Only moments before Kelly walks down the aisle I become aware of the fact that the heat of
What captures my attention most, however, is that the wet and clingy shirt is accentuating the slight overhang of his nipples, and having studied myself in the mirror, at different angles, at different times and in different clothes in the bathroom mirror in our hotel room every day since arriving in Phuket, I am more than a little concerned that the groomsmen beside me is not the only man in possession of the dreaded bitch-tits. I consider hunching my shoulders, or crossing my arms or even resting my hands causally on top of my head to pull the skin tight over my pecs as Kelly moves into position and holds Todd’s hands.
Todd is awash with emotion and the shock I feel at his public display of tears makes me realize that the potentiality of my bitch-tits has very little to do with the importance of this moment and yet I cannot erase the feeling that people are stealing a glimpse at me, and every shuffle and every photo flash and every unconscious cough from the crowd seems to inflame my nipples to the point where I am sure that, given the chance, I could upstage Rudolph for the honor of guiding Santa’s 2009 Sleigh.
My gaze drifts towards my family. Archie is drinking diet coke from a straw and bopping his head to a song only he can hear, Tyson’s little arms and legs are flailing excitedly at a toy hanging from his pram and as I turn my attention to Reservoir Mum, who is physically restraining Lewis in a figure eight grip we learnt in a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class, I am beset by a charge of emotion and a strange feeling of relief – there is no other life I could have ever possibly wanted and happiness and joy for me is a simple matter of holding my attention on us and while I will continue to strive for personal goals and push myself in certain areas of my life there really is nothing else to achieve beyond what the five of us are together.
Suddenly my self awareness softens and my focus sharpens and I realize something very important – my nipples have nothing to do with Todd and Kelly’s marriage.
Kelly finishes her wedding vows and they are pronounced Husband and Wife as the soft wind slows and the ocean settles to a glassy lake and the laughter and chatter echoes as cheeks are kissed and hands clasped warmly and the tops are popped from Champagne and beer bottles and the groomsman start ribbing Todd about his tears and the photos are taken as the sun disappears and there is a sense that we need to immerse ourselves in celebration as much as possible because this night will end too soon.
The guests leave the sand for the Catch Club which will hold the reception but I decide to stay with Archie on the beach, beer in hand, with nothing else to do for the next few minutes but watch him. He’s doing circle work in and out of the water, squealing and hollering, stamping his feet and I’m laughing at the same time that I’m feeling slightly melancholy. Archie is showing me the way to live – be here and now with whatever emotion or energy moves you. It’s a clichéd truth that carries with it an undercurrent of sadness because like most adults I move from one moment to the next with baggage from the past and concerns for the future and the only time I really ever get a taste of the unfettered happiness I see in front of me is by-proxy through Archie and Lewis and Tyson, and even then it suffers under a certain fear and a certain weight because I love them.
Archie stops and giggles and makes me choke a little on a mouthful of beer as he squiggles out of his shorts and starts peeing into the water. Feeling brave under the cover of night, I join him and we laugh together as we have our first sword fight and then we zip up and I chase him around a little just to hear him squeal excitedly one more time and we’re up to join the rest of the party.
The food is delicious and the speeches are great and we get a special mention from Todd for making the effort to bring the whole family over and we feel honored for the mention and then all of a sudden it’s time to get the boys to sleep.
Reservoir Mum sits with Tyson as I walk Archie and Lewis along the beachside strip of open-air restaurants in our Phil and Ted double-decker pram. The boys are pointing out the lights that snake their way up several palm trees as I hear a tune that I find familiar coming several restaurants ahead and when I realize it’s Land Down Under by Men At Work I feel such a sense of elation that I have to physically grab my own throat to stop the moronic chant Oi Oi Oi.
The song is cathartic and I get a sense of myself that pleases me – I am uncultured, I don’t like to travel, I hate adventure beyond lifting heavy weights and I want to go back to Victoria and live with my family there and never ever leave again and it feels so good to know this about myself and not want to change it that I start singing and kicking my legs out a little and jigging the pram left and right and coaxing looks from the restaurant patrons. I am enraptured by a crazy sense of freedom.
When I get back to the wedding reception Archie and Lewis are nigh-nighs and I park them at our table and take Tyson from Reservoir Mum with authority and self-assurance. ‘You finish your dinner,’ I say. ‘I’m a stay-at-home Dad and I don’t care who knows it.’
I choose to stand in front of a restaurant that’s playing Let’s Groove by Earth Wind and Fire because it’s the perfect rhythm for rocking an infant.
Within minutes – maybe even seconds – Tyson’s asleep. I feel a great sense of achievement. This is what I do. Give me your sleepless human baby and I will cure it.
I walk to the reception backwards just for the hell of it and as I pass the table where the Bride and Groom’s family are seated I lean in and say, ‘Three down in record time, mutherfuckers,’ before continuing my backwards jig to Reservoir Mum.
‘We need someone to watch the boys’ I say to her, as I lay Tyson down on his belly, ‘Because I’m going to request the DJ play the classic electro breakdance hit Rock It by Herbie Hancock, and then I’m going to dance, and I know that this is typical of me after I’ve had a few drinks – and I appreciate that you’re doing your best to restrict yourself from rolling your eyes right now – but you’re not going to want to miss it this time because I’m feeling pretty good about my life and I just might do a head spin.”
“Okay,” she says, as she leans back against me.
I look over at Todd and Kelly and they seem overwhelmed at times and there’s no doubt that the wedding has gone as well as it possibly could and I think briefly about my other childhood friends – Gazza and Scratcha back in Aus – and I hope that we’re all hanging out together ten years from now, having BBQ’s, insulting each other and watching our families grow.
I nudge Reservoir Mum and point down at my slumbering boys and say, “I’m fucking good at this.” She reaches up, scratches my stubbly chin and says, ‘Yep, you are,’ and I eye the DJ and prepare mentally for my dance solo because I know there are seven billion people in the world and I am crazy lucky that out of that massive number Reservoir Mum, Archie, Lewis and Tyson happened to me.