Almost Everybody Loves a Wedding

A.C. Koch

There are as many reasons to get married as there are marriages. Maybe more.

1. Record, Focus, Zoom

David is as queer as a three dollar bill. Everybody knows that--including Eliza, the girl he's just married. He was born in France but grew up in New York. Despite being more American than anyone I know, he doesn't have papers. Eliza has known this all along. She knows he's marrying her for the papers and no other reason except an excuse to have a party, but I guess people get a little weird when a wedding is involved. David is a very good-looking man. Maybe she was thinking she'd get a complimentary consummation on their wedding night in gratitude for the favor she was doing him. Or maybe she just wanted the pretty pictures to show her family. I'm not one of them, but some girls can get weird about weddings.

"She's looking at me," says David as he puts down another glug of champagne.

"She's your bride," says Pierre. "She's allowed to look at you. You have to allow her that."

Pierre's hand is on David's thigh. They're sitting close together on a love seat under a window that lets in a great swath of cityscape. Pinpoints of light from skyscrapers dance behind them. I'm filming from the floor, video camera propped on my knees.

David: "You know what I mean. It's one of those across-the-bar looks. The take-me-home-and-do-me look."

Pierre: "Oh yes, I know it well."

"You certainly do. That's why I took you home and did you."

"Was that why? Or was it my come-over-here-and-be-my-daddy look? I was giving you a lot of looks that night, you know."

"Actually, I think it had more to do with your Space Pants." In unison they sing, "Your ass is out of this world!" Then they're cackling and hanging on one another. I twist and capture a shot of Eliza as she turns back to the cocktail table. She's irritated. Not the kind of look you want to see on a woman in a wedding dress.

Pierre wrinkles up his nose. "I should be the one wearing that dress."

A bunch of the other girls here work with me at a strip club on Sixth Avenue. So how hard do you think it is to get a bunch of strippers at a party to take off their clothes? Answer: Like shooting fish in a barrel. The problem is, everyone's already seen us naked a thousand times. Imagine partying with a bunch of your co-workers from Taco Bell and they all decide to put on their uniforms. You just feel like you're behind the counter again at work.

The essential thing, however, is that Eliza's friends are all strangers to us, and to them this is a strange party indeed. The gap between us is what makes the party: they just can't believe what a freak scene they've stumbled into. Here's how the party devolves:

Camille and Jenny both get completely naked. They're just dancing, or standing around drinking, mingling here and there--but completely naked. Eliza's friends try to be cool but the guys are having a hard time of it. Some college kid with a shaved head and goatee can't seem to believe his luck. He follows the girls everywhere, desperately trying to strike up a conversation. They are cruel and dismissive. They flaunt themselves, fondle one another's hips, kiss full on the mouth. Me, I decline to disrobe. I'm behind the camera. I need to melt into the background.

Meanwhile David and Pierre slip away for a while into an empty bedroom with coats strewn all over the bed. Pierre sticks his head out the door and begs me to get him Eliza's wedding dress. "How am I going to get the dress off the bride?" I want to know.

"Get her laid!" he whispers.

2. Not Very Romantic

They met, David and Eliza, through the Voice classifieds only two months ago. David's ad said this: Who wants to get married? French national looking to obtain U.S. wife any way he can. I'll make it worth your while. Eliza, I think, was the kind of girl who reads the personals because they're funny but maybe also because she hadn't had a real date in years. A French national? Wants to get married? Hey, that's a recipe for romance for a hard-up chick with an imagination.

David made it very clear over the phone: "Okay, sweetheart, you need to know a few things right from the get-go. One, I'm as queer as a three-dollar bill. I have a lover named Pierre and we own a flat together, we have a chocolate lab and a talking parrot and I'd marry him if I could--Pierre, not the parrot. Two, I need U.S. citizenship so I can get a passport and travel and for that I need to marry a nice American girl such as yourself. Three, I'll pay you three thousand dollars and a lifetime subscription to Wine & Spirits. Four, We have a gorgeous knockout wedding for all our friends and family to see--no kissing the bride, though--and then I go on a honeymoon with Pierre, and maybe you'll just meet someone nice at the reception. Or do you already have a boyfriend?"

She didn't already have a boyfriend. But she did have her grandmother's wedding dress hanging in the closet and she was going to be 30 before she ever tried it on. And you know the stats on women in their thirties getting married: about as likely as a comet hitting you before you finish this sentence. I imagine her twisting the phone cord around her finger as she listened to David's bubbly chatter. Was he up front? Could she turn him around? Three thousand dollars and a knockout wedding--and would her friends and family have to know it was a scam or could she play it off as the real thing? Surely the newlyweds would have to share a residence for awhile until the paperwork went through. Then divorce? Or some kind of compromise? The ongoing illusion?

