She sat there drinking her tenth cup of coffee while watching the sunrise’s sickly yellow light piercing her kitchen window.
“Why did this have to happen to me?”
Rosie stood up leaving the remains of her breakfast on the table and walked down the hall to use the bathroom for what seemed to be the thousandth time. She normally limited herself to two cups of Sumatra in the morning plus a cup of Pike Place Roast from the Starbucks drive-thru on her way to work, so the bottom of her stomach felt like it had been drowned in battery acid.
Last night she couldn’t sleep. Her gray thoughts anticipating the next day refused to allow her mind to rest. She must have dozed here and there, but now sitting on the toilet, she felt like 120 pounds of steel wool and boiled inner tube. Maybe a shower would help. She had to be at the church before noon and her parents would be pissed if she showed up looking like a drugged out refugee from an all-night rave.
Rosie wiped and looked before getting off the toilet seat. “Oh terrific. My period is early.”
Showered, teeth brushed, face made up, hair styled, grimly admiring her figure clothed in last week’s purchase from Victoria’s Secret in the mirror, Rosie walked over to her closet and removed the gown. She’d take it with her and get dressed when she got there.
She almost tossed it onto her unmade bed but remembered that Hope was her only sister and instead carefully laid it down. Then she put on a pair of jeans and a button-down blouse (nothing pulled over the head to mess up her hair) and got ready to go.
With the lavender gown sitting across the backseat of her Fiat 500L, Rosie pulled out of the parking garage of her Berkeley apartment building and mentally calculated the fastest route to her sister’s church in Concord. She remembered to keep her speed to just five over the limit. Cops tended to pull over red sporty cars more often than other more conservative colors and models.
To anyone else, it would have been a beautiful morning in the Bay Area. The fog was burning off nicely and the predicted highs would be in the 60s for most of the East Bay. Rosie knew she should be happy for Hope. After all, she had snagged her satin beau, was deliriously, head-over-heals in love, and at 22, she said she could honestly wear white walking down the aisle.
Rosie couldn’t be more different from her sister in just about every single way.
Church. Why did it have to be in a church? She knew the answer though she didn’t understand it.
They had been raised staunch progressive atheists by their parents, and while Rosie embraced those attitudes with a vengeance, Hope had converted to Christianity her Junior year at San Jose State (she said they had a better Business Management and Marketing department than Berkeley) at a dumb Campus Crusade for Christ gathering.
What’s worse, she became a registered Republican and she was marrying a man with exactly the same religion and politics. That was going to make Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners fun (that last part was sarcasm in case you missed it).
A church. She had to get married in a church and not just any church. She was going to celebrate the start of her wedded bliss with a ceremony in a Fundamentalist Baptist church. Liberal, feminist, “I’m With Her,” Rosie Mack was going to spend the entire afternoon at a wedding ceremony and then reception with a bunch of Holy Rollers and NRA fanatics. Why couldn’t they all just live in a conservative cult compound in Idaho or Utah and leave California alone?
She pulled onto Highway 24 East at Orinda pondering the NRA. Hope said that since there had been several church shootings, the congregation’s board of directors approved using retired and off duty police officers among their parishioners as security, actual armed guards with loaded guns concealed under their coats and jackets. She was going to be the “Maid-of-Honor” at a patriarchal, misogynistic, archaic, institutional rite overseen by a bunch of “gun-totin'” fascists.
Nearly thirty minutes later, she found herself pulling into the parking lot of the First Baptist Grace Church of Concord. Rosie got out of her car and gently ushered her gown and shoes from the back seat. Locking the Fiat, she walked toward the building’s main doors. Hope saw her and ran out to her.
Hugging her tightly, she whispered, “I’m so glad you’re here, Rosie. I couldn’t get married without you.”
“I love you, Sis.” Rosie felt her throat closing with sudden, unexpected emotion and not the kind she’d been feeling all morning.
“Come on inside. The wedding party’s just about to get changed.” Hope took Rosie’s hand reminding her that tolerance, diversity, and acceptance of radical differences went both ways. Never once had Hope or her fiance Harvey ragged on her for being a lesbian, hit her over the head with a Bible, or criticized anything about her. Maybe Rosie and Hope were as different as Clinton and Nixon, but just for one day, she could put her opinions aside and be happy on Hope’s “big day” because they love each other.
A few minutes before I started writing this, I read a Drabble called Open to Being Different by Marion Gibbon. It occurred to me that there are all kinds of differences and in order to be open not only to your own differences but those of everyone else, you would have to allow yourself to experience those differences, at least a little.
As my character Rosie discovered, that isn’t easy. Many times, perhaps most of the time, people accept the differences of others only within a certain range or only from specific groups. That stands regardless of your political and social attitudes. It’s a human quality, not a function of one ideology or another. I thought it would be interesting to explore a person who considers herself to be tolerant and accepting of diversity, but then realizes there are whole populations she simply can’t stand.
It took her sister’s wedding to help open her to all of that.