Continued from below. This is part four of five. Please note that part five (appearing tomorrow) is not actually the end of the story, it's just where I stopped writing. I say this only to manage your expectations.
Agh! I’m shocked awake by my treacherous alarm, which I shouldn’t have set because I was supposed to let myself sleep in. Where is it? WHERE IS IT?? OFF! GO OFF! SNOOZE! YOU DAMN TERRIFYING MACHINE, STOP RING--
I’m still in a fit of heart-pounding shock and rage over the alarm blaring when I realize it’s not the alarm ringing, it’s the phone.
Nowhere near awake but still terrified, I leap from my bed and pick up the phone on my desk in one fell swoop, taking most of the bedcovers with me. I’m in a nightshirt and no underwear, standing half-naked in the middle of my room. Again. I’m so sick of this happening. Whoever’s on the other end of the phone is going to get an earful, especially since it’s probably one of my relations. Not one single member of my family, perhaps due to some genetic defect, can manage to remember that I live on the west coast and am therefore three hours behind them. How many times do I have to explain that it’s 7 a.m. and no, I wasn’t awake yet? “But it’s 10 in the mor—oh right, I forgot.” For six years it’s been like this. And they have a special knack for calling me on the worst mornings possible, mornings after particularly late, drunken, and/or debauched nights out.
I should learn to just turn my ringer off.
“‘Lo!?!?!?” I grunt into the receiver, hoping to make clear to whoever it is that I am not amused by this call at...what the hell time is it anyway?
“Uh....Ev?? Is that you?” asks a quiet voice coming from what sounds like a restaurant. There are dozens of voices in the background and the clinking of silverware.
“Hunh?” I grunt again, unable to make out who it is. Obviously not a telemarketer, because they never call me Ev. They can barely pronounce Evelyn as it is. Also they don’t tend to clink. It’s not my mother or either of my sisters. And no friend of mine would dare call at...it’s 9:15 already?
“Evie, I’m sorry, I know I must have woken you...but I was hoping...hoping...” and the sad, quiet voice trails into hiccups for air and I realize it’s Amy. Calling me on the morning of her wedding. Crying.
I take a deep breath and open and shut my eyes a few times. It occurs to me that I have about 5 seconds to wake up, become coherent, shift from angry to sympathetic, and help Amy with whatever she needs.
I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be a very good morning.
“Amy, oh my god, what’s going on? Are you alright? What do you need?”
“Evie, I didn’t know who else to call. It’s crazy here. Crazy. We’re already at the hotel, everyone, everyone, and there’s been a slight mix-up. I don’t know if I’m gonna make it.”
My body stiffens. “What do you mean, not going to make it? I’m sure whatever it is—”
“It’s the salon, of course.” She stops crying and instead spits the word salon like a viper. “You know how I said my mom would cancel my makeup appointment after seeing what they did to me? Well she did. She called them first thing Thursday morning and canceled my appointment. Except...the stupid, inept, ditzy salon person mom talked to accidentally canceled every appointment in my name. Meaning everybody! The moms, the bridesmaids, the flower girl—everyone was supposed to get their hair and makeup done, and now no one has an appointment.”
“Yeah! And now everyone’s here in the bridal suite with me, and they’re all freaking out.” Amy sounds like she’s going to start crying again.
“It’s only 9 in the morning, what are they all doing there? Don’t...can’t...isn’t there still a lot of time before the wedding?” My just-awake morning brain is having trouble grasping the gravity of the situation.
“We all agreed to meet in the bridal suite first for breakfast, then go to the salon together. But now it’s just that...Evie, my family…these—” she lowers her voice to barely audible. “These women are not the functioning-well-under-pressure types.”
“But um, hair and makeup—that’s not really pressure, is it? Don’t they do it every day? I don’t quite under—”
“Evie, remember Brit’s bridesmaids?”
