The Dress

August 2021

The invitation was one of the most beautiful I had seen, smooth ivory stock, wrapped in vellum and sealed with a wax insignia. Like a message of peace in the middle of a war, I propped it on my dresser- as a good omen. And looked at it occasionally because it made me smile.

The dress was hanging in the closet with others, tags still on them, bought for events I was attending long before this disaster separated us from those we love, redefined joy, and made gatherings a navigational challenge like a long math equation people way smarter than me can figure out.

The dress is black and has a cowl halter neck and low back. Its beaded, fitted waistline sits perfectly on my slender middle, and drapes along my legs with a single slit up the left side.

It fits like it was made for me. When I tried it on, I felt like a movie star from the ‘40’s. The shoes I picked were glittery with gold sparkles and have a velvet bow at the toe. I was going to wear my hair in an updo, with gems my husband had bought me, and a shimmering gold purse, which Scott, who is like a brother to me, gave me for Chanukah, as a reminder that one day we would emerge from our cocoons and fly again. Tonight, was going to be that night.

Jim is in the shower now. His tux neatly pressed, and his shirt ironed, his studs and tie neatly on the bed. The wedding card he inscribed beautifully with a poem for the bride and groom, children of his good friends.

I turned the invitation over and over again in my hands and hesitated before I called the venue.
“I am attending a wedding on Saturday.”
“Yes.”
“ I wonder if you know how many people will be there?”
“200 or so.”
“ I wonder if you know how they have planned the evening?”
“The ceremony will be outside, and the cocktail reception and dinner will be inside.”
“Thank you. Do you know if there are any Covid restrictions in place?”
“No. There are no Covid restrictions. We are not obligated to follow any specific protocols.”

I hung up.

The wedding was in two days. I am vaccinated, I bought a pretty, lace mask to protect me and others, but the vision of the crowded dance floor, the clinging of glasses, the banter and conversations, the stunning displays of food and flowers all faded as the voice in my head drowned out any argument I could make to the contrary. You cannot go to this wedding. It is not safe.

I called Jim right away. He was at work.

“I’m sorry to bother you.”
“Never a bother.”
“I just spoke with the wedding venue. It’s over 200 people indoors. No Covid protocols. I just don’t think I can go.” I choked on the last few words.
“No problem honey, you don’t need to feel badly. I understand.”
“Ok, I just wanted you to know right away. Maybe Samantha will go with you.”
I could feel my nose tingling and my eyes watering.
“I think I should hang up.” I whispered.

I didn’t know the bride or the groom and had only met the parents twice. They were Jim’s friends. There it was again, the sadness that shrouded me like a heavy, wool blanket, snuffing out my breath. Another missed event, on a long list of celebrations, trips, vacations, and connections that wasn’t going to happen.

I will not be there. His daughter will go instead.

The dress will not be worn- again- the necklace and earrings will sleep in their boxes, the purse will not make its debut and the shoes will remain in their felt, drawstring bags on top of my closet. I am still in the clothing I slept in. I binge watched something on Hulu and haven’t left the couch. It is 2:30 pm.

I am thinking of going for a walk and getting my nails done and both feel like monumental tasks.

I am so tired.

Tonight, was the night I was going to do what I love most. Dress up, dance, celebrate.
The world is burning in the middle east, people are dying in hospitals, I am in my upscale apartment feeling the loss and grief of a life I lost 17 months ago, along with everyone else, but I keep preaching life must be lived in the moment. Am I lying? Am I living, really?

Tonight, Jim and his daughter will dance, and laugh and drink and celebrate and I will wonder what that feels like. For months I’ve visited my lifeless clothing, and the memories that magically appear on my iphone from celebrations past. The carefree smiles of my family and friends during times we took for granted. We had no idea what was coming.

It is 3pm now. I will go fetch Jim’s shoes from the shoemaker. I will admire how shiny they are.
I will tell him how handsome he looks in his tux. His daughter will make a beautiful surrogate
and I will sit on the couch wondering what it would feel like to get dressed up, and have somewhere safe to go dance.

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