MARRIED

“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully-wedded wife?”

“I most certainly do not!”

And with that little exchange out of the way, I lifted her veil and tongue-kissed her in full view of the holy host.


There was a lavish reception as well.

The two of us danced, alone, while a string quartet played various waltzes.

We ate like king and queen. The finest prime rib. Truffles. Caviar. And of course, the cake.

It was a towering ten-tiered affair: a mountain of sugar, a monolith of caloric death. I had a small piece. She ate three generous helpings. She loved cake.

We didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, despite there being several bottles of fine champagne. It’s not that we never drank, we simply didn’t want to sully the memories.

And all throughout, my mental-Polaroid kept clicking away.


We flew to Nassau on the red-eye. The flight had been practically empty, allowing us to stretch out across several seats in economy class.

I think that was the first time I’d ever really slept on an airplane.

Dawn found us on a beach in the Bahamas, a massive international hotel towering behind us, and the full glory of the sun leaping into the sky from an azure horizon.

And still, we didn’t make love.

We spent the morning on the beach, draining our psyches of urban living. Lunch was served by dark-skinned men and women wearing blinding white uniforms, and I was briefly reminded of her, resplendent in her bridal white.

We took siesta in the room, sleeping the afternoon away.

The evening brought entertainment in the form of an open-air jazz concert. It was off-season in the Bahamas, and we were alone in the pavilion as a professional pianist rolled through the standards.

We hadn’t spoken since I told her, and God, that I wouldn’t join her in holy matrimony. Our communication had consisted of stolen glances, funny faces, smiles and grimaces.

We were happy.

I left her around midnight. No note, no apologetic kiss across her sleeping brow.

I’d see her again.


“There is a certain,” and I paused here for effect, “assurance about the inevitability of things.”

She gave me one of those what-the-hell-is-that-supposed-to-mean looks before responding. “If you’re going to start lecturing me on life and death, save your breath. I got more than enough of that from my last lover. And he was a philosophy major. I’ve made up my own mind about things, and none of what I’ve decided includes anything inevitable. I simply do not believe in destiny.”

“A safe position to take!” I was trying very hard to ignore her barb about not being a professional thinker. The fact that she had said last lover gave me a lot of hope, although I knew it was dangerous to read too much into a person’s use of grammar. I continued. “After all, who would want to give up their sense of free will to a belief in a pre-determined existence?”

“Again you show your ignorance, Jack.” She sucked on the cigarette that had been idly burning in the ashtray. “Just because someone doesn’t believe in destiny doesn’t make life any less pre-determined. It’s the acceptance that while you have the choices to make, those choices are all decided by external factors. Thus, there is some measure of pre-determination.”


The preparations had all been made, and all the rehearsals run. I had studiously observed all the little policies and regulations surrounding the ceremony, and everything ran without a hitch.

She entered the little church we’d chosen, looking glorious and angelic in the frothing white lace and tight silk she’d finally decided on after hours and hours of trial and error.

It was exactly noon. The sun shafted directly into the narrow aisle that she now walked up, igniting the dress in a dazzling blast of the purest golden ivory, blinding all who would behold her beauty.

The strains of “Here Comes the Bride” could be heard, throaty and deep, issuing forth from an ancient pipe organ. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

There was only one witness. Neither of our families knew what we were doing that afternoon.

I felt a tear coming and I choked it back. I would look strong and commanding on this, the day of our wedding.

Her satin-clad toes reached the pre-determined mark at the head of the aisle just as the last note of the song rang out. We were within arm’s reach of each other. I could smell her, a sweet jasmine scent mixed with the green tang of a spring breeze. Again the tears challenged my resolve, and again I beat them back.

I was beginning to understand the purpose of this ceremony, and why people did it. It was an emotional rush. A drug-like experience. Like engaging in mental intercourse of some kind. A memory-maker. I felt snapshots reeling off in my mind, already developing, Polaroid snaps drying in the light.

Images swimming to the surface of a dark emulsion.

The minister began to minister.

We’d decided to go with the traditional vows, the default settings all the way. Nothing radical, nothing fantastic.