"Then after a year or two," David said, "We divorce the hell out of each other and throw another fabulous party. How about it?"

"Well," she said, "sounds like fun. Not very romantic, though."

David couldn't stop using that line. We'd be deciding on a restaurant or what kind of beer to buy. "Red Stripe? Sounds like fun--not very romantic, though!" Howling laughter, doubled over. But it should've been a warning, that line. She obviously wanted romance, poor thing. She wanted romance so bad she was going to take her grandmother's wedding dress out of mothballs to marry a gay man for three grand and a knockout party.

3. Pierre Wants the Dress

James, behind the wet bar, is serving up whopper cocktails. This is his flat, which he shares with two strippers from the club. The place is wall-to-wall Persian rugs and tapestries, and there's a velvet theme among the furniture. Christmas lights are strung everywhere like cobwebs casting a blinking glow over a galaxy of knickknacks. They sprawl across the mantle, over door frames and along bookshelves: porcelain shoes, Star Wars figures, miniature Buddhas, vibrators, plastic food, incense burners, Pez doodads, pacifiers. Dozens of framed prints from a classical Japanese sex manual hang from the dark red walls. A row of windows looks out over the half-lighted towers of the financial district where stockbrokers and lawyers, working late on a Saturday, could peer right into our fiesta like watching a crowded stage play where the choreography has gone totally awry.

"James," I say as he's fixing my screwdriver, "how am I going to get the dress off the bride?"

He raises his eyebrows at me as he's pouring the vodka. "Honey, I didn't know she was your type."

"Pierre wants the dress."


"Any ideas?"

He keeps pouring the vodka until there's no more room for orange juice. "Let me handle it." Big grin: James is straight, and he's been known to go for the full-figured type, God love him. He hands me the drink.

4. A Freak, a Pervert and a Compulsive Liar

Throughout the party I'm dragging people over to my corner and inviting them to talk about disastrous and/or beautiful marriages they've known. In particular I'm concentrating on Eliza's friends because they all seem so normal, so suburban, and are therefore sure to have experienced all varieties of really sick and depraved things. I coerce a woman named Kelly to settle into an armchair pushed against the wall. Behind hangs a sheet with a lamp tilted to pick up the texture in the fabric. Kelly sits there in her teal bridesmaid dress with her hair sprayed out like a fussy bird's nest. Fake pearls circle her throat. She sits forward, fidgety and uncomfortable.

"Kelly, are your parents happily married?"

"Oh, God! Happily! Did you say happily? They should both be shot and put out of their misery. They have the Vietnam of marriages, is what they have. It's my mother. She's a nightmare. She never shuts up, you know? You think I talk a lot? Get my mother in a room and you're finished. My poor father, half the time he's in the hospital with an ulcer, or his colon thing, and I swear he makes himself sick just so he can get away from her. She won't set foot inside a hospital, you see. So I tell him, 'Dad, I'm taking you home with me and getting you away from that old bat.' But you know what? I think he actually enjoys the torture. I think he really does."

"How do you think Eliza and David will get along, Kelly?"

"Oh, God, don't get me started on that one."

Next I get David's boyfriend Pierre to take the armchair. He's already changed out of his best man's tuxedo and wears a tight white t-shirt. His blond hair is close-clipped and he gazes straight into the camera through rectangular purple eyeglasses. His speech is clear and emphatic and weighted with pauses: he's an actor.

"Oh, you'll love this. My parents. They met when they were on dates with other people. It was the coldest part of winter, deep dark February. Valentin--my father--was walking through the Montreal train station looking for his date, who was arriving on a commuter train from the suburbs. He sees a woman in a familiar overcoat standing under the arrivals board with her back turned, so he runs up behind her and takes her by the waist--and she spins around and slaps him so hard his glasses go flying and break on the floor! Of course, it's not his date, it's Mathilde, and my mother and father have just met. They're both apologizing profusely, and then this other man walks up and Mathilde turns around and slaps him and knocks his glasses off while Valentin is just standing there astonished. And then Mathilde takes Valentin's arm and they walk away while the other guy--the guy who probably should have been my father--just stands there rubbing his cheek. 'He was twenty minutes late,' she tells my father as they walk outside, 'and a girl shouldn't have to wait that long in the cold.' So they went and had a drink and my father never mentioned that he was meeting his own date. As far as I know, that poor girl--who should have been my mother--is still waiting in the Montreal train station."