“Ack!” I gasp. Brit was a co-worker of ours who got married for the first time at age 41. Her five bridesmaids had been sorority sisters of hers, and despite also being in their forties, appeared to be the quintessential bridesmaid nightmares. They each wore, with Brit’s full approval, slightly different versions of the same poofy pink taffeta gowns fit for no girl over the age of 13. They spent the whole affair in one tizzy or another, collectively crying at every toast, the cake-cutting, the first dance, the last dance, the signing of the marriage certificate, and through half the pictures. In between the bouts of tears, they made snide comments about how people were dressed, talked about how much money was being spent on the wedding, directed people about—particularly the children—and flew into an absolute rage when the caterers ran out of dessert forks.
“Right, they’re that bad, except younger.” Amy let out a long sigh. “I’m just not thinking straight. I know things will be fine. Could you help, though? I hate to bother you, but I would really love to have someone here who isn’t crazy or related to me or both. The only other partially sane person here is my maid of honor, but she’s got her hands full trying to keep my mom away from me.”
“Oh, ouch. I’m sorry it’s come to that so early in the day.” Mothers of the bride can get a bit emotional. “But of course I can help you,” I say, hoping it to be true. “Do you have a plan?”
“My plan was to call for reinforcements. That’s as far as I got.”
I laughed. “Okay then. What are our options?”
“I suppose we could try and call around and find salons willing to take us. Otherwise we’ll have to do it all ourselves.”
“What time do you have to get to the church?”
“We’re not leaving the hotel till after one, we’re getting dressed here.”
“So there’s plenty of time. I think having everyone do it themselves is the best option. If everyone’s together, there’ll be plenty of help for those in need. How hard can it be?”
“What about those formal hairstyles? How can we do them ourselves?”
“Um, well, we’ve seen them done a million times. We must have been in a dozen weddings between us, right? We’ll just…wing it. It’ll be fine. Besides, crazy or not, no bridesmaid shows up for a wedding without a suitcase of makeup and hair products in tow.”
“No, you’re right, I’m sure they have plenty of stuff.”
“Of course they do. So just get them to get their stuff together, and I’ll bring whatever I have around here, and we’ll make our own Bridal Suite Salon. Who knows, maybe it’ll even be fun.”
Amy laughed at this. “I can’t wait to see you.”
“I’ll get there as soon as possible. Hopefully by 10, okay?”
Sure, 10 a.m. That gives me half-an-hour to get my ass ready, which is at least three hours less than I need. No, not a good morning at all.
I’m running down my block towards Market, desperately looking for a cab. Running, that is, as only one can under the circumstances. I’ve an enormous duffle bag slung around my upper body that’s had every beauty product I own dumped into it. Over my shoulder is an industrial-sized garment bag carrying my wedding ensemble, which at this point includes two pairs of heels because I did not have time to decide which pair worked better. As for now, I’m wearing flip-flops. But wearing flip-flops means I’m not so much running as I am awkwardly lunging along the sidewalk, and every time I lunge the garment bag gains momentum and bounces off my ass, poking me with one of the heels each time it rebounds. To make matters worse, I decided to bring Amy and Joe’s wedding gift, so I’m also lugging a large Williams-Sonoma bag with an increasingly heavy bread maker wrapped inside. And dangling off one of my appendages, somewhere, is my handy-but-oversized purse.
There are no cabs in sight, and I’m in a flip-lunge-bounce-poke-flop, flip-lunge-bounce-poke-flop groove by the time I pass Tulah. I have no time to stop and explain myself, so I just flip-lunge-bounce-poke-flop past her as quickly as possible and hope she doesn’t recognize me. Naturally, she does.
“Huh-uh, honey! Don’t you try to sneak past me! Just where do you think you’re going like that?” she asks. Tulah’s full name is Tulah Lurid Lurah, and she is a six-foot-three drag queen with very broad shoulders and enormous breasts. She frequently stands on the corner of my block with a bucket collecting donations for her one-queen show. This morning she’s wearing a blue sequined gown with a big white boa and donning a Marilyn Monroe wig. Questioning my appearance.
“I’m going to a wedding,” I answer, without turning back to look at her.
“Girl, you gonna need some serious help!”
