Transcript: Variations on the Wedding Vow
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It hadn’t even been two weeks since I’d arrived in Mexico City, when a classmate from the Political Science Department organized a party. I didn’t know much about him, only that his name was Sergio, that he was about six years older than most of the newly enrolled students, and he’d been previously enrolled in various departments which he abandoned after a time in order to work. He’d lasted the longest at the Law School, and where he’d worked the most had been in a law office, surely as the messenger boy for some small time lawyer, but the way he talked about it, you’d think he’d been Attorney General of the Republic.
Look, kid, he’d say to whoever he had in front of him. If you want to study, study, that’s good, but to make it in this life what you need is a friend. And you’re lucky, because you’ve got one right here. If you ever get locked up, I can get you out, no problem.
The strange thing is that we believed him. We also believed him when he invited dozens of people over to his house, assuring us there was room enough for all, and to bring beer, just to be on the safe side …
The party was far. No… very far, which is why I arranged with Vásquez, a friend from the Department, to go together. Vásquez was an enormous, good-natured guy who worked as a bouncer at a nudist dive bar for women; also, he was born and raised in Mexico City, so who would know the city better? When I asked him how we might make it back, he offered a phrase that could very well be the national motto: He said:
Ooooh, we’ll see…
Sergio didn’t live in a mansion as he’d implied, but in a smallish, one bedroom apartment in a large complex.
When we arrived, the place was a hot house of live bodies and cold beer, but everyone seemed happy.
Some of the details of the party escape me, but what I do remember is that sometime around one in the morning a woman arrived who was not from the group of students.
A woman, not a girl. She was sober and friendly, but didn’t seem to be there for the party. I can’t remember her name, but for the purposes of this story, I’ll call her Salomé. Salomé started greeting all of those present, taking a few extra seconds with each person to say:
Hi, how are you? I’m Sergio’s girlfriend. Tomorrow we’re getting married.
And then she’d go to the next guest and say the same thing.
Hi, how are you? I’m Sergio’s girlfriend. Tomorrow we’re getting married.
Sergio followed behind her, disavowing the news: smiling, he moved his head side to side, saying:
Don’t believe it. She’s just joking.
And the truth is we didn’t know what to think, so we simply forgot about it.
The party continued. The weed was rolled generously, the alcohol ran freely, new friendships were born, and there was even dancing, thanks to the infinite capacity of human beings to push against a wall counter to all the laws of physics. I remember seeing Vázquez making out with a fellow student with whom he’d never before exchanged words.
Eventually the party faded. The guests began to leave the small apartment as if it were about to sink into the sea, and suddenly, I realized that Vázquez and I were the only ones still remaining. He’d lost his friend at some point during the night, and now he was seated in the living room’s only armchair, either very sad or very drunk. I told Sergio that neither of us had a car, and asked if there was a bus at this hour. He said.
What are you worried about? Stay here, and in awhile we’ll go have some pozole.
We obeyed. Vázquez in the armchair, and me on the floor, after a very democratic coin toss. It was almost five in the morning, so we both fell asleep almost immediately.
The next thing I remember is a door slam and a loud shout from Salomé:
Look at you, and we have that thing!
I opened my eyes, and saw Salomé looking back and forth between her boyfriend on the one hand, barefoot, in his underwear, and on the other, me and Vazquez, asleep among a sea of bottles and ashtrays.
Sorry, guys, I have to ask you to go. We’re getting married at noon and this one hasn’t even showered.
For a moment, Sergio looked ashamed, submissive, and definitely hungover, but out of nowhere, he suddenly gained strength and said:
You can’t talk to my friends like that, you hear me? They’re not going anywhere. And you know why? You know why? Because they’re going to be my witnesses at the wedding. How do you like that!?
Salomé gave him a cold look, calm and threatening.
Take a shower, she said. You won’t be late. You hear me?
And she left.
Sergio turned toward us, a little downcast, but more than that, ashamed of being a bad host.
Chale, we might not have time to have breakfast. We’ll figure it out.
We let a few seconds pass, thinking maybe Sergio might explain, but when he didn’t, I asked him:
You shitting me? Are you seriously getting married right now?
Sergio scratched his ear, as if that would help him think, and said.
– It’s God’s will, my friends.
And he got in the shower.
Vázquez and I sat in silence for a good while, looking over the pigsty where Sergio had found the witnesses to his wedding, these two young men stinking of cigarettes and alcohol. And so I said, making note of what was truly obvious by then:
This motherfucker is crazy.
To which Vázquez responded wisely:
I think we need to get out of here.
It sounded like a great idea. But we were just leaving when Sergio appeared, all clean and suited up, wearing a tie, and he said there was no way we were going, that we couldn’t leave him here to die alone, that we were going to be his fucking witnesses and that as soon as the ceremony was over the party would continue.
The wedding was to be held at the municipal offices of Coyoacán, meaning we had a long ride ahead of us, so Vázquez bought a few cans of beer to sip along the way.
Salomé was waiting with her family outside the offices, in what was once the house of Hernán Cortés. She looked radiant, all in white, and with a small bouquet of flowers in her hair. Her expression changed when she saw the two fellows accompanying her future husband, both dirty, with dark circles under their eyes, and as if that weren’t enough, cans of tecate in hand.
Don’t even think you’re going to do this to me, she said. I’d already told my cousins, so they brought their IDs and they’re going to be your witnesses.
Sergio offered a weak gesture of protest. He didn’t insist, but he did come over to apologize:
Tst, these bitches are crazy…
Vázquez and I nodded silently, more in agreement with the decision of the bride than with that pearl of wisdom from the groom, and we snuck away from the judge’s table with all the dignity we could muster as strangers crashing the party.
Then, for some reason, I said to Vázquez,
I was actually looking forward to signing the marriage certificate.
Vázquez seemed to be reconsidering it for a few seconds, and then glanced toward the couple again, and answered:
You know, honestly, I’d even thought I might take a copy home with me.
The wedding was solemn and brief but pretty. Or that’s how it looked to us from the distant perch Salomé’s family assigned us: in the very back, at a prudent distance from the noses of all the other guests. The judge read the entire epistle of Melchor Ocampo, Salomé appeared to be genuinely moved, and Sergio looked to be the world’s most formal and responsible man. It was hard to believe that he was the same guy who just a few hours before had been taking one tequila shot after another, while saying “Are we men or are we clowns?” Damn, if that had been my daughter, I’d have been proud to see her marry him.
At the end there were tears and applause and even rice tossed in the air. Vázquez and I approached to congratulate the couple. Sergio patted us on the back and thanked us as if we were lifetime friends, though I’m sure he didn’t even know our last names. The bride placed the tips of her fingers on our shoulders, a diplomatic version of what could be called a hug.
Then, the just-married man said:
Now it’s on, let the party start!
They left, including Vázquez. Not me. I still had to figure out how to get home.
For a long time I imagine what kind of hell it must be to marry someone who’s capable of taking a couple of strangers in a state of decomposition to the wedding; or to marry someone who’s unable to respect the sacred bond of an alcoholic friendship.
Whatever the case, shortly thereafter, Sergio, the man of law, left the Department of Political Science, and I never heard from him again. I don’t know if the marriage lasted, or if the scene I witnessed was just the preamble to a long melodrama.
God knows where Sergio might be now, fighting for justice.