Cuentos

The sign of peace

Lori did my makeup that day. She always does my makeup when I want to look extra nice. This time, I was going to a wedding and I’d be seeing my ex as well as several old friends from college. Lori was busy with her own stuff that day and by the time she got to working on my face, it was already late. I left the house half an hour after I planned. As I drove to LA, I hoped that the bride and groom were doing the Mexican thing of misinforming guests about the ceremony start time. While the invitation read “Misa, dos de la tarde,” I hoped it was really “dos y media de la tarde.” This way, consistently tardy people like me end up arriving 15 minutes early rather than 15 minutes late.

I easily found the beautiful old Catholic church south of downtown. I slipped on my shoes, grabbed my camera and purse and walked toward the church. One of the bridesmaids and ushers was outside.

“Have they started?”

She shook her head.

I walked in through the side of the church and quickly looked around. The guests were scattered through the first 15 pews or so. The old school church wasn’t empty, but I’ve definitely seen more well-attended weddings. On the other side of the aisle, I saw the back of my ex’s easy to recognize head. He was sitting next to a mutual friend.

I nixed that pew and side of the church all together. Sitting next to the ex would be too awkward.

I scanned the church again looking for a safe spot. I stopped when I noticed G seated beside a long-haired woman at the end of an empty pew. I walked up toward the pew and then down toward G. As I neared her, I said, “Hey, G.” She turned and so did the long-haired woman.

G’s pew was not a safe spot. In my haste to find a seat, I failed to recognize that the long-haired woman was the ex-roommate. In worrying about seeing the ex, I forgot that the ex-roommate was also friends with the bride. Why wouldn’t she be at the wedding too?

G looked surprised to see me. The ex-roommate looked as uncomfortable as I felt. I continued my greeting and asked about a program. I briefly considered finding another seat as I knew sitting next to the ex-roommate would be difficult and awkward for both of us.

Our history is rather simple. We met as college freshmen and were friends for the next seven years. For five of those years, we lived together in the dorms or in our Palms apartment. In 2005, I screwed up our friendship. I made a feeble attempt to work it out, but nothing came of it. I let the friendship go despite knowing I’d eventually see her again. LA may be big enough for us to avoid each other, but we still shared several mutual friends. Somehow, we were able to go two years without seeing each other. The first encounter after the friendship breakup occurred at a huge retirement party for our former advisor. She ignored me when I meekly waved hello. It was awkward, but at least I wasn’t seated anywhere near her. That was one month before the wedding.

This time, I was right next to her. Rather than find another seat, I chose to stay in the same pew at a safe distance.

I immersed myself in the ceremony, sang the hymnals and said “Amen” when I was supposed to. I wasn’t comfortable, but the initial panic had worn off. As the priest stood at the altar consecrating the wine and the bread, I remembered that the sign of the peace was coming up.

What’s she going to do? What am I going to do? Will she ignore me even during the sign of peace? Or will she actually turn to me and shake my hand?

“Peace be with you,” the Priest called out and motioned with his hands.

“And also with you,” I replied.

The ex-rooommate turned to G first. I turned to the bride’s sister standing in front of us with her baby girl.

The ex-roommate turned to me first and extended her hand to give me the sign of peace. I did the same.

“Peace be with you.”

***

Later at the reception, the ex-roommate and I just happened to go to the bathroom at the same time. The one stall was occupied and we both waited without exchanging a word or a glance.

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9 thoughts on “The sign of peace

  1. i don’t know why, but i find it really hard to think of you screwing up a friendship. you seem too kind-hearted to do someone wrong.

  2. frank says:

    Oh damn, I was expecting to read about a bitch slap in the bathroom or the cops being called to the wedding, I guess I’ll have to watch an episode of Jerry Springer to get some real action.

  3. leis says:

    Stumbled onto the site looking for tamale recipes (eh). WOW. great story and beautiful writing. i’m definitely a fan. I second Gustavo’s reply–publish a book! Paz.

  4. No te agüites C. I have messed up friendships too, in big ways, the best thing you can do, is apologize once and live with it. we also need to forgive and be generous with ourselves. i hope you had a good time at the reception (do you drink?)

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