“I could take you away from all this,” I said, more of a statement of fact than an offer to be taken seriously, “but it’s not what you’d want.” There was a moment when her eyes unfocused, perhaps indicating that she was considering a life far-removed from what she’d been doing for the past twenty-odd years.

“You’re very clever, Jack. You know many things. But there are some things that even your big brain can’t quite figure.” Those eyes had refocused, their hard intensity had returned even harder and more intense than before.

I could tell she wanted to play a little. “Fuck off.” I wasn’t interested. “I know all I need to. If anything remains hidden, or secret, it simply isn’t worth knowing.”

Now there was anger in those swirling pools, her windows to the soul. She tried to speak, but all that came out where grunts and gasps. And she fucked off. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was.

After all, it was what I’d wanted her to do in the first place.


“What do you do?”

“I spend my husband’s money. Other than that I simply exist to pleasure and serve him. Is that not a wife’s duty?”

“I suppose.” I didn’t, really, but I wanted to humor her. I wanted to find out how deep those roots really went. “What if you found out that he’d been unfaithful to you?”

“Unfaithful?” Her puzzlement was genuine, her heavily mascara’d lashes batting in bewilderment.

“You know. Cheated. Had an affair. Fucked another woman.” I was testing her response to the f-word. I was rewarded with shock and awe, though I was unsure if it was my use of profanity or the mere suggestion of adultery that had blown her mind.

“Never. He would never do such a thing. Why would he? He has everything he needs in me.”

“Oh, you know. He is a man, isn’t he? All men at least consider such things, regardless of how much of a goddess his wife is.”

“I don’t believe you.” She really didn’t. What I was telling her was inconceivable. And it warmed my heart that at least one person in the world was actually true to their ideals. It was a shame her husband was not. I briefly entertained ideas of trying to capture this prize for myself, but only briefly.

THE ACADEMIC

“I’m an academic.”

“Thanks for the warning.” Jake threw the makeshift launcher over his shoulders and spat his cigar-stub into a puddle where it hissed and didn’t quite extinguish.

“Do you have something against study?”

“No. Where would we be,” Jake said, then grunted as he kicked at the door. Again he kicked, sending showers of splinters to the polished floor of the hallway. He sniffed and reared back, throwing himself forward with a final, timber-shattering lunge. “Huh,” he grunted, and stepped over the door’s remains.

“Where would we be?” the scholar called after Jake, taking care not to enter the new room. He had been very cautious since Alphonse had scouted the second chamber and been sliced into neat cubes of meat by hidden tracking lasers.

“-without all these centuries of knowledge collected by folks like yourself?” Jake said, poking his head back into the hallway and grinning at the scholar. “It looks safe enough. Stay close.”

GENESIS

In the beginning, there is darkness.

This is how most stories should start; in the ethereal blackness of space, and of nothingness.

Here, in a senseless void, we can gain a deep understanding of the primal state. We must put this condition in our memories, so that in moments of duress we may call upon this memory and know that in the beginning, there was only emptiness.

Not even a feeling of loss or melancholy, for these feelings have not yet been discovered in this place. No shattered dreams or reminisces, for we have not yet had the time to experience anything.

Upon the staring face of this eternal night, let there be light.

Just a pinprick at first. This is birth, as we would dictate it. No sudden explosion of chaotic sound and color to traumatize our newborn senses. Here, we are in control. Just the tiniest point of light, glowing faintly in the distance, like a star. The light is so indistinct, so dim, that we are not really certain if it is there.

It begins to grow. Slowly at first, then gaining more volume over time. Mild enough that we are not blinded by its majesty. No, we become aware of the light and its power under our own terms, for we are here to master not only ourselves but also the universe we will be birthed into.

The light fills our field of vision, suffusing our reality with a beautiful golden glow within which we may bask. A radiance that comes from all points and enters us completely. This is our light, what we have created.

It is now that we understand and accept warmth. The light heats us, and we realize that the dark and empty place we have just come from was intolerably cold, yet we did not feel it at the time.

The light is at once a gift and a curse. It shows us one path while illustrating the folly of the past. We begin to see the light as a guide. Though it is mindless itself, it came from the mind, and in so doing must have purpose. We entwine ourselves in the contemplation of this purpose, and on occasion shiver with the recollection of the void from which we have come.