Be in your late 20s and idly alienated, living off a royalty check that’ll last maybe two more months, when you meet an attractive girl in her mid 20s who—like you—seems affected to do things, to a large degree, by the ever-shifting sensation that existence, as rendered emotional by time and death, can be beautiful and exciting for the same reasons—arbitrariness, ephemerality, inscrutability—it can seem bleak and frustrating and confusing. After one month, during which she quits her bookstore job and stays awake with you most nights until morning, notice that neither of you have said “no” to anything the other suggests. Feel calmly, almost forbiddingly, excited.
One night in November on the Lower East Side, walking in a sleet-like drizzle, say “I wish it were warm, we should just fly somewhere warm.”
“We should fly to Las Vegas,” she says.
An hour later in a cafe use her MacBook to buy a package deal that includes accommodations at The Tropicana, a rental car, a flight that leaves in four days.
The second night at The Tropicana, returning to your room, notice a sign near the elevators that says “Marriage Chapel.”
Say “we should get married.”
“I was going to say that,” she says.
Say “I would get married to you.”
“Let’s get married tomorrow,” she says.
The next morning inside your rental car, parked outside Whole Foods, say “we should have a discussion about getting married, maybe.”
The discussion seems earnest and lasts fifty seconds. It includes the sentence “I feel like it wouldn’t be good for our brands, as depressed writers” and ends with the sentence “seems like if we don’t do it we would need to kill ourselves.”
Half an hour later in a booth in Whole Foods, seated side-by-side, stare at your respective MacBooks, multitasking (1) looking at the internet (2) eating pineapple chunks (3) drinking energy drinks (4) advancing each of your careers (5) searching the internet for how and where to get married. Say “I don’t get it” as your fiancé scrolls through photographs of Elvis standing between grinning couples.
“It’s what people do,” says your fiancé.
“I don’t get it, why would they want that.”
“It’s what people want,” says your fiancé.
“I honestly don’t get it. Seems like people wouldn’t want that at all. We should just get an Elvis wedding, maybe. I feel fine with an Elvis wedding if nothing else is available.”
Ten minutes later your fiancé secures next-day appointments for a marriage license at 3:30PM and an Elvis-less “desk wedding” at 4:30PM.
Late that afternoon in a shopping center behind Whole Foods enter an H&M and walk in separate directions. The next hour meet sometimes in the middle, near the cash registers, to say things like “for the wedding,” “should I get this for the wedding?” or “an H&M wedding.”
The next morning in a booth in Whole Foods, eating watermelon and pineapple, plan your drug usage in terms of the wedding and an unrelated post-wedding event. “They won’t let us get married if we’re on drugs,” says your fiancé.
“They’ll think we’re on drugs if we’re not on drugs. We’re normal when we’re on drugs.”
Almost directly above the marriage license office is a billboard advertising car parts that says something about “making the right choice.”
Say “what the hell…seems like they’re warning people.”
“I don’t get it,” says your fiancé. “I don’t get the advertisement itself.”
Inside the marriage license office, which has the competently nonchalant feel of a well-run post-office, stand side-by-side filling out forms. Discuss how getting married is like getting a tattoo. You just want to pay someone money so it can be finished—not arrange appointments, wait in line, talk to people you don’t know, be asked to confirm your choice.
Ahead of you is a couple wearing a black suit and a white dress. You are wearing a black hoodie advertising a moderately obscure ska-punk band from the late 90s. Your fiancé’s black blazer, red-and-black scarf, black dress are new from H&M. Express concern about a notice that says intoxicated applicants will be “turned away.” Earnestly focus on seeming normal as you approach the window, beyond which are four workers and a woman who will be helping you and your fiancé. Realize you won’t be “turned away” when the woman begins speaking in a friendly manner. Point to an area of devices fastening papers to a cabinet and say “I want one of those.”
Your fiancé says “me too” and is quiet a few seconds.
“Which one do you want?” she says.
After a moment say “any of them, I think.”
“Me too,” she says. “My own ‘underling.'”
After a moment say “I was talking about those paper-clip things, not those people.”
A few minutes later walking to the rental car point at an abandoned building and say “seems like a metaphor for marriage.”
Point at a shiny building and say “seems like it’s saying that’s how we are now.” Point at the abandoned building and say “that’s us in two years.” Point at an expansive, barren, hole-ridden parking lot and say “that’s us in five years, or, like, five weeks.”
“Five months, maybe,” says your fiancé.
Point at a very tall tree and say “that’ll be us probably.” Your fiancé points at an eccentric-looking skyscraper, far in the distance, and says “that’ll be us probably.”
In the marriage chapel’s bathroom pee in the toilet, splash water to your face, dry your face with paper towels. Stand waiting for your fiancé, who is in another bathroom. A newly-wed couple surrounded by a group of people exits the chapel through the hallway-like area where you’ve been told to wait for your fiancé, who appears and sits with you on a two-seat sofa, facing the pastor—a large, friendly man with a neutral facial expression—who is seated behind a small desk, six feet away, reading aloud from a script in a calming manner. After a few minutes turn toward your wife, seated to your left, and kiss a medium-short kiss.
On the sidewalk outside tightly hold each other while jumping in unison and saying “we did it” repeatedly. Wonder which of you will make the first “divorce joke” and vaguely remember that one of you already did, earlier today or maybe last night, then let go of each other and run wildly onto the parking lot, toward the rental car, grinning uncontrollably.