The singer in the mariachi band clutches a wooden guitar that shines with the same helpless gloss of a Russian nesting doll. The groom, my cousin, the one who had insisted on the band, claps his hands wildly out of rhythm, head thrown back in an oblivion of unbridled happiness. You, the bride, do not want to dance.
That you don’t dance isn’t a measure of your own happiness; you only seem morose when the musicians are playing. When the music stops, you open your lips wide into laughter, exposing everything. Your mouth: a big crimson oyster giving birth to a litter of pearls.
My cousin reminds me of a white lab rat. You are much prettier than he is; you are a different species that would have consumed him had nature taken an alternate course. Instead, you have molted your predatory skin and allowed yourself to become a fleshy soft pillow, all dolled up in satiny white, consumptive of nothing but the air and the invisible clouds. The older women stare at you and make bets on your ovaries: they take odds against a vacant womb, 1:3.
It is too hot; everyone has become drunk and aggressive.
I only stay for you. For your teeth, which have divided themselves into thirty-two distinct fascinations. I am waiting for another glimpse of your molars: those secret teeth the public never see. Sharp little soldiers, all lined up deep inside the soft, wet cavern of your opening mouth.
You ask me to dance, and I’m surprised because, like I mentioned already, you hate that mariachi band. Your hair is piled high on top of your head: a labyrinth of silky black snakes, all of their soft snaky necks clasped tight beneath dozens of sparkling fake crystals.
You grab my hand and pull me toward you. “I hate this band,” you whisper, and then you put both of your arms around me and laugh and laugh and laugh.
We dance until I am too drunk to use my legs that way and I find myself seated at a table without a recognizable face. I pick up a glass of water; it’s half-empty. My tongue swells against the back of my teeth.
The table is shaped like a huge round clock, and I perceive, perhaps correctly, that the conversation is flowing to the left in a continuous circle. The man on my right is speaking urgently. I take a sip of water and feel the lids of my eyes lowering. The conversation shifts to the man on my left, who is reaching for the vase at the center of the table.
“I read a book,” he slips a flower from the vase and waves it gently from side to side “that stated humans are 33% genetically identical to a tulip. The proof is laid bare.”
The man to his left, at 11 o’clock, nods. “And what’s more, we’re all 99.3% genetically identical to the chimpanzee.”
“I don’t understand,” objects 2 o’clock “what you mean.”
“No – wait. Not tulips. Daffodils. We’re genetically similar to daffodils.” The man holding the flower is still waving it from side to side. The dizzy red ball at the end of the stem is dancing into a blur. I close my eyes and you appear behind my lids, giggling. You. My cousin’s wife. Shiny as a plastic ghost. I struggle desperately to remember your middle name.
“DNA is made of nucleotides. Nucleotides, like everything else, are made up of Actual Occasions.” I don’t know who is speaking. I feel carsick. My head is a balloon charged with static; all of my thoughts have floated away into an ether of helium. I close my eyes again. Your bridal specter dissolves into grainy green black.
The man to my right is silent for a moment. I stare at his shoes and consider vomiting on them. “Frankly,” he takes a sip of champagne, “I still don’t see what your point is. What good is a chimpanzee? What is it useful for?” His foot adjusts itself to the side and a sliver of pale white skin gleams through the opening cage of his sock and his pants. “So a chimpanzee dies; what did the chimpanzee mean in the first place?”
The primary difference between the chimpanzee and the human is that the chimpanzee will never wear pants unless first forced to do so by the human. I’m not sure if I say this out loud or not. My train of thought ends abruptly.
I may have neglected to mention, up until now, the perfection of your nose. It is an accomplishment of nature rivaled only by the perfection your perfect mouth. When you laugh, your head tilts back. When your head tilts back, there are three things to look at: (3) the supple swan bend of your neck; this exposes a permanent crease in your skin which mimics the slit of a throat (2) the perfectly symmetrical ovals of your nostrils; these quiver like the burrows of rabbits beneath a plow whenever you are angry or excited (1) your mouth wide open, exposing 32 pieces of that most deeply buried part of the body; the skeleton.
My vision spins away from you and I realize that I am standing in the center of a half-moon of tables. I steady myself with my hand on the back of a folding chair.
Wedding attendees have been offered use of the bathrooms in the newlywed’s house. The easiest way for us to gain entry into the house, and to the bathrooms, is across the brick mosaic patio and through a massive sliding glass door. This glass door leads directly into the formal dining room, which is empty. I steady myself, again, this time with the help of a dining room chair. I cannot remember where any of the bathrooms are located.
Alternatively, I make a plan to vomit in the kitchen sink, but when I turn the corner, I am dismayed to find a small group of teenagers huddled in front of a subzero refrigerator, giggling through a thick white haze of marijuana smoke. The group is composed of four boys and one girl. I estimate the average age at fourteen. As I turn away, the girl lifts her shirt. I can hear the boys applauding as I stumble up the hallway.
I find a bathroom and lock the door. The toilet is a sterile white beacon, gleaming and cold as a medical instrument. I clutch the sides of the bowl and vomit furiously. When I am finished, I lie down on the floor and rest my head on the nubby blue bathmat. It smells like new carpet and piss. I pass out into the clean, soft blackness that I’m always empty for.
© Andrea Kneeland