Like drive 80 on the highway while talking on a cell phone held in your hand. Like walking around with a loaded pistol. Like getting a marriage license in the morning and being married that same afternoon.
When Mark and I first talked about visiting Arizona over the holidays, we weren’t thinking about eloping. But one night while googling places to stay in Bisbee, a defunct mining town turned artists’ haven set in a hillside about 20 miles north of the Mexican border, I saw a motel with an absolutely stunning mural on one of its walls. The mural was inspired by a Spanish poem about gypsy bandits, drunken civil guards, mortal wounds, dying regrets and suicide. What a perfect place to get married, I thought. And so we did.
Our officiant started the ceremony by reading a passage from the author Edward Abbey about the desert and love.
It seems to me that the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna; life not crowded upon life as in other places, but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity, with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom.
Our witness, Linda, who had been a stranger until that day, cried like she had known us all her life as we said our vows. Her partner, Cindy, also a stranger but now a friend, held my Mexican paper flowers when the ring exchange began just like a good maid-of-honor.
From this day forward I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you in times of joy, and comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle. I will share in your dreams and support you as you strive to achieve your goals. I promise to love and remain faithful to you for better or worse, in times of sickness and health. I promise to cherish you and to always hold you in highest regard. You are my best friend and I will love and respect you always.
Afterward, we celebrated with champagne and pie. Linda told us Bisbee ghost stories and about how the woman, Rose Johnson, who had painted the mural, died from drinking poisoned beer in Bali. Reverend Kent told us about how he had gone to Humboldt State but hadn’t finished even one credit. He did help restore the Madaket, though. Cindy chain-smoked, and we all talked about marijuana, heterosexual privilege and art. One hour after the ceremony had begun, the whole event was over.
Later, curled up in Mark’s arms in our tiny little room, I started to reminisce emotionally about our relationship- where we’d started, how far we’d come, how our love had seen us through, and various other Hallmark chest-clutching cliches. In the midst of this magical moment, my eyes brimming with tears, I looked up at Mark. He smiled and lowered his gaze to my chest.
“You know, I think getting married made your boobs bigger.”
And that’s why I married him.