Even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk. So, you’re here. There was a wedding here, today. You could tell because of the green little benches that were still set up nice and neatly in a semi-circle surrounding the gazebo. That’s nice. If nothing else, you hoped that they had a good day and didn’t look stupid in their photographs.
You knew a handful of people who got married here. A person never thinks that the end of the relationship will be landmarked by the wedding date but that’s how at least one of them went. You still feel immeasurably sad when you consider it and so you do not consider it often.
Your little sister got married in the very same spot early in the spring in the awnings, when the vines were still brown. There were kids running around, between legs and underneath benches and there was something sweet about it all but you couldn’t help but think of the others who said those same things in that same spot. And so there was something that tasted a little over-ripe about it all. But for her, it’s starting to feel quite nice and safe right about now.
Here in the height of summer, the vines are so full of leaves and fruit and mysterious stickiness that they hang down low and get caught in your hair when you walk through them. But it is perpetual shade and it stays so cool. If it weren’t for the mosquitoes, it would be quite a nice place to lure a boy come dusk--under those heavy vines.
When you lived in South Dakota, there were these gardens. These acres and acres of flowers and plants and trees and miscellany wildlife. Around some corners and through some tunnels, there were these hedges and awnings and vines and little nooks sculpted out of the plants and inside of each, there was a small swing built for two. You imagined that the city planners envisioned a fair share of engagements happening in these secluded places but probably didn’t take into account the teen pregnancy rate. If there’s one place that a tenth grade boy can convince a tenth grade girl to lose it, McCrory Gardens is the place for such a persuasion. Tucked between lilac bushes and a spread of morning glories in the view from the dirt floor, you can’t blame them. It sure beats the hell out of the backseat of a Datsun.
You don’t know how you ended up here in this park full of weddings and little kids in a sand pit. Even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk and so you went to an internal spot, far from the extra-wide streets. You found the middle of that place and you sat and you listened to sad songs and couldn’t help but feel a little cynical about those poor kids who, you imagine, were probably too young to be getting married in the first place. You wish you could just believe that people who get married will always stay married and will always love one another and treat one another with mutual admiration. But you’re pretty certain that most of it is bullshit wrapped up in taffeta and you will feel that way until every single married couple you know gives you a teeny-tiny sign that tells you that they mean it.
You have a pair of friends who got married a few autumns ago. You remember specifically sitting down with her at lunch a few weeks into the engagement and telling her straight forward that you did not think that she should do it. You did not believe that he loved her the right way. (What would that “right way” be, anyhow? You didn’t know but you were feeling pretty self-righteous at the time.) She didn’t love him the right way either and they should not get married. She accepted what you had to say, she even agreed with parts. She still married him and she still wanted you to stand next to her when she did so and today you have no doubts. You believe that while you have no idea what the standard for “the right way” is, you see it in there somewhere and that’s enough. Sometimes that’s enough. But every time you find it you take it as the exception.
You have a lot of ideas about the ideal relationship. You could write a book on the way that a man should treat a woman and the way that a woman should treat a man and you wouldn’t have to research anywhere but your own brain. Unfortunately, your theories have barely been tested and those that have, have all mostly failed. One day, not today, you’ll sit back and realize that you haven’t got the foggiest notion about most things--let alone matters of this caliber. That will happen sometime--but not tonight. There’s so much more to take in tonight. Not now. You just want to calm everything down a little bit but even in a small town it’s impossible to take a quiet walk.