I saw a waitress get married to the winner of a bar raffle last night. She was a big girl with bad skin. Her name was Marguerite, but they couldn’t fit all the letters on her nametag, so it just read Margue. They waited until something sweet came by on the jukebox and then the night manager sat there on the edge of the bar and read the rites.
He looked precisely like the Reverend he was supposed to be, with a strip of white construction paper taped around his roll-neck. This was all in an after hours place on West 4th Street, but friendly enough and full of the lame and the halt and those others who are always lost in New York, it must have been later than two after all.
It turns out that this ceremony has been going on every Friday night for the past two years or so, which makes Marguerite the most married American, although one can never be certain about excess here and, as a general rule, I would say that whenever you think you’ve found something that’s the most or the worst, it isn’t. Somewhere there’s always another pole-sitter or chicken-fucker who’s done it more so and without even thinking about the record involved.
Anyway. The rites themselves were so suddenly seizing in their content that I found myself taking notes on a cocktail napkin and while it’s true that I was having trouble getting my drunk fingers to stumble on across the tissue, this is what I wrote, because this is what was said:
“Dearly all here gathered, marriage is a wholly miserable thing made up of two parts rough and one part tender, along with any bricks and lime left over once they’ve walled you up together. When you’re lying in bed, your heart red-rimmed at the sight of her and your bowels all heavy with greasy finger-food, when the plates are piled to the ceiling and all your checks are bad, when there’s nothing on the dresser but the nickels and dimes she brought home from the bar, and when she’s bent over the sink, her legs like buttresses of meat parallel yet unhooked, and the rest of her body’s outpacing gravity, when your clothes are in holes and the only sound you can hear is the E Train running through the middle of your room, remember that I told you marriage was nothing much more than three beers shared with a room full of strangers followed by years of misery; a plate of escarole paid for by ten thousand mornings of garlic blown into your face across yellow teeth. So please God, we beseech thee, send this boy someone who’s got a grain of sense and can still speak or just about stand up, someone who’ll save this poor sucker, take out a pistol and put an end to him right here. Shoot a bullet straight in his mouth and stop him saying anything ever again, much less yes, I do.”
This preamble may seem a little harsh when read, but I have to tell you it’s hard to convey the sense of ceremony, the seriousness with which the homily was delivered. The victim, of course, standing there like a jerk in his Friday night suit, had given up on his weak smile and was just wondering where he was being led to, what was next. Marguerite, having seen it all before, was picking at her teeth with a spent match.
“So, alright, there are no saviors here to help you tonight, let’s get on with it: Do you promise to do the best you can, to rinse away your toe-nail clippings from the bath-tub, to hardly beat her much, to put up with the sight of her and generally keep from moaning to barmen who really don’t want to hear your story, but keep smiling because you’ve got three bucks left there in front of you?”
To this, and while the idiot’s own mouth is clamped shut in a queasy, confused grimace, the assembled congregation shout in a voice ugly enough to make the dead cut their own throats “Yes! He does! ”. Marguerite, nods distractedly, scratching her stomach as she does so, and says “Me too.”
And then the Reverend, for by now everyone knows he’s in some way liturgical, even if his denomination’s a little cloudy, pulls out a raw onion from his apron and offers it up like the host to Marguerite who doesn’t even blink but takes a big bite right from his hand.
The jerk is thinking that he has to do the same and is already pulling his neck back into his shoulders at the prospect. But then the greasy Parson says grandly, and this is while her mouth is obviously and ridiculously full; “You may, in fact you are most definitely required, to kiss the bride.”
Well, everyone in the place starts whistling and shouting and stamping their feet now, to the point where I receive what feels like a bunch of broken toes when some sailor here on Fleet Week mistakes my foot for the floor, but Marguerite she’s almost got the sucker in a headlock and is pressing her mouth into his and presently, when the clinch gets broken up, you can see that the groom, as well as being disgusted, is chewing on what he’s found there in his mouth.
And it’s another New York Friday night that’s almost over, that’s only just begun, but it’s now and when I unfold another napkin that I see the four and a bit line poem I copied down as a reminder to myself about spending more time alone, because I’ve been a married man and have also become somewhat depressed about all the barmen I’ve been talking to. Here with my three dollars in front of me.
Fingers flying, arches falling
man is somber, baby’s bawling
morning, evening, easter, lent
time alone is money spent