Doc and spup's Big Wedding
Contributed by: Joe
Patrick Swayze will never be accused of being one of his generation's great actors. But in 1987, Swayze delivered his generation’s “Grease” by playing Johnny Castle to Jennifer Grey’s
Nineteen years later, facilitated by SportsJournalists.com, that movie helped bring Doc and spup together.
Here’s how spup tells the story:
“He had me at ‘Dirty Dancing.’ After saying ‘nobody puts Baby in a corner’ on a thread, I knew I had to talk to this kid. Being a new member to the site, I was unaware that most people kept their personal responses to PM, so seeing he had AIM, I messaged him. He asked for my number after an evening of talking. I was at a family reunion, so I gave it to him but told him he couldn’t call me until midnight.
“Little did I know, he was working until midnight, so he called when he got home and we talked … and we talked … and we talked. And we realized we were basically the same person, except he had a penis and I had a vagina. I was seeing someone at the time, but it wasn’t serious. So after a five-hour conversation one night, and a six-hour conversation the next (which caused me to get 1½ hours of sleep before a full day of family activities, mind you), Doc decided he wanted to make a pitch. He called it his sales pitch.
“Basically, he said, ‘This guy doesn’t care about you. If he did, you’d be snatched up already. … I think we could be really great together, and if you decide that you agree, I’ll come see you in a couple weeks and we can figure out if these feelings are real.’
“So I said yes.
“The next night, he told me he thought he was falling in love with me. He was nervous … shy … very sweet and not something I was used to. I was used to guys who were sure of themselves. I was used to guys who were assertive and had this commanding presence that put me in the background. I was used to being the shy person in a relationship. Finally, I had met someone who acted like he cared about how I felt more than how something looked.
“So he finagled the days off work. He drove nine hours to come see me. He dealt with heavy traffic in
“He got to my door, we looked each other in the eye — and by the end of the weekend, we were looking at rings. Some would call us crazy. I call it love. Two weeks later, I drove to see him and continued to do that every two weeks until I moved Sept. 1.
“We got engaged June 30, 2006.”
Exactly one year later, they got married.
Exactly 17 days before their wedding, I made my own sales pitch to a woman I haven’t seen in more than a decade. I dropped it into the mailbox on my way to
I met her at my first job out of journalism school. I walked into the office for my interview, and she was the first person I saw. Blonde, great figure, a hi-there smile that touched her bright blue eyes. And a wedding ring.
After a three-day trial, I got the job at the 15,000-circulation central
I met Doc and spup a couple of months before their wedding, when they rolled through my neck of the woods on their way to check out Doc’s
They were late.
I knew Doc immediately when he walked in at about 7:25 because he was wearing a Cubs cap, the only Cubs fan in the whole damn place. Shit, I wished I had worn my Cardinals hat. Doc’s a big guy, probably 6-foot-3, and he wears his hair boot-camp short. His
Spup rolled in a few minutes later. She’s a good head shorter than Doc. Spup does not wear her then-blondish hair boot-camp short, but she has a mischievous smile, a smart-ass attitude and an accent closer to
We grabbed a table outside, and they chain-smoked Marlboro Ultra Lights as we drank pitchers of
Within five minutes of our meeting, they requested the honor of my presence at their upcoming nuptials. Yeah, sure. Why the fuck not? Umm … there’s gonna be beer at the reception, right? Cool. You had me at kegs.
I got the letter back about a week later. Return to sender. No such number. I opened it up and added four or five more handwritten pages, expanding on why I was writing 12 years after the last time we were lovers, 10 years after we had spoken on the phone, three or four years after I Google found her.
We had corresponded through infrequent e-mails since I looked her up, reconnecting as old friends, the ebb and flow of our conversations easy and comfortable. I could hear her voice in her e-mails, and she could hear mine in my writing. It was sort of like old times, like it was when we were co-workers.
I dated other women during part of the time we worked together, but she and I talked frequently, sliding up to the thin edge where flirting becomes something more before pulling back. We talked, mostly nothing serious, the way friendly acquaintances do, but then she began to confide in me, telling me things only her best friends knew.
She told me about an ex-boyfriend who abused her. It began one night when they were at a party, and he wanted to leave. She was talking to a friend, and he smacked her across the face and told her to get in the car, to get in the fucking car. She did. This same guy did the legal definition of rape, more than once, although she wouldn’t call it that.
The night she told me this, a group of us from the paper were at a bar playing pool, but she and I were in our own world, lit by the glow of the table-top video game as she revealed this part of herself to me. He sold pot out of their house — and not just a quarter-bag here and there. Quantity. I asked her why she had stayed with him. She said she didn’t know.
My heart hurt a little bit to know she had gone through that pain. And it swelled a little in wonderment that she would trust me with that part of her life.
Doc and spup’s wedding Saturday dawned cloudy with sporadic showers that did next to nothing to cut the central Missouri humidity — as in, even the frogs were looking at each other and saying, Fuck, man, can you believe how muggy it is?
I arrived at the church plenty early, got my program and milled around outside with parents and various other relatives and friends. I didn’t know a soul. Doc’s folks smoked ’em cause they had ’em, although I didn’t catch the brand.
