Vo l . 7 N o . 1 beforehand. I chose a white one. It was half of what she made in a month. She paid for it with a credit card. • When we arrived at Nazareth Chapel, I was informed that Josh had made me his best man. I thought it was best not to question this. Mom looked beautiful in her white dress. More beautiful than happy. She seemed unsure of herself. Or maybe that was all wishful thinking on my part. The ceremony began. Pastor B. Edmunds asked if anyone objected. me—I object He continued when no one spoke up. He asked if she would take Josh as her new husband. Please don’t say ‘I do.’ She said “I do.” Josh did the same. Then the Pastor said: “Charlotte Caprioli, from this day forward, you will no longer be known as Charlotte Caprioli, but as Charlotte Peterson. You have a new name in the eyes of the Lord, as you join this man in a new, and holy union.” I was a crying statue; my body was rigid, but a few small tears escaped. A passing observer might think that I was overcome with happiness for my mother’s new union, and was simply trying to be a man and not cry. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The truth was that the new name shook me in a way that I have never experienced since. It may even be accurate to say that the announcement shattered my soul. Decades later I hear myself think, did he have to say that? I hadn’t realized our names would no longer be the same. I hadn’t realized that she wouldn’t be instantly recognizable as my mother. My entire body ached as the thought repeated, did he have to say that? •
I were to share our own room for the night on the same floor. In the exciting rush of staying in a decent hotel room, Lee Ann and I ordered Rocky Road ice cream and watched TV until midnight. Once she fell asleep, I used the extra bedsheets to make a bed of sorts on the ornate dresser. I planned to sleep on the floor, but had spotted two dead silverfish in the carpet. I woke up at 5am, three hours before our scheduled meeting at 8. I lay on the dresser for about an hour before rising. After a shower, I slipped out of the motel room. The morning air was cold but uncruel. I stepped onto the deck, and looked at an empty Anchorage. I wore the same baggy black shirt I had slept in, refusing, for some reason, to bring a jacket. At the fourth floor, our rooms were at the pinnacle of the hotel. I thought of them as the penthouse rooms. But my impression was challenged from the fact the “hotel” stood across from a strip club and a diner in ruin. I went down the dirty blue steps of ragged macadam. Anchorage was quiet at 6am on a Saturday. I moved toward the mountains. The Wendy’s was closed. The Taco Bell was closed. The car dealerships were hollowed out by darkness. I was thankful for the wind. It was helping me come to terms with this new life where my family had officially disassembled. Mom didn’t have my name anymore, and my dad couldn’t say “Charlotte” without swearing. I folded my arms into each other, but I didn’t rub them to keep warm. I didn’t hop around or turn back for more clothes. This frigid, unflinching reality was threading itself through me, and shivering wouldn’t make it stop.
The reception was at Golden Corral. Mom paid for everyone. In attendance were the assistant pastor and his family, a couple random church members, some of Mom’s friends from nursing school, Lee Ann, and Josh’s mom. Josh’s dad had stayed home. Lee Ann and I were flying back to California the next day to spend the school year with our father. Mom and Josh grabbed a hotel room in the city. Lee Ann and Cliff River Lichen