I get nervous at smorgasbords. I want to eat everything. Though I endeavour to take the smallest of portions of all on offer, my plate still ends up being embarrassingly overloaded. Then a deeply rooted etiquette requiring me to eat everything on the plate, results in what I’ve believe is now called a food coma.
Lou has an idea: “Just sample the foods you haven’t eaten before, or the ones you haven’t eaten for a while. Surely you don’t need to try the corn beef tonight.” She smiles a familiar smile. It’s the I am your wife and yes, sometimes I have to mother you smile.
But the corn beef is rolled into little cylinders and a silver dish next to the platter contains a condiment of unknown origin and ingredients. I hide two slices of meat and a dollop of the mystery pickle under a big lettuce leaf. Salad overload is always permissible.
The temptation evoked by oysters is not worth going into battle against. Lou knows that. Even though we had them just the other day she will not bother trying to limit how many quanta of them I fit onto my plate. A quanta is six. And I think that she thinks that an overdose on these plump little filter feeders may be good for our next few shopping bills. I am right, “Glad were not paying for those,” she says.
No, the bride’s father is paying, possibly. Since it is his daughter’s third attempt at ’til death do us part, maybe the groom is chipping in. Henrietta is the bride, and even considering the enhancements, a fancy lace dress and expensive hair and make-up, she is, I’ll admit, bit of a looker. She is Lou’s longest-standing friend, they met in pre-school. Friend is maybe a bit generous of a term for their relationship, let’s say long-term-human-association-no-blood-connection. The bride is not on the smorgasbord tonight, despite what the fixated eyes of the best man are saying.
I sit at my piled up plate under Lou’s gaze that says, ‘don’t expect me to feel sorry for you when you can’t move’. I wait for her to go the toilet before I unveil the cold cuts of meat and in a moment of sneaky sanity, I bundle them into a large cloth napkin, along with some potato bake and some pasta salad that I really can do without. Across the table Aunty Flo, that is how she was introduced to me earlier, is watching. She smiles knowingly and beckons me over to her side of things. Everyone is drinking and talking and watching the bridal table as I accept the offer of dropping my package of excess food into her large hand bag. “I have a dog,” she says.
Lou returns and brings Henrietta with her. I offer my seat to the new bride, and announce my intention to mingle. Not that I know anyone. There is a balcony where smokers have been going and coming from with regularity since pre-dinner champagne and beer. I don’t smoke any more but I do know smokers love company in their ever shrinking domains of addiction.
There are three people out there. A bridesmaid among them. She is nervous and sucking hard on one of those long skinny brown papered cigarettes. I comment that I haven’t seen one of those for years. She says you can still get them at the tobacconist. The other two are a couple and they ignore us, the non-smoker and the flighty member of the bridal party. They soon stub out and leave.
“Are you a friend of Kevin?” she asks.
“No, I don’t know the bride or the groom. My wife is an old friend of Henrietta. That’s my connection.”
“Good, then I can tell you. I have to tell someone or I am going to explode.”
“Sure, tell me anything, I don’t mind.”
She lets it out: “Henrietta slept with the best man last night.”
She takes a deep breath and curses a bit.
I curse a bit in solidarity. “That’s not good,” I add.
She kicks a stool and says, “I don’t know what to do.” That’s her real issue, I reckon.
I feel like saying wrap it up in a napkin and I’ll put it in Aunty Flo’s handbag for you. It’s the best I can offer, so instead say nothing.
“I have to go,” she says while stubbing out the long slim half smoked cigarette. “Sorry I dumped it on you.”
I am left alone in a whirlpool of smoke and perfume.
The night feels warm after the recent cold snap. I think about the huge pile of wood I have chopped in anticipation of a long winter.