“How To Be Single At A Wedding” by David Puterbaugh, from Foolish Hearts: New Gay Fiction (Cleis Press, 2014)

Friends Natalie and Peter are the Best Man and Maid of Honor for her brother Brian’s wedding to Jason, and the only single people attending the event. Nervous and tipsy from complimentary champagne, Natalie decides to blog about her many experiences as the member of a wedding party (hence the story’s title). As she types, she and Peter each reflect on their failure to find the sort of love Brian and Jason enjoy.

I thought the moral of the story was going to be spelled out via the bullet points Natalie lists in her blog post, but no. It also wasn’t delivered with the back stories of the characters, nor was the end of the story tied with a bow. I wasn’t expecting that, but I can certainly appreciate it. As I’ve previously noted, I have a friend and former boss who likes to say art should ask questions, not provide answers. This story follows that rule.

This isn’t a feel-good tale chronicling how two people meet and start to fall in love. It’s about two people who yearn for romance and lasting love, who see and appreciate it in the lives of their friends and family and fear they will never find it for themselves. As the main character notes, there are no guarantees in life.

All that being said, it’s still a romantic story because two of the characters presented in it have found true love. And it’s not at all maudlin. You’re left with a sense of hopefulness –  surely these people who appreciate love and recognize it all around them will eventually find it – and also with the strong desire to turn the page and experience a neat, storybook ending.