Thankfully, I see a cab and manage to wave it down before I’m forced to listen to exactly how much help I need. Tulah is never short on advice.
I mean, sure, I’m disheveled, but I only had a half-hour to shower, eat, dress, pack all my own wedding stuff, and hunt down enough supplies to plaster up a gaggle of overwrought bridesmaids. That’s a challenge no woman should ever have to assume. To do it without looking a little disheveled would be nigh impossible.
“Where you goin’?” asks the cabbie, eyeing me suspiciously and not offering to put my bags in the trunk.
“Sir Francis Drake, please,” I say, trying to get all my stuff to fit comfortably in the back seat with me.
“You got money?”
“It’ll probably be about ten bucks. You can pay me?”
“Yeah,” I say, confused. I’ve never been asked this by a cab driver before. “I just need to get to the hotel as soon as possible. It’s sort of an emergency.”
“Oh, okay. It’s just that you look…well, you know. I get all kinds.”
Great. Now I’m “all kinds.”
“It’s not been a good morning,” I say.
“No, it doesn’t look it.”
Okay, now he’s just being mean. So what if my hair is wet and my eyes are blotchy and I’m carrying four human-sized bags and wearing sweats and plastic sandals. At least I smell good, which is more than I can say for the cabbie, who is thoroughly doused in some god-awful cologne that reminds me of bug spray.
I let out an audible sigh, and opt to remain silent for the rest of the cab ride. I spend the time catching my breath and making sure I had managed to do, get, and bring everything I needed. Perform mental review of morning’s activities.
The second I got off the phone with Amy I immediately jumped in the shower and then realized I had a problem. I could spend time shaving my legs, or I could spend time blow drying my hair, but I wouldn’t have time to do both. I hastily determined that, although wet hair isn’t pretty and isn’t the preferred look for meeting a bridal party, unshaven legs are just gross with a knee-length dress, regardless of pantyhose status. So I spent a full eight minutes in the shower, and completely skipped the blow dry. I instead stuck my damp hair on top of my head in an assortment of bands and clips and briefly entertained the notion that I looked kinda funky and hip.
But then I had to dress myself, and all my illusions of hip-ness were rightly dispelled. I haven’t done laundry in at least three weeks, and would have needed more than a few minutes to find something reasonably cute and/or clean to wear. Given my time constraints, however, I ended up wearing a pair of tattered sweatpants, old ugly underwear, and a button-down shirt in blue-and-green flannel that is amazingly unflattering and something I can’t even believe I own, let alone something I’m wearing outside my apartment. I also could not find two matching clean socks, thus the 99 cent drugstore flip-flops.
Following speedy showering and dressing, I had about three minutes to collect all the potentially helpful hair and makeup products I own. I grabbed my all-purpose duffle bag and ran to my “beauty” cabinet. I took a brief look at the cabinet’s contents—a multi-shelf unit harboring everything from old lipsticks and face masks to hot rollers and curling irons, various menstrual relief items and who-knows-what else—and, realizing it would take the better part of this decade to sort through it, swept everything into the bag.
I then had another three minutes to pack my own wedding ensemble. I ransacked my closet searching for the ultra-super-deluxe garment bag Mom had given to me for Christmas when I first moved out here, insisting I had become a “corporate jetsetter” despite the fact that I don’t travel for work, the only place I ever fly is home, and never have I visited with garments that needed a special bag. Figures the first time I’d use it would be to take a ten-minute trip downtown.
I eventually found the thing in the back of my closet, where it had been smooshed between a small collection of Gap overalls and babydoll dresses. Why I still owned these clothes was less a mystery than why I had ever owned them, but I didn’t have time to reflect on personal fashion tragedies of the 90s.
I hurled the bag on my bed, grabbed the enemy dress from the closet door and attached it to the inside, and looked around the room for the other items on last night’s mental checklist.
Both pairs of nylons: yep, in the bag.
Little black purse: yes in the bag but also empty—did not have time to take important stuff from everyday purse and add it to small purse, so would have to bring both and sort them out later.
