LET YOUR YES BE YES AND YOUR NO BE NO
It’s what the Bible tells us, John the vicar says, his curly eyebrows rising up his mottled forehead, And that’s the best piece of advice I can give you, he adds, smiling. Grace looks across to me from where she’s sat, leaning forward slightly to see past the little face-high wings either side of the high-backed chair. Well, my yes is definitely yes, she says, reaching across the small space between her chair and mine to hold my hand. John leans over the little three-legged table that seats our three tea cups, the engraved crucifix on the table-top forming a four-way divide between them, a small blue and white plate taking the fourth space, a single digestive biscuit left uneaten, me smiling back at Grace, saying It’s a yes from me too, John’s hairy hand now patting the back of mine as I hold Grace’s, me avoiding a joke on how it looks like one of those stupid things Americans do before a basketball game, the thought of all three of us now lifting our hands skyward and shouting GO WEDDING!... Thankfully, vicar John moves his hand and so do I. There’s a moment’s pause. A grandfather clock in the corner ticks. Outside the window, sparrows flicker about on a bird table. A bus rattles by. The clock ticks... You know, says John, folding his arms and sliding back into his chair, The main thing is to accept each other’s faults, the idea of in sickness and health being a much wider concept than what it would seem. I look to the digestive biscuit. John continues. You see, marriage is a support network where you both have this shared concern, which is your love, that somethingness that reaches far beyond the physical, that divine glue that holds you both together. I stare harder at the digestive biscuit. Does that make sense? John says, and me and Grace both say Yes... I often crack a couple of little jokes during these things, John says, chuckling the words out, And they’re both from the cheeky quill of Lord Byron. I have no idea what the fuck he’s on about but I hear myself say Oh yeh?... Yes, chuckles John. The first is, All tragedies are finished by a death, but all comedies are ended by a marriage. John unfolds his arms and grabs his knees as he wheezes forward, his spine visible through his thin chequered shirt as he laughs like a cat coughing up a head-sized hairball. Grace leans forward a little and does that pretend laugh that always ends with a sung Ohhh dear. John looks up at me so I pretend I’ve just finished laughing. What the fuck is he on about?... And the other, he says slapping his knees with his palms, Is... marriage from love, is like vinegar from wine. He wheezes forward again, singing Ohhh Byron. I look at Grace who does the Ohhh dear thing again. I do that thing where I blow air down my nostrils like this is how I laugh. Ohhh Byron, sings John again, folding his arms and soft wheezing himself back into his chair. This bloke should have his own show... But of course, John says suddenly, releasing one of his folded arms to rub his forehead with his palm, Perhaps we shouldn’t take him too seriously. After all, the devilish Mr Byron did have an affair with his half-sister. I laugh for real now, a short pop of a laugh, and say Good man, before I realise what I’ve just said. John raises his curly eyebrows a little, then leans forward and slides the last digestive from the blue and white plate. He takes a bite, then sputters dryly Oh sorry, did either of you want this? Me and Grace both say no thanks and I watch John chew thoughtfully, before reaching for his cup, knocking back the last of his hour-old tea. He licks his lips. His curly eyebrows dip a little, making a slight V towards his nose. But seriously, he says in a serious voice, I think good old Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, God, the best maker of all marriages, who combines your hearts in one. And if you also consider what Matthew meant when he said Where your treasure is, there will be your heart, I think we’re getting to the crux of the matter... Does that make sense?... John looks to me, then Grace, then me then Grace again, each windscreen-wiper movement of his eyeballs from her to me and back again accompanied by a Hmm? Hmm? Grace says Yes, yes it does make sense, and reaches for my hand again. I nod, looking at the space where the digestive biscuit was. The grandfather clock ticks. It sounds like a zombie in clogs walking slow down a wooden staircase. John speaks again. Okay. Let’s get to the practical stuff. What music do you want at the service? Grace sits forward. We want to walk down the aisle to Stairway To Heaven, she says, smiling at me then John. Hmmm, says John, slow-drumming the arm of his chair with hairy fingers. I don’t think I know that one.
That night, I dream. And when I wake up I remember watching a film with Nannan about a ventriloquist who went mad, his dummy coming to life and speaking for itself. My dream is like the end of the film where the ventriloquist and the dummy are in the madhouse, all these mad devil-faces pressed against the iron bars of the cell door, laughing as the dummy gets up off his chair and walks towards the ventriloquist who screams. The dummy strangles him. I can’t remember in the dream if I was the ventriloquist or the dummy. I’m in a funny mood all day. I don’t say much. I don’t feel like it.