On June 1, 1984, my wife and I were wed in front of a convenience store. The decision to do so was practical: our church met in a school, and getting married in a gym or cafeteria wasn’t our idea of a dream wedding.
My parents came to the rescue and made it possible to use the church building I had grown up in. Unfortunately, our pastor wasn’t licensed in Washington, D.C. where the church was located, and making him “legal” would have been a bureaucratic hassle.
The solution was quite simple. On the evening of our wedding rehearsal, we simply went out the church doors, crossed Eastern Avenue, and improvised some vows for the pastor on the first piece of Maryland real estate we came to, a 7-11 parking lot.
The maid of honor and best man, my brother, witnessed it all, and a snapshot commemorates the event. In it, we are smiling with the 7-11 sign in the background while my brother is holding a Slurpee and a Marlboro cigarette.
That night my bride and I went to separate beds in different residences. The 7-11 was good enough for the government, but God deserved better, and we held to a notion some find rather quaint and outdated, that sex is reserved for a man and woman after making life-long promises before the Maker of the Universe.
The next day my wife and I celebrated a church wedding with vows we had written ourselves, and there was some inspired preaching and lots of good music. Some guys from our church used guitars, electric bass, keyboards, and drums to create instrumentals prior to the service that could best be described as jazz-rock, a classical guitarist provided the processional, worship choruses were played and sung, and a couple of friends shared special songs.
My buddy Arnold, who looked a lot like a young Sammy Davis Jr without a glass eye, offered a fine gospel rendition of “You Are Everything to Me,” which my bride and I selected because the song was about Jesus, not us.
The service was very beautiful, and that night, my wife and I consummated our marriage, as they used to say before people reversed the order, like is so often the case now. You know, have sex, live together, maybe even bring a child into the world, and then get married. Or not. Whatever makes you happy.
So much has changed in thirty-three years. A couple of summers after the wedding, Arnold came out as gay and left the church.
Not long after that, my wife and I moved from the area, but Arnold did visit us once. We have a photograph of him smiling and holding our infant daughter, but now she’s grown up and married, and my buddy and I drifted far apart as friends too often do.
I’d think of him regularly, even tried to find him through Google searches and the like, but never came up with anything.
My daughter and her husband took Linda and me to a concert this spring, and my wife recognized our dear old friend in a parking garage not far where had been married. Many hugs were given. Arnold told us he thinks of us often, the same as my wife and I think of him. We caught up on our lives all too briefly, but Linda and I had a concert to attend, and he was going to meet his husband at a restaurant.
Arnold said, “I love you guys,” when we departed, and Linda and I said the same. We did exchange phone numbers. I will call him, soon, but I know this is will probably be a rather long call, so I haven’t gotten around to it yet.
There is so much we could talk about. Perhaps I should call and just arrange for a visit instead.