Shoes: yep, two pairs—could not decide if standard black heels were too boring or if strappy cranberry shoes were too slutty, so brought both and would have to decide that later, too. Wonder which pair was kicking me in the butt.
Still reflecting on morning and resulting state of dishevelment.
Hair would obviously have to be worked on.
Nails would just have to stay in “as is” condition.
But makeup? Oh God. I know I can do it later, but Tulah was right—I do need serious help. My eyes are extremely puffy because I went to sleep right after crying over the stupid movie. The only thing that can fix morning eye puffiness, however, is holding a cold compress over the entire eye area for at least twenty minutes, and that just wasn’t a possibility. As it is, I can barely blink. I am also out of eye makeup remover, so the 45 seconds I spent in the shower trying to remove my waterproof mascara was pretty unsuccessful. The faint-but-present residual black streaks are really just icing on the cake.
Here I am fantasizing over cake again. Mmm, wedding cake. I can’t wait. Breakfast was not quiet the joyous occasion I had hoped it would be. I’d envisioned spending the morning luxuriating over coffee and bagels and cereal and whatever else I could find to celebrate my successful completion of the three-day diet. Instead, I managed only to scarf down two pieces of heavily buttered lukewarm toast in the course of running around my apartment like a madwoman. Only after the second piece did I remember I had peanut butter in the apartment, but it was too late to enjoy any on the toast, so I just consumed a large spoonful of it on the way out.
Stomach’s not feeling so settled now. Eating toast and peanut butter quickly must have been a real shock to my fruit-centric system. Ugh, and the cologne-infused cab air isn’t helping. I’m sure I’ll be fine, I just need some air. Can’t roll down the windows, though, because of my wet hair. Have learned the hard way that wet hair should not be dried via open car window—the result is not the windswept look one might imagine, but has instead a rather greasy, grimy, straggly effect. We’re almost there anyway.
We’re almost at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel and I realize that I am a wonderful person. All in all, it took me 18 minutes to go from hanging up the phone to racing out of my building, and here I am, right on time, ready to help a bride in need, with no consideration as to my needs. So what if I look like a puffy-eyed bag lady, I am a reliable friend. Yes, girlfriends the world over would be proud. I’m considerate and reliable and gracef—well, okay, maybe not exactly graceful under pressure—but speedy, which has to count for something. Oh, and I’m thorough. I mean, I remembered everything, right?
We pull up to the main entrance of the hotel and the red uniformed greeters race to the cab to assist me with my bags. As I hand a ten-dollar bill over to the cabbie, who grunts, I feel a pang in my stomach. I know I’ve forgotten something.
I’m the last thing out of the cab. I stand up, thrilled to be smelling fresh air, but realize the greeter men have gone from looking helpful to looking disdainful.
“Ma’am, are you a guest here?” one of them asks me, obviously expecting the answer to be no.
“I’m a guest of a guest, actually. I’m here with the Grace-Patrelli party,” I say, gathering up my bags myself, quickly adding, “The Grace-Patrelli wedding party. I’m a friend of the bride.”
I think mentioning the words “wedding party” or “bride” to anyone can get you in just about anywhere. Wedding party sounds important, and no one wants to mess with a bride.
The uniformed guys give a little shrug, move to the doors, and open both so that I can hobble in without help, without a bellman, without a cart. I suspect they only half-believe my story.
I manage up the entrance stairs to the lobby, where I try and blend in. Where the hell is the bridal suite, anyway? I’m standing alone for about 15 seconds before some hotel manager type rushes over to me in a near panic.
“Can I help you?”
“I’m looking for the bridal suite.”
He looks at me and forces a smile. He might not believe me, but he’s going to be polite. “And which bridal suite is that, miss?”
There’s more than one?
“The one with Amy Grace, of the Grace-Patrelli wedding party? Their reception is here this evening.”
“And you are...?”
“I’m a friend of the bride’s.”
“Of course. But you don’t know where she’s staying?”
