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Married to It
a story by Moore Rhys

Flanked between a friend and a lover, twelve rows back from the chuppah, I sense a hot itch run from the collar of my wool tux to my new black satin yarmulke. I tug at my shirt collar for relief. None comes. I decide my discomfort stems from more than just overactive steam radiators and tightly packed bodies. I feel searing eyes on me. Odds are good that nanas, aunts and nieces are whispering to their neighbors, “What is IT?”

I had hesitated at the entrance. A basket of special occasion-stamped yarmulkes taunted me. I had considered my friends getting married - how the last thing I wanted to do was distract from their moment. What would be the lesser evil: wearing the yarmulke and trying to pass as a man (but at least one respectful of tradition), or forgoing the cap of men and risking offending a relative who didn't notice that I was physiologically female? I chose to wear it and quietly slipped into my seat.

Overwhelmed by the ritual, I drift into a memory or perhaps a myth of the only other wedding I ever attended. I was four, and that's about as early as I can remember. Now this episode may or may not have actually happened. It’s one of those stories of childhood that are retold at parents’ dinner parties and family gatherings so frequently it’s difficult to determine the truth of the moment through the kicked-up dust-cloud of the constant retelling. It was spring, and my aunt Sally had just re-married. I had been a flower girl at the ceremony, and I swished so hard as I flung the petals down the aisle that it’s a wonder I didn't throw my itty bitty hips out. The reception was held in the back yard of my parents’ house.

Aunt Sally had a son from her first marriage. My cousin, George, was born just a week before me, and we were constantly thrown together as playmates. The wedding reception, however, was the first time we were set up as a “couple." The wedding photographer, a rather scrawny man with a full beard, saw George in his mini tuxedo and me in my flouncy dress and flower tiara and determined to “catch” us stealing a playful kiss, aping the bride and groom.

Despite his narrow profile, the photographer managed to be struck by my brother Ben's new red dodge ball. With a wicked smile and a weak “sorry,” Ben retrieved his ball and ran back over to the kids playing behind the hedge. Ben had exercised the privilege of eldest male to strip off his suit the moment we arrived from the ceremony at St. Stephen's. By the time he managed to hit his Photographer target, he had accumulated two patches of grass stain and a long smear of mud across the seat of his shorts.

George was rather pliable, so when the photographer approached and asked him to stay put while he sought me in the crowd, George was happy to be relieved of the responsibility of finding something to do. The photographer spied me shmoozing my grandparents and squatted down to my eye level. “Do you want to be in a picture?” he cooed at me. It was all I could do to not roll my eyes. What did he take me for? Some country bumpkin? I was an urbanite, dancer, actor, singer, bon vivante. I was born to be a ham and had embraced my role long before that sunny Spring day. I asked him what he had in mind, and he pointed over to George. “You are so adorable in your dress, and George so handsome in his suit, I want to take a picture of you two together.”

Grandmother claims that I pondered the offer for a moment. I agreed with the caveat that I needed to visit the restroom first, despite the fact that it would be another decade before I learned “caveat.” That was the first lie I remember telling. I began to dash into the house, but after just a few steps, my asthma got the better of my enthusiasm. Reverend Morse, the always concerned Reverend Morse, intercepted me on my way into the house. He placed his hand on my shoulder, “Need your inhaler?”

“I was just on my way to get it, Uncle Reverend. Or is it Reverend Uncle?” Lie number two and to the clergy, no less. He smiled the broad smile of a man in love, not the tempered smile of a dutiful Anglican Priest. I had been a little worried for him during the ceremony. He was so used to officiating, I wasn't sure if he could adjust to the role of groom.

I pulled open the screen door and walked inside. At the top of the stairs I hesitated before passing by the door to my room. I looked around to ensure my stealth and snuck inside Ben's room. I headed straight for my prize hanging in his closet. Ben was just a year older than me. I was a bit tall for my age and he a bit short. People often think we are twins - a source of consternation to this day for him, but it was convenient for me at that time. I slipped out of my dress and white mary janes with lacy anklets and donned Ben's best suit. I stood back to get a gander of myself in the mirror on the back of the closet door. Something wasn't right. It was the long straight flaming orange hair. I couldn't go out with the look “not quite right.” What to do? I glanced over to Ben's desk and my eyes fell on a pair of safety scissors. I knew what I must do and set to it.

A few moments later, I arrived outside in full drag splendor. My butchered short red hair pointing in all directions, despite Dad’s borrowed pomade. I swaggered up to George, planted myself on the seat beside him, swung my arm around his shoulder and planted a kiss on his cheek. I stayed there until the photographer reluctantly took the picture. Grandmother, ever watchful, says that Ben caught sight of me in his suit, hid his face in his hands and slunk to hide behind the nearest hedge. And George's reaction? Well, he just sat there with my lips on his cheek, posing for the picture as long as I did. Good old George.

I'm jolted from my reverie by a dreamily soft kiss on the cheek from my lover who whispers in my ear, “Wearing Ben's suit again?”

"Married to It" Copyright ©2000 by Moore Rhys. All Rights Reserved.
No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations for the purposes of critical reviews or articles. Members of the educational community who wish to print or photocopy in part or whole this story for classroom use, or publishers who wish to include this story in an anthology, should send inquiries by email to the author. Inquiries by mail may be sent to: Moore Rhys, c/o collectedstories.com, Columbia U. Station, P.O. Box 250626, New York, NY 10025.
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