Wednesday, July 06, 2011

A Chased Wedding ... or is it "Chaste"?

Last weekend, I attended a wedding.  It was the first of this year (2011) for me, and it seems likely to be the only one.  It's a slowdown from last year which saw me attending four weddings, including the marriage of one of my brothers.  It took me as far afield as the Olympic forest in Washington and the vine fields of southeastern Missouri -- to the center of bohemian culture in Kansas City and the heady elegance of a manor home.

This wedding was domestic, by comparison.  Having said that, the bride *was* imported...

The ceremony took place in a chapel not far from the river in the wilds north of town.  In the town of Parkville, threatened by the rising river.  The chapel seemed to double as a pie shop. A giant sign ten feet tall in the lower room announced dozens of types of pies.  But it turned into a lesson in humility: nowhere was there pie to be found.  It was a terrible tease and I almost went home without playing.

Yes, playing.  It was the wedding of a fellow brass player, so there was music provided by the motley crew of his friends.  Crammed into the upper loft of the chapel, 10 people did battle with little to no elbow room.  I played with my slide down and just to the left of my knee -- the player next to me actually turned his chair to face me so he'd have room to move his slide just in front of my legs.  We only collided once, which definitely counts as the wedding miracle.

The bride was beautiful, as to be expected.  Not simply because all brides are, but also because she's gorgeous.  It's a fun game to see how people react when they first meet or see her.  Nearly everyone has some variation of "wow, is she attractive" no matter the gender.  It must be like being friends with some model or celebrity famous for their looks.  People come to me and ask if she's single, does she "remember meeting?" from some time before, or just plain react as the genders do: men moan in false ecstasy and women ask how her skin can be so beautiful.

The reception moved to a nearby eatery, closed for the occasion.  Outside the steps, the mighty sandbag wall violently interrupted the main road, descending into the stagnant waters of the river that now surmounted the local athletic fields.  "At least the reception can't last too long!" was the gallows humor of the evening, hinting to the fact that a further rise in the river would soak the picturesque village.

Marshaling all of my attention, I tried to be sure to witness the most important moment of the entire day: the kiss.  From our seats in the back of the loft, seeing the couple or anything other than the dusty chandeliers was impossible.  So with the exception of the few pieces we were called upon to play, I stood.  Eager was I to watch them make kissy-face.  A darkly prurient obsession from a single guy?  One could argue.  But the real reason was because I wasn't sure whether or not it would happen.

Let me qualify immediately: there was no doubt they'd marry.  They love each other and will be happy moving forward together.  At no point did anyone even jokingly suggest one or the other may run from the rings.  Perfectly happy, they are.

But I've never seen them kiss.  Ever!  They've been dating for years, living together, appearing at all events social and official -- and never once have I seen them kiss.  What's more, I've never even seen them consciously touch each other.  Even in trying to pass by each other in a crowded hallway.

The realization was slowly building for all the years I've known them.  From the first, one thinks "there's something I'm not quite understanding, but I can't even think what."  After a few more years of congratulations and celebrations, the stray thoughts pass but don't land on fertile ground: "I thought they'd celebrate more when her team won that game..."  or "he didn't seem to react like she'd been out of the country for a month when he picked her up from the airport..."

About a year ago, I had the "aha": "have they ever even held HANDS in my sight?"  I couldn't remember a time that they had.  So when the wedding day approached and I knew they would have to do so, I resolved to take the quick peek to make sure I could see the eclipse with my own eye.

And so I did.  The solemnities at a close, the pastor bid them seal the bond.  They leaned together for a brief moment.

And suddenly I felt like I was intruding on a private moment.  How ridiculous, with tuxedos and white taffeta to the window-tops, with candles a-burning, with dozens of attentive onlookers, to suddenly feel the press of proxy privacy violated. 

But somehow it did feel more of an intimate moment than at all other weddings.  The culmination of their bond came not with cheers or exultation.  It landed softly, as though they had pulled each other into a private corner during a museum tour.  A moment for them alone, not requiring of any other observer to eke out the joy and love.

I felt profane: not because of any lascivious thoughts or lookie-loo impulses, but because the sanctity of the moment was profaned by my utter disconnection and worthlessness.  What was I to them?  They, the couple finally united against adversity in the eyes of law and sanctity.  I, merely the parasitic viewer attempting to grasp at the coattails of a much more significant personage.

And I shrank into myself.  Powered by the reflexive social currents, I passed the rest of the evening in outward cheer, wishing well on all and sundry as the skirts whirled and the flagons emptied.  For every man a clasped hand and superficial greeting; to every woman a respectful incline of head and close-lipped smile.  For man and woman alike, a graceful evasive turn out of the path of people on dedicated missions of delivery or relocation, a ceding of the open path by pirouetting to move my frame from traffic and place my back to the walls.

From there, better to see the thousand acts of infinitesimal love from many present.  The courtesies, the solicitations, the concerns, the sharing, the surprise and laughter.  Here and there, the tiny moments not meant for the public consumption -- only for the exchange between two that is love.

A great museum of affection, stocked with all manner of tableau and sketch.  The public areas with carefully presented examples and the archives crammed full of exquisite works which rarely greet the public eye -- mashed so close as to be almost indiscriminate.

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