“She just said ‘the bridal suite.’ I figured someone here might know.”
“Hmm. This is a dilemma. You see, we are not permitted to give out the room numbers of guests staying here, for security purposes, of course. So I’m afraid you’ll have to—”
“No,” I begin, in a low, serious tone behind clenched teeth, “I know what I look like right now, and I know what you must be thinking. But the bride is my friend, she called me this morning, and she needs some help. So I rushed over here—looking like this—because I am a wonderful person.” I start waving my bags at the man. “See? Here is her wedding gift—a very expensive bread maker from Williams-Sonoma. It’s a good gift. It’s a heavy gift. And here is a bag full of things for the bridesmaids, who are crazy. And in this bag, there is a dress. That I will be putting on. Because I can assure you that I enjoy standing in your hotel looking like this even less than you do.”
“Right, well, if you can just…if you’ll be…why don’t we try this. Come with me.”
The man rolls his eyes before turning and walking toward the front desk. He moves rather briskly, so, given how heavy the bags are and how slippery my shoes are on carpeting, I am forced to perform a sort of sashay to keep up. I am not pleased.
When we reach the front desk, he says to the clerk, “Grace-Patrelli bridal suite please,” and the clerk dials something and hands him the phone. He looks over the receiver at me.
“What did you say your name was?”
He looks back at the phone. “Yes? Yes, hello, this is the front desk calling. I have a Miss” he looks at me again “Evelyn Parker here to see the bride? Yes.” Pause. “I see. Thank you.”
He puts the phone down.
“I’m sorry Miss Parker, but she said she has no idea who you are.”
“Who doesn’t? With whom were you just speaking?” I ask, in the vain hope that my correct grammar will prove to the snooty hotel man that I am not homeless.
“I’m afraid I don’t know, but without authorization, you’re just going to have to—”
Suddenly I hear a relieved “EVIE!!!” resounding through the lobby, and see Amy rushing toward me. Much to my surprise, she is glowing. She has the air of a bride.
“Oh Ev, I’m so happy you’re here. Thank you thank you thank you!” she gushes as she throws her arms around me in a huge hug that I cannot return because I am still balancing all my baggage. Then she takes a step back.
“Is everything okay?” she asks, finally taking a good look at me and the manager facing off. “Oh my God, Evie, are you sick?”
“No no, it’s nothing, I’m fine, I just…need a little makeup.”
The manager smiles at this and, without apology, calls for a bellhop. “Please, allow me to have Billy escort you to the suite,” he coos, as though this were his plan all along. I shoot him my vilest glare, but he’s no longer paying any attention to me. I give up and turn back to Amy.
“What are you doing down here?” I ask.
“Oh, I just slipped out for a little walk,” Amy says, smiling.
“Amy, I have to say, you look fabulous. I’d never have guessed that, as we speak, you are escaping from the clutches of freaked-out bridesmaids.”
“Crazy, isn’t it? Being out of the room helps. And seeing you, of course. I think I finally just snapped, you know? All this wedding madness…it’s just stupid. I’m going to be married in a few hours, I think it’s time to just let things go. I haven’t felt this great since…well, I guess since my mom arrived.”
The manager interrupts our conversation. “If that will be all, Billy’s just going to—”
“Actually,” Amy says turning to me, “you look like you could use some coffee. Yes?”
“Coffee would be great!” Coffee! I am going to have coffee! For the first time in four days! Maybe the morning won’t end up so bad after all.
“Certainly, Miss Grace, I’ll send some up. Or…should I start calling you, Mrs. Patrelli?” he asks in a syrupy voice.
Amy’s eyes grow wide as her expression goes from carefree and glowing to politely indignant. “Ms. Grace will be just fine, thank you.” I am pleased to see the put-together Amy reappearing.
“Ah, yes,” smiles the manager, who then scurries away.
“Guess we’re all set,” Amy says, and, looking from Billy and the luggage cart to me, puffs up her chest, takes a deep breath, and says, “Let’s get Ms. Grace married then, shall we?”
And off we go.