I went to Amanda and Bryce’s wedding last weekend. It was wonderful until it turned terrible. This is my story
Part 1: Alone
I came to the wedding alone. I knew the bride. That was it. Our short list of mutual friends, for several semi-complicated reasons, were not going to make it to the wedding. However, when I had communicated with Amanda about possible rides from the airport and places to stay, she had mentioned several wedding attendees whom I happened to know from my SMBI days nearly nine years ago.
So at least I had that.
Part 2: Traveling
My plan was to take a red eye flight Thursday night, arrive in Indianapolis Friday morning, and then get shuttled to Illinois by a load of wedding attendees driving in from back east. Luckily I got a decent about of sleep on the plane, and as my ride wasn’t scheduled to pick me up for several hours yet, I got another good nap in the Indianapolis airport before freshening up and grabbing some breakfast and tea.
Thus fortified, I stood on the curb in the muggy Indiana heat until a brown minivan pulled up. This was it. I climbed inside.
There were three others in the van, presenting a healthy mix of strangers and semi-strangers. We drove off. Introductions were made all around.
Part 3: New Friends
Rachel was next to me, in one of the middle seats. We tried to remember when we’d seen each other last. Was it nine years ago? Or just five? A long time, in any case. Nice to see you again.
At the wheel of the minivan was Troy, a groomsman. I knew who he was, vaguely, as we’d communicated briefly with texts such as “I’m supposed to pick you up from the airport,” and, “okay, awesome.”
Seth, sitting shotgun, was Bryce’s best friend from High School. He was another groomsman and, like me, was coming pretty much alone, not really knowing anyone besides the groom. He wore a shirt that said “I talk to strangers.” And he’d brought his bike with him, which necessitated the minivan.
“I’m biking to southern Indiana after the wedding,” he said.
It sounded exciting except for the promise of a muggy midwestern heat wave.
The four of us drove through Indiana and into Illinois, discussing random topics such as buried treasure, and whether it’s possible to drive a car through a cornfield. Rachel had to be at the church at 3 pm to practice singing. We made it in the nick of time, only to discover that we’d crossed a time zone line, and it was actually 2 pm.
Oh well. We’re all friends now, I guess. We can hang out.
But eventually I got bored of hanging out. “Did you say there was a lake nearby?” I asked Seth.
“Yeah,” he said. “You wanna go?”
“Let’s see if anyone else wants to come,” he said.
Rachel was practicing her songs at this point, and Troy wasn’t feelin’ it. I saw three girls sitting on one of the back pews. “Do you want to go to the lake?” I asked them.
“Sure!” they said.
“Do you have a car?”
“How many people does it seat?”
I grabbed my backpack, fully intending to slip on my swim trunks and jump in the lake. But on the way there Seth said, “oh, I thought my phone hadn’t adjusted to the time change, but it actually did. So we only have fifteen minutes.”
We stayed a little longer than fifteen minutes, but I didn’t swim. Instead we stuck our feet in the water and chatted.
Part 4: The Great Wedding Calamity
Back at the church for the rehearsal dinner, the person blessing the food made some vague reference to an illness going around. And later, during rehearsal, I noticed that the maid of honor was clutching her head, looking disoriented, while her husband rubbed her back.
I asked Amanda about it, later, when I ran into her in the bathroom.
“Oh, Emily! It’s been awful!” she said. Then she listed the various family and bridal party members who had succumbed to the illness, a miserable affair that involved a great deal of puking.
Poor Amanda. Of all the unexpected wrenches that could be thrown into wedding plans, that has to be about the worst.
Part 5: The Wedding Day
Abby, my SMBI roommate from nine years ago, was staying at the same place I was, along with Rachel and a girl named Jackie that I’d never met. Jackie wasn’t around as much because she had friends in the area, but Rachel, Abby, and I had a fantastic time reconnecting. Friday night and all Saturday morning we just hung out and chatted.
The wedding went off smoothly, despite a few members of the bridal party still looking a little green. The church was decorated with white garden flowers and foraged branches that smelled lovely, and Amanda wore a dress of Dotted Swiss that had been made from a Sears curtain. I didn’t get any photos of the ceremony, but I did snap a few at the reception.
As I pondered what stories to tell at the open mic, I realized something: Amanda is one of the bravest people I know. To look at her, you wouldn’t necessarily guess it. But there it is.
I told about the time we were in New York City, trying to have fun without spending any money, when Amanda showed up with some pizza.
“Where did you get the pizza?” we wanted to know.
“A stranger on the subway gave it to me.”
