The death certificate of my childhood arrived in a crimson red envelope.
I slipped the contents out onto my desk and unsealed them, unfolded them, unclasped them. I had never received a missive so delicate or so complex, and it took several moments for my baboon digits to free the contents to browse. What appeared from within shook my heart with horror. I trembled suddenly for reasons I could not then articulate. The sky outside seemed to darken, the clouds grew heavy with ash and smoke. Everything tasted like salt and copper and purple.
Tina is getting married in August. This was the first wedding invitation of my adult years.
I have, of course, gone to weddings before, as part of the generally understood “and family” or as the “plus one” of someone else’s invitation. I have been an assumed seat-filler, a person who is mentally included as a matter of calculating how much salmon to cook. As a child and teen I was included in wedding ceremonies and receptions mostly because babysitters are expensive, and when it’s a family wedding all of the good babysitters are probably related to you and thus also going to the wedding.
Never before in the history of my life had I, Michael the human being, been invited to a wedding. I like to think this is not a factor of my offensive presence, a factor of the surety with which I would desecrate and completely ruin the happy ceremony to take place, but rather of age. That I was not too foul to attend a wedding, but that I simply didn’t know anybody old enough to ever fathom having one.
Up until now I had been living in the glorious, carefree meadow of my early twenties. In this part of my lived decade personal responsibility was delightfully minimal, and all of my whims were just as justifiable as the next. Expensive trips around the world? A monthly beer budget that surpassed the GDP of several small island nations? Considerable amounts of summer lodged into the bowels of Mass Effect? All of these were completely reasonable expressions of my youth and vigour.
Reminders of my age and mortality were thin on the ground, as most of the people I associate with are just as interested in beer and video games as I. Our discussions center around board games and concerts and how important Tyrion’s survival is to our ongoing emotional well-being. Being in your early twenties is being in the kindergarten of life, and with everyone else also knee-deep in finger paint, there’s no reason to think about grade school.
I had been labouring under the illusion that such a childhood would last forever. That my early twenties would blissfully glide into my mid-twenties, which would be like my early twenties except with more disposable income and less reason to write essays in concordance with the MLA style guide. These would then become my late twenties, which would be just as good, only better, but with possibly a refined taste for wine or whiskey. Then would be my late late twenties, then my superlate twenties, and then my ultralate twenties, when I would be roughly 48 but still having a pretty great time.
With this invitation I feel a changing in the winds. A distinct, clear knowing that something has changed in the shape of my life, or at least in the shape of my summers. My age is not just the age of carefree gallivanting, but also that when people wake up and find that they still generally like the human sleeping next to them. The time when people begin thinking of producing smaller replicas of themselves, named Rowan or Aidan or Justice or whatever.
Now comes the long dark. The time when people start using the words “biological clock” with razorblade sincerity, when they start thinking about floral arrangements and retirement funds and if their neighbourhood has good schools. Now is the time of infant carriers and couples-only dinner parties where I am the 11th wheel and the entrée is deep-fried pity. Now is the era of the engagement party, the gender-segregated bachelor/bachelorette/hen/stag nights, conjoined pre-wedding parties, and whatever other events are invented to sap money from me and celebrate people who I dearly love and can kind of tolerate the happiness of.
Singledom in this dark new world is not a symbol of freedom, but rather a personal failure speaking to my lack of quality and possibly hygiene. My lack of a spouse and any particular desire to acquire one marks me as childish and not understanding the shape of life. My wanton, carefree enjoyment of solitude goes from being normal to being the thing that weirdoes do. My lack of my own children is a cone of shame, rather than a badge of honour or bullet dodged.
This is but a herald, a hearkening. In this invitation I see other invitations on the horizon, dark, elegant shapes blotting out the sky and riding on the wind with dark, expensive card stock wings.
Here we are in the era of dread. This wedding is but the first of many, where all of my same-aged peers begin to leap off the cliff of life and forge through the next phase of adulthood. The next phase which necessarily includes registering for a lemon zester, which I will fight to buy first, because I might as well just fucking buy them in bulk, there are 374 weddings this summer. My June and July will be gobbled in the maw of matrimony, my summers slain by the ticking of a generational clock. The abyss is about to stare back, when I had been so careful about not staring at it in the first place.