About a minute before I was due to enter the tent with the sister of the bride on my arm, one of the other groomsmen asked if any of us thought Mark would cry. I had seen him just a short while earlier, and he seemed calm. This is a guy I'd lined up with many times in college to play "no pads" tackle football, and I'd seen him hit people so hard that they were found wandering around campus muttering to themselves (true story; the guy Mark hit was later diagnosed with a concussion).
"I'll lay three to one odds against Mark crying," I said. "He'll be fine."
The wedding coordinator gave me the cue, and I entered the tent. I looked down the aisle to the front of the tent.
Mark was crying, and Howie was handing him a tissue.
"What the...holy...I lost already!" I whispered. His naked emotion seemed to shrink the tent, drawing all three hundred odd people in attendance into a tight emotional circle.
Thankfully no one took me up on my odds. I had about 78 cents in my pocket.
Last Wednesday, my last afternoon in New York City, I lingered with my nephew Ryan for too long and missed my train to Newark Airport. So I hopped in a cab and told him to floor it. Upon arrival, he announced the fare: with tip, it came to $65. I started counting the cash in my wallet. $67. I was leaving NYC with pockets turned out.
Back to the wedding. I continue to underestimate the magnitude of the wedding day, how it can overwhelm the hardest of souls. When I had a moment alone with Mark later, he confessed that seeing all those people from all over the world and from all the years of his life sitting out there, looking up at him, was overwhelming. No explanation needed, buddy.
Last night, I was up late chatting with Stacey, who I'd only met a few times before. She and Mark are the ones I'll lean on most in my transition to this new place, and having them close by is a real source of comfort.
She laughed at my lousy prognostication.
"I knew Mark would cry and that I wouldn't," she said. "Mark cries when he watches Extreme Home Makeover on HGTV."
One of the cool activities from their wedding was one of those old school photo booths, rented from Red Cheese. The line for that thing never dwindled, and even passive observers enjoyed watching the screen outside the booth to see what wacky poses were being struck inside the curtain. Everyone left with one or more of their four photos as a favor, leaving behind the others in a photo album for the bride and groom.
During the slideshow, we all witnessed something that was more surprising than the tears during the ceremony. Mixed in with some video footage of Mark playing safety in high school football, covering a wideout and running up to put a hit on a running back, a young, skinny guy appeared on screen. The footage was so desaturated as to be almost black and white.
Was that...no...it couldn't be...could it? Yes, it was a young, willowy Mark, twirling across the ice on skates, executing a spin, then releasing into a glide, arms floating up at his side. At some point in his youth, Mark was a figure skater? What the?
He's never going to hear the end of that.