When I was kid I believed in magic. I believed in fairies, Santa, and ghosts, and the Bigfoot, and all of that. I believed that ours was a world of magic that hid just out of sight and away from adult eyes. Hiding where those pure of heart could find it when they needed it.
Then I got older.
Then I watched the world change.
I thought – but there must be magic, there must.
But the further you get from childhood the further you get from that spark, that belief without reason or sense.
Faith is baggage that gets heavier the older you get though and to believe in anything but a faceless god as a teen and adult is to cage yourself in other people’s prejudices. It was hard enough being the girl who looked like a boy with short hair and no interest in dating.
I didn’t want to be a princess.
I didn’t want to be a prince.
I wanted to be me and I had no fucking idea who that was at sixteen.
Now at twenty-four I felt like I was an addict just getting clean.
I was in my own place for the first time, I was making my own friends, I had my two year degree in business from an online school and I didn’t speak to my family anymore.
I was clean.
I dunno how many times I had been called queer or fag or dyke.
If I even had a quarter for every time I wouldn’t have to work nights for catering company serving assholes and cleaning up after them.
But it was a job.
And I survived.
I had friends who worked two or three jobs and with this one gig, after we got tipped out, I did OK.
I paid for an apartment, my bills, and bus fare.
It wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad.
And until I figured out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my fucking life it was better than mom and dad’s place.
It was better than being in Hell.
It was nights like tonight that made me question what the borders of hell really were.
Saturday weddings are the worst.
The absolute worst.
Months and even years of planning and fantasizing come down to one hour of ceremony and an evening of booze.
The childhood musings and the after sex daydreaming of What Will Our Wedding Be Like all come down to furstration and barely suppressed rage at the fact that corn isn’t quite as yellow as it was in a picture or that the cake isn’t quite as big as some celebrities was.
I had seen weddings end in tears, from both brides AND grooms, simply because the DJ forgot to play some song or other.
It was as if we had heaped so much pressure on weddings being perfect and being worthy of memorable social media posting that we forgot the love that got everyone to that night of tears and drinking.
I felt lucky that I didn’t start my shift until halfway through the reception. It was a big wedding with three hundred guests and two outfit changes for the happy couple. It was the biggest wedding of our season so we had two shifts working, one to handle the lead up and one to handle the tear down.
I was tear down.
It meant a late night and dealing with the detritus of the passed out people who needed to be sent home in cabs but it also meant we could listen to our own music as we cleaned up and that we got to actually laugh as we ate the leftover food and talked about what happened through the night.
I had worked weddings at the beginning and it was all rage and fire until after that first dance and then people seemed to lighten up and appreciate that the stress was over and now they could get on with the rest of their lives.
Weddings were the worst parts of Christmas amplified.
Give me the tear down shift any day of the week.
Sure, it wasn’t as much money but with weddings I didn’t mind.
I didn’t like getting dressed up and serving anyway.
I guess this particular party I was left off the early roster for a reason.
Me and a man named Hank, who the owner of the business felt wouldn’t go over well with the party.
Me with my tomboy style and Hank being Hank.
Hank was more forgiving of that sort of thing than I was but our owner was good to us and we knew that this wasn’t her being bigoted towards us but protecting us from a party she felt would create issues.
We’d seen it before.
First there were the sidelong looks, then the whispers, then the not so whispered comments, then there were the blatant comments and as the night progressed things went downhill from there.
Someone causing a scene and saying how they didn’t want our kind at their event.
One time, once I asked and what kind is THAT to an elderly man who went all tomato faced on me and it was Hank pulling me away to calm me down.
Hank, born Hannah, who had lived with worse for longer.
Who knew that you don’t stop a storm, you just stand up against it and make sure you’re still standing when it blows on by.
Blow wind, blow.
That was his saying – blow wind, blow.
And I took a breath and calmed down just as the old man was able to sputter through his mustache – a tranny and a dyke, you bitch!
And it broke my heart to see the tears well up in Hank’s eyes then, those pretty blue eyes of his, because those words hurt and he hated that they hurt and that made them hurt all the more.
And Hank turned and forced a wide smile and held out the drink tray he was carrying – You sound like you need another drink sir.
Laughing afterwards as we passed a joint back and forth.
Laughter dying as the wedding planner handed the boss a check and stressed that there was no tip due our treatment of guests.
And our boss laughed and shrugged and told the man – well, then the guests shouldn’t act like assholes.
I loved my boss.
She protected us, not punished us.
Seeing the remnants of the crowd, she was right to on this job.
Most of the guests were gone but the wedding party was huddled around the bar where they were trying to finish off a keg and were arguing about whether or not wetbacks should even be put in cages or shot on sight.
The bride made guns with her fingers and shot into the air.
Kill all them taco fuckers, she shouted.
Even more laughter as the bartender, a new guy named Phil clenched his teeth. Phil’s fiancee was Mexican.
I pitied him and made a face when I caught his eye to try to make him smile.
He did, but there was no humor.
Hank was in a far corner cleaning off tables and avoiding the table of older people, probably family of bride or groom, as they talked about how tired they were of the faggot-ass world and how those Hollywood queers had made everyone into pussies and fruits.
It was an hour past the end of the wedding but the venue had gotten a lot of money for this event and were going to give the folks a lot of time to collect themselves.
I looked over to the farthest, darkest corner and saw Amee, the night manager here as she sat with her head in her hands, watching the bar.
