Worst Best Man
Part Four, Stranded
I hand-cranked the window down on my Honda Accord. It was 1989 and that was how most car windows worked. My girlfriend had asked me to pick her up from her job at the health spa. She had also requested that I not walk into her office. I had to drive up and wave. So I lowered the window and stuck out my hand. A few seconds later, she saw me. She waved back.
"It's been a day," Andrea said when she hopped into the car. "I made three membership sales. It would have been four but my manager took one away from me."
That made the second time her manager had done it. Maybe she didn't like Andrea. Maybe there was something else going on like the manager had to avoid paying Andrea a bonus or she wanted to get a bonus herself and considered it fair.
"Sorry," I said.
"Everything got slow after lunchtime," she said, shrugging it off. She clipped her seat belt and motioned for me to drive. "I had time to follow up with Laura."
"She called back?"
"No." Andrea grimaced as I pulled the car from the curb. "She's been a lot like Tucker. Never returns calls. I caught her while she was home."
As I pulled away, I listened to her recount the conversation. There hadn't been much. Laura had deflected Andrea's offers to help with the wedding.
"She seemed a little hostile," Andrea said. "What does she think I've done?"
"You can't have done anything," I said. "We haven't seen her in a year."
"More, I think." She gazed out the window.
"Yeah. But she liked you whenever we were together."
It was less than a mile to home. Andrea and I had settled on a townhouse in the Bennington development in the north end of Gaithersburg. We found the rents to be reasonable, as good as a Frederick apartment with the bonus that we could sublet to roommates. That was a feature we hadn't gotten in Frederick. Of course, we continued to shop for Frederick apartments but the pressure was off for a few months.
We turned into the development as we speculated about the wedding. Andrea had almost decided on her dress.
On either side of us, we saw lawns that had grown lush over the summer in front of each townhouse. The sidewalks looked as white as if they'd been bleached. A few of the townhomes had been built with two stories of brick front. Most, though, had bricks or a stone fronting on the ground floor with the second floor covered by aluminum siding.
Andrea, a small town girl who had grown up and gone to a small college still felt awed by the fact that the drive into the development had four lanes, two to a side.
"This is a major highway where I come from," she said. She shook her head.
I nodded. I had visited the New York state countryside enough to know she was right. We pulled up to our unit, a place with stone fronting and aluminum siding.
"Next time you talk with Tucker," Andrea added, "ask him if I've done something to offend Laura."
We got out, grabbed our backpacks, and trundled through our door to sigh and collapse a little. Before I sat down, though, I added a note about Tucker to my written list of priorities. Handwritten lists were my way of keeping track. Nevertheless, over the course of almost a week it would take me several tries before I reached him again. I had to go through his family, first. When I got his mother on the phone, she said, "You should reach him at work. Nowadays, that's what we do."
"I don't have the number," I replied.
"Wait just one minute," she said. She put down the phone and returned with the number. I used it right away. A little while later, I tried again.
"Hey, man," Tucker said when he called me back. "Don't call me at work."
Initially, I laughed. On the other hand, I knew he was serious. When I asked him about whether Laura was mad at Andrea, he said that he guessed not.
"I don't know what's going on," he admitted. "I thought she sort of liked Andrea. But she doesn't like any of my friends much now. Maybe that's all it is. Probably that's all."
"What did I do?" I protested. In my kitchen, I turned and faced Andrea. My hand shook the phone. I threw up my arms to the limit of the phone cable.
"Nothing." Tucker's voice sounded distant. I pulled the handset closer. "It doesn't matter. She doesn't want anything to do with you. In a way, it's nothing personal."
"Except it's kind of personal." And I was in his wedding.
"Well, that too."
"Fine." My legs started pacing me in a circle. "If I can't call you at work and I can't call you at your parents' house because you're never there and I can't call you at home with Laura, how am I going to get hold of you?"
"I don't know, man. We'll think of something."
"There isn't much time left."
"What do you mean? We've got weeks left."
"We said that a lot of weeks ago. It doesn't seem like much anymore." My pacing took me next to the kitchen stool. I pulled it out and sat down.
By our standards as teenagers, we had a lot of time. But we were older and anyway, I could see how this was trending. A month had passed in Maryland while I still hadn't sat down with Tucker. He mostly didn't return calls. When I tracked him down in any way at all, in any setting, he seemed tired and unwilling to talk about the wedding.
He wasn't excited about getting married so much as he was resigned to it.
"Give me a date for the bachelor party," I said. "You have to agree on a date. You keep putting it off."
"Okay. Anything except the night before the wedding is fine. That’s the only choice that would really piss Laura off.”
"How about Friday, the twelfth? That's a couple weeks before the wedding."
"I'm tired on Friday nights. It's a bad idea."
"Yeah, that's all right.”
He didn't exactly show a fun loving attitude but at least I’d gotten him to set the date.
For the next two weeks, I called all of Tucker's friends including some I had never met. I got everyone to agree on the bar-hopping, dancing-only itinerary. There were a few men who said they were going to drink and expected Tucker to drink with them. Even Tucker seemed to think some drinks of celebration were called for. I found myself talked into it, partly because we would have two weeks to recover. Still, dancing was the biggest part of the plan.
Aside from my confidence that I could get strangers to dance with Tucker, I had time to think of failsafes. I called up women. I got a few of them to agree to meet us by accident and have last dances with Tucker. Some of the women were mutual friends. Others barely knew him. They took convincing. In the end, four of them agreed and a fifth said maybe she could.
Two days before the bachelor party, Tucker called me to firm up plans about the limousine. That was his idea and he was making the arrangements.
"I'm going to reschedule the limo," he told me. "The whole thing, actually. Eric, I can't make it."
"You can't come to your own bachelor party?"
"I know it's not convenient but my boss wants me to work that day. So I need to change the date."
That sounded outrageous. It was weird, too. I foresaw a lot of phone calls and apologies in my near future.
"Do you still want a bachelor party?" I asked, doubtful.
"Absolutely," he insisted.
He mentioned a possible day, then he eliminated it before I could respond. He mentioned another day.
"No, that's not going to work, either," he said. "Damn."
"Well, can you take a day off work or something?"
"Not really. The job isn't that secure. Not as much as I'd like it to be, anyway." He tapped his chin. His voice grew stronger. "That leaves the night before the wedding."
"But ..." That was exactly the date he'd said not to pick.
"It's the only one that works. Doesn't it?"
Tucker had started insisting that he wanted to drink. But going out the night before sort of put an end to that. We were back to sober dancing. Sober-ish, at least.
"We'll make it work," I agreed. I started checking my handwritten lists for all the people I needed to call.
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