Thursday, February 2, 2012

Marriage / The Early Years

  Dee is always letting herself get talked into crazy-ass things that somehow involve me.
  I still shiver.
  What are their names?
  Juan and Libby. No. Mario and Libby.
  Damn Dee.
  I walk in the house on Parker Street one Friday afternoon, six-pack of beer in one hand, newspaper in the other, see this cake on the dining table.
  "Happy anniversary," I tell her.
  "You're two weeks early. This is for Libby."
  "Libby who?'
  "Libby . . . unh . . . you know, that strange girl I use to work with. I told you all about it."
  "About what?--Libby?"
  "Libby's getting married here."
  "Here? When?"
  "Who the hell is Libby? And why is she getting married here tonight?"
  "You've forgotten. I told you last week."
  "Oh, come on, Dee. I never heard of Libby."
  "I use to work with her. She was here last week, remember? She and Mario needed a place to get married. Her mother drove over from Atlanta."
  "Why us?--here, I mean?"
  "All their friends think they're married."
  "Let me get this straight. There's a wedding . . . here . . . tonight . . . a secret wedding . . . between Mario and Libby, for the benefit of some mother driving over from Atlanta. Why not me as best man?"
  "I knew you'd remember."
  "Wait. Wait a minute. You mean to tell me you've booked a wedding into here with me as best man?"
  "I told you last week. And I mentioned it last night."
  "You did not! If you did, I thought you were going to some wedding. I didn't realize we were taking such an active part in some stranger's happy day."
  "You don't listen to me. That's your problem, Raymond. You don't listen to me. Anyway. Libby came over one afternoon. Told me about her and . . . unh . . . Juan having to get married and all."
  "I thought his name was Mario. I'm listening, I'm listening, you don't have to test me."
  "Mario . . . yeah. Libby said wouldn't it be nice to have it here. What could I say?"
  "Oh, Lord."
  "That's what I said."
  I have added a tie to shirt, jeans, and ragged tennis shoes. Dee, Mario, and Libby are facing me.
  "Mario, this is Raymond, my husband,"
  "Hello," Mario says with a heavy Spanish accent.
  I shake his hand and smile. "A great honor. I was so excited when Dee told me I was going to be best man to a stranger. You want a beer?"
  Mario, the Minister, and me. Dee and Libby are talking in the background.
  "From Mississippi, hunh?" I say to the Minister. "And your first in-home ceremony."
  "Yep, yep. Miss'sip'pi. First time in a house."
  I smile. "Let's all have another beer, hunh?"
  Libby's mother from Atlanta and me.
  "How long have you known . . . unh . . . my future son-in-law?"
  "Unh . . . Mario."
  "Oh. Twenty minutes. You want a beer?"
  The ceremony.
  "Mare-ree-ooh, please say after me-eee . . . Do yuh, Mare-ree-ooh, take this woman to be . . . unh . . . Oh . . . I made a mistake, don't say after me-eee . . ."
  Mario's eyelids drop suspiciously.
  The Minister praying. All heads lowered.
  ". . . and watch over this here fine young couple as they start on their journey through life and all its . . ."
  The telephone rings. Dee hurries to answer it, smiling at me with a shrug as she passes.
  Me. Close Up. Eyes like Bela Lugosi, staring at her throat, loving her madly, wanting to strangle her.

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