"And does your mother continue to batter your father?"

"She couldn't if she wanted to, honey. She divorced the shit out of him when I was five and they haven't spoken since."


"Doomed from the start. But at least they didn't meet in the Voice personals. Ha!"

"I have a theory about my parents." The tables have been turned on me. Now David is behind the camera and I'm in the armchair. He's heard this story before, but can never get enough of it. I talk directly to the red blinking dot:

"You see, they're very normal. They've always been very normal. That's probably why they were allowed to adopt me in the first place. They just seemed like a harmless white suburban middle-class couple, the perfect types to take in a pathetic little Chinese baby on her way to some orphanage. But, you see, I've been trying to get to that orphanage ever since--I guess that explains why I hang around you freaks.

"Anyway, Phyllis, my mom, she was the stay-at-home type. She's never had a job. But it's not like she's good at cooking or ironing or any of that household crap. She just stayed home and watched TV. How's that for a role model? Meanwhile, Joe, my dad, was a company man. AT&T. Then he got laid off and he became the stay-at-home type. It's always been very mysterious to me where the money came from after that. I mean, neither of them worked for years, the whole time I was in high school. I dropped out halfway through my junior year and never set foot in Taylor High again. And you know what? My parents never found out. They never went to conferences, they never asked for a report card. I had always been a good student, and I would periodically tell them about an A+ I'd gotten or about landing on the honor roll, and that satisfied them. You know the stereotype of the studious Asian. Everyone assumes you're a genius and bound for Harvard. Meanwhile I was spending my days cruising around in my friends' cars, getting stoned, having sex, stealing shit. For graduation I just told them the wrong time, they showed up late, and we took pictures with me in my friend's cap and gown. They still don't know I never got a high school diploma--among a lot of other things they don't know about me.

"So why were my parents so clueless? I'll tell you my theory: They're possessed. You see, my dad had this workshop in the basement. He had all these tools, but he never actually made anything or fixed anything, and his workbench was always in perfect order. So what was he doing all the time, down in his 'workshop?'

"This kind of became an obsession with me and my friends. We'd go spy on him through the basement window during the day, while my mom was upstairs watching TV. For a long time we had this stoned theory that he was using the ventilator system to transport himself across time and space, because he would just disappear for stretches of time--and then he'd be right back at his bench sorting through his screwdrivers. We thought maybe he was some kind of trans-dimensional assassin, and he'd just slip into his energy node behind the furnace and flash! he's running through the alleys of Cairo blowing away some sheik in a cafe, and then he's whisking back to Gunnison, Colorado to shuffle through his hardware. We thought that would be pretty cool, you know, and it turned into this whole epic thing, where my friends would swear they had just seen my dad rappel past their bedroom window or slip into the back seat of their car, like he was the Terminator or something.

"But one day I went snooping in the workroom when he and my mom were at the store, and I went behind the furnace to see where he'd been disappearing to... and I found this little crawl space that I'd never seen before. It stretched all the length of the house, with a dirt floor and about a five foot ceiling. I took a flashlight and went all the way back in there, and in the far corner there was this weird container. It was a big jar, as big around as a tree trunk, with a clamped-down lid, and it was nearly filled with this weird fluid, kind of pink and pasty." David, behind the camera, is squirming with delight. Several other people have gathered around, but I look only into the camera eye.

"Now I see a bunch of stuff piled up against the wall in the corner. I don't touch anything, I just run my flashlight over it all. There're stacks of magazines and newspapers: some pornos, some National Geographics, some car magazines, some of everything. There's also a cooler--with a padlock on it. And there's a garbage bag full of food wrappers: chips, hot dogs, beer cans, meat trays, coffee cans. And my dad's footprints are everywhere. His hiking boot tracks completely cover the floor, and they make a circle around the jar. Am I creeping you out? I hope so. I mean, what was in the jar? What was in the jar?

"I sure wasn't going to open it. Whatever it was looked nasty. Like he'd been dumping all that food in there for years. But something else too. Some other ingredient. I decided to keep an eye on my dad and see what I could get out of him. See if he would drop any clues.

