There’s this song I love with a line about a borrowed suit. I wore a borrowed suit one time, loaned to me by a just-met Chili’s employee who was easily four sizes larger than I was. It was on my wedding day.
When people ask me and my wife about our backstory, we usually stick to the highlights. We were best friends who found ourselves in love and so naturally climbed into my 1993 Chevy Corsica and hit the road, driving from Kent, Ohio, to Las Vegas, Nev., in the final days of 2000, implausibly surviving a crippling ice storm that had much of the Midwest – from Illinois to Utah – in its sub-zero tendrils. And, no, Elvis didn’t officiate our nuptials.
I’ll occasionally mention the stainless-steel rings we bought for $7 a piece at a Claire’s in some Nevada mall during the hours leading up to our appointment at Vegas’s storied Little Church of the West, the locale of numerous celebrity weddings such as Richard Gere to Cindy Crawford, Angelina Jolie to Billy Bob Thornton and Elvis Presley to Ann-Margret’s character in “Viva Las Vegas.”
I may recount the Arizona trooper who pulled us over for doing over 100 miles an hour, only to let us off with a big smile and a heartfelt “Congratulations,” or the harrowing throngs of people who celebrated our last night as single people with us (They may have been on The Strip for New Year’s Eve – that was happening too). But I never really speak of that suit.
It’s such a tiny detail, one lacking the narrative impact so many of our other trip tales possess. (Like when all the ATMs went down, and we were hungry and down to our last $2, one of which my now-wife used to win $7 in a slot machine, money we took straight to McDonald’s for $3 salads in a cup.) But when I hear that line about a borrowed suit, my heart swells with the memory.
So here’s the story: We had our rings. My wife had gotten a hold of a dress but I didn’t own a suit. (I was a freelance editor and writer, so most days I didn’t need pants, let alone formal attire.) I’d packed black, thrift-store slacks and my best turtleneck, but, as our Vegas-resident friend pointed out, the outfit seemed shabby and threadbare when illuminated by the gaudy neon lights of The Strip.
But this friend had a possible solution: One of her coworkers at Chili’s – a well-dressed gent who was also large-hearted enough to help out his fellow man – was, she guessed, about my size. She made the call and, 20 minutes later, I was standing in a strip-mall parking lot in a hilariously baggy, navy sports coat.
“It’s a little big,” the large-hearted (and -torsoed, it turned out) guy said.
“Yes,” I concurred. “It is.”
“But you look good, man,” he said. “You look good. A man should get married in a suit.”
“Well,” I said. “Thank you very much for the loan.”
“No problem,” he said. “And congratulations, you guys! Hey, you keep the suit. It looks good on you.”
I didn’t keep it, returning the oversized jacket and pants through our mutual friend, but I did wear the borrowed suit to my wedding in that building where so many short-lived celebrity marriages got their start.
Just last week, my wife and I celebrated our 13th anniversary with a two-night trip to Nashville. We saw live music, enjoyed a nice hotel and ate in a fancy restaurant for which we were comically underdressed. The two of us own nicer clothes than we did in our early 20s – I even have a fitted black suit hanging in my closet – but it must be the story of my life to show up to a black-tie affair in jeans, a flannel missing one button and muddy boots.
And that’s okay, because it’s part of the life story we’ve written in the decade-plus following our New Year’s Day wedding in the Nevada desert: the jeans we wore as a uniform to the business we owned and operated for almost 12 years, the flannel with a missing button torn off by one of our three kids, and the boots we’ve muddied walking around the farm we’re attempting to build now.
There’s this other song I love about dirty boots ...
/ Rodney Wilson is a freelance writer who can still be found slumped over a laptop, writing a young adult novel and listening to Taylor Swift.