On Friday last, we had the suitcases packed and the car loaded for a long-anticipated trip out of town when suddenly I was seized with an unusually strong case of momentum interruptus. It was my idea that we leave a day early so I could attend to some business in our destination city, but at the last minute I was overcome by something–anxiety, apprehension–I'm not sure what to call it, but it clearly said DO NOT TRAVEL TODAY. It was an indefensible position, and one I had to take. "Let's go tomorrow," I said to my partner. "The wedding's not till 5. We'll have plenty of time. We can hang here, go to a movie, sleep in our bed." I threw out all the hooks.
"OK," she said. "But I thought we were going today so you could do your research."
"I know. I just don't want to go today." A long discussion ensued, in which we analyzed the merits of the research question I was pursuing, the limits of logic, our very different approaches to travel (she: structured; me: serendipitous), and the meaning or meaninglessness of the choices presented to us by my fit of fickleness. She had already taken the day off. We called the hotel, brought in our bags, and had what turned out to be a pleasant day in our "village." (That's what they call suburbs here. It still makes me giggle.) We went to two movies and tried a new sushi place. All the school kids were out in their Halloween costumes, so the day ended up feeling decadent, like a suburban Mardi Gras.
We were up and out the door easily the next morning, caffeinated and launched like arrows. The sky was in flux: 50 MPH winds kicked cars and trucks across the white line and the sun was searing. At a rest stop, the wind drove against the passenger door. When she had finally summoned the strength to push back, my partner exited the car with her arms and legs out and leaned into the wind. "This is how it feels to free-fall!" she shouted, recalling her recent sky-diving trip. I recognized the feeling, but not from jumping out of perfectly viable airplanes. Later, an entire agricultural enterprise seemed to be airborne in a brown cloud that crossed the highway in front of us, peppering the windows with grit and corn husks. "Look, the earth's moving," I said. It was an observation reinforced by the Kerry/Edwards signs and stickers that seemed to at least equal the number of "Vote 4 W"s as we traveled deeper into Bush country. (It was a toss-up as to which side was represented by the "American Terrorist" bumpersticker on a white pick-up truck.)
We arrived at our hotel with just enough time to eat lunch, shower, and put on our finery for the wedding. The wind had actually whipped my hair into an attractive mess and I was feeling spunky in my girl costume. The hotel was filled with campaign workers for a Congressional candidate, all wearing "I [heart] Julia" shirts and talking on cell phones. I remarked to two of them on the elevator,"I hope Julia's a Democrat."
"Oh, yes," one of the young men replied. "Any time you see more than one black person working for a candidate, you know they're a Democrat." And indeed, all the people knotting the corridors of the hotel were African-American. Perhaps I did not need to be so disheartened by the Alan Keyes sign in my neighbors' yard. Barack Obama spoke for the hearts of most people.
At last we arrived at a Christian church in central Indiana. The cornerstone said it was built in 1892, and the elegant interior did reflect a more careful time. The stained glass windows were intricate as Celtic knots, pulling in light, soft and prismatic. The pews were rounded and elaborately carved, arranged in a semi-circle around the pulpit, which was as elaborate as a stage setting for Romeo & Juliet. But this stage was set for Robert and James, our two friends who had chosen this day to pledge their troth. The Reverend stepped onto the dais and focused our intent. No one was sure if Jim's family would show up, but they did. There were the usual prayers and vows, scripture read, a song, long and appreciative looks at the family and friends gathered in the round to witness this moment in their lives. Kids fidgeted and toddlers screeched at random intervals. To the church caretaker who watched from the wings, it must have seemed like every other wedding he had opened the church for as he followed along with the program someone had given him. When the grooms were pronounced "spouses for life" instead of "husband and wife," I tried to read the caretaker's impassive face. When they kissed, I glanced over again, and the man had tucked the program under his arm and was joined in the wild applause with the rest of us.
It could have been the wine or the joy of the occasion, or some combination of both, but by the time the music started I was giddy with excitement over the momentous shifts that seem to happen in a moment, with no discernible cause or effect. We are one day certain, the next day not; one minute a wall of resistance, the next moment all willowy accommodation. One of the guests at our table was a dance instructor to whom I confessed a complete inability to follow formal dance steps. "It all depends on your lead," he offered, graciously giving me a pass on my rigid desire to do my own thing. When the dance instructor's boyfriend pulled me on to the dance floor for a swing dance, I was mortified. "I can't!" I insisted. There were so many reasons: heels, spatial issues, pride.
But he (a burly, handsome policeman by day) took my hand and I went, calling on my grandmothers' youth to come through me now and fill me with flapper spirit. We swung. We spun. We dipped. Sensing that he knew the steps, I allowed myself to follow. It was as erotic for me as a tango, as unexpected for me as death. The dance was something to lean into and trust, and it left me breathless, heart racing, wanting more.