I wonder if I can get myself married now, or somewhere near to it anyway.
Where am I. May 2006, right? One year before MS.
My wife, soon to be, is getting her hair done, and whatever else may be inextricably and mysteriously wound up in the same. She has left the house early. Her young son has been shipped off with his grandparents for the time being, and her soon to be husband, alone one last time, is sharing a cappuccino with his thoughts at the neighborhood Starbucks.
He is 52 years old and his financee is 28. He is a year away from being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and he feels great. He has never felt better in his life. He has done this three times now, but he is a bit nervous nonetheless. Weddings, after all, are never pleasant. On the other hand, maybe he does not feel nervous at all, and is only nervous now because of not being nervous.
So he sits there with his coffee, second guessing, analyzing, remembering, forgetting.
No one at the Starbucks knows he is getting married in a few hours, and that seems odd, because he has come here almost every morning for the last two years. He knows all the people who work here. He knows them by name, and they know him by name. They know that he always orders a wet cappuccino. He does not even need to speak when he approaches the counter. Sometimes his drink is ready by the time he reaches the front of the line. They have seen him alone, they have seen him with his ex-wife, they have seen him with his ex-girlfriend, they have seen him with his fiancée.
Perhaps he is an enigma. Perhaps no one cares. He figures the latter to be the most likely case.
Who ain’t a nobody? So goes the question in one of Herman Melville’s more obscure novels, Israel Potter.
That had always struck a note with the groom.
Who indeed? Even the greatest somebodies become nobodies in due time. Or if they don’t exactly become nobodies, they still become someone other than what they had intended to be.
There is a great scene in Bernard Malamud’s The Natural. Roy Hobbs, the over-aged yet miraculously gifted baseball star, the wonderboy at the end of the dream, lays abed in his hospital room, wounded physically as well as spiritually by his own old mistake. His life seems strange, somehow alien. Nothing turned out the way I thought it would, he says.
The wedding ceremony itself was to be a small affair. This is what had been said at the beginning anyway. Just a few friends, the pastor, the pastor’s wife. Savitry, lately back in the States from Sumatra, would be there, as would Asti, about to head to Jakarta on vacation.
Naturally their husbands would be there as well. And also their children. And the grandparents of the children.
The pastor, an East Indian, and his Chinese wife would bring their own children. And since a wedding service is kind of like church service, the church congregation would be invited as well, along with whomever else the individual members might like to bring along, because of course the command is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mk 16:15).
The groom’s stepson would be there, but not his ex-wife, who wished that the groom would go to hell. His stepdaughters would not be there either. They also wished he would go to hell.
When the groom’s younger stepdaughter, the same age as his wife to be, heard of the impending wedding, she had called him on the phone and let loose with such a tempest of warnings and insults that the groom, breathless for her sake, had managed to utter but a single word. Hello.
This was one of the things that he and his cappuccino mulled over together.
And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.