We were sitting in a bar, John and I, one mile and one hour away from the wedding. I had a bourbon on the rocks because the Southside air felt like the inside of a lung. My legs had begun to prickle in that way they do when one sweats in wool; I was.
John was drinking an ale brewed in an Belgian cave by pudgy (I imagine they were pudgy) monks, and a conversation that started with the contemplation of these particular monks broadened to the notion of monasticism itself. Devotion to God, unencumbered by telephones and society and love. It sounded nice to John. I finished my whiskey.
The wedding was verdant. Knotty wreaths that looked like they had been found that way, lovingly assembled piles of fresh flowers, chests of bright italian ices, all nestled into fields of actual crops and greenhouses with green shadows splashed on the inside of the glass.
After six gin/rocks/limes and three gin/rocks (they had run out of lime), I crossed the dancefloor, tipsy and hyper-conscious of my height and sweaty hair, and lit a cigarette.
I was smoking with the bandleader. He, like the italian ice maker, the florist, the tamale chef, the gardeners, and every person there, had been drawn to this patch of life in the middle of all this brick and iron. Drawn by two people to whom there is no such thing as just a chef, just a florist. To them, you become “our friend who also happens to make really good tamales” - even if the reason you met was because you were selling them tamales. Those two radiate kindness, and loyalty, and if you’re lucky enough to cross their path in your life (and if you aren’t a jackass), you’re in for some magical moments.
Like all magic, you leave magical weddings enchanted and myopic, the illusion pushing reality to the boundaries of your vision. And then those boundaries weaken and recede, and you’re on the train home with the lights behind you and a tunnel in front. The memory is there, but it’s missing the dimension of depth. Or maybe you’ve just stayed in the dimension of the present and can now look down on the past from a higher vantage point.
Have you ever gone to a concert, and then come back to watch the video you recorded and realize that something was out of tune? You didn’t notice it when you were immersed in the music, when you were in the flow of the river, but now that you are looking and listening from the shore you are privy to imperfections?
Weddings spark that emotion in me. I see guests, friends, who I later realize have left pieces of themselves at home, next to the closet where they kept the dress that they bought for this one night. They bring the small part of them that is bound to the couple, an invariably happy part, the corner piece that makes sense even when separated from the puzzle. And then we all go home and plug the corner piece back in, and realize that the puzzle is barely half finished. Pieces missing, sections separated, edges dissolving.
But in that is the beauty of weddings, right? It’s good to let those things go. To drink and dance and celebrate and laugh. To rally around two cherished people who are taking a step into something unknown and vast, hand in hand, because they want to explore it together. It’s good to dance with people who have left their own lows and embraced the highs of the people at the center of the dancefloor.
The structure of the phrase “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die” implicitly inspires anxiety, because the “death” part of it has yet to happen. It’s a timeline, and you can never truly enjoy the first half without the shadow of the second. What if it were something less temporal and more locational, like this: “In this world of gloom, there are rare places in time and space where eating, drinking, and dancing are the only things there. Go find those places.”
When I left the farm, I made a drunken list of songs about friendship and change and mortality and growing up.
- All My Friends - LCD Soundsystem
- Trouble is My Name - Dum Dum Girls
- Jed’s Other Poem (Beautiful Ground) - Grandaddy
- Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses - U2
- Waterloo Sunset - The Kinks/Waterloo Sunset
- Reasons Why - Nickel Creek
- Wild Pack of Family Dogs - Modest Mouse
- What Makes you Think You’re the one - Fleetwood Mac
- Ellen - Protomartyr
- Affection - Cigarettes after Sex
- Eyes to the Wind - War On Drugs
- Drugs with Friends - Car Seat Headrest
- Wots Uh the Deal - Pink Floyd
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