Soon, it was time to take a seat. Dana was inside handing out programs, blonde and volleyball player tall with an impossibly small waist, her smile fetchingly crooked. Andy, in from his Northeast home and a groomsman, had the cutest crush on Dana and followed her around like a puppy the whole time I was there.
I took a seat, a whole pew to myself.
I was the office flirt before I began dating — and, hell, even after that, too — and one day she wore red nail polish to work.
“Do you know what color that is?” I asked her.
“What?” she said.
“It’s that take-me fuck-me red,” I said.
Her face became a turnip, a hand clamped over her mouth, eyes wide, shocked — but not completely.
“Are you blushing?” I asked.
And with that, I sauntered out of the office to go to lunch.
Doc, Andy and Doc’s best man, cousin T.J., took their places, Doc escorting his mom and the groomsmen escorting the bridesmaids. Spup’s dad walked her down the aisle and gave his little girl away.
Before the “I do”, there was a reading from “The Velveteen Rabbit,” the one where the Skin Horse tells the rabbit how toys become real. And how a toy becomes real — how you become real — is by being loved. Spup’s grandfather, Dwight, read the story, his rich baritone nuanced and clear, his cadence pitch-perfect, a voice made for radio or television voice-overs, a voice that you didn’t just hear, a voice you felt, a voice that must have made the young women swoon back in the day.
Dwight also read from I Corinthians and I John, and those of us not three feet away from the bride and groom wished he would have lent the pair his microphone when he was done. Their exchange of the traditional vows — Do you have this woman, have this man, richer, poorer, sickness, health, yadda yadda yadda — were barely audible where I was sitting in a middle pew, so there’s no way in hell the folks in the back could hear it unless they were named Jamie Sommers (not Jamie Summers, the porn star) and had a bionic ear.
When it came time for their personal vows, all I could hear out of spup were a few squeaks because she began crying as soon as she started. I still have no idea what she said.
The only part I made out from Doc was when he took a page from Lou Gehrig’s farewell address.
“It’s a cliché,” he said, “but today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”
Well … yeah. Wedding night sex versus the Iron Horse’s untimely, too-early death? Not much of a contest there. But it would have been really cool if Doc’s words had echoed around the church church church.
After their vows were said, we were nearly home free. Exchange the rings, light the unity candle. Light the unity candle. Light the — come on, guys, light the candle. As bad omens go for a marriage, not getting that sucker lit seems like it would be near the top of the list.
They got it lit.
And soon it was over.
The kids blew bubbles at them outside church. They rode around the block in a limousine. They came back to take pictures while those of us blessed not to be in the wedding party headed to the reception hall and the waiting, cold kegs of beer.
It was scant days before my last day of gainful employment at my central
When I got there, she and her husband were there, the keg was tapped, the music was on and several of my co-workers were playing some party-foul game like Pictionary or some other such shit. Fuck that. I slipped outside to the back stoop and got my mellow on. Properly medicated, I came back in and made the rounds, talking with the guests and greeting them as they trickled in, drinking a few beers and generally having a good time.
She wanted to talk to me. Privately. So we went into the bathroom. I leaned against the sink as she stood just inside the door. And then she said it.
“I just want to kiss you.”
I was stunned.
I blushed. She blushed. But her eyes were clear and shining, and she never took them off of me. No, I said. You’re married. It has nothing to do with that, she said.
And I felt it as the weight shifted inside me, as smooth as a stone dropped down a well, making barely a ripple as it slipped beneath the surface. My moral compass rolled over, revealing my new reality. I quit protesting.
My roommate walked in from his bedroom to use the bathroom, so we went into my bedroom and sat on the bed, her husband in the next room. In the semi-shadows, she touched my hand. I love your hands, she said, something no woman had ever told me.
She wanted to go outside, so we returned to the party. I think we said something about getting some fresh air. She wore my Levi’s jacket to ward off the late-April chill in the nighttime air, and afterward I could smell her for days, and I would pick up my jacket and breathe deep of her scent. We walked to the alley next to my apartment complex, and against a free-standing garage our lips met for the first time, our skin a live wire, her spoken desire and my new identity alive between us. She touched my face as we kissed. I cupped her perfect ass. I whispered in her ear: “Make love with me.”
At the reception, you’d have thought we hadn’t eaten all day. We devoured the shrimp cocktail and the little sausages and damn near all the cheese and crackers — and, hell, most of the veggies and dip, too. The wedding party finally arrived and picked at the roadkill carcass of what was left. Thanks for saving something for us, guys. Shit.
They served the meal proper, and we devoured most of that, too. The beer was cold. The cups were small. Many, many cups were drunk.
Once the formalities were over with, Doc and spup requested my presence at the wedding table as much as possible. Sure. I still didn’t really know anyone, and I felt a little out of place. The wedding party consisted of folks in their early to mid-20s, and the parents and assorted relatives were in their late 40s and early to mid-50s. At 38, I didn’t fit into either group.
