Despite the implication of the title, it was a stylish marriage; more importantly, it was my marriage, long in coming and sweet in arrival. It was an eight-year courtship, longer than this blog’s relatively short life (during which she was occasionally featured); it becomes easy—discouragingly easy—in a relationship of such length and regularity to lose sight of its uniqueness. Perhaps that is why, even as the appointed day (October 9th) drew closer, I felt little anxiety. The wedding was, in terms of dedication of time, about as involved as washing my windows.
There’s no wedding-day drama to make this interesting; no near-death escapes, no near-misses, no scandals. A groomsman came close to passing out (but didn’t); my palms sweated; immediately prior to beginning, I felt a strange lightness in my stomach which, it occurs to me, I think I first felt eight years ago, when I picked Allison up for our first major date. Actually, I showed up to the house an hour early, and her brother (who was slightly my junior, and also my subordinate in the marching band) regaled me with stories and photos from his recent trip to Europe.
Allison’s father, in his speech, joked that he wasn’t sure what would have happened if Allison and I had broken up: her brothers, after all, seem in all appearances to prefer me to her. I happen to know this isn’t true: were I ever to mistreat their sister, I don’t think they would hesitate to crush me into a wet, bony lump.
It’s good that they like me, however; were it not for their testimonials (Allison’s eldest brother is my age), our 3-year age difference (I was a high school senior, she a freshman, which in that context basically constitutes a May-December romance) may very well have precluded our relationship entirely. However improbably, but with a minimum of fuss and bother, she and I dated for eight years, from October 28, 2002, until October 9, 2010, when we finally got to stop “going steady” and start something more reified.
Those who know me know my habits: I am not a creature of spontaneity or caprice. Imagine those old yellowed daguerrotypes you sometimes see of great-great-grandfamilies, turtlenecked and collared in modeless black and white and white, staring into the camera as though its operator just shat on their dinner table. Well, as a metaphor for fun and excitement, that’s me: not the stern progenitors, mind you, but the dusty photograph itself, as two-dimensional and flat of affect as old varnish. There was not much by way of surprise or giddiness on the awaited day, but by mutual agreement between Allison and myself, I had no idea what the dress looked like, nor had I seen her since the night before, when we wrapped up our rehearsal dinner and headed to our disparate locations for the night.
Allison’s dress, purchased more than a year in advance of the wedding, spent most of its life incubating in my mother’s closet, which had empty space. In recent weeks, however, it had migrated to our townhome, where it hung, brazenly unsheathed, in the spare bathroom, the door of which was kept firmly closed. I was forbidden entrance; Allison stopped short of telling me that gazing upon it would melt my face like the Ark of the Covenant, but I believe the Wrath of God would be on her side. Imagine my consternation, then, when the day before the wedding arrives, Allison spends the afternoon with her ladies, and I set out to clean the two remaining bathrooms…. only to realize that our entire stock of cleaning supplies is squirreled away underneath the sink in her dress’ lair. Ever the gallant fiancé, I tightly shut my eyes, retired to all fours, and blindly felt my way into the bathroom; I retrieved the cleaning supplies without so much as a glimpse, but only at the cost of discovering the edge of the bathtub with my nose.
So this is the only real secret that awaited me on my wedding day: what would Allison look like? Certainly nothing else was in question: we knew the where? and when? and who?; we knew all too well the how much?, which all couples know is invariably much too much. I knew the why?, as I had told our officiant a year earlier; perhaps more accurately, I didn’t know the why: Allison defies my ability to explain or quantify, except to say that I want to be around her and take care of her and be loved by her. I think that’s what love is, anyway.
There’s a particular sensation associated with seeing your bride walk down the aisle. I can’t say for certain if it is a monolithic phenomenon or some synthesis of individual, discrete phenomena, but I can say the feeling was new to me. It had the air of a fever dream, in which white apparitions come down hallways as heat creeps at the neck. My palms sweated.
Truth be told, I don’t remember much about either the ceremony or the reception, and it’s not because I was was drinking heavily. Every old sage had told me that my reception would go fast; I believed them, but I had no idea that the entire night would vanish before my eyes like a darting insect. It’s not the blur of a cataract; it’s the quantum time of an amnesiac.
Now we’re back from our honeymoon (I was not quite crass even to turn to her in the airport and quip in my best noir male, “Honeymoon’s over, sweetheart!”) and face a life not terribly unlike the one we had before, and so I feel a little like Dustin Hoffman in the back of a bus. Still, it’s unfair to make that comparison: Allison and I aren’t confused and separate lovers fleeing a scene; it seems to me, anyway, that we’re seasoned and faithful companions walking hand-in-hand. Even if mine is always sweaty.