There was a girl named Hanene. She was Tunisian of French descent; giant curly hair, magenta tights before people wore tights, a rather prominent nose, pretty. I got it in my head I should set her up with my friend. I remember telling him that she was so amazing except that there was one thing I should warn him about: she had a French laugh. I did a deep-throated French-voweled hahaha like a man in a cartoon might do, followed by sacrebleu. He said that could be a deal-breaker. I told him I was joking and he agreed to meet her.
We worked together that night. We were leaning against a podium by the north entrance taking tickets for a barely-attended folk concert. I thought I'd bring up the subject of romance. "So I'm getting married" I told her. She angled her chin up and scrutinized my face. "Why are you doing this?" she asked. I had been expecting a squeal, a girlish hug, a drawn-out aw. I was unprepared for a hard stare and a question that sounded like it was followed by a period rather than a question mark. I didn't even say "because I love him." I shrugged my shoulders, waiting, thinking something would come to me. "I just... you know..." "How can you say you will always be with him, with one person, for the rest of your life? How can you know that now? You do not even know what life will bring. You're what, eighteen?" "I'm almost twenty two." "It's the same thing."
I told her that I think that marriage vows are like jumping off a cliff and expecting that God will give you wings to fly. I felt like an idiot saying it.
She shook her head at me, earrings jangling disapprovingly, eyebrows furrowed. I didn't bother bringing up my friend.
I walked down the aisle a few months later, ridiculously poofy and covered in tulle. He was waiting at the end in his black suit, a white calla-lily pinned on. He looked a bit like a kid playing dress-up, like one of those sepia-toned greeting cards of kids holding hands, a pink bouquet of roses in the girl's hand. It occurred to me that maybe he didn't know what he was doing either.
We stood alongside each other in front of an assembly of guests and wedding-crashers. We promised extraordinary things; we would love each other forever, no matter what. We would love each other until we died. He held my hand, he gave me a nod. The I Do's felt like they should be followed by a pounding of a gavel in a room with marble floors. Instead he kissed me.
People cheered. The organ sounded and he threw me over his shoulder. I looked like one of those crocheted toilet-paper covers with the tiny body on top and a giant stiff skirt obscuring the fact that there is no body, as if it were normal to simply have a doll on the back of your toilet. A few pearls in the front, bent at the waist, a rush of crinoline in the back.
We got to the back of the church, to the street, and then realized we had no place to go. No rice had been thrown, no hands had been shaken, no well-wishers were waiting to hear the tin cans rattle. He took my hand and kissed me.
This was our jump.
And God took what we gave him and made it lovely.
Long Beach Washington Spring Break
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