At 1:30 PM on Saturday it was raining in Maryland.
I love the rain. Maybe it’s because I’m not a hot weather person or someone who spends much time outside. I think it has more to do with the cement porch on our row home on 64th street growing up. I would sit on the stoop when it rained and watch it come down safe from the storm, and enjoy that spicy cement petrichor of the city that followed.
I love the rain, but I’ve also never planned an outdoor wedding in a state park. That’s what I was considering at 1:30 PM on Saturday as our car idled at the foot of a little hill that lead up to the pair of pavilions that would house our good friend Karen’s wedding to her partner Matt. From our position, the rain seemed less lovable.
Karen was one of my earliest and most-persistent theatre friends at Drexel, and we worked on a run of shows together. She is like a Chaotic Good version of a typically mean Kristen Schaal character. Also, she is a experienced alto, a lawyer, and a librarian. As with E, she is one of those human beings that can and will achieve seemingly anything set before her.
I finished lacing up my boots and we mounted steps set into the hill. It was raining hard and I tilted my head sideways to keep my lacquered blue hair safe under E’s umbrella, lest my Super Goo [actual product name] run down my face in rubbery sluices. We did not know anyone in the pavilion. We picked up a pair of programs mounted on wooden handles, a bit spongey from the rain. Printed on the rear was SATB version of Charles Welsey’s “Hallelujah.” We squinted at the first measure to see if the starting pitch in bass was a G or an Ab and E gave me my starting pitch.
It rained during the ceremony, which was delightfully rooted in literature, law, and pop culture. At one point a sustained peal of thunder caused the pavilion to shudder, and while some guests winced Karen grinned madly and gave us all a thumbs up. It was an extremely Karen moment. Inside the pavilion there was love.
After the ceremony, we guests shuffled through the rain across a stone patio to a second pavilion. Inside this one there was magic – lights and glass and color and a murmuring of friends reuniting. I hewed closely to Hillary and her husband, who I can never spend enough time with, and their friend Amanda, who I have met a half a dozen times yet never had a conversation with. We discovered a guest book was full of empty pockets and were supplied with library cards on which we could write our notes.
I decided to catalog the check-outs and returns of our relationship, Karen and Peter: A Brief History (abridged). There was a gap in the middle 00s as we graduated and Karen accumulated degrees, which ended on E and my wedding day; Karen sang “Open Window” for our first dance. I still remember our first listen to Sarah Harmer’s record, driving around in Karen’s dinged little car to buy groceries or supplies for a fraternity event. The memory is mirrored by dozens (if not hundreds) of occasions of E and I singing through the entire You Were Here LP in our car, trading harmony and vocal percussion, me crying during the refrain “Lodestar” every single time.
I looked up from my sketching of our timeline to see that it wasn’t raining anymore. The sun was low and obscured, casting a pinkish hue across the cement patio between the two pavilions. It was perfect light – a sustained “magic hour” to capture every wedding memory in photograph. (“Are you a photographer,” our neighbor inquired later as I extolled the virtues of the light. “No, I learned it from E.” “Oh, she’s a photographer? “No, she’s an an engineer, but her degree is in photography.”) I heard a certain melody lilting through the air…
Here, witnesses appear
And recognize how sacred
Love can be when stated
I leapt up from my seat on our bench to find E already on the patio waiting to dance. We spun slowly and whispered the melody into each other’s ears, pausing occasionally to smile away a potential sob.
As the song ended, a whirling dervish of smiles and flowing white enveloped us in a muscular hug: another perfect memory with Karen.