s fantastic. It’s all fantastic. Drink!” Only a select few from the audience drank from their glasses. “When I said earlier that the wedding party wasn’t here, I meant that, while physically they are, I know because Rita is starring at me. But emotionally, or whatever you want to call it, they aren’t, and they shouldn’t. Their lives, right now, only consist on them. We, all of us here, mean nothing to them. In about a month, when this all wears out, we’ll mean something again.” Whispers mostly, came from the audience. “Alright, alright. I get it. I’ll turn it around.” The Best Man let his eyes wander. They found his sister, all of 12 years, with her hair done up in a circularly winding pattern with dots of white flowers delicately spaced throughout. She, keeping with he crowd by bearing a frown, was dressed a primrose colored, white lined satin dress, she bought with her very own money. She sat five chairs away from her eldest brother, the Groom. Between, in those four chairs, sat her mother, father, the Best Man’s empty chair and, finally, with the heaviest frown of all, her eldest sibling and only sister, Ellen Connais. “I met the Groom on my birthday. My literal first day. I was hours old when I met this man. Well he was a boy at the time. From what I am told, and it was a lot, he waited 9 hours for our mother to give birth to me in a rusted military hospital. That last bit doesn’t matter much, but it’s a point and I said it. My mother let him hold me when the whole ordeal was done. She was drugged. I don’t blame her.” A slight, reserved, almost impatience chuckle came from those select few audience members who gave into their most deepest desires earlier. “He was—how old were you, Jay?—doesn’t matter. He was young. But, my mother said, he held me with his tiny little arms and swayed—that’s what she said, ’swayed’— me for hours. 12—right, 12? Lou?— 12 years ago, he did the same for our little sister Louise, who’s in the crowd tonight. Swayed.” The Best Man attempted to catch any lost drops from his champagne glass. The audience watched without any sort of eagerness, all wanting this desperate rekindling of affection to end with a quick, painless death. “What am I getting at Jay?” He finally said.
Jay Roitfeld, the Groom and lover of theatrics, let his wine stained teeth show. He was positioned, at the Wedding Party’s table, now, with his elbows jabbing at the wicker with his knuckles finding his chin. If he were to speak from this position, which he would never, the noise would be muffled and barely audible, even to his newly wed, Amrita Roitfeld (née Shankar), sitting inches away. Amrita herself sat as a lady should: straight back with her hands folded over her lap, touching her forming fitting, wonderfully unwrinkled, cream colored wedding gown. There was an untouched glass of red wine close to her empty plate. She thought of quenching her thirst as the Best Man spoke again, but thought better of it, and did not.
“Maybe I’m embellishing a story our mother told me, Jay. But, then again, maybe I’m not and maybe you just really like swaying newborns.” More than the initial few laughed. “I think the whole point was that Jay here is a gentle man. A gentleman. But, you already know that, or else you wouldn’t be here, would you? Jay, save me,” He threw away. Our Best Man thought of ending his speech there but, like our Bride, did not give in to any feigned accomplishment.
As if a burst of lightening stuck his brain, turning gears and lighting bulbs, the Best Man began his speech again with a vigorous need. He stood on a stained wooden stage 2 or 3 feet above the audience. Dressed in the Groomsmen attire (a classically 1960’s orange beige colored suit, making, all people who found any unburnt photos, twist their eyes, raise the corner of their lips and say: “Who’s idea was that?”), the Best Man, before finding his way back to the microphone, sighed heavily and turned his back to the audience. From those still watching, chiefly the parenting type, worried for the Best Man. His mother, giver of life in a rusted hospital, leaned towards his father. In his ear she said: “Suppose we call this?”.
“Let him see it through,” his father replied, finding her ear too.
Now facing a tangerine and cream backdrop, the Best Man put the microphone back to his mouth. “To whoever refused to refill my champaign, thank you,” he said, turning back to the audience. “I am taking a little liberty with this and all but in for a penny, in for a pound. It hasn’t been that long anyway though.” He turned, finding the audience again. “Just dense.”
“He’s almost done,” his father said, outside of any ear.
“I asked Jay to save me earlier. That is something I would like to talk about, but leaving me out of it. And reversing Jay’s role too. Dense, I know. Saving, really, that’s what I’m on about. Rita, you saved Jay. Do you, anyone can answer this, but it’s really directed at Rita. Do you remember any of Jay’s models?” Amrita did not respond. “The models he made—It was rhetorical anyway—well he made thousands of them. Cars, planes, tanks. He spent a lot of money to say the least. Well, I am almost there Mom, I always said that he built those models because he was missing something. He filled his time painting 7” cars, when he should have been finding a girl. Well that’s what you saved him from Rita.” The crowd, as the Best Man determined, had no emotional pull either way. Perfectly neutral towards his display. With this reassuring his ego, he continued, but at a faster, more hushed pace. “You took a boy of 28 and turned him into a 29 year old man. I can tell you with perfect honesty Rita, I have never seen a man any happier. Maybe, if my newborn eyes could remember, they’d see someone happier but I doubt it.” The Best Man put the microphone into the stand. “To close, as someone who saw Jay at his darkest time—the time with the models—I just want to say thank you and sorry.”
