The car pulled up to the church, and the driver helped me out. I stepped onto the path, my silk-white high heels making the tiniest crunch on the gravel. And then I looked down at my dress. My dress! At some point on the journey it had turned yellow. It was bright yellow. My dress had turned bright yellow, and the bells were pealing their discordant tones to tell me that the service was due to start. How could I get married when I was wearing a yellow dress?
I woke up, gasping slightly, eyes adjusting to the dark. My books were towered up all higgledy-piggledy on the desk, Virginia Woolf topping one pile, Keats on the other, and fifty or so loose pages of blue scribblings in between. My finals were rapidly approaching.
On the other side of the desk stood the box. I tiptoed across the floor, the carpet cold and bristly underfoot. I opened the box to check again – had I made the right decision? I had felt so good about it in the shop, but now there was no going back and the money had been spent. Was it the right one?
The dreams had started about three months before the wedding: my dress was in the post and had got lost, or it had been cut with scissors, or it had turned green or yellow or too short or ripped. And always, no time; no time to go back and change things. I was walking to church in the wrong dress.
I peeked inside at the dress – a gentle white: ivory, I think it was supposed to be called. A field of tiny pearls, the heavy silk; it was the weight and beauty of marriage in a box. I would slowly stroke it, reassured. I had made the right decision. It was right. Of course it was right. It would all be alright.
“You can’t walk too slowly down the aisle,” our vicar told us as I held onto my father’s arm. This was the rehearsal, the night before. I had talked like a hyperactive six-year-old to anyone who would listen about how amazing my dress was, but this was the first time it had really sunk in: they would all be looking at me. All of them.
I don’t do theatre or stage, I am malcoordinated and medium-alright-looking when I’ve made an effort. I had a nice dress, but that did not mean I could strut down the church slowly like a model. I could feel already my cheeks burning. Was there a way of doing it a little faster?
I just wanted to be married, really. The venue people had asked us what the theme was for our wedding and we’d looked blankly at them. The theme was that we would be married, surely?
Or did they mean which Bible passages and songs we’d chosen? Because we’d spent ages with that, whittled it down, planned in detail, told the vicar that we weren’t telling him how to do his job but this is what we’d prefer him to say.
Turns out, they meant colours and stuff.
I just wanted to be married. I cared about the service, the words, but not about the frippery and frivolity.
There was something in me that wanted to run down the aisle in a hoody and just grin and get married. But there was also a shy six-year-old that wanted to twirl in my magical white dress and say, “Look at me!” That girl would dance all the way down the aisle and wait for the applause.
And then there was a shadowy teenager in me that would emerge from time to time and whisper, “Who would want you?” and I would feel rooted to the spot in shame.
I just wasn’t sure what speed that would average out at as I walked down the aisle.
He had told me he’d see me no later than 12.05. I was twenty minutes late – but that was the photographer snapping, all crocodile grin. Not my fault.
“Sorry I’m late,” I whispered when I reached him. Our carefully-chosen first hymn was already in motion, piano keys dancing heavily. “It was the photographer.”
“I expected nothing less,” he said. His smile was sideways at me, his eyes were reassuring while he wiped the sweat off his hands.
We spoke the vows: i had wanted them to leap and fly out of my mouth, but in the end they came out shuffling a little, shyly. It didn’t matter: they were said and the gold rings cooled our sweaty fingers.
He grinned, I grinned; and we were young and excited and married.
“This dress,” the preacher paused in the middle of his sermon,”deserves to be here, in this magnificent church, on this important occasion. It is beautiful, isn’t it?”
The congregation mmmm-ed their approval, and I plumped out my skirt, just a little.
The preacher talked about Revelation 19, about God as host to an eternal party. He talked champagne bubbles, a bridegroom, a bride given a beautiful dress to wear, a dress that deserved to be there.
In my deserving-undeserved dress, I was sparkling and fresh and white. Everyone was looking at me, and I was looking at him.
We held hands and knelt down and peeked over the prayer rail together into the rest of our lives.
Over to you:
- Can you relate to that feeling of fear and blessing, that deserving-undeservedness?
Joining with Amber on Mondays for concretewords, where we practise writing by communicating the abstract through concrete things – a horse, a book, stairs – and today the dress. These concrete words posts have led me on a journey through childhood and nostalgia and spiritual maturity – I write and that’s what comes out at the moment.
Amber is taking a break from concrete words and I will be hosting for the next little bit. The prompts for the next couple of weeks are as follows:
Mar 4 – the dress
Mar 11 – the bottle
Won’t you join me? Link your post below and read and comment on others’ abstractions on the instrument. For more info about ‘how to’ use the concrete to write the abstract, read Amber’s introduction here.
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