Some years ago, I was attending a wedding – of an ex-girlfriend, no less, and before the big day came round, I was talking about it to a female friend, who was also going to be attending.
“Wouldn’t it be funny,” I said idly, “if, when they get to that bit about ‘speak now or forever hold your peace’, someone cleared their throat?”
This wasn’t, I hasten to point out, said with any kind of malice. It was just one of those what-if things.
“I suppose so,” she said, sounding less than convinced.
“I mean, I wouldn’t do it,” I said quickly. “It’d be kind of funny, I suppose, but it would take the attention off the bride and groom, and that’s not fair – it’s their day, after all.”
As cheesy as it may sound, this is actually the way my mind works – for this very same reason, several years later, I refused to get into a slanging match with an ex who was attending a wedding; it wasn’t about us, it was the couple’s day.
Anyway, the conversation moved on, and I didn’t think about this again, until the day of the wedding, when at the appointed time, my friend – sitting behind me in the church – did indeed cough as if she was just about to say something.
I looked round at her, and I wasn’t the only one in the surrounding pews to do so.
She didn’t say anything further, though, and the wedding ceremony was completed, and as far as I know, the bride and groom (and, perhaps more importantly, the vicar) never even heard her cough. But I had, and at the reception, I spoke to her about it.
“I can’t believe you did that,” I said, meaning it.
“What are you talking about?” She looked genuinely bemused. “You dared me to!”
“I didn’t dare you! I said it would be funny if, not that I thought you should do it!”
…it was probably at this point in my life that I first became interested in how people’s memories of events can vary, or be malleable or just plain wrong. It’s something that fascinates me still; how we rewrite events, often to meet the emotional or intellectual needs of the present as opposed to reflecting the past. I do, I know, and have a sneaking suspicion that I’m partly doing it even in this retelling… though I like to think the facts are as reported.
But of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I ?
(She may have been right to clear her throat, mind; they’re no longer married.)