I arrived late to the cocktail hour at the wedding reception. Although it was early January, the weather was agreeable and the small patio outside the restaurant was charming.
I smiled pleasantly, or what I thought was pleasantly, at the other guests. Every so often, my eyes would meet with someone else’s, and invariably they looked at me with a questioning gaze followed by an expression of non-recognition. No, we didn’t know each other, and they turned back to their conversations.
I made my way to the bar. There was no room to linger, so I took my glass of wine and stepped aside. As I kept making space for others to pass by, I soon found myself edged to the outskirts of the gathering.
I stopped beside a row of benches and took out my phone, pretending to have something to do. The photographer came by to grab something from his gear bag, stashed nearby, and made a friendly comment before going back to the party. It was fleeting, but uplifting.
The COVID-19 pandemic had been going on for two years. When I RSVP’d, I selected the outdoor dining option. Evidently, I was the first to do so. The bride had asked, “Would you still like to sit outside if it’s just you?” I asked her to let me know if it really came to that.
When the event coordinator began ushering everyone into the restaurant for dinner, I declined. Wasn’t I to be seated outside? She paused, then went to speak with someone. She directed the staff to set up a table on the patio with a single place setting, and waved me over.
I sat without interruption for some time, seemingly forgotten. The speeches began. Eventually, someone with a managerial air saw me and stepped outside to offer me a glass of champagne.
A short while later, a server appeared in the doorway holding a full tray over his shoulder. Seeing me sitting alone at the table, he hesitated, confused. He went back inside for further instructions. He then reappeared and placed an assortment of family-style dishes on the table in front of me. “Enjoy,” he said.