Missing Bud's Sister's Wedding

For two days, there’s been a constant coming and going from our neighbor’s house. As I left the house yesterday, running mundane errands—to the yarn shop, the bank, the Post Office—I saw a sleek grey car arrive, the young female driver get out, and hurry to the front door. She was carrying something that looked like a horse garland, the kind that’s draped around a horse’s neck at the finish line, except the one she carried was smaller. The garland she carried was made of dark foliage and bright flowers: a deep band of spiked leaves held together with a dense strip of small, tightly furled blooms. Even from a distance, it looked spectacular. I counted at least 20 cars parked around the house; the u-shaped driveway that ran behind the house, from one side to the other, was bumper-to-bumper, and half a dozen cars blocked each other in on the lawn. The road in front of the house was jammed, too, with front bumpers and back bumpers nudged up against every spare meter of curb.

“There must be some kind of festival,” I told Susan, as we reversed out of our parking spot, “some kind of family gathering.” By the time we returned home, whatever gathering had been taking place had started to break up—the lawn was a lawn again, and only a dozen or so cars remained in the driveway. When we closed the door behind us, we didn’t give it a second thought.

Just before eleven, there came a knock at the door. It was our neighbor.

“My sister is getting married today,” he said, “so we have a lot of cars at the house. I hope they don’t disturb you.”

I smiled, offered my congratulations, tugged the pink t-shirt I’d worn to bed the night before into place, and smoothed down my hair.

“You could come to the wedding,” he said, “even though it’s short notice. My name is Bud. I am the homeowner.”

I introduced myself to Bud, then turned back towards the living room and gestured to my Susan, sitting on the couch in her robe. “This is Susan,” I said to Bud, and then to her: “Bud’s sister is getting married today. He says we can come to the wedding.”

“We made lots of food,” Bud added, from the doorway, “from Nepal. Here, let me give you my phone number. You can call before you come over. Or just knock on the door. But if you want to see the bride, you should come at 12:30.”

While Bud is standing in our doorway, neatly dressed in a charcoal gray suit, I see a large white van pull up in front of the house, then a red sedan. Bud turns to look, then turns back to me. “I hope you will come,” he says, “to see the bride,” before stepping down from our porch, back towards his house and the arriving guests.

We have wanted to meet Bud for two years, but until today, he and his family have kept their distance. We sometimes gesture hello, a quick wave when we happen to see them as we’re walking up our pathway, and sometimes they gesture back, and we’ve talked about taking them cookies or cupcakes, but have never quite made it happen. Now, out of the blue, he’s inviting us to his sister’s wedding.

On Bud’s front door, there’s a bright garland of dried marigolds. Every spring, an old man—now I think it must be Bud’s father—plants them by the dozen, maybe even by the hundred, across the entire width of the property, three or four deep, at least. They sprout feathery leaves over the course of the summer, growing to three feet high until, by August, there’s a glorious display of gold and orange blazing from the front of the house. Last September, I saw an older lady collecting blooms, picking the bright heads from their tall stems, gathering them in a basket and taking them indoors.

Now, I wonder if she was collecting marigolds for the wedding garlands, and I wonder too how many more marigolds are hung inside.

We contemplate going, quite seriously, for about three minutes.

“We don’t know anyone,” I said. “We barely even know Bud, and I don’t even know which one is his sister.”

“We can’t go empty-handed either,” Susan said, “but I have no idea what we could possibly take to a Hindu wedding. Everything they have will be so much better than anything we could bring.”

“And we’re not even dressed,” I said. “Of all the days for this to happen, it’s on a day when we didn’t get up until ten and we’re still in our pajamas when he knocks at the door. I’m embarrassed that he saw me this way.”

I peek through the blinds at Bud’s house. Another car has arrived, and another, and I see at least a dozen people milling around, taking platters of food into the house, laughing, shaking hands, hugging. Some of the men are dressed like Bud, in charcoal suits, but a few are wearing traditional dress, kurta, long, close fitting shirts with elaborate stitching. The women are wearing saris in deep, rich colors, glimmering with gold thread and sequins.

And then they’re gone, into the house.

We miss Bud’s sister’s wedding. Instead, we look up Hindu weddings on the Internet, imagine how beautiful the bride will look in her red sari, intricate Mehndi on her hands. It’s an auspicious day, we discover, a good day for a wedding. Later, we hear music coming from the house, and more laughter, the celebration pouring out into the street, but although we strain our eyes, we don’t see the bride.

Catherine A. Brereton is from England, but moved to America in 2008, where she is now an MFA candidate at the University of Kentucky. Her essay, “Trance,” published by Slice magazine, was selected by Ariel Levy and Robert Atwan as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays, 2015. She is the 2015 winner of The Flounce’s Nonfiction Writer of the Year award. Catherine is the current Editor-in-Chief of Limestone, the University of Kentucky’s literary journal. She lives in Lexington with her wife and their teenage daughters, and can be found online at catherinebrereton.com.