I wrote the following piece of flash fiction a few days after my sister got married in 2018. It’s meant to go along with the previously published piece of fiction, Daddy’s Turn, which you can read by clicking here. Like I said there, it’s fiction because, even though much of it is true, I wrote it in the third person and I took some creative liberties with the actual situation.
Music bumped out of the bricks. A few people lingered outside, but most were inside dancing the night away.
The man sat in his car and cried.
This is unusual behavior for a man, obviously. Most of the other men at the after-wedding party were happy to see the sister so joyous and jumping to the music in her elegant white gown. Most men drank. And they seemed fully content to be drunk and dancing. Even the man’s children, the boy and the girl, were happy to let loose. The man’s wife was watching their children. She was happy not dancing. She was a great wife and mother, mostly because she knew what everyone needed, even before they knew it, and sometimes when they didn’t even know it.
But the man cried in the car.
For the man, it was more than just an older brother watching his young sister grow up. He was 14 when she was born. Until then, the man’s life had been marred by abandonment. His own father was a ghost, a figure who subtly haunted the man when he was a child, at the most crucial stages of growth. The man has often wondered if it is better to have a bad father or to have no father at all; of course, he would never really know. When the man was a young teenager, and his sister was a baby, he doted on her. He didn’t have many close friends – an ailment that has stayed with him his whole life – and he only dabbled in extracurricular activities. In those days, he spent most of his spare time with his sister.
For a moment in his life, the sister was everything to him. Of course the man had to eventually grow up on his own. He ended up studying and working, and he found a woman he loved. When he went away to college, he broke his sister’s heart. Sure, he had to live a life on his own, and the sister wasn’t really his responsibility. But he still felt responsible.
When the man went to college, who would take his place for her? Where would she get those hugs that young girls seem to need? Who would hold her against his chest and feel the breathing of innocence, and give the serene comfort? When the sister was 5, the neighbor kids, who were a few years older than the sister, whispered behind the sister’s back and didn’t let her play their older-kid games. It was the man, her brother, who hugged her as her eyes poured out the hurtful tears. The man couldn’t button up her shirt correctly and he had never really done diapers, but he could wrap his arms around her perfectly.
And now the man’s sister was getting married, which was tearing him apart.
“Why am I crying?” the man asked himself as the car windows fogged. The man liked the groom. He was great for his sister and she seemed happy with him.
He wondered if his tears were tears of joy, but he couldn’t help but feel the tremendous sadness that washed away this wonderment. The man had been married for years. He loved his family more than anything, but he also knew that sometimes, marriage was hard – harder than imaginable, actually. The struggles of the everyday. The financial woes. The children’s issues. The maintenance of sanity, which he found to be the hardest thing of all. For some reason, logic didn’t always apply when it came to a family and raising children, and that made the man almost crazy.
The man realized he wasn’t actually sad for the sister; he was more sad for himself because he felt like he didn’t know his sister that well anymore. He got so tangled up in his own life, and dreams, and failures, that he didn’t text at the right time, or message when he should have, or send an email or a picture. At the wedding, the man met many of the sister’s friends for the first time and realized that the sister was a woman with her own life and loves. He wondered if there was still enough time; if there was a place for him in her life, or a place for her in his. This new dynamic brought fear and anguish.
He cried in the car. Then he stopped crying.
The man got out of the car and walked towards the bouncing brick building of the reception. His eyes were red still, but the lights were too dim for anyone to notice. He found his sister on the dance floor and hugged her closely, her radiating warmth easing his inner anguish. He saw his son,10, and his daughter, 5, dancing without a care. He knew there was a connection between raising a daughter and his experiences with his sister – a connection that he couldn’t quite grasp onto yet. So he just picked his daughter up and swung her around. She laughed with her eyes closed. He was dizzy when he found his wife; so dizzy that he kissed his wife askew.
The man and the wife were ready to leave, but they would wait for their children, as parents do. Their children weren’t done dancing yet. And the man and the wife would keep waiting, hoping their children would dance forever.