We were married five years we were married ten years we were married twenty years, we were married in the forest with the trees, it was only the trees, us and the trees, until there were no more trees, and that was it for the trees, and after that we were married in the desert, at night, under the moon and the stars and the dead, your dead, my dead, America’s dead, o!, how they danced! We were married in the city and we were married in the snow, we were married up in Heaven and also in the basement, not a metaphor, just the basement, we were married by the ghosts, and we were married in life and we were married in death, and o!, God, we were married!
The first time we got married there was cake. Do you have any idea what it was like to taste that cake? I’m asking. I need to know. Because I can’t remember. I don’t know what to do about the ways in which the times we got married blur together. We get married in the same room with different people, we get married in different rooms with the same people, they walk in different doors with different faces, different bands play the same songs over and over one on top of the other forever and ever in our history which is endless, eternal, infinite, and ours, and I know, I know, that sometimes there was pie; but the first time there was cake. It was the biggest cake I’d ever seen. It filled the whole room. It was pink, with yellow roses, and when I walked around it you were gone. All our family and friends were there. We had never before been married, and everything felt like a promise, and a mystery. Where were you? Who could say! Here’s what else I can remember. There was a band on the stage in a gymnasium, the windows were cranked wide, they were those windows that crank, you remember them, right?, and there was such a beautiful breeze, there were folding round tables with the most beautiful linens, the dance floor laid out before us like the rest of our lives. It was the best first wedding we could have asked for. But it wasn’t enough! Clearly!
When I asked you to get married we were in the woods near the lake, we were staying at a cabin, we were on vacation, we’d never been on vacation before, never before had it ever been just the two of us, renting a space in which we could maybe finally relax for a bit like we’d always talked about. A rental car was parked outside, at the door were the wolves, but we were in the forest, near the lake. I can’t remember any other time I asked you to marry me. I wish I could tell you if that meant something. I can tell you I got down on my knees, and I told you that I would love you for the rest of our days, I said “Will you marry me?” I said “You are the light of my life and I will love you for the rest of our days” I said “I want us to grow old side by side and maybe buy a house one day and just keep building a life with every breath we take” I said “I love you” you said “Jesus look at the size of that thing” and we did, we did look at the size of that thing, as it rose out of the dark of the woods out of the hole in the ground we never saw until it was too late and the whole of history was rising up in pain and fury behind us, the ground, the dirt, just screaming and screaming, and then you said “Yes!!!” and then you said “RUN!” and we did.
And there it was!!!!!!!!!!
Rising up behind us!, and its bones were screaming, they were screaming so loud, it was awful, have you heard bones scream? Don’t! All the while we were screaming, we were in the car, there we were, screaming, in the car, we were going, the house was gone, something was happening to the lake, it was sloughing off the dead bead of leaves like the skin we had thought it to be and what was beneath that was beyond us, we had never driven that fast before, we could barely steer, we were lucky we didn’t hit anything, didn’t spin out, we could never figure why there were no other cars anywhere on the road, we didn’t know where all the people were, then the trees were gone, they were bursting from the ground, they were flying through the air, we never saw those trees again for as long as we lived, and we were afraid of the air, because of how it was another colour entirely outside the car, because of the smell, and we kept going, and we were gone.
What was it? Where did it come from? How many days since the last time we were married? Five? A million? How many lifetimes has this been? Does it matter? Yesterday was back then and tomorrow isn’t ready yet. Today we’re looking at the Hudson. We’re staring at the Jet Skis marking out a summoning circle, at the clouds circling in concert, lower and lower in the sky, at the water bottles floating under the piers, we’re lying in the grass, surrounded by trees, we’re looking at the garbage scows pushed ever forward to the new dump they built on Ellis Island, as the waters rise and rise and rise. I love you so very much, and cannot tell you what it means to be by your side for the rest of time.
We were married at home, in our bed, what I mean is the ghosts in the laundromat had wandered up and, seeing the ring of engagement upon your finger, asked us if we wouldn’t maybe like to be married, and we would we did, then we were, and they wept and wept and wept, and the room was so full of love that the ghosts nearly came back to life then and there, but they didn’t, not that time.
