***This is a story that I initially wrote as a writing exercise in college back in 2004. It started out with a simple concept. Put a girl and guy in the men's room and see what happens. Years later, I went back to it and changed the names so that it would fit in with a collection of interconnected short stories I started in 2008. I made some edits here and there and this was the final product. ***
Julian didn't notice his ex-girlfriend Holly standing by the entrance to the reception hall until they'd already started eating.
At first, he attempted to ignore her. He turned to Diana who'd been talking non-stop over the course of an hour. She was telling Jane and his friend Ben about the last wedding she'd been to; it had been for her sister, and she quickly added that it was nowhere near as nice as this one. Jane smiled politely and pushed away her dish, making some exaggerated comment about how full she was when she'd barely touched a thing on her plate. That was one thing he'd never understood about Ben, how the guy could be so attracted to girls with apparent eating disorders - like the last one, stick thin Corinne. He could still hear her voice in his head. It's Coreeeeen. Calling them skeletons was an insult to skeletons. They resembled more the paper decorations Julian's father used to buy for Halloween at party shops, as if that's where his friend shopped for dates. The only thing that made Jane stand out from the rest was her blonde hair. He'd never seen a skeleton with blonde hair before.
Julian forced a smile and leaned over to kiss Diana on the cheek. She attempted to kiss him on the mouth, but he turned, and her lips brushed his chin.
"Dance with me," she said, as the band played the opening chords of "YMCA".
He glanced over at the dance floor behind him where a few of the guests were making fools of themselves. At the center of it all was Jane's three-year-old niece. The little girl was shaking her head, her dark braids flying, and then, she began to twirl, the hem of her dress doing the same until she slipped and fell, only to get back up again. "I'll be right back," he said.
His girlfriend nodded, but she looked upset. "All right."
He stood and came around the table. He watched as Ben turned to his new wife and said something that Julian couldn't make out.
By the time Julian had reached the entrance to the hall, Holly was gone. There weren't many people out in the lobby, just a few parents and their disruptive children. One little boy was running back and forth with his arms stretched out as if he were a plane, making noises too, while those around him just laughed. Yeah, it was real funny now that they were out here and no longer bothering the other wedding guests. The boy plowed into a little girl who was minding her own business by the couch, knocking her over backwards. She began to cry. The hotel receptionist looked up from her desk and frowned because all of this was taking place in her hotel, on the day when she had to work and not on somebody else's watch.
Julian escaped to the bathroom. There was nowhere else to go. The kids had besieged the rest of the hotel, and though he'd yet to admit it to himself, he started to get the suspicion that he hadn't really left his friends behind so that he could chase after an old love from his past. He'd wanted to get away from them, and specifically from Diana, who'd begun to wear on him over the last few weeks. He dreaded the moment the two of them left the wedding, the moment they were alone.
Recently, she'd begun pushing him to take their relationship to the next level. He couldn't tell her the truth, that the thought of her naked made him physically ill. He cared about her and all. Just not enough apparently.
He wondered if it was normal to be so unattracted to the girl you were dating.
He was still thinking about this when the door opened. He watched Holly in the mirror as she came up behind him and paused.
Neither of them spoke at first.
"What the hell are you doing in here?" he said.
"I was going to ask you the same thing."
He continued to stare at her. "I'm not the girl in the guy's bathroom."
"I was out there waiting for you." She sighed, as if this were about to turn into a story, the kind only women told, where you started the day you were born, and, if the listener was lucky, managed to get to the point while you were still alive. He was beginning to remember why he and Holly had not lasted very long. "And those bratty kids just kept looking at me, but making so much noise, you know?" By that point, he'd forgotten what they'd been talking about. He wondered, also, if maybe he'd tuned out half of her speech. He'd always had a tendency of doing that with her. It was coming back to him now. "They'll scream and yell and shove each other around and still be looking at you the whole time. And I'm waiting for you," she said, "to come out of the bathroom so I can talk to you. But you never come out. So I decided, fuck it, and just came in here myself. What were you doing in here that whole time? Hiding out in the men's bathroom is so incredibly gay."
"Shit," was all he could think of to say. A lot was going through his head right then. He figured he'd stumbled across some major insight regarding what separated the male mind from the female one, how Holly could have an experience and find a way to stretch it into an autobiography and all that could come out of his mouth was an expletive.
Off to his right, the bathroom door opened again, and a kid with wide eyes almost obscured by thick glasses came in. He looked at them for a moment without saying anything before rushing to a stall and shutting himself in.
"Come on," Julian said. He turned and grabbed her arm. "Let's get out of here."
"Hell no," she said. She yanked away from him. "I'm not going out into a mob scene. We can talk in here."
"Um, it's not exactly the best place-"
"You're such a coward, Julian. I saw you with that girl at the table. She put up with your shit like I used to? I feel sorry for her. It's times like this when it becomes so clear to me why I dumped you. You know, I should have known when I accepted the invitation that you'd be here. In high school, you never even bothered with Ben. But I guess now that I can't stand the damned sight of you and just want to be able to celebrate a happy occasion with an old friend without any kind of scene, the two of you are conveniently glued to the hip. Is there any place you're not going to pop up? Are you trying to force me into seclusion, like Emily Fucking Dickinson or something?"
He shrugged. He didn't really get the connection. He didn't know much about Emily Dickinson other than the fact that she was some anti-social poet who probably didn't make a habit of following young men into the bathroom only to berate them and make them feel bad about themselves. She probably had more class than that.
"I don't know why I even care," Holly said. "You're either the biggest asshole there ever was, or else you really are gay, and I knew it all along. Hell, if it weren't for me, you'd still be a virgin at 22. And this is the thanks I get."
He sighed. "Are you done?"
"Fuck yeah, I am."
She was halfway out the door when he caught a glimpse of Diana. She was standing in the lobby, wide-eyed as she stared right back at him. He didn't have time to think. He just reacted. It was as if his body knew what he had to do, even though his brain hadn't caught up with it yet. "Wait." He followed Holly, and came to halt a few feet away from Diana's glowering presence. "It's not what you think," he said.
But his girlfriend's attention was not on him. "Who the hell are you?" she asked Holly.
Julian shrugged. "I fucked her once. It was nothing."
Diana continued to glare at Holly. "Were you harassing my boyfriend?"
"I don't want anything to do with your gay boyfriend." Holly brushed past her. "You can have him."
Diana turned and watched her head back to the reception hall. "I can't believe it," she said when Holly was out of sight. She finally turned her attention to Julian. "Are you all right? Was she bothering you?"
He shook his head and headed for the front entrance. "You gotta be fucking kidding me."
"What are you doing out here?"
Julian looked up at his friend and blinked.
"Diana asked me to talk to you. She thinks you're mad at her."
He sighed. "It's nothing personal." He really didn't feel like explaining it. And yet he knew that, regardless of how much he didn't want to do it, he would have to tell Diana the truth. It wasn't as if he disliked her as a human being or anything. It was just beneath his dignity to fuck her. Maybe it would be a good idea to tell her the news over the phone. He could text her the message. "Ben, can I ask you something?"
His friend sat down next to him on the bench.
"What made you decide to marry Jane?"
Ben shrugged. "I don't know. I guess I just knew she was the one."
Julian nodded. Everyone always dreamed about the one. He had dreams about the one as well. The one girl who wasn't a complete idiot. He'd probably be waiting a while for that one, but he wasn't going to hold his breath.
Looking over at his friend and seeing a married man he didn't know, he realized that love made idiots out of everyone.
Suddenly, he wished he hadn't come. He'd always fucking hated weddings.