"Well, the thing is, I got so creeped out I couldn't be around him anymore. We'd be having dinner, you know, pork chops and applesauce, and we'd be eating in silence and my dad would be there sucking the meat off the bone and my mom would be doing a crossword at the table and all I could think of was that thing down there, right below us, and how nobody in this house had a soul, and I started to think that my parents were genuinely possessed. No more trans-dimensional Terminator or anything cool like that, but really possessed, really evil. Because here was my mom, completely without a personality of any kind, and here was my dad, hoarding some kind of mucous solution in the crawl space, and no on ever said anything, ever.

"I moved out as soon as I was 18, and I absolutely will not set foot in that house again. They still live here. They're still married. They've probably still never once had sex--because I guess my dad just has sex with that jar--and they still think I work at a publishing company in Manhattan. They visit me once a year and I wear business outfits and impress them with what a professional woman I am. When really what they've produced is a freak, a pervert and a compulsive liar. Ha!"

David is cackling his ass off. The others watch me with mixtures of disbelief, disgust and hilarity.

"Was that for real?" says the plump blonde bridesmaid. "Did that really happen?"

"Here I am," I say. "My parents made me what I am. What else do you want?"

5. Kissing the Bride (part one)

By now things are grooving hard. Stevie Wonder's on the stereo serving up something funky and everybody's wiggling, naked or not. I see James the bartender dancing up next to Eliza the bride. He's really going after her, running his hands through the air all around her hips and ass. She's drunk and stumbly, not so much dancing as lurching, beer bottle in her plump little fist. Sweat spots are appearing in the folds of her grandmother's wedding dress. He reaches out and pulls the veil down over her face and she seems not to notice. She throws her arms around his neck and presses her body against him. His hands are trying to find her ass in all the folds and creases of the dress. Her face goes blurry with glee.

David and Pierre, meanwhile, have disappeared. Is it bad manners to ditch your own wedding party? I go investigating among the pantries, closets and bedrooms along the corridor winding through the apartment. Behind James' bedroom door I hear giggles worth peeking in on. Inside it's humid with darkness and whispering sheets.

"Glory? Is that you?" David and Pierre are tangled in a sailor's knot, peering at me in my sliver of light.

"Yeah. You newlyweds having fun?"


"Hey, your wife is still wearing the dress but we might be able to get her out of it. James is working her."

"Well for Heaven's sake, get her out of it before he works her too much. I don't want it stained or anything."

"What are you going to do with it?" I want to know.

"What do you think, Glory? You're going to make a movie. A wedding movie."


"And I assure you there'll be a lot of having and holding."

Everybody's dancing. Maybe the Freaks and the Straights can be friends after all. I groove up next to James and match his dance wiggle for wiggle. "Get out of here!" he yells, "I'm dancing with the bride!"

But not for long. Eliza steps on her train and goes down with a crash in a flurry of satin and lace. She sits sprawled on the hardwood floor, blinking. Her beer bottle blisters up sending foam running down her forearm and she stares as it trickles toward the edge of her sleeve. "Fuck!" she spits out.

James is there to help her but she doesn't want to move. I have her neatly framed in my viewfinder as legs gather around and hands reach down to pull her up. That's when I see her eyes go watery. Tears quiver like drops on a faucet, then come streaming down. Black mascara streaks through pale foundation. She looks like a scene from "The Wizard of Oz," melting into the floor through the puffy cloud of her grandmother's dress. But is she the good witch or the bad witch? And what has she done to deserve this?

I'm so caught up in the image that it takes me a moment to realize she's staring right at me. Her eyes in the viewfinder meet mine. "How about another story about disastrous marriages!" she shrieks. Her voice cracks and spittle flies from her lips. She's leaning forward and glaring into the camera. I keep my head down, eyes on the viewfinder.

"I've got a great one for you!" she says, pointing a finger at the camera. "How about the depressed fat girl who hadn't been on a date in three years! Everybody felt so fucking sorry for her!"

Kelly the bridesmaid tries to pull Eliza up by the armpits but she slaps her away. Eliza's voice gets quiet and hard, her eyes in the camera. "Every day she read the goddamned personals. And then one day she found the perfect guy who wanted to get married. He sounded like a dreamboat. And he was a fag! But she didn't even care. She just wanted a wedding, and a party, and for all her friends to stop feeling so fucking sorry for her. But you know what the problem was?" Her eyes burn at the camera, her cheeks streaked with mascara. "She can't even get laid on her wedding night! How's that for a disastrous marriage? How's that!" The beer foam slithering down her arm soaks into the satin sleeve. Her face closes up like a fist and her mouth hangs open red and wounded like a baby's, furious at the rude shock of being born. Tears squeeze out of the creases of her cheeks and dribble down.