T.J., with dark hair and a B-movie actor’s made-man good looks, gave a rollicking best-man speech that had the perfect blend of humor and heartstring-tugging. He gave way to the DJ and the requisite first dance, the bride & father dance and the groom & mother dance. Their duty done, Doc and spup bolted for the back deck and a Marlboro Ultra Light, thank you god and who’s got a lighter? The back deck became the kitchen in a house party, the place where the cool kids hung out and shot the shit, making brief forays back in to the dance.
T.J.’s newly minted fiancée, Stacy — with short multi-colored blonde hair and a dress that left absolutely nothing to the imagination (I mean, holy shit, a half-inch lower and you could have seen her areolas) — wanted to dance. T.J. most definitely did not. So they fought. And ignored each other. And fought a little more. Kind of like high school. I see divorce in their future. If they make it that far. And that opinion comes with no practical experience whatsoever.
Anyway, she and Dana and some of the younger girls danced, and Andy and his no-mustache black goatee danced with them. I joined in a few times, but it’s kinda hard to dance when you don’t really have a partner, and I felt a little like a schmuck, and, besides, my little beer cup was empty already.
Finally, around 11 p.m. or so, the party broke up and we all headed back to the hotel where I was splitting a room with Andy. In a small conference room, the old folks were playing Phase 10, whatever the hell that is. At the younger table, we played asshole. Or, rather, we tried to play it, but it kept getting kinda fucked up and eventually we abandoned it as folks scattered for their rooms.
Doc and spup spent their first night together as a married couple.
More than a year after we first kissed, we spent our first night together. But it was a long road, full of fits and starts, before we did.
The day after the party, she called and we talked for way more than an hour, intoxicated by what we had done and the possibilities it opened up But. But it also left her conflicted. Her husband accepted a transfer to a job in Colorado, and for all intents and purposes, I thought that was that.
Months later, she wrote me a letter full of the sort of day-to-day information that friends share, no hint of what happened that night between us. She signed it “As ever.” I wrote back and asked what the hell “As ever” was. And she wrote back and said, “What, you want hugs and kisses?” A perfect run-on sentence followed, where she said she wished she had more time for us to explore whatever it was we had between us. She ended it “Hugs and kisses.”
That was all it took. Soon we were writing each other once or twice a week, letters full of heat and forbidden desire. The long distance bill took a beating. She made a trip back that year, ostensibly to see her friends. After the new year, as spring tried to break winter’s persistent grip, she made another trip. Naked and alone in my apartment, our bodies trembling under each other’s touch, we still held back.
During Memorial Day weekend, we stopped holding back, two nights together, in
The end came in a phone call, and I kept the mall Ruby Tuesday’s bar in business with all the Dewar’s I drank.
Eventually, I moved forward. I had a few dates with a woman who picked me up at the bar, and I and met a woman who could have turned out to be more than a sort-of girlfriend. But by the time we tentatively started going out, I left for a new job in
I kept her letters until I moved to the
I tracked her down while I lived in our house in
Not just a little snuffle here and there, a full-on chainsaw sawing logs, waking me from my alcohol-induced sound sleep in the other bed. Holy shit. “Hey!” I said. “Roll over!” He shifted a little. And kept on snoring.
I threw a pillow at him. He snored a little more. I threw another, and that did the trick. Thank you baby Jesus. I went back to sleep.
We got up the next morning and headed to spup’s folks’ house for more food and the opening of presents and whatnot. Andy got a shower, but I did not. I threw some water on my hair and to make it somewhat presentable, and it helped that it was short. But I really could have used a cap to complete the college-learned illusion of cleanliness. I rubbed a bunch of deodorant on and followed Andy and the girls over.
Without our fancy Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes on, we looked like normal people. There was definitive proof that Dana wasn’t wearing a Victorian-era corset with her dress at the wedding because she had on a T-shirt girl-style short, and it lifted up to reveal her smallest waist ever when she reached to get a bowl out of a cabinet. Andy, who helped with most anything Dana wanted — clearing the table, bringing the presents outside, getting her a plate of potato chips and something to drink while she kept track of the gifts, not that he was obvious or anything — most definitely noticed.
Eventually, Doc and spup opened their presents. And then it was over.
Spup and Doc’s families had a full day of traveling ahead, her maid-of-honor sister, Melissa, was heading to her new job, Dana was going back to school, Andy had to catch a plane and I needed to get home and take a shower.
She e-mailed me after my letter. And then again. She said she thought I was holding onto the past, that I was in love with an idea of what could have been. But that wasn’t — isn’t — the case. No, I was in love with the idea of what could be, building on the past but looking forward. I wrote her another letter. In it, I asked her to come to me.
I e-mailed her to tell her it was on the way. She e-mailed me the next day.
I haven’t heard from her since she got my second letter, but by sending it, a weight was lifted. I knew before I wrote the first letter that I had a better chance of hitting the lottery than of her leaving her husband for me, and yet I had to ask. With the truth of my letters — with my truth — came not sadness or regret about her decision, but, rather, freedom.
Doc and spup stayed one more day at her parents’ house before heading to their new home together. Their possibilities are endless, opened by their desires and their willingness to take a chance. The whole of their life lies before them.
And now, so does mine.
Sept. 13, 2007