But it’s not just strange pizza. She’s unafraid to talk to anybody. She can ask them any question. She’s unafraid to get married and move to the house across the street from the drug dealers. She’s unconcerned by the lack of proper toilets in her new home. What does it matter? We’ll figure something out.
There was no official sendoff, and Bryce and Amanda were still milling around chatting with their guests as tables were cleared and most folks had left.
“Let’s talk, Emily!” she said, multiple times. But how much chatty chatty time is there at a wedding? We all wanted a slice of Amanda, that day, but the whole point was that we don’t get her. Bryce does.
Part 6: The Fireworks
Arthur IL, Amanda’s little hometown, is famous for its epic fireworks display on the Saturday before Independence Day. Which was also the day of Amanda’s wedding. So that evening, most of the wedding crowd migrated into Arthur to see what all the hype was about.
Amazing stuff. Not just fireworks, but also these massive explosions that sent waves of heat at us. And some sort of burning wire setup that sent down torrents of ethereal fire rain.
And then it was over, and we walked away through the hot, wet evening air, lit up by the occasional lightening bug or rogue firecracker. “Goodbye, goodbye,” I told my new friends. “Come to Oregon someday.”
Part 7: Leaving
Abby, Rachel, Jackie, and I stayed up well past 1 am. “Why is it so much harder for some people to be single than others?” And “how close of friendships should you have with guys you’re not dating?” We discussed so many things. I don’t often hang out with others in the same life stage as me.
I didn’t get much sleep, since I had to be up at 6 am in order to make it to Indianapolis in time for my flight. It was just Troy and Rachel and I this time, driving through cornfield country. Seth was biking to southern Indiana.
Due to my budget airline, I had a 6+ hour layover. Oh well. By the time I arrived in Denver I was hungry, cold, and had a headache, presumably from my lack of sleep, but I made do. Ate a chicken sandwich. Drank some tea. Took a couple ibuprofen tablets.
But as I lay in a sunny patch on the floor, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in, I realized that something was wrong. I wasn’t feeling better. In fact, I was beginning to feel worse.
Part 8: Everything goes terribly, horribly, absolutely, 100% wrong
If you are triggered by horrifying situations and/or discussions of vomit, the rest of this blog post is not for you. Click the little “x” in the top right-hand corner of this page, make yourself a cup of tea, and spend a few moments contemplating how nice and healthy you are feeling.
For those of you with a morbid curiosity into my pain, keep reading.
Lying on the floor of the Denver airport, I began to feel an overwhelming nausea and disorientation. I needed to throw up.
So, okay. I guess I’ll pack all my stuff back into my backpack and haul myself to a giant crowded restroom where everyone can hear me. This sounds like fun times.
I knelt by the toilet. And then it came. Hello tea. Hello chicken sandwich. Hello hasty breakfast I grabbed as I ran out the door this morning.
Jesus, have mercy.
I have it. I have the bridal party sickness. I have four more hours of layover and two-and-a-half more hours of flying and two hours of driving home and I have the bridal party sickness.
I called my mom. “Sip Sprite,” she said. “You are dehydrated, and a have a low blood sugar. Maybe some of your siblings can come pick you up at the airport.”
I sipped Sprite, and found a more remote bathroom on the upper level. It was coming, again. All the Sprite, all of everything that was inside me, and then the dry heaving that was hard to stop. “Jesus have Mercy,” I moaned, and then started quoting Isaiah 40 to myself. Out loud. My sense of normal and abnormal behavior was all screwed up.
The pattern was thus set: Sip something. Feel absolutely awful, lie on floor, don’t move, even listing to a podcast is too, too much. Then puke. Trying to stop the dry heaving that follows is like trying to stop a runaway car in a dream. But feel better, once I manage it. Momentarily. Sip something again.
No one seemed to notice my illness until once, suddenly, I had to GO. I took off for the nearest bathroom. A janitor passed, wheeling a yellow cart. Should I puke in the cart?
I didn’t. Maybe should have. Instead I puked on the floor. “Good thing there’s a janitor nearby,” I briefly noted before I dissolved into tears of misery and humiliation.
But now, people noticed me and felt sorry for me. They bought me Gatorade and Pepto-Bismol and Rolaids, none of which were particularly helpful, but it did make me feel less alone. Someone nabbed me a garbage bag from the poor janitor, which prevented further floor-vomit humiliations.
After that, things got worse. However, at a certain point I need to pull the curtain of charity over the event, and I think that moment is here. But I will note that my flight got delayed for an hour. And I was freezing cold. I don’t know how high my fever was, but I had all the chills and muscle aches, and the next day, feeling much better, it was 100.3.
