You'll go, and you'll like it.
"Cor, kortsili, k'vira You go." Wedding, Sunday.
"Can I stay home?" Worried about having to work the next day.
"No. You go. Kai bitchi." G'boy.
My host-sister and host-mother have already walked into my room unannounced and are now going through my drawers, consulting each other until they find a pair of pants they agree on and pull a shirt from the pile showing it equal consideration until my host-sister, rummaging through my underwear drawer finds a tie I brought with me. She, Teona, squeals with excitement. Tsitso encourages her by becoming elevated as well. "Show-ays, Cor?" Pointing to her mammoth feet, rolling one on her heal back and forth. Ah, shoes, I understand. I point to the black shoes I brought. They grimace with identical expressions, then walk out together talking under their breath. To steal a line from my wife, I am beginning to feel like a ken doll who's owned by a child with anger issues. I have waited for three months for the novelty of my arrival to wear off, which it has not done one tiny bit. It is Sunday, the day of the wedding between the two people I have never met, soon to be stuck in a room with three hundred people I don't know and will hardly be able to communicate with. I hear Georgian weddings are blast; a can't-miss if you're lucky enough to have a chance to go.
My plan is to sneak under the radar, incognito, fade into the background upon my arrival. I have grown to understand that the novelty of drinking with a foreigner is an urge Georgians have no willpower to defend against. In a room with three hundred people all wanting to toast with you would be certain death. If I can succeed in keeping a low profile, I can get home to bed unscathed and guarantee myself a pain-free Monday.
My clothes, picked out for me because I am an incapable twenty nine year old, are freshly washed and ironed hanging over the chair in my room waiting for me. I did everything they told me, even received a haircut against my wishes which left me looking like a short bus frequent who attacked himself with a pair of scissors. The combination of my inability to do anything for myself and this haircut will not be advantageous for me when I get home. We dress (surprisingly they allow me to do this on my own), take some photos and wait on the porch for our ride to arrive. Bebia spends the hour in waiting pinching my cheeks and tousling my shitty haircut. Finally we set off in a Mercedes owned by a 'business associate' of Chabuki's but without Tsitso, my host-mother, I wondered. In my inquiring, I found out that her sister had passed away, and she was obligated to defer from large social celebrations in a show of mourning, and was also the reason she wore, head-to-toe, all black. Only after one full year, this November 27th, would she would be eligible, so to speak, to wear color and participate in community events again.
We stopped in Abasha before continuing onto Kutaisi. Rauli, Chabuki's associate, buys some mineral water while I add money to my mobile and Chabuki disappears into an 'aptiaki' (pharmacy) for a few minutes. I drink a regular water back in the car as the two men stand in the parking lot of the train station for an hour, 'talking business'. After the hit was ordered, the coke delivered, the dead hooker's body disposed of and the cops paid off, we uneventfully continued on the road to Kutaisi.
Even after dicking around in Abasha we were one of the first to arrive. Again, I sat patiently in the car flipping between reading a book on my iPhone and playing Boggle while the men talked business in the parking lot in the dark, drizzly night illuminated only by the light of the flickering restaurant sign. The only other people outside were a group of small girls who chased each other in ballet flats and puffy dresses. We waited for three hours while people continually arrived before the bride and groom even showed up, an apparent custom to have them enter the reception area first, even if it meant making their guests stand in the rain. The cars carrying the bridal party and their families pulled into the restaurant parking lot without taking a break from their horn. We were all extra aware that they had arrived. The first car drove slowly, cautiously, un-Georgian-ly, infuriating the next one in line who squealed his tires around the lead vehicle, then slammed on his breaks just short of the anxious crowd. At this time, I was outside with all the others making sure to keep out of the way and to speak quietly when it was required of me, sticking to my plan to remain invisible; just another person in the crowd. Assuming the asshole driver had parked, I turned my back to the vehicles and returned my attention back to discreetly reading Plato's The Republic on my iPhone.
All of a sudden I had been shoved, or kicked to the ground and was sprawled out on the asphalt in a half push-up position; my legs lay in a puddle and my vision had turned everything to a red hue. Was it really that rude to read an e-book at a Georgian wedding to warrant being drop kicked? What the did I do? I looked behind me to make sure another attack wasn't coming and saw the taillights of the asshole driver inches from me. A few men banged on the car's boot in disgust, some women gasped 'Oy deda!' Chabuki and his associates helped me off the ground, then realizing I was fine, burst into a chorus of laughter as I assessed, in frustration, my sopping pants to the knee. A crowd, staring at me, gathered around myself and the car, and I was seething; I was pissed I had just been hit by a car driven by a typical asshole driver into a puddle in the parking lot of restaurant playing host to a wedding for people I didn't know in foreign country where I didn't speak much of the language, and worst of all was having to endure this absurd haircut while everyone stared at me. [Do you like what I did with the title; I crashed a wedding, and also, I was struck by a motor vehicle].The asshole driver opened his door and poured himself out managing with great effort to stand up making it apparent to myself and the crowd just how shit-faced he was. The crowd laughed at the image before them and I was alone in experiencing the shock at such a site. Some men made their way to me by this time, slinging their arms over my shoulders, around my arms, around my back, slapping me on the body, all asking how I was. In replying I was good, they sensed my accent. Chabuki was one of the men hanging over me taking a shining to the spotlight and explained to those who were interested that I was an English teacher from Canada who lived at his house and who he normally introduced as 'Tsitso's bitchi', Tsitso's boy. The jig was up. My cover was blown. I watched as a glint in the eyes of all the men around me exposed their thoughts; how good of a story would it be to tell people I once got hammered with a Canadian, who was hit by a car moments before? My host-sister translated what the men were saying: My fazah friend say can Canadidan drink? Mama (Dad) say to zem, 'Coro can drink 'bevri'' (a lot of) ghvino. Thanks Chabuki.
