It’s five thirty in the morning and I’m waiting for the subway at Howard Beach station in outer Brooklyn to take me from JFK to Grand Central where I’ll catch the Metro-North to New Haven where I’ll take a taxi to tiny Madison, CT, where Joel and Crichton are getting married on the northern shore of the Long Island Sound.
New York City is a city I once knew well. I used to have opinions on where to get the best pizza, what comedy shows to go to, which subways to avoid, but all that was a lifetime ago. Today the city is a tupperware container. Just getting off the plane I walk into a pea soup wall of memories. The city is bleeding oozing overflowing boiling with sticky-sweet memories, a thousand tiny heartbreaks baked into the concrete. Scars long ignored suddenly sting fresh in the warm summer morning. But this weekend isn’t about me.
This weekend is about Joel and Crichton, the very picture of love, the spitting image even. Look fast and you won’t even see all the work, the compromise, the treacherous balancing act love is. They make it look easy, Joel and Crichton.
On their website, they describe falling in love back in college:
Crichton: Dave Segal approached me saying they needed female actors for Olde English, would I be interested in doing a sketch? I thought for an instant and said ‘Only if you cast me next to Joel’. A month later I was acting opposite him in the sketch ‘Like Children’. We played two people deeply, helplessly, ridiculously in love, and when Dave turned off the cameras we kept holding hands, which was so forward I shocked even myself.
Joel: After the shoot it was like, so, what’s up with you being my soulmate? Oh, you are producing a play in a cave-like icehouse in the side of a ravine? I’m doing a play on the tennis courts at sunset. I think it’s pretty clear that we belong together.
The wedding goes off without a hitch, if you don’t count the rain and why would you count the rain? It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, the whole day is so intimate and sincere and it’s all so very them. The day doesn’t just happen so much as it blossoms. And I think what I think at every wedding I go to which is that even though I’m kind of ambivalent about the whole idea of marriage in general — these two, today? Well, this just makes sense.
A wedding is a forward-looking thing, but there’s also something kind of backward-looking about celebrating with all your old friends. A wedding is a reunion, and a reunion is the most backward-looking thing there can be. Dancing under the big tent to LCD Soundsystem, surrounded by all my friends, people I used to see every day, I am reminded of how rarely I see them now.
As it turns out, while I’ve been living in L.A., my New York friends have been living in New York, living full Raphael-less New York lives. They have new New York jobs and new New York girlfriends. We’re all still good friends — things aren’t awkward or strained — but as we’re all dancing and smiling and laughing and shouting under the big tent under the rain, it occurs to me that I know all of these people a little less well than when I knew them best.
“Well, we’re all spread out,” says Sam, in town from Seattle. “It makes sense that there’d be fewer and fewer opportunities to all get together.” Sam and I are sitting on some rocks overlooking the sound, watching the water get wooshed around by the wind. “Now it’s weddings,” he says. “For my dad and his friends, it’s funerals.”
And now I’m getting really maudlin and purple about everything and I’m thinking about how we all of us live several lives and with every life you live you’re living your other lives a little less. You close chapters and start new ones. You fold your life into sections and make a crease — a move, a marriage, a new job, a new city.
And I’m wondering if every time you ever get to know anybody you’re also making an implicit promise to one day know that person less.
But this weekend isn’t about me.
Joel is exhausted, sitting by himself by the side of the tent. “I have no energy left,” he says. “I have negative energy.”
We watch his bride on the dance floor, still jumping, smiling wider than anyone. She looks like she could do this all night.
And Joel says, “She’s amazing,” and he does in fact seem amazed. And I think about all the adventures these two still have to go on together, all the countries within each other they have yet to discover.
And I think: Maybe that’s what marriage is — a commitment to, over several lifetimes, know somebody more.
And if that isn’t just about the loveliest thing, well then I don’t know what.