"Cold Feet" by Sarah Evans, read by Angus Gallagher

Performed at “Yay & Nay” on October 14, 2019.

Ben wakes to cold feet and gut tight terror, desperately wishing today would go away. He rolls over, discovering an absence, just the lingering of Robin’s scent. Good! Better to be alone right now. He thinks how it’s supposed to be bad luck to see your betrothed on your wedding morning. Impractical when you live together. And age-old traditions hardly apply. Figuring which to retain, which to discard has occupied the two of them for months, months during which his unease – which he’d hoped would evaporate if ignored – has densified. Now, guests invited, venue booked, minute preparations in place, he would give anything to unwind their decision.

How the fuck is it that he said yes to this enormous faff to continue on as is?

And what does it say about him and Robin that he feels this way?

The flat is quiet, no sound from the partner to whom he will shortly be legally joined. Could he abscond? Would Robin ever forgive him? Panic surges, the no oxygen, stomach knotting sense that he cannot do this. Why didn’t he say no?

He drags himself out from the bubble of warmth beneath the duvet and into the cool of the en-suite where he stands under the cascade of wet and steam, soaping himself with mint and tree-oil gel, hoping the fragrance might clear his head. In six hours, the two of them will stand before all their family and friends. They will declare their private promises to an audience: to love one another unconditionally; to be faithful partners; I will cherish you, hold you and enjoy you. In what bout of insanity did he agree to his lines? They will kiss in public for the first time, dance a choreographed slow dance to a soppy disco number, hold hands while they circulate, and eventually retire to the honeymoon suite amidst whoops and wolf-whistles. The whole day will be weighted with innuendo, the way weddings always are.

All deeply uncomfortable, but endurable, if it weren’t for…

Fuck!

Why the hell did he not only send an invite to his mother, but insist in no uncertain terms that he’d be hurt if she didn’t show?

He lathers up his hair, closes his eyes against the shampoo sting, and pictures in excruciating detail the way Mum will drop her gaze away from the proceedings, how distaste and disappointment will mingle on her lips, the same look as all those years ago when he finally forced himself to spell out that he and Robin were more than friends. He can still see the way her fingers moved in a reflex to touch the silver cross that always rests at the hollow of her throat.

He rinses thoroughly using the novelty face / arse flannel given by Robin last Christmas, remembers his sister-in-law’s expression as he unwrapped it, thinks of her concerns that today’s event might be unsuitable for her kids, and the heated argument he had with his brother, because it felt essential that they come, but mightn’t it all have felt simpler if they didn’t? And then there’s Robin’s family who are super-cool with things, and all their flamboyant friends who enjoy nothing more than camping it up at a big gay wedding.

He’d rather die than go ahead.

What was he thinking? When Robin booked a posh restaurant, plied him with alcohol and popped the question, he was swept up on a wave of love and not really thinking at all. Resentment stirs. If Robin truly loved him, he would never have proposed this.

He dries himself thoroughly, concentrates on close, no-nick shaving. In the bedroom, he stares at their outfits, hung up side by side. The suits are mid-blue, satin-lapelled and forbidding, the bowties colourful and the shirts soft pink and mauve. The idea of dressing defeats him. He thinks ahead to this being over, the reverse process, the stripping off of clothes which is hardly new except that it will take place in the hotel room with four-poster bed bedecked with rainbow streamers.

He muses how, over the millennia, his kind of sex has incurred so much hatred, how punishments have ranged from hanging to maiming to hard labour to prison. And how times have changed so that by this evening, as newlyweds, sex is not just tolerated but expected.

Footsteps sound along the hall and his smile dissolves as anxiety grips tight once more. If only he could vanish, avoiding discovery in his moment of doubt. If only he could disappear completely and come back tomorrow and not have to deal with the consequences.

The door opens. Robin stands there, his hair dishevelled, eyes serious as his gaze meets Ben’s for an hour long moment. Ben remembers back, the heart-stop of first eye-contact across a crowded club, their long history of desire and affection, of companionship and love.

‘You couldn’t sleep either?’ Ben says.

Robin grimaces. ‘Remind me why we’re doing this?’

‘Your idea. You, who proposed. You, who wanted the whole shebang.’ They laugh and Ben feels a small easing. ‘Something to do with love.’ He adopts an ironic tone. ‘And only shagging one person till they or you keel over. All that.’

Robin pulls a familiar downwards smile. ‘You nervous too?’

‘Terrified.’

Wedding day nerves are the world’s biggest cliché, part of the ritual. Ben thinks ahead to the private pleasures of the night, and stepping forward to kiss his husband-to-be, warmth spreads from his lips through his body, down to his toes.


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