Everyone stands around helpless. David speaks up from behind me. "Turn the camera off, Glory," he says. Then he steps in front of me and pulls Eliza's arms up. She struggles against him for a minute, then gives in. He heaves her to her feet and she wobbles as if about to go down again. I marvel at the sight of David in his untucked tuxedo with his arm around Eliza, his wife, in her rumpled wedding dress. I would have loved to have gotten that image on tape, but I'd already turned the camera off.

David leads her to the couch where they crash down together among the cushions. "Now," he says, "listen to me, because I'm your damned husband. The first thing we need to do is get you out of that dress--you're never going to get laid wearing that thing around. Then, once you've slipped into something more comfortable, I'm going to introduce you to some nice straight boys, or at least bi's. How's that sound?"

She looks blearily at him, expressionless as a half-finished painting. "Why don't you kiss the bride," she says, and her red eyes narrow at him.

David looks around but there's no one to help him. Pierre, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, rolls his eyes theatrically. But when you think about it, what could be more reasonable? This is a wedding party, isn't it? Shouldn't the bridge and groom kiss at least once? Nothing else normal has happened all night, but wouldn't a simple kiss be all right? I suppose that's the girl in me talking. Girls all have that soft spot deep down, every one of us, no matter how punk rock we think we are.

Maybe David saw something in my expression. He looks from me to his wife and he gives her a little smile. It's a smile like I've never seen on him before--what he would look like if he had been born straight. I never would have imagined it. He closes his eyes, seals his lips and kisses the girl. I see the corner of her lips turn up. She grabs a handful of his lapel and keeps his face pressed to hers until they both need to breathe. They separate with a little gasp and loll back on the cushions and the whole room is abuzz with silence. David casts a sheepish look over at Pierre. "My first time," he says.

"Not very romantic, though," says Pierre.

Eliza waves her arm to dismiss all such talk and says in a clear, strong voice, "That was absolutely the lousiest kiss of all time." Laughter ripples around. She puts her hand on David's shoulder and says, "If that's all you got, honey, you can keep it for yourself."

For once, David doesn't have a comeback. He can see that the only way out of this is to let Eliza have the last laugh. In a weird way, isn't that the kind of compromise that genuine married couples have to make all the time? But who would have imagined it from these two?

Eliza pushes herself to her feet and begins pulling the dress over her head as if it were an old sweatshirt. David and I and the bridesmaids are there to help her, unlacing the ties and unbuttoning the buttons and pulling it all overhead like removing the velvet drape from a new statue. The bride glows, bodiced and girdled and gartered and bulging. She crosses her arms and juts a hip sassily to one side. "What are you all looking at!" she yells. "Get me a drink! What is this, a funeral?"

I have the dress in my hands. It overflows. I hold it like Old Glory at the graveyard, going over to Pierre. He grins and takes the bundle into his arms. David says, smiling, "I think I could get to like that girl."

Pierre raises one perfect eyebrow. "Let's hope it's not a pattern."

David shrugs. "Hell, I wouldn't mind kissing her again. At the divorce party."

6. Kissing the Bride (part two)

Despite all the shattered illusions and drunken desperation, a little genuine romance somehow sneaks in at the end of the night. Watch: David calls me into the bedroom where the curtains blow with the harbor breeze. I have the camera running. Pierre is on the balcony appearing to float among the lights of skyscrapers in a frilly cloud of satin and lace: he's a blushing bride for all the world in Eliza's grandmother's wedding dress. David, tucked in and dapper, joins Pierre on the balcony and they take each other's hands. I film from the floor where their silhouettes tower over the city skyline. Whispering, they speak their vows. Having, holding, loving, obeying, till death do they part. It's not phony, it's not a sham--they mean it. David pulls off his new wedding ring and slips it onto Pierre's finger. Then he pulls the veil back. From the other room I can hear someone puking, furniture tipping over, a glass shattering. David the groom kisses Pierre the bride. Their lips press tight, and stay that way. The pinpoint lights of the city appear as so much rice and confetti spiralling in freeze-frame all around. Me, I have tears in my eyes. That soft spot, it's in there somewhere. I let the camera run for the length of the kiss, which is the real thing, and which lasts for a very long time.

A.C. Koch ( lives in Zacatecas, Mexico, where he teaches college English and edits fiction for Zacatecas ( His work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and recently won first place in The Stickman Review fiction contest. He moonlights as a jazzman.

InterText Copyright © 1991-2003 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 13, Number 1 of InterText. This story Copyright © 2003 A.C. Koch.