The question was simple, I suppose: would I marry him? The answer would prove to have more complicated consequences.
He asked at dinner and didn’t do anything corny. I prefer that to kneeling down in some elaborate proposal; recorded and posted online. I’ll be in nobody’s YouTube compilation. We were in my favourite restaurant; in a booth as usual. He slid a jewel across the table for my consideration. I answered yes, because I love him.
I would become a wife.
The ceremony of the wedding was all that need take place, but it was no little matter. Here, something more than money is needed to seal a marriage. We left for the Union Shrine at sunrise the next day.
The dying lay on their backs, attended by pairs of fiancés. The place looked more motel than church; lit by God’s fluorescent light. We were led to meet our officiant; a man of over 95 years. It was almost his time, and he insisted on helping a couple marry. His family honored that wish, so he lay in wait for them in the second-to-last room down a very long row of curtained doorways. The room had all the essentials: a sink and mirror, television, bed, and two sturdy wooden stools.The curtains ensured some privacy. The man shook both of our hands and smiled. He said his name, that he was very happy for us, and we thanked him for it.
He seemed content to watch the television and doze for a while, so we did. Weddings could take days, so patience was a must. I read, I watched, I napped, I chatted softly to my fiancé as our officiant napped. We talked about our hopes and our fears in that quiet dusty room, and the sun went down outside.
That night, I read aloud from an old newspaper at the old man’s request. It helped him relax. I read until both men fell asleep. Soon enough, I was down too. I didn’t dream, or at least I didn’t remember any when I awoke at two in the morning. My hand rested gently atop the frail, cold fingers of our officiate. He had passed while we had slept, and I had been a wife. I could not say for how long, but it was certainly true. I knew in that moment the meaning of my choices; the stakes that were at play. Fear crossed my mind, as I’m sure it crossed every mind in the room. I didn’t disturb the peaceful scene. Instead, I rested my head back on the bed, and fell back asleep.