I wrote the first story in We Are Gathered as a medical student. Over the course of the next thirty years as I encountered men and women I found intriguing or compelling, I imagined how they would pass the time through the hours of a hot afternoon in Atlanta watching a familiar ritual: the American wedding. When I meet someone new, even for a short period of time, another writer at an artist’s colony, the parent of a friend, a nurse on the wards at the hospital, I like to imagine their life, all that happened to bring them to this day and this place. I set those lives at a wedding because weddings are a universal and timeless ritual, celebrated in some form all over the world. As we sit there, bored or attentive, joyful or regretful, we are all both alone and not alone, known and unknown. We fill in the gaps of the lives around us, and together, however, imperfectly all the guests in the world makes a community which has a story all its own.