From her seat on the edge of the second row, Ada can see the groom, with deft fingers, quietly touch the bride’s neck and tuck the tag back into her wedding dress. Ada feels the warmth of her other lovers. It never occurred to her that wedding dresses had tags, or if they did, why the brides didn’t cut them off. And then there is the matter of the tucking in the tag. An intimate gesture, and in public, too. The bride doesn’t jump, isn’t ticklish, it seems. Such a casual interaction. Remarkable. It is the first of many weddings she attends that year that are not alike.
Ada doesn’t know the bride, her cousin, well, but knows that her cousin has a prosthetic hand, the left, the one the ring will hold. Of course the groom knows. When had she told him? These days they look so real. And her cousin can feel; she had told her so. There are little computers in her hand. Scientists had figured out how to save nerves and reattach them to the replacement hand or arm or leg. Her cousin doesn’t call it a fake hand or a faux hand, she just calls it her hand. It might even be better than her other hand. Her cousin can open any jar. It isn’t just about jars.
Quark, quark, quark. Caw! Caw! Caw! Caw! A raven flies overhead, chased by a crow. Two more crows follow, streaking through the dusk.
The woman next to Ada leans over and whispers in her ear, making her earring dance. “Hey, you want to talk later?”
“Because now is …?”
“Well, she’s about to throw the bouquet.”
“And that’s important to you?”
“Isn’t it to you?”
The bride gets ready for the pitch, and various single men and women either scatter or are drawn in. The woman next to her jumps up. She’s tall, all-over sleek, with clipped shiny brown hair.
“Moths,” Ada says to herself. She can’t help it, but watches to see which hand her cousin will use to throw. Looks like both. The arms raise. But then, the bouquet of ribboned freesias doesn’t move at all, and thistle, millet, and sunflower seeds batter and blanket the guests, frosting their hair. Towhees sit under the bushes, mourning doves clutch the wires above, waiting for the paths to clear.
Ada had a bird feeder once, but the rats came. The woman returns to her side and reaches over with long fingers to pick seeds from Ada’s curly hair. “Did you know that white rats raised with other white rats will save a white rat from danger, but not a black one. But if a white rat is raised with black rats, it will only save a black rat. And if they are raised together, white and black, they will save any and all rats?”
“I don’t think there are any rats out here,” Ada says.
“Do they have cats?”
“How do you know them?”
“How do you?”
“I don’t. I’m a plus one.”
“Where’s your one?”
The woman gestured with her glass to the covered patio. “Talking to the guy with the black pants and skull socks.”
“It’s OK. We’re just roommates.”
* * *
Ada sits at the edge of the dance floor in a flowing skirt, watching people hold hands. Under the book in her lap, she holds her own hand without realizing it. She looks down at the words while she waits for her ride. The same words over and over. She finds it difficult to concentrate, wondering if the “plus one” is going to come back to talk to her later. The music is lively and as loud as clarinet, bass, and violin can be, but not distracting. It’s not the music that gets under her skin; it is something else. Her hands holding the book are smooth. She rubs her ankles together.
The plus-one woman fastens on Ada. “Let’s go take a picture together.”
“Do I know you?” Ada isn’t sure if she is relieved or not.
“In another life. Anyway, our souls can get to know each other in a photo. Did you see the tintypes they’re doing?”
“I’m not really into pictures of myself.”
“See? That’s why we should do it together.” The woman looks down at Ada’s hands and notices the book. “Monastery by Eduardo Halfon. Sounds severe.”
"Well, it has a lot of questioning in it—about love, about religion, identity. It begins with the narrator’s sister’s ultra-orthodox Jewish wedding in Israel and ends with a sensual, philosophical conversation by the Dead Sea in bathing suits.”
“A bathing suit sounds good.”
“My ride’s here.”
“That’s a lie, right?”
“No, really. I have to work tomorrow.”
“Oh! I didn’t even find out what you do!”
“I leave weddings.” Ada shakes her head. “Have a great life and all that.”
The woman searches for a tether, and pulls out a business card instead. She calls after Ada, and catches up, tucks the card into Ada’s book. “Ask for me!”
Unable to answer, Ada walks to the curb, thinking of intimate gestures like picking birdseed from someone’s hair.
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