Worst Best Man
Part Three, Ghosted
When I hung up the phone, my girlfriend gave me a sympathetic look. She modified the sympathy with a scowl. Her arms crossed over her chest. She hunched her shoulders and leaned forward before she spoke.
“Didn’t you already leave that message?” she asked.
“It’s been a couple of days. Everything is the same, no response. What else can I do?”
She sighed and touched the collar of her shirt. She shook her head.
I had expected Tucker to sit down with me and talk. I'd thought we'd meet the day after I returned to Maryland. It hadn’t worked out that way. So far, I'd gotten a one-minute phone conversation with him and no invitation to meet. He cut off the conversation early because he was tired and told me I should call him back. I did, but he never returned the second call. Or the third, or the fourth.
After leaving a half-dozen messages on his answering machine, I got my return call from Tucker. It came during a rain storm. The view through my parents' living room window was dark as I picked up.
"Hey, man." Tucker said. "Your messages are bugging Laura."
"What does that mean?"
"I think she's erasing them. From your last one, I'm pretty sure there were more before this one, right? Anyway, I don't have the energy to think about this stuff right now. We've got a month and a half. No worries."
"Well, no worries if we get together soon. I mean, I'm not sure what I should do."
"Do the usual best man stuff."
"All I know is that I'm supposed to be there with the ring." I wasn't clear on what the best man really did during the ceremony. None of my friends seemed familiar with it. Young men are not necessarily born knowing what to do as a best man, of course, and no one else in our circle of friends had gotten married. I had no relatives who could give me advice. Tucker would have been an ideal person to tell me the right level of expectations.
"Don't worry about the ring." Tucker replied. He hesitated a moment and his voice turned quiet. "I mean, you won't be doing that. Laura told me she's going to take care of it."
"So in the ceremony, I won't hand it to you?" It was starting to look like I'd have no job as best man. Or the responsibilities would be a surprise. Or they'd turn out to be vaguely defined and I'd have to make it up as I went along.
"You know, I'm not sure. I'll ask Laura."
"So all I'm doing is organizing the bachelor party?" At least that would be no problem. It would be a natural thing, given how we'd grown up.
"I guess you could do that. But no. I forgot. Laura doesn't want me to have one. My dad said something against it, too."
"Is that what you think?" We hadn't talked much but I was starting to see a pattern. The wedding was all about what other people wanted. It was reasonable in a way, too, but Tucker seemed to be taking his just-getting-along approach to the extent of letting it make him tired and unhappy. "What about you?"
"I’d rather have a party," he admitted. "You know, a last bit of freedom. But I can only do it if we keep it tame."
"No trips to strip bars?"
"Nope." I could almost hear him roll his eyes at the suggestion. "That's something Laura mentioned specifically. No strippers."
"Okay." Those were the only two 'best man' duties that my friends and family had suggested: stand there holding the ring and before that, organize the party. "I'll think of something."
"Call me and let me know what it is."
We hung up and I went back to looking at ads for apartments in Frederick. That was how I spent my summer when I wasn't working at temp agencies or trying to make arrangements with Tucker about his wedding.
Every few days, Andrea and I drove to Frederick to grab newspapers. We thumbed through the classifieds, kept an eye out for cheap musical instruments and art supplies, joked about the personals section, and highlighted apartments we liked. Andrea had exacting specifications in mind. I had price limits. Sometimes, when we called the landlords we found the places we wanted had been rented out to someone else.
As we went through the apartment-hunting process, I considered the problem of Tucker's bachelor party. It wasn't enough to be tame. It had to be fun. The party had to make Tucker smile. Playing games wouldn't be enough. Drinking was dumb. It was exactly what Tucker expected but also what we shouldn't do. We had to get out and be social but not be totally stupid.
One morning, I woke up with the right idea. We could treat it like a bachelorette party. Go bar hopping. But without the drinks.
After a week of calling Tucker, I gave up and called his family to leave a message. When I didn't hear back, I called them again to pass on another.
"Hey man," Tucker said when he called me the next day.
"I've got the bachelor party lined up," I said. "It'll be easy. We'll go bar hopping but we won't drink. We'll do a bunch of dancing instead."
Hearing the concept actually made him laugh. Tired as he had sounded all summer, it was good to hear.
"I don't know, man. I mean, I kind of like dancing. But women say no to me when I ask. A lot, man. That's no fun. It isn't the way I want to spend the night."
"I will get you a minimum of three dance partners at every place we stop." I held up my fist. "Guaranteed."
"How are you going to do that?"
"You won't have to ask. I will send them to you. Believe me." I could envision asking other women to dance with him. Easy as anything. It was definitely going to work. Tucker was going to have thirty or forty last dances as a single man.
"Shit." He laughed again.
"You know I will get you those dances."
"Holy crap!" He smacked his own cheek. It was the first time I could hear a smile in his voice all summer. "Okay, then. If anyone can ... yeah, okay. Let's do it. I'll go dancing. And you'll get the women?"
"Lining them up now," I said.
He chuckled and let out a sigh. And so it was decided.
Really, I thought it was decided. As it turned out, there was a part of my plan that Tucker didn't like and that was the lack of drinking. It took me a couple weeks to find out that he wanted to modify the plan and that's because he still didn't return my calls.