I don't know what to say.
All the color has been washed from his hair, letting it back to his natural dirty blonde. It's tied back with a black ribbon and the ponytail hangs down to the middle of his back.
His fingernails aren't painted and he doesn't have any odd artwork decorating his body. The should-be navel rings that he wears in his ears aren't there.
He's clean shaven, no designs etched in facial hair are winding around his jaw.
Despite the stark white tuxedo he's wearing, he looks entirely plain. Not a thing like my brother.
He asks me how he looks. I don't know what to say.
I force a smile and tell him he's never looked better. He beams at me, and I know that just to see that look on his face, I'd tell him a million more lies like the one that just left my lips.
The hall is decked in white, as if a horde of merciless college students came through with giant white-out markers, like they were correcting one hell of a fucked up term paper.
This is pretty fucked up, too, I think. But I can't tell him that.
He keeps glancing over his shoulder at me, and I can tell by the doubt and nervousness that has come into his eyes that he's figured out my smile is plastered on. I'm glad that he can't question me right now. He whispers something to me and I can't quite catch it. I lean forward a little and ask what he said, and just then, the music hits.
Everyone in attendance stands, expectant eyes to the back of the building.
She steps gracefully into view, and her dress is white, as well. All of a sudden I realize that it's all entirely too perfect.
Everything here is blank and devoid of color. It's like an empty canvas waiting to be decorated, but someone has covered it with a dust cloth and forgotten it in some lost corner of life.
My brother isn't supposed to look like this. He's supposed to be bright and colorful, and not at all plain. He's special, inside and out, and especially on a day like today, he should be himself.
He's doing this to please someone else. Someone he's going to spend the rest of his life pleasing. And it isn't me.
If it were me, I would have helped him dye his hair for the occasion. I would have painted his nails for him and laughed as he picked out the most outrageous outfit he could find. If it were me standing up here in front of all these people and declaring my love, I would let him be him. And I would rejoice in every second of it.
I never bothered rehearsing a speech to give as the best man, because I'd known from the beginning that I would never be able to get through such a thing. I stand at the altar by his side with my fake smile, and as soon as the ceremony is finished, I'm heading for my car.
I can't escape the friends and relatives that slow my forward progress, stopping to ask questions like, "wasn't the ceremony wonderful?" and "didn't the bride look stunning?" and even, "so when are you going to settle down, Matt?" Please, I tell them. Please, I'm not feeling well. Not well at all, in fact, and I think I'm going to be sick. Please let me by.
Finally, I'm able to get to my car and just as I'm about to get in, I catch a glimpse of something in the corner of my eye. I turn to see Jeff standing there in that blank white outfit. I try my best to concentrate on that, and not the ring on his finger.
We stare at each other for what seems like an eternity. He opens his mouth to speak, at last, and I find myself waiting with baited breath. As if I expect him to say, "this was a mistake, Matt. Just let me get in the car with you, alright? Let's drive away now."
He doesn't seem to know exactly what he wants to say, but what he finally settles on is, "I'm sorry."
I want to grab him and shake him and scream in his face that he isn't really sorry. If he knew what sorry meant, he never would have done this.
"Me, too," I choke out, as I slide into my car.