As the frenzy settled and our Best Man sat, alone at his positioned table, nursing his oncoming hangover, a man, weathered by the night, came round looking for donations. The man, in his sixties and past his bed time, stuck out a wicker basket not unlike the donations baskets at Catholics masses. He shook it a tad, making the coins jiggle and noisy, “For the Troops?”, he asked. He shook the basket again, making slightly more noise than he had before. “Sir?”, he said. The Best Man sat, in his spacious way: legs stretched with one arched over the other, with his arms crossed over his ailing head, exposing his yellowed armpits. His coat was thrown across the spine of his chair and his bow tie was untied, leaving the two shreds to come down, past his pectorals, the way a drunk movie star would at an unenchanting after party. If it were not for his apparent outburst, as he was unrelated to many participant at the wedding, he would, possibly, be thought of as a slightly disheveled, intensely introspective, dapper young man. But, as the digressions with shortly cease, no one thought that of the Best Man.
As the more adventurous type, and apart of the unrelated sect, I walked up to the Best Man. I told him I liked the speech.
“Don’t patronize me,” He said.
“I’m not, I thought it was great.”
“I don’t know, I think it gave this whole thing a little life.”
He moved his head slow and methodically. Eyelids over, his pupils saw the top of their cavity. Finally, he looked at me.
“You didn’t like the ceremony?”
“No, I did.” I did. “It was just pretty standard it seemed.”
“Did you not see the swans?”
“I did, I liked them. I’ve just seen them before, that’s all.”
“The great wedding critic here.”
“Just an opinion, that’s all.”
On the table we sat at, there were three drinks. I had mine, a flat champagne I’d been nursing since the toasts. He had two. A glass of ice, slowly melting and a clear cocktail. He alternated drinks. Now, after this exchange, he solely drank from the clear cocktail.
“Why’d you come over here?”
“I wanted to meet you I guess.”
“Do you know how many people have told me that?”
“Millions,” I humored him.
“Practically. I think they want apart of this family, God’s honest trust.”
“Truth. Yeah. Well, you know what, there might be some room for them now.” He gestured over to the wedding party, glass in hand. “I think I’m out, guy.”
“And by that you mean? I don’t mean to be an analyst or anything but…That’s a pretty,” I fuddled with the words. “Pretty scary thought there.”
“Jesus, I’m not gonna kill myself or anything because of a botched, goddamn speech, James. I’m out, that’s all. Now, if someone wants to take my place, they can go on ahead. I give up. I give up my ancestral home, if you will.” I will. “The caravan is open now, spacious, that’s all.”
“And it’s mine if I want it?”
“That’s right. Anybody’s if they want it.”
“I’ve got to tell you, here,” I leaned in, he did not. “I don’t see what’s all the big fuss about with this family. I mean, you guys are great people, but, maybe it’s the papers, I don’t know.”
I’d like to think I planted this in his brain, right there and then. I don’t believe, even if this is conjecture, anyone has ever told him, or anyone of his family, something as static and neutral. To feel hated, or to feel loved, is something egos can live with but, I think I messed him up here, to be totally insignificant was something he had never experienced. Praise or hate, never nothing.
“Actually, no. Groom’s.”
“Who do you know.” Very pointed he said it.
“Well, it’s not me personally but my wife works with your brother.”
“A plus one, ok.”
“I’m very grateful, don’t get my wrong. But I think this whole place needs some neutrality. Maybe your father was overrated a little, great I would’t say this in any other situation but I’m slightly convinced you wont remember this so…”
“It’s fine. Tell you what, I wont say it’s refreshing because I get it all the time and I’m tired of it, but not being coddled all the time is a bit nice. If you had to chose, though, between Jay’s show, my father’s series or my show, which one?”
“First of all, I wouldn’t say Jay has a show, he appears on a show. And I can’t stand it. He’s very pedantic; it makes my ears bleed I swear to God. Then with your father’s series, they’re great, obviously.”
“But, I don’t know. Dated, maybe? I just want something to happen, you know?”
“Cheap, I think, mostly.”
“It’s designed that way.”
“No, I know it is. I just want to see some sort of production value, honestly. I get what it’s going for though, and that’s great, but maybe an actual lighting rig would help?”
He leaned in now, taking his jacket from chair. I stood.
“Well this has been fun, James but I have to go now.”
I told him ok and he left. I watched him for a little, after he walked away. He found his sister Louise and hugged her. He found his parents and hugged them too. Then he found his brother and his wife and hugged them together.
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