Wedding Season

I’m writing to you again, not because I told you I would, but because it allows me a distance from you that I can use to get closer to you. Faced with you, I often short-circuit. Feelings inside become jumbled and ineffable. Writing lets me pick through them deliberately, put them on a page, and let you read them closer to how I feel them. I’m sitting outside and wind is moving gently. It creates a white-noise backdrop that complements the feeling of air lifting softly away from you, leaving you cooler and momentarily alone. Yesterday, at the vineyard, the heat was oppressive. Black on black catering uniforms and an unhurried bride meant I sweat a lot in the hot sun and still air. I tried to imagine being the groom, wearing a black suit and glasses, sweat beading as he waits in the heat. The vineyard does 60 weddings in a season. Can you imagine? You can marry in a clearing in the vines. Guests sit on wooden benches, and two wine barrels and a platform serve as an altar. The caterers and I stand behind the ceremony, trying not to catch each other’s eyes during particularly sappy vows or the awkardnesses that inevitably arise in human rituals. We keep straight faces for the sake of appearances, but what for the bride and groom is a singular experience, for us is one of many. It becomes eye-rollable, if you’re not careful. A less self-conscious caterer, older or maybe just more earnest, might say something like, “It’s so beautiful – almost makes you want to get married.” Later you’ll see her waiting on the bride, telling her that it’s her day, so go ahead, have the fish and the steak. It is beautiful. The sun descends over the endless parallel rows of vines and the sky holds a pose for a bridesmaid’s Instagram. The fiery tableau fades to pastels to watercolors to dusk and then the party moves inside. This doesn’t make me want to get married. Not when the sun itself seems to cooperate for a photo-op. Not later, when a young guest, who seems to have seen too many wedding movies, dances alone and recklessly, seeming to believe that a wedding party needs a drunken fool. The real drunks, who have passed on the groom’s specialty cocktails for rye on the rocks, eye him with disdain. The music blares distorted through the small PA system so you shout to be heard above it. “ARE YOU DONE WITH THAT?” A woman begs us to dance with her. She doesn’t want us to get in trouble, but she feels bad that we can’t have any fun with them. She’s wrong, we wouldn’t get in trouble, and we don’t want to have fun. I can only speak for myself, but I want to go home. When you are one of a few people in a room that is sober, emotionally, physically and otherwise, it begins to feel like your mental state is abnormal. That drunkenness, emotional and otherwise, is actually the human norm. The bride and her best friend dance wildly. Their faces are stuck in wide smiles that border on abject horror. Their arms flail and the whole thing seems crazed and cultish. The sweaty groom looks on. “Is this my life?” I imagine he is thinking. At 11pm, sure as the sunset, the manager of the winery throws on the lights without even the courtesy of using the dimmer switch. Dancing continues halfheartedly for a few songs as the party bus idles in the parking lot and the guests file out. Some take ryes on the rocks for the road. We clean up quickly and efficiently, working around the remaining guests. As they trickle towards the door, they blink in the bright lights like they’ve just been woken up. I’m happiest when I can come home to you. Marriage becomes less abstract the more you see it happen. It’s like learning how a magician does a trick. You become disappointed with the obviousness of the answer and kick yourself for ever believing it was real. Last night I heard the minister who officiated the marriage laughing about how badly she flubbed the vows. But it’s okay, even the President of the United States sometimes does this. Surely no one cares. At this point, you’re probably not expecting a proposal at the end of this letter. We’re still young – thank goodness. But I will tell you this, beyond the sweat and rented suits and the hundreds of sunsets on hundreds of cellphones, something stronger hides. I can feel it today, sitting outside in the whispering breeze. It makes all the love of 60 weddings combined seem laughable. Eye-rollable. Like a gentle wind could strip me of all my dripping cynicism.