Desperate to get home to her three dogs.
She’d probably been there from the beginning and if someone got it worse than the caterers did it was the venue because nothing was ever right.
If it wasn’t fairy tale perfect, if it wasn’t enough to make someone, just one person jealous, then it was all a waste.
I laughed to myself.
Only these sorts of assholes could afford those.
The rest of us could afford ramen noodles, basic cable, and a cat if we were lucky.
I was lucky.
“What’s so funny?” I heard a voice say.
I had been tearing down the food tables and getting the food into the kitchen while the rest of our crew were loading our equipment up when I heard the voice.
An older woman from the sound.
“What’s that, I asked?”
“I asked what you thought was so funny.”
I turned and it was an older woman sitting alone at a table, her purse on the table in front of her and her coat on. I looked around and saw a man in a coat up at the bar with his arm around the groom, laughing as he chug, chug, chugged a beer and then held the plastic cup out for a refill.
“Oh, nothing, ma’am. Sorry to disturb you.” I forced a smile and turned and grabbed the punch bowl and picked it up but was stopped before I could take a step.
“Something was funny enough that you had to laugh about it. That you had to disturb me so what’s so fucking funny, miss? It is miss, isn’t it? It’s hard to tell with your dyke cut.”
Hissing the word fucking at me.
She was mad.
Frustrated to be waiting for her husband and I had gotten in her blast radius and by god someone’d pay for her frustration and I guess that person was me.
I dropped my smile.
“Nothing that is your business, ma’am. Now have a good evening.” I was polite but business polite.
I owed her exactly nothing and that’s what she’d get.
“Oh, I think you do owe me. It’s us that pay your kind to work this event. Without us you wouldn’t even have a job so you owe me. You damn sure owe me because I didn’t pay you to laugh. I paid you to work.”
“Ma’am, you didn’t pay me at all. You didn’t even pay my boss. The lovely woman over there in the middle, with the red baseball hat on and talking about who should get the right to vote? THAT is the person who paid for us. Not you. And the fact is, it’s not her business either. She hired me, she doesn’t own me.”
I turned again and started towards the kitchen, trying to breathe and calm myself down. The woman waited a few steps until she responded, as if to herself.
“That’s a shame, we used to own your kind not that long ago and were all better for it. Now you’re all too uppity for your own damned good, you dyke.”
Tears in my eyes.
Fire in my hands.
I envisioned myself turning and dumping the whole bowl onto the woman’s head and smiled at that.
At how pure her outrage would be.
Pure and sweet like honey from the hive.
Blow wind, blow.
I got to the doors of the kitchen and looked and saw Hank had gotten too close to the wedding guests and was now being hooted and hollered at. That was enough.
I couldn’t afford to lose the job but I wasn’t going to…
But I didn’t need to do anything.
From behind me came my boss Tara, rushing towards Hank and above me the lights came on and the music cut out.
“Sorry to do this, everyone, but by law we can no longer furnish alcohol and by the contract we must insist that the wedding party and its guests please finish their clean up and load up so we can close the venue.”
Immediate outrage. The bride started stumble-running towards Amee and Tara was on Hank, hand on his shoulder and head down to speak to him.
The bride made a point to bump into me on her way to Amee, who was ready for her.
“I apologize ma’am but this comes straight from our owners. The Landerslyke Corporation that owns this property has rules that they abide by and which are stipulated in your…”
“That’s BULLSHIT! This is BULLSHIT! Honey. HONEY! Tell this bitch. This is MY day. This is MY day, bitch. You can’t do this! You’re all just fuckin’ machines that we own. We wind you up and make you go. Assholes. I wanna…”
Interrupted before she could finish, the rest of the bridal party and the guests converged.
“I already have Mrs. Landerslyke on the phone for you, ma’am. Here…” Holding the phone out.
“I don’t WANNA talk to that fag bitch. I want you to turn the fuckin’ MUSIC ON!” Yelling now for emphasis.
“Ma’am, I am going to ask you to calm down. The DJ was contracted through us and our planners for your wedding and their contract ended an hour ago as well, when the venue rental ended. He is shutting down.”
“FUCK! FUCK THIS PLACE! FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU!” The bride in rage filled tears. The groom tipping a table over. Amee on the phone and yes, yes, yes.
Christ Almighty they were going to call the police.
Amee was going to call the cops.
I laughed again and made sure it was loud and made double sure to lock eyes with the woman at the table as I did.
Hank at my elbow.
“Honey, look. Look.” Pointing towards the dancefloor.
And I looked and saw two boys, forgotten by their parents and probably so far past boredom as to not care anymore on the dancefloor. One boy wearing the bride’s veil and the other holding the bridal bouquet and they were slow dancing to music that came from the one boy’s phone.
As we watched the boy with the bouquet put his head on the other boy’s shoulder.
I turned to Hank and saw that it wasn’t just me, we were both crying.
Crying to see that even in the center of Hell magic could still exist.
That magic was still real.
Behind us there was sound of breaking glass and I heard Tara’s voice, loud and nasty if you pushed her hard enough, telling someone to back the fuck up.
I turned and put the punch bowl on the nearest table and held my hand out to Hank and we walked out to the dancefloor and the boys looked over at us.
“May we?” I asked.
Hank took my other hand and we started slow dancing, happy to catch some of this magic before it was gone.