Once we got married in Florida, on the beach, in front of God and our families and the state, which will never love us, and that’s OK! Because we have each other! Now and forever! And we ate so many crabs and the shrimp was so fresh and there was a key lime pie the size of a dolphin, we had gotten sunburned, we lay in bed, married, we were so tired, everything hurt, and our fingers were touching, and the moon was out, and the sky was clear. Years later, the beach we were married on was underwater. The hotel we stayed at was underwater, all fifty stories of it, every room and window and bed, the sea crept up the coast, it chased us down, and we watched and watched and watched. Have you ever watched your memories drown? Can you pretend? Can you watch your home be choked by the sea? Can you picture nothing at all because the bodies float so thick you can’t even see? The waters rose and rose and rose. They drank of our buildings and swallowed our homes. Once when I was younger I was at the beach with my dad and we were out swimming, it was freezing, and the undertow grabbed us and we swallowed the sea and the sea swallowed us and then it spit us out and we spit it out up onto the shore, beached and breathing, hungrily, and I will never forget this, not even when I’m dead.
One day, not today, but one day, you and me’ll be under water too, and our bones will make a home for what comes next, but, until that day comes!, at least we have our money, secured in a safe and protected account, with the only bank an American can trust.
Sometimes when I think about being married, I feel like a peasant, in winter, standing against the tanks, rolling in over my children to burn my village to the ground. Other times when I think about getting married I feel like the tank, and other times I feel like the village, about to be burned to the ground, and I smile, because I love you so much. Other times it’s a different feeling entirely!
As I was saying.
We were married by a rabbi, we were married by our friends, we were married in a deconsecrated church upstate painted black with the sky for a ceiling on a clear day that was so clear you could see the rest of your life unfold, I mean that’s how open the sky felt, it felt like forever, then it opened, like you always hope the future will. Our parents looked so happy. The world was so bright.
We were married on the balcony of the apartment next door after we moved into it, it was so easy to move next door, everyone should always move next door, then it started to rain and we went inside and our friends were gone and then our clothes were gone and I was inside you and we were married, we kept saying it, over and over, we’re married, it was amazing, it was incredible, we got a distant relative to buy us a new rug, that’s another great thing about being married is that people buy you all kinds of things that you then have to put somewhere in your two-bedroom rent-stabilized apartment in central Brooklyn after writing each and every one of them to thank them because they did a genuinely nice thing and you and your hands cramp, and you forget who got what, and you begin to float, in the air, like that, for a time. It’s fine. It’s a real Rube Goldberg situation as regards the Instant Pot, the Crock-Pot, the cast iron fryer, the seltzer machine, the plates, oh my God the plates we got are so beautiful, every single meal is a wonder, we learned how to plate our fucking meals for these plates they’re that good, Jesus God in Heaven, the plates! Eventually our building was hit by one of the many low-flying planes that began to swarm Brooklyn in those years—you remember the year of the many low-flying planes of course—and we lost everything. I was cooking us spaghetti and meatballs and it was a Sunday, it was early winter, there was a frost, but it hadn’t yet snowed. We were listening to a record, and we thought there was dust on the record, “What’s that sound?” you asked, but there wasn’t dust on the record, and the player was plugged into the stereo fine, and then the plates started rattling, we were keeping them in an open shelving situation, it really opened up the room!, and they were rattling, the glasses were screaming “WHAT IS THAT SOUND?” you asked, and I didn’t have an answer, and the planes were so close, we could almost touch them, we knew it had to be a plane, and so that’s what I said, “It’s probably just a plane!,” but you couldn’t hear me, because our ear drums burst, and then the plane hit the building, and that’s when things got really uncomfortable, because we were getting married in two days, and now we were dead and everything we owned was burning rubble, but that’s OK, we’ll get married again, this time in the chicken restaurant we love so much, they just serve chicken and wine, and everything is perfect there, and I love you. The lights are low. Our friends are all around us. They cook the potatoes in the chicken fat, it’s incredible, you have to try it, I’m sorry, I know, we’ll have other options next time, I promise, but we were just hit by a plane, and I hope that’s OK.
Once, while we were getting married, I was eaten by a bear, and so then you ended up married to the bear. You never really talk about it. I was trapped inside the bear, who had just eaten me, it was hard to hear, and then I was dying, and so then, soon after, the bear died, and there was weeping, and that’s when I realized I was a ghost, bound to the bear’s bones for all my days. It wasn’t the worst wedding we’ve had. OH! One time when we got married, right after we got married, our families locked us in a closet and told us we could not come out until we got to Heaven. It was hard to do so soon after we were married. Our hearts were crowned in fire. Everyone wept, and they never stopped.
