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Sunday, September 15, 2013

The idea of attending a friend's wedding had always been...

The idea of attending a friend's wedding had always been a scary one. They remind him of the passing of time, or his inability to find love.

Yet this was an invitation that he was unable to turn down.

He knew the groom since Standard 1 (they were both seven), at primary school.
He knew the bride since he was in Form 4 (they were both sixteen), at secondary school.

The bride and the groom were high school sweethearts, having been together for eleven years.

Thus, he decided to attend his first wedding of friends, which were seemingly different from the wedding of uncles and aunts in his memories, different from his cousin's weddings, different from the weddings of his parents' friends, or the children of his parents' friends.

When he arrived at the venue of the wedding dinner, he saw a sea of familiar faces, either from primary school or from secondary school.

Happier than he expected himself to be, he said hi to everyone he could recognize, and hi to those he thought he recognized, and hi to those he didn't really know but were either friends of the bride or the groom.

He took out his angpau (red packet, a monetary gift for special occasions) and jotted on it:

(translation: May you both bathe in the river of love forever)

It was a generic wedding greeting, but he was at a loss for words.

Beside the reception table was a portrait of the newlyweds.

portrait of the newlyweds

He then entered the ballroom, and realized that he was seated together with the best friends of the bride. Some he knew (in fact, one of them drove him to the wedding), some he did not know. Moments later, an old friend he known since primary school were seated next to him, he was elated by the arrangement.

The tables beside him were populated by people from his secondary school, some were faces he had not seen for 12 years, yet they seemed unravaged by time. Just that instead of wearing school uniforms like they had in his memories, they were in formal wear. The men looked sharp, the woman were beautiful.

A video started playing. They were photo slides that chronicled the childhoods of the couple, from their kindergarten days to primary school days, from their early secondary school days (he suddenly noticed that one of the group photos were taken at his home, they were all fourteen years old, which was fifteen years ago, during those days when he used to hold gatherings at home), and then, the end of their secondary school life, where they couple finally met and ended up in the same class. The last few photos chronicled 11 years of their romance, to the wedding preparation.

The audiences cheered.

He clapped too, but his mind was wandering to the past. It occurred to him that he had known the groom for 22 years and the groom was finally getting married.

The shortest boy in the class. The class monitor with a squeaky voice. And now, a married man.

Many from his primary school and secondary school had already gotten married, but most of the time he had never been invited to the ceremonies. Either he was out of the country, or they did not know that they had returned. It didn't matter much to him, after all, the idea of attending a friend's wedding had always been a scary one.

The couple finally made their entrance into the ballroom, the bride's white gown were glistening, perhaps with diamonds, the groom waved, the place was filled with thunderous applause.

Dinner was served. More videos were shown. Videos of the night before, videos of the wedding ceremony earlier during the day, videos of many things.

By then, he realized that wedding videos these days possess a sort of artistry, and he could never be able to take any wedding video jobs even if anyone were to ask him for help (he had gotten that before, a few years ago).

As dinner was being served, the stage was filled with all kinds of colourful performances. A live band doing decent covers of love songs. The groom and his father singing a duet together. The younger sisters of the bride giving anecdotes of the couple's courtship 12 years ago. The bride and groom giving a tear-filled emotional speech. The bride singing a song, and halfway through, the groom came onstage to join her.

It was festive.

When it ended, he attempted to help the best friends of the bride at his table take a group photo with a polaroid instant camera. Thrice he failed.

Sometimes, the wedding dinner made him reflect about life. He wondered whether he had done the same in wedding dinners that he attended in the past. Reflecting about life. Trying to dig out whatever memories he had of the bride and groom, he found himself standing on a path within his mind, which stretched out to infinity, there were mist-covered images that were supposed to be remembrances of the past.

"Old Wolf", also a friend he knew since primary school, offered to help the women at the table verify their parking cards. So they could remain and watch the performances on the stage.

"He's such a nice guy." He said to the lady sitting beside him as the friend exited the ballroom, heading to the nearby autopay machine.

"Does that mean that you're not as nice?" The lady laughed. She was in the IT industry, and liked photography, having used a Nikon D90 for years.

He thought for a bit, and nodded with a smile. "Yes."

He wondered why this nice guy was nicknamed "Old Wolf" during primary school, was it because his lanky stature made him resemble the Wile E Coyote? Or that nameless wolf in Looney Tunes cartoon?

One of the last songs that the band performed onstage was "Can't Take My Eyes Off You", a song that brought to mind one of the most bombastic, over-the-top romantic scenes he had ever seen in the film 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, which when he was 15.

In the film, set in a high school, a man serenades the woman with a rousing rendition of "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" at a football field, disregarding the threat of school authorities. The gesture finally melts the woman's heart, as the ice-like expression that she was perpetually wearing finally gives way to a happy smile of disbelief. Romantic films were big. Teenage romantic comedies were a guilty pleasure. Again he was conjuring images in his mind that was from the past. Being nostalgic had always been a habit of his.

Bidding his farewell to the newlywed couple, which he realized he had a great fondness for, he told them that he had really not been to any friends' wedding before, and this was a great first one to attend. After secondary school, he did not see them much, most of his life were spent either in Perth or Tokyo, or film festivals around the world. A year ago, after receiving an award at Sapporo, he had a small screening at Kuala Lumpur, showing two of his short films to a crowd. He was pleasantly surprised when the couple came to his screening.

A few hours earlier, when he was on his way to the wedding dinner, he recounted the whole thing to the driver (one of the best friends of the bride, and also someone he himself knew since they were both seven).

"The feeling of having people from my past attend my screening is a very strange thing. I think this whole filmmaking part of my life had separated myself from my past, everyone had gone on to live their lives. Mine is one of solitude. To see both of them drive all the way to Kuala Lumpur for my screening, the gratitude I felt was indescribable. I was moved." He said, without irony or sarcasm.

And without noticing, they became part of his life again. An unexpected convalescence of past and present.

A few hours later, "Old Wolf" was the one to give him the ride home. Looking out through the window, the night view of Kuala Lumpur city passed him by, streetlights, buildings, the Petronas Twin Towers.

The idea of attending a friend's wedding had always been a scary one. But somehow, after being to one, for reasons he was unable to comprehend, he felt at peace.