The speedometer edged past eighty-seven miles per hour as he drove south on the high-speed tollway, the car’s velocity carrying him towards the old Texas city of San Antonio at 9:35 on a Monday morning. The openness, the cutting bareness of the green-brown South Texas landscape bordering the tollway road mirrored the painfully empty expanse of his own mind, the miles rolling by like some circling, hungry thing, waiting for an opening to some still unordained moment. At some point his mind flashed the question before him; just what the hell was he doing, why would he allow his heart to give speed to a destination that would probably only gift pain to an already deeply troubled heart?
Daniel drove on in silence, taking the San Antonio downtown exit an hour and a half later, passing the old edifice of the Alamo as he made his way through the tourist choked downtown cobbles stone streets to the little artesian village of La Vita. On a side street, he found a parking place, making his way on foot to the little church of La Vita, the little church building that had played host to his quiet, lovely, wedding sixteen years before.
A cold front coming in out of the north had done it’s work, the typical September day on the old streets of San Antonio felt brisk. Daniel walked down the cobblestone street without a sweat, only to find himself before the doors to the little church just before noon that day. The big, wooden sanctuary doors were unlocked, he found the chapel empty, dim, quiet and cool. He walked in, sat himself on the far end of the aisle on the right side of the chapel, just behind the front row. The soft glow of the sunlight streamed in through the somber stained glass portraits, making the saints glow with a happy aura, their pious saint’s faces aglow with subtle assurances of goodness, mercy.
Daniel shifted in his seat on the well-worn cushion of the pew, looking now at the steps where he had stood with his former bride those long years ago. In the quiet of his mind he saw her there, her lovely lace wedding dress, the glow of her smile as she released her grip from her Father’s hands, her soft hands finding his own in that time honored transition from Father to husband. From his vantage there in the aisle seat, Daniel took in the sight of his hands finding her hands in release from the hands of her Father. His weathered hands. Liars hands. Hands who had betrayed her young body. Daniel secretly hated those hands of his, his own eagerly grasping hers, wanting to be a better protector, a hearts true companion in this life ahead.
Shifting in his seat, the hard bench granting him no leniency in his lonely thoughts, he drifted now to the moment when he walked forward towards her glowing smile, her soft lace gown there glowing off-white beneath the lights. Just off to her left was a guitar player, one that they had found to be a soothing balance to the tension both felt in the oncoming rush of expectations. Hopes, dreams, fantasy. All made for a glorious rush at the intersection of this slice of American fairy princess dreams. The guitarist played a soft, engaging melody as each one of them stepped forward down the aisle into the future of dreams.
Daniel saw her there, in her lovely lace gown as she stood with him before Father Flores, bereft of any real preparation for the hard, grinding road that lay ahead of them together. In the vision, Daniel watched her hold his hands, then fading, transitioning now as another man held her in his arms, his hand sliding down into her panties as she stood there on the steps, bereft of her lovely gown, as he took her nipples into his mouth. Those breasts that had nursed all three of their beautiful, tangled up children. Did the stranger know that? Would he even have cared? The blank look on his wife’s face telling it’s own private narrative, mostly to those who would not listen, care to understand. Daniel looked away.
What had he expected? Every thing stood against them, and now as the roil of parenting three Autistic children played its savage discordant game, how had he really believed that it could lead to anything short of tragedy? He had been such a fool, to believe that love would be enough to weather the tsunami of brutal cultural demands that would come to visit the two of them in the years ahead.
Daniel glanced around the chapel, seeing all of them, to the left and to the right; bride’s side and groom’s side, all of those who had been there that day to see him wed. Each of them with their own fairy tales, their own realities of marriage, each calculating for the race of endurance, for validation in the persons that they needed to be in order to win this pretty little life game. Their bridal exit march was playing now, and he exited with the dreamlike shadows of guests of his now long past wedding.
At the door he paused. Now he felt the weight of the years, of missed opportunities, but nonetheless he felt, knew that she stood with him, if only in the hope of what might be, and together Daniel and his wife walked out of the doors of the little chapel, passing a giggling, happy young couple on their way in to marry. There in the crossing of the moment, Daniel felt a soft nudge of hope, knew that even in the darkest of moments that light may still find it’s way. As he made his way home, he imagined lifting that soft, lace veil, finding those warm lips against his and dancing in the elusive firelight of hope that love could perhaps know his name.