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Andy Kind | Promedian

Andy Kind

I should have had breakfast before I put my suit on really, but I’d hardly slept and I was desperate for my future life to start – as though donning full regalia ahead of schedule could somehow chivvy time along. Now I was dressed it just gave me more time to think about what was coming; what was unseen but definitely on its way.

We sat around the kitchen table at different stages of life and undress – me, Mark the Best Man, my nephew the Groomsman, Dad – all of us gripped in some way by that pleasant nausea that saves itself for wedding days and rollercoasters. Dad drummed his stoical fingers on unvarnished pine while I slurped my coffee loudly – anything to disrupt the tense silences that settled when our collective thoughts synchronised on what lay ahead. Then Mark, still enslaved by last night’s Drambuie or jittery about his Best Man’s speech or both, stumbled over my foot and managed to confetti my Moss Bros jacket with a cartoonishly-stacked plate of greasy bacon and attendant condiments.
‘It’s fine, it’ll be fine,’ he assured me as he pawed at me frantically with paper towel, contracting the grease to a long-term tenancy of the jacket’s inner fibres.
‘Sorry,’ he said, a beaten man. I outnumbered his five-letter apology with a gang of four-letter words. He picked up the floored bacon and, already shamed beyond hope of reprieve, ate it.

Without my jacket, the underlying gold waistcoat seemed lurid and garish and gave me the look of a festive butler.
‘Wear my jacket, son,’ Dad said. ‘It’s a warm day – I’m happy without.’
A good plan, if only Dad’s blazer hadn’t been tailored to fit him, and if only he wasn’t several inches taller and waistier than me. I slipped the jacket on, or rather I slipped down into it, like a heavy toddler on a water slide.
‘It makes me think of drowning,’ my nephew said sadly.
‘It looks like a wizard cursed you,’ Mark added.
‘You look like a little boy in his Dad’s jacket.’

But it would have to do. Everyone else’s jackets were far too small and I’d look like Dr David Banner had lost his temper at a corporate bash.
‘You’ll grow into it, scarecrow,’ Dad said with a steady smile, the same words he’d used when he watched my first school blazer hang off me all those years ago. My wedding suit was exactly the same shade of royal blue. I hadn’t realised that, and smiled detachedly at the memory.
‘Don’t worry, you’ll grow into it.’

The church was cool in the gathering summer heat, or maybe it was just the draughtiness of my jacket that kept my temperature down. The guests filtered in, everyone smiling politely, nobody referencing – at least not to me – the cavernous blazer that could have smuggled both me and several bibles into communist China. Mark sat still next to me, chewing anxiously on something that might have been gum or a rasher of pig he’d found under a pew.
Dad appeared at the back of church, sweat patches visible on his exposed shirt from where he’d pushed Mum’s wheelchair up the church drive. He glided her chair down the aisle, humming or singing something just for her on a day that no bookie would have given odds on her seeing. I turned moistening eyes to the floor at that twenty-year old memory of sitting in a sickly waiting room, being told along with my two sisters that Mum wasn’t expected to last the week. They’d only been married seven years when it happened. Dad had sat with us in that room, the same age as I was today, as his colleagues told him what he already knew but was powerless against – a well-respected doctor sitting as helpless as a drowning boy, unable to heal his broken bride.

But healing is a process not an event, and he did heal her; had gone on healing her for the next two decades. The general practitioner had hung up his stethoscope and become a specialist carer. To say I never heard him complain would be rose-tinted. The house, the one we downsized to, wasn’t always a fun place to be. He shouted and swore and smashed things. I never saw him cry but I heard him.
He never left, though. Long after Eros had flown, Agape rolled up its sleeves and just got on with it.

Was she still beautiful to him? Did he recognise the woman he’d promised to love through sickness and poverty? Could he ever have guessed how quickly those promises would be tested? He set the brake on Mum’s wheelchair and stood beside her. He was still humming something.

The vicar asked all those who could to stand. Mark roused himself and swallowed whatever had been incarcerated in his mouth. A hush poured into the church from the open arch doorway and the bridesmaids made their staggered procession to the front. Then came my bride.
My future stepped down the aisle towards me, clothed in perfect unblemished white.
I stood there waiting, drumming my fingers on my leg, in a coat that was far too big for me.

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