The flight attendants were much savvier at picking up on the fact that I was sick than the average flying populace had been. Of course, the fact that I dashed for the bathroom as soon as I set foot on the plane probably gave me away.
“Can we get you anything?” they asked as soon as I emerged.
“Do you have a face mask so I don’t get anyone else sick?” I asked.
They didn’t have that. They did have a better barf bag, which was sturdier and, for the sake of those around me, opaque. They didn’t have blankets, but they turned up the heat for me. They wanted to give me a seat in the very back, near the bathrooms, but as I was only five or so rows up, on an aisle seat, we decided not to bother.
“Are you okay to fly?” they asked.
To be honest, I was a little afraid they wouldn’t let me fly because I was sick. “I just want to go home!” I moaned.
“I know, honey, I know.”
The flight was so, so miserable and awful, but I remember that moment when the flight attendant told me there was just an hour left to go. I made up a song and started singing it. “I can hold on for an hour, I can make it for an hour, I can hold on for an hour, I can make it, for that long.”
I mean, I was already puking girl, might as well be singing girl as well.
And I did. I made it for an hour, because I had no choice. The flight attendants contacted the Portland airport and ordered a wheelchair for me. It was waiting for me when we landed, and the nice wheelchair man took my backpack and wheeled me out to the curb, where Ben and Amy were waiting with the family car. They’d brought a blanket and a memory foam pillow! And a barf bucket!
I gave Ben my keys and my instructions on where to find my car, and he ran off to go drive my car home. I settled into the back of the family car. Pure. Heaven. A real blanket to wrap up in, that keeps me warm all the way. A soft place to lie down.
“Do you mind if I listen to an audio book?” Amy asked.
“Could we…could we listen to classical music?” I asked. I am not usually a classical music person, but for some reason I’d longed for classical music the whole flight.
“Sure,” said Amy. She found a CD of classical music and stuck it in the player.
I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so loved or content in my life.
That was Sunday, July 1. I heaved my guts out once more on the way home, but that was pretty much the last of the puking portion. However, It’s been a long week. By Wednesday I was eating a few solid foods, like toast.
Thursday evening I was supposed to leave on a road trip to Arizona. My friends Zach and Ally were getting married on Saturday July 7, and a group of my friends were going to drive down together. I was in such a dither all Thursday. I had pretty much kicked the illness, but I was still so weak.
I decided not to go.
So yes. Plans change, but that’s just how the world works when you’re me. I’m feeling fine now, and I had a low-key but nice birthday. But I will say, my trip to Bryce and Amanda’s wedding was one I will never forget.
I am so sorry! Our entire family got the virus, too, but certainly not as horribly as your experience! I saw you at the wedding, but didn’t talk with you. I only knew who you were because of your mom sharing pics. 😉 My daughter Jessica said she enjoyed chatting with you at fireworks.
Curious if your family got sick from you? That was quite a bug!!!
I was terrified that my family would get sick from me, especially my little sister that has a phobia of barfing. So I did everything I could think of to prevent it…wiped down door knobs, left my toothbrush on the counter instead of sticking it back in the drawer, etc. And none of them got it! Hallelujah!
I’m so sorry. I can hardly imagine how awful that would be, being sick in an airport and on the plane. It makes my “wedding illness” pale by comparison. I missed a friend’s wedding because I was sick, but I was safely at home in my room. My stomach was so touchy that even room-temperature 7-up came back up. Then I thought about letting the 7-up warm in my mouth to body temperature and it stayed down.
Another time before I was going to fly, I found out there was a skunk in the building where I was trying to finish up some office work early in the morning before I left. The night-day staff were desperate for suggestions on how to lure the skunk out. I didn’t have any suggestions, but I certainly hoped it would not perfume the building and me. I wasn’t sure how that would work, walking through airports and sitting on a plane, smelling like a skunk. As it turned out, the intruder hunkered down under a kitchen cupboard all day, until they lured it out that night and disposed of it.
I’m glad you’re feeling better, but sorry you had to miss the next wedding.
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Oh my thats just awful! We had a virus that has all 12 of us sick like that but we were at home. I hope you feel better now!
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Oh…tears came to my eyes and I so wanted to tuck you into bed and make sure you were comfy and warm, and had gingerale to drink and a bowl…just in case.
What a horrid experience!!!
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When you’ve had a series of such unfortunate events, there’s a certain satisfaction in recounting them! I feel your pain. I got airsick over Alaska on a flight to Thailand. Longest 8 hours of my life. There was no escape. 😨
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Oh my WORD!!!!! I alternated tears and uncontrollable laughter while reading this horrible, terrible episode in the life of Emily Sarah Smucker. Lord have mercy! You poor poor soul!
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