Inside the restaurant on the top floor, led by the bride and groom, a bunch of men laughed as they relived and impersonated my misfortune over and over again. We seated ourselves at huge tables filled with a shocking amount of food at each, shoulder to shoulder with neighbors in a very tight squeeze which for me were complete strangers of course. We waisted no time in filling our plates. The Tamada (Toastmaster) fiddled with the microphone and soon, the people were drinking too. Everyone drank with the Tamada, and every table had a junior Tamada who kept the wine flowing, and if that still wasn't enough, it was perfectly acceptable to make a toast yourself, as long as you weren't interrupting a toast of anyone else's. We all gorged on the food but never made a dent. If something was low, they brought more out in an instant. It was the most prepared food I have ever seen at one time. Women walked around with huge trays of food, grabbed a bundle of khatchapuri with their hands, placed the bundle in the stainless steel tongs, then used the tongs to transfer the reinforcements onto the plates. If there was no room on the table, they simply dropped plates of kababi on full plates of vegetables, stacking the food ever higher. If it was a game of Tetris, we were losing horribly. Some men sang folk songs with the volume at 11 during the meal which made conversation almost impossible for me, but the men nearby would flick their neck as a sign it was time to drink again. If I 'forgot' they would pick up the glass and place it to my lips for me. How thoughtful of them, I would have thought, if I wasn't otherwise thinking how annoying it was. After everyone slowed their eating to a casual picking, the drinking horns appeared. Men stood up, and as if to unzip and prove their manliness, filled the huge horns with wine, toasted to the bride and groom, then chugged it back, politely refilling the horn for the next super man. From what I saw, all participants had massive bellies and could clearly hold their drink. The men near me joked that I should try; annoyed and understanding what a silly show for boys it was, and being confident as I am in myself, I bolted up snatching the horn in my grasp and downed the wine like my proof of masculinity depended on it. Folk songs began to slowly transition into Western pop songs only to be interrupted occasionally by the Tamada in giving another toast.
A few men from my table who had wandered off to socialize came by to introduce me to a boy cutely overdressed, in comparison to the others his age, in a nicely-fitted black, silk suit, bought special for this occasion, I presumed. We shook hands as he pulled me in for a greeting kiss and spoke a few quick lines where I could only pick up on 'dalie', drink. He beamed and me with a cheeky sparkle in his eye as I sensed an excessive number of people were watching our interaction. The people around us quieted until a man handed me the huge horn filled to the rim with wine. It was explained to me, with great effort, that the groom had missed my toast to his matrimonial longevity and asked, if I may, to repeat the gesture. Reluctantly, I ultimately agreed, asking where the groom was so I could perform a second toast. The man pointed to someone behind the boy so I walked over to say hello, only to have my elbow grabbed, spinning me around, spilling a bit of the wine, which was refilled to the rim and handed back to me. The man pointed to the boy again. He's the Groom? Whoa long list of expletives was I ever surprised!
"You are a child!" I yelled unable to control myself. "Ramdeni ts'lisa khart?" How old are you? I asked, and he flashed eighteen with his hands. "Tkveni tsoli?" Your wife? I asked. Fourteen-Fifteen, someone said.
I gave a cheesy speech, rolling out everything I was told on my wedding day and everything I have learned since. He understood nothing, I am sure, except when I raised the horn and drank its contents with great respect to him, tipping the horn upside to prove it was done to the last drop. Some in the crowd applauded and if any shred of obscurity had existed before that, was blown out of site at this demonstration. He pulled me in with another exchange of kisses on the cheek and we embraced like old friends. I sat down for only the briefest of moments just as the music resumed to a Shakira song before being grabbed by the Groom's father and pulled onto the dance floor. I chuckled as we made are way through the crowd. The overhead lights dimmed to allow the dance floor strobes and neons to take full effect. They have no idea what they just did, I thought to myself. I owe that restaurant money for damages because I tore that floor up!
The rest of the evening just blended into one giant smear of bodies on a dance floor and when I wasn't dancing, I split my free time between the mafia table 'talking business,' and the head table talking about soccer, Canada and Georgia, after the mandatory five questions were out of the way of course: What is your name? Where are you from? Do you like Georgia? Do you like Georgian girls? How much money do you make?
Rauli, miserable from having not taken a sip of wine all night, scooped me from the clutches of his associates of the Martvili branch (a town nearby Abasha where I lived) who passionately insisted I come visit sometime. I found Chabuki among the mob and for a guy who insisted he didn't drink (for health reasons) was a stumbling mess. He clambered around, and demanded we take a drink together before leaving, and seeing no reason why not (Tsitso wasn't there), we did. He hung off me while we walked downstairs to the car in relative silence, hopping into the back seat of the Mercedes with me. We left the wedding comparatively early, although it was closing in on 2 a.m. with still an hours drive back from Kutaisi. The next thing I realized, Teona was shaking us awake as we idled outside the gate of the Chorgolashvili home; my face was resting against the cold glass of the window, and Chabuki leaned across the back seat and had been sleeping on my shoulder. I staggered into the house, Chabuki doing much the same in tow, and flopped onto the bed without even bothering to undress.
I realized before falling asleep on the way home, Chabuki had stopped in to the pharmacy to get a replenished supply of his medication. He was pre-planning on his getting drunk taking advantage of a night away from his wife.
The alarm on my phone rang like a air horn being blasted point blank while it simultaneously felt like someone shot nails into my eyes. I yelled at the inanimate object to fuck off, and rolled over. There was absolutely no way I was able to teach screaming children today, at least not without having to attend a funeral later in the week, too.