Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Wedding Day

One of the good things about starting smoking again is that I find myself hanging out with the vendors more than I used to. When you're out on the sidewalk every hour or two, it just happens.

John was out with me once and we were talking about how he is a leader. He'd spoken movingly at the public hearing on campsite protocols on how homeless people bleed the same blood as the City department heads assembled on the panel. He had them. He had us all. It was a powerful moment.

He turned to offer a profile. "Who do you see?"

John is 6'4 and rail thin. His face is long, emaciated, and lined in a handsome way. His eyes are huge and darkened underneath. His speech is a map of Brooklyn. I didn't know what to say.

"Think if I had a beard," he motioned. "Abraham Lincoln."

I saw it. A tall sad Lincoln, with the same dark intelligent eyes. It was him.

He offered to grow and keep a beard if it would help RCOP in some way.

John's been sleeping out. He was in a transitional housing program, but left it for a woman. No couples. She needed him more than he needed housing. Then they found a place, far north of Seattle. By bus, they say, it isn't bad. It beats trying to stay a step ahead of the sweeps.

They both sell Real Change still. Both have more challenges than most of us can imagine.

Today, they were married. I was the best man. Our Jesuit Volunteer Corp organizing intern was the maid of honor. My five-year-olds were the flower girls. The color scheme was pink and white. I put them in matching pants and sweater get-ups and bought two $7.50 bouquets of tulips at Top. Pink and white, one for each of them. They bore these before the bride.

Fittingly, the wedding was a guerrilla affair that inverted the line between public and private. Rain ruled out Plan A, at Victor Steinbrueck Park. Plan B was less scenic. A Seattle Center staff person said he didn't remember any other weddings. Apparently, few people opt to wed in a fast food court. We were near the Starbucks, over on the side near Pizza Haven.

John was nearly an hour late.

"What do we do," someone asked. "After a half-hour," I said, "you console the bride."
Twins A&B and I were looking down at the bat people in the Children's Museum forest when word came. "The groom is here."

He missed the bus. They don't run that often on Sunday. Being poor, he had no cell phone. He carried his new shoes to change on the bus so they wouldn't get scuffed. A woman asked if he was going to church.

"I'm going to my wedding, but I'm a half hour late!"

"Driver," she said. "Step on it."

People settled into their places. The Church of Universal Life minister and her husband were champions. She brought a handmade cake that resembled a topographical map of somewhere like Scotland and had huge flourishes of decorative pink frosting reaching skyward. I took my place off to the side by John. The ring was in my pocket. The procession made its way across the food court. Twin A ran ahead with her white tulips, swinging them at people and things like a club.

The bride and groom read vows promising to love one another, and were joined. They were in that moment of intensity that anyone who's been there knows. Time stops. There are two of you. You are together.

The wedding was witnessed by some Real Change staff and volunteers, a few friends made while selling the paper (the minister), Wes, Anitra, and a small circle of vendors who are dear to one another. A few onlookers who happened to be at Seattle Center and liked weddings filled out the crowd to around twenty.

The bride and groom cut the cake with a teeny plastic knife and smashed it into each others faces. She threw a bouquet into a small group of unwilling females. He threw a garter towards an equally unenthusiastic group of men. Except for one, who really seemed to want it. The bride and groom looked blissed. It was a sweet day.

There was not the pile of gifts one is accustomed to seeing at these things. Nobody was handing anybody any envelopes of cash. Yet these two need the same things as any couple starting out, but more so. They have nothing. It would be nice for them to feel the kindness of strangers. If you have things, I'd be happy to hear from you.

Below are a couple of photos from Revel of the wedding party and the Tim Harris Break Dance Ensemble.


1 comment:

Siobhan said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for the story, and my happy wishes to this couple. It's good to remember love persists. I'm thinking up a gift.

Maybe you could start taking a chocolate break outside? My Dad's got stage 4 lung cancer.

Best -

Siobhan