her folks had said our life together sure was gonna be rough

“This must be the infamous Perich,” the woman said, shaking my hand as Fraley introduced us. That introduction has never borne good fruit for me, but this was Fraley and Melissa’s rehearsal dinner. The woman speaking was the Liberty Hotel’s wedding coordinator, Michelle.

Quick recap for the tourists: the Liberty Hotel was once the Charles Street Jail, the downtown lock-up that briefly held Malcolm X, Sacco and Vanzetti and a number of other famous Boston miscreants. It stood for nearly fourteen decades before closing in 1990 due to overcrowding. Ann Beha Architects renovated the interior and added a sixteen-story guesthouse adjacent, turning it into one of Boston’s premier luxury hotels. The entrance opens into a gorgeous five-story atrium, ringed by balconies that let into conference rooms and bars.

Michelle proved more than equal to my paranoia, anticipating my questions as we paced the site of Saturday’s ceremony: the former prison exercise yard.

“Am I going to be mic’ed?”
“Standing mic or body mic?”
“Body mic, clipped to your lapel.”
“And the three attendants who have readings?”
“Standing mic. Facing that way.” She pointed past me.

She humored me until I shut up, then coordinated the rest of the procession. The groom’s party, bridesmaids and I practiced our stately walk into the exercise yard, standing with our backs to Storrow Drive. After a brief pause, Melissa emerged from the top of the stairs – dressed nicely, of course, but not in her gown – and followed us out.

“You know,” I mentioned, “as long as we’ve got everyone here …” But Fraley vetoed the plan; my license wouldn’t kick in until tomorrow.

Upstairs, after cocktails and an excellent dinner, Fraley and Melissa’s parents sat us through a brief slideshow, depicting the two of them as they grew up and eventually met each other. Then friends and family were invited to get up and offer toasts to the couple’s health. I sat there, nursing a mediocre hotel wine and smiling.

“We’re expecting to hear something from you, too,” Mrs. Fraley insisted.

“I’m saving the A-list material for tomorrow,” I claimed, drawing a laugh. But to be honest, I had nothing to add. Watching two of the most amazing friends in my life not only embark on a journey I didn’t think I had the courage to make, but to do so with such effortless grace and humor, took everything out of me. What words could I use in the face of that?

(photo courtesy of Dave Green)


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