And then I looked at my roommate with a perfectly straight face, in the middle of a storage locker with a broken lock on the floor – at 7 pm at night – and said “Would your brother like to get married in the blue tie or the red tie?”
Mr. California’s brother is getting married in 26 hours, in another city. (Stay with me, this isn’t the weird part).
I felt invested in the whole process. I had, after all, already found the suit and picked out the white shirt. (Well, I picked 2). It’s a bit hard, I haven’t met the guy. I don’t know him. I knew in some sense that he existed, but I didn’t know his name. I certainly didn’t feel like I should be the person picking out the tie for his wedding. I wasn’t so sure about breaking into his storage locker either. I was a bit confused, but perhaps not as confused as Mr. California, who had to retrieve the suit while processing the idea that his brother phoned to invite him to a wedding in less than 26 hours.
I suppose this really wasn’t the sort of thing I expected at all. Context then (although I make no guarantees it will help. I was there and I’m not sure it helps)
I was sitting in our apartment when Mr. California came home, reading the book I have been trying to read for 2 days. (It’s me, not the book.) Mr. California asked if I would like to go for an adventure and play storage wars.
Mr. California’s brother has a storage locker here. Here, in Victoria. Now, he’s never lived in Victoria (I’m unclear too) but this storage locker had a suit in it, and we had to break into it and retrieve the suit. We had to do this because the brother is getting married in less than 24 hours and he needed the suit.
You haven’t lived until you have watched your roommate go at a lock with bolt cutters and a screw driver. A lock standing between a suit and a brother’s happiness didn’t stand much of a chance, really.
I went back to our apartment and scrubbed the stain out of the shirt. (Mustard, I think.) Scrubbing stains out of a shirt for a guy you have never met does seem to exceed the bounds of roommate duty, but as I stood at the sink and Mr. California talked to his brother’s soon to be new family, it seemed the best, the most useful thing I could do.
I thought about the brother and his new bride, and the tenuous journey that is marriage while I scrubbed. Marriage, it seems to me is a bit like breaking into your roommates’ brother’s storage locker to get a suit for a wedding. It is a series of crazy things that you got into with the best of intentions.
We stand in a church, a hall, on a beach, in the great outdoors and we make these promises. Our best selves earnestly committed to making this work. If we are honest, we know that what we promise we cannot surely commit to for the life of the agreement. And we do it all the same.
We do it anyway, and we keep those promises anyway. We might speak of love or need or want. We might frame the discussion in kind and glowing terms of romantic love or we might be more calculating than that. I think the urge to marry, to commit to what we cannot fully understand is more simple than that.
We look for a companion in adventure. We do it because we know we are better together, the adventures have more sweetness to them. We buttress each other, becoming a bulwark, a refuge and a source of nourishment. The adventure is better with that person by our side. That’s what makes us promise in the first place, and what helps us keep our promise.