Hank once called my marriage ceremony the most beautiful shotgun wedding he’d ever seen.
Considering the fact that it was my family doing it and not the family of my intended bride, this was a remarkable observation.
But any wedding where the guns aren’t visible is a beautiful wedding.
My uncles, of course, kept looking at me to see if I intended to bolt. But after two and half years of running, I was worn out.
Hank, my best man, stood in the church vestibule reminding me of the fact that Louise was late and that my uncles were getting nervous. I blamed my friend Garrick, who had volunteered to drive her to the church because Garrick was late for everything.
Hank, who kept lifting and replacing religious books from their slots on the wall, reminded me that Pauly was with Garrick. I told Hank to stop messing with the books, and so he went over to mess with the holy water, splashing some over the side of its container.
Then I heard a car door slam and peered out the window, seeing only an old lady with a dark veil tugging on the door I leaned again. She looked startled to see me standing there when she finally got it open, holding her umbrella as if she wanted to hit me with it. I gave her a weak smile and held the door open for her.
Hank splashed some more holy water, and told me to calm down and that brides are always late.
This wait was nearly as bad as the wait getting out of jail, waiting for bail, waiting for the guard to turn the key in the lock, waiting for the arrogant guard in the property room to let me sign for my possessions.
Up at the other end of the church, the priest waited, too, fiddling with some vestments. My uncles squirmed and glanced back down the aisle at me. I shook my head.
Uncle Harry, who had volunteered to serve as the father figure in this strange farce, came into the vestibule just as I made my way to go out to the street, demanding to know where I thought I was going, and when I told him, to look for my bride, he told me to stay put.
“It’s cold out there,” he said.
The chilled February breeze pushed through the partly open door more indignantly than the old lady had. I closed the door.
These men with their invisible shotguns scared me. I blamed them for driving my mother mad, and driving my father away, and driving me nuts with the persistent phrase “you have to do the right thing.”
This though pissed me off, and shoved the door open and went outside anyway. He didn’t follow, a shivering Hank did, shaking his head at me.
“What’s with your uncle?” Hank asked. “He told me to get the hell away from the holy water.”
At that moment, the maroon Chevy pulled up and five figures popped out its four doors. Louise wore brown. Garrick, a burly man, wore a sports shirt, work pants and sneakers. Pauly wore his usually flannel shirt, jeans and sneakers. Behind them, and better dressed than any of us came Garrick’s girlfriend Jean and her daughter, Lauren – both chattering at Louise.
Pauly told me we needed to get this thing over with quick because he had things to do, drawing a sharp remark from Garrick who said “like smoking pot and listening to Bach.”
“I like Bach,” Pauly said.
Jean told them both to behave.
Louise was already crying. She had called her parents to invite them, but they had said something rude and hung up. Pauly said something rude about her parents. Jean told him to shut up. I complained about them being late. Garrick blamed Pauly who arrived at Garrick’s house an hour late.
“If you had told me to come an hour earlier, I would have been on time,” Pauly said.
Jean told them both to shut up again, and then ushered them into the church.
Louise and I held back, looking at each other, realizing how much we had changed since we had first met, but already aware that something important had passed that a marriage ceremony wasn’t going to bring back.
Behind us another car door slammed and strangers climbed out, looking at us, as we looked at them. We went into the church.
My aunt held our daughter’s hand near the front pew. We – Hank, Paul, Garrick, Jean, Lauren, me and Louise walked up into the altar area, where the priest had use form a semi circle. Someone was crying near the front and I realized it was my mother. Most others waited as the priest read off what we had written for him to say, what he had added to, more of a hippie wedding than anything traditional, nothing about enslavement, nothing about eternity, just peace, love and understanding.
Louise looked at me, and I looked at her. We knew it couldn’t last, but at that moment, with all the echoes of the priest’s voice around it, it didn’t matter.