Up in Heaven, we got married by the angels. We weren’t really supposed to be there, though; Heaven, as you know, isn’t for people: it’s where the angels live. People can’t go to Heaven, that’s a myth they invented so the workers would think that their suffering served a purpose other than to enrich their bosses. There are no bosses in Heaven. There is no money in Heaven. Everything’s free and there’s always enough and the angels sing. Imagine that!
We never had children and we were fine with it, we always had children and we were fine with it, we were the only constant, it was us, always us, except, sure, there was that time with the bear, though that is absolutely a technicality. We’ve been married by our children and we’ve buried our children, we’ve watched the sun die at the end of the world and then gone straight to bed. In the morning, we got married. The room was full of plants. All kinds of plants! They were blooming all around us! They kept growing and growing, they filled the whole room, they pushed us up to the ceiling, they were blooming all around us!, we were taken up the stairs, it was like an omen, but good, I don’t know what the word for that kind of thing is, it hasn’t yet been covered in our vows.
We have vowed to love each other til the world ends, for as long as we can, for all of our days, til money itself is dead and gone, these are just some of the ways we have vowed to love each other. You can’t break a vow, that’s the whole point of vows, it’s why and how sometimes our marriage lasts til the end of the world, and it’s really hard to live that long, since the end of the world is really different from, say, an extinction event, in that it takes so much longer for the sun to die than it does for life on earth to be wiped out over and over and over again. The death of money is sometimes an issue, debt is pretty much always an issue, the police are an issue, there are a lot of issues to tie your love to if you want, and next time we’re maybe avoiding this whole endless love thing entirely, because I am really wondering if it’s worth it to live so long. OK there was one time where it was absolutely worth it. We could move stars, pull heat from suns, build whole worlds full of endless children who all found new and exciting ways to break our hearts, and our hearts would break open, and be remade, new, and wild, with the dawning of a dying star. We were married for forever that time. We were so beautiful then.
When we fell in love we fell in love in the forest.
There we were, alone, in the forest. The pines were so tall. There were so many things we could not even begin to imagine. Light was so hard to come by there. It’s probably why we ended up needing glasses with the exact same prescription. It’s so easy to sleep on a bed of leaves out there, piling up pine needles into mattresses, sleeping on the floor, nothing daring to come near us, the rain washing over us. It’s dark. It’s night. We build a fire. We eat dinner. We’ll never get rid of the taste and God we have tried. There’s something out there, in the night, we can feel it. It isn’t stalking us. It’s just out there. We don’t know where. We can hear it, way way back in the woods, past the wind winding its way through the trees, their branches creaking and bending, the leaves too full of life to rustle, the floor a burial of the leafy dead, seeds dropping and planting and living and dying, everything stretching up to the sky, which we had not seen in who even knows.
How long can you go without a dawn until you lose track of anything resembling time, and have you ever felt more alive? When night falls you don’t even notice, it’s like it’s happening in another room across the hall, and this room’s built out of ghosts, and its walls go all the way up.
This is where we came from, whenever anyone asks. We came from the woods. Have you ever seen a good home? Close your eyes. Can you picture it? The clearing? The birches in a grove, stretching all the way to the sky, the moon sliding into place? Can you picture it? There’s a door to a room in the middle of the grove. Behind that door is the terrible king of the terrible forest. There’s nothing that’s been promised to us but the rest of our lives. I love you. We’ll turn the handle. We’ll open the door. It’s just sitting there. We can see the deer walking on their two strong legs, their antlers ringed in gold. They are looking right at us. The door is open. We can almost hear them now. They sound, so softly, like a crashing wave, like a round of applause. Everything behind us is already dead. Tomorrow we’ll be married! How do we get there? To tomorrow? Do we close our eyes? Do we hold our breath? The door is, like I said, right there. It’s open. And it’s calling our names. Do you see what I’m saying here? In the morning this will all be different.
In the morning we’re in the meadow. It’s beautiful. We’re married. Nothing has changed. None of this will stop. The sea will eat our bones and our memories will drown the sun. Once upon a time there were two people and they loved each other very much. Everything else is what keeps you up at night. Everything else is the rest of your life.