We pulled into the parking lot and both glanced around for a space. There wasn’t one. Nick said, “Don’t worry, we have two minutes to spare.”
“Uh, no we don’t,” I replied, pointing at the door to the church, “It must have started at 4 and not 4:30; look.” Well-wishers crowded around the door, making use of bubbles even though the bride and groom were still inside receiving hugs and congratulations from guests. We joined the throng and waited. Soon, Emily, who had not been busy setting up a system for a DJ or a photo booth and had actually made it to the ceremony, came out of the church and I waved her over. She handed me a vial of bubbles and told me how wonderful the ceremony had been, about the vows and how to tell which of the guys standing around were groomsmen: “They have a Power Ranger figurine pinned to their jackets.”
“This is going to be an awesome time,” I said.
“Oh, yeah!” Emily agreed.
A girl came out of the church and joined some of her friends who were standing behind us. Emily discovered some relatives standing on the other side of the sidewalk, and while she was occupied I had nothing to do but listen to the conversations taking place around me (I couldn’t enjoy the bubbles yet; the wind was blowing toward me, and I was already dodging bubbles headed for my face.)
They were talking about her shoes.
“Why did you wear those?” one of her friends asked.
“They’re brand new!” she declared, then admitted, “I’ll probably take them off soon.”
I glanced behind me at the footwear in question: the shiny, six inch taupe heels were definitely not made for dancing. The girl was already uncomfortable, shifting her weight quickly from one foot to the other.
It wasn’t long before all the guests were outside waiting, and the bride and groom made their grand exit. Andrew stopped to kiss his beautiful wife, and the wind had changed directions, so I blew as many bubbles as I could manage.
Nick loitered near his vehicle, clearly waiting for me while I said hello to my friend Li Hui from Chinese class (that’s not really her name, but I called her that for so long that it seems weird to call her anything else; she calls me Pa Li Sha). I wanted to talk more, but we had to get back to the reception venue to make sure everything was ready. “I really hope we have time to catch up later but right now I really have to go!” I told her, smiling at the little one she held.
We booked it back to the banquet hall.
Guests arrived and made use of the photo booth while waiting for the wedding party (who, instead of stopping at a bar for some shots, had gone to a local comic book store for some quick purchases). Among the first to dig into the props was the girl with the new shoes. I was paying attention to some other guests, so I didn’t notice her or her friend until I heard them talking about her feet again.
“Are you sure about those shoes?” he was asking her.
“It’s the first time I’ve worn them!” she said.
“Well, they’re really cute,” I told her.
“Thanks!” she said, bouncing a little. “I’ll probably need to take them off to dance later.”
“You can borrow mine if you want,” I offered, holding out a flip-flopped foot.
“That’s okay,” she laughed, “I’ll be all right, but thanks anyway.”
The wedding party arrived with all the pomp and circumstance that a cheering crowd can give, in addition to a saber arch provided by the groomsmen and bridesmaids (though the swords were slightly mismatched. The best man held a replica of The Sword of Omens from ThunderCats, while the rest held Japanese katana or other replicas).
The night only got more awesome and nerdy from there. After dancing their first dance (to a song from an anime soundtrack which was particularly close to their hearts), Andrew and Vanessa danced Gangnam Style with their friends all in a line facing the tables, as though the dance floor were a stage, and those who had chosen not to dance, the audience. This "stage show" trend continued the whole night, through two Pokémon and a Power Rangers theme song (not to mention Bohemian Rhapsody), and only dissolved during the Cha Cha Slide and the Cupid Shuffle.
Any lull in the music, and, instead of clinking their glasses, people were rolling a big inflatable d20 to determine how the bride and groom would kiss. A Dungeons and Dragons-style roll/action chart was on every table, letting everyone know what to expect. There was an action for every number: a 10 (the “average”) was an Eskimo kiss, while a 20 (the best) was “a kiss to rival the end of The Princess Bride.” Lower rolls had the newlyweds high fiving, fist bumping, or hugging. A few times they had to give each other an awkward sibling hug (lean in, but not too close, one hand on the back, and “pat pat”). On a 1, the person rolling had to go kiss someone else (guess who rolled a 1? Yeah, me. Emily was surprised, and a reply text from Lionsby showed that he didn’t believe us, demanding, “pics or it didn’t happen”).
The guests fresh from Anime NebrasKon were best able to appreciate the movie, anime, and video game references on the signs had I made for the photo booth. I saw several people I knew by sight from the couple of times I attended the anime club when I was in college. And though I didn’t get actually get to talk to them much, Li Hui came over with her family to get in the booth. The girl with the brand new shoes joined them, and I looked at the scrapbook after they went back to sit down, and saw that her name was Jaci. I puzzled for a while over whether it was pronounced like “JC” or like “Jackie,” and thought that it would be cool to get back into the anime crowd, since a lot of them looked like they would be totally awesome people to hang out with.
After such an fun, energetic night, I’m sure everybody needed some time to rest and recuperate. I took a nap in the afternoon and was sleepy the rest of the day, but that didn’t stop me from hopping online and leaving a message for Li Hui on facebook, since she and her husband took their girls home (understandably) early.
I enjoyed looking at pictures that Andrew and Vanessa’s friends and family had already uploaded to facebook. Among them were shots of the pre-wedding 3DS session, several of people dancing, and some even of the pictures that were taken in the photo booth. It made me smile to see that Li Hui’s friend Jaci had snapped a shot of a couple she had taken and put them up, and even made one of them her profile picture.
Right before I went to bed, Emily posted a news article on facebook, along with something about the NebrasKon family “losing another member.” The headline of the article was “Car vs Motorcycle Fatality.” The video on channel 8 hadn’t released the name of the victim, but after some more glancing around on facebook, I found a mutual friend who had linked to her page.
It was Jaci.
I stared at the screen.
“But she was dancing yesterday,” I told it. “She was wearing her brand new shoes and making faces in the photo booth.”
She was 24.
Life is wonderful, amazing, and fun. It’s full of joy and sorrow. I didn’t know her, but Jaci seemed like a great person and a fantastic friend. For those who knew and loved her, I’m sorry for your loss. I hope that soon you forget your pain and remember Jaci laughing, smiling, and taking off her shoes to dance Gangnam Style at Andrew and Vanessa’s wedding.