SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

In Perpetuity, I Shall Remain the Question My Parents Guessed Wrong on Jeopardy by Julie Marie Wade

Bellingham, Washington; February 24, 2014

 

There is snow on the road, which some might consider an omen. Not us. Not after two years of Florida swelter, of longing to be colder, of liking at least a suggestion of winter. Ice on the windowsills. Frost on the grass. A shiver sharp as good luck.

We wear black dresses. Not so fancy we couldn’t wear them again—though we haven’t. We carry bright flowers from the Farmer’s Market, arranged by your sister into bouquets we won’t toss until the next day—and then, only over our shoulders, only into the Bay.

How strange it was to write where our parents were born in order to procure the license—to have to print their names on that form at all. A narrative altered but never erased. A lineage notarized into law by one county clerk or another. No true new beginnings. And what if we lied or didn’t know or refused to remember—would we be denied our right to wed, again?

But here is the sun recusing itself from the day, and here the upper room of Le Chat Noir, flooded with errant light. Here are eleven friends assembled—one officiating, one reading a poem, another signing as witness to the speaking of vows, the sharing of rings, and two little girls playing pretend-wedding afterwards while no one rushes in to say what our mothers always said—girls can’t marry other girls! They said this often, with words and without them, the complex machinery of their speech and silence, the fields they plowed deep in us, so the dream of this day was impossibly furrowed. Our fathers, who denied such dreams could exist.

We do not smash cake into each other’s mouths or toss garters to a flock of eager groomsmen. There are no groomsmen, and no bridesmaids either, which means no one is singled out for being single or dubbed a “matron” because she has already signed on a dotted line, given herself to another.

I am not thinking of my parents’ house two hours south of here, or of their other house at the shore, the one I have never seen. I am not thinking of the weathervane on their roof that announces THE WADES live here, or of the elephantine hedges that swell along their borders, in order to mask the fence that masks the yard. The contradiction in terms: declaring themselves, then hiding. I am not even thinking of the difference between secrecy and privacy, which was once explained to me as the difference between what we carry as shame and what we keep for ourselves as an act of self-respect.

I was not ashamed, and yet I cannot believe it was self-respect that compelled me once, from the post office in this very town, to make six photocopies of my thesis—that first collection of lesbian love poems—and then to address six manila envelopes with such meticulous script to the residences of their most cherished friends. “Your mother had to give up her clubs because of you!” my father chided through the phone. “You shamed her in front of everyone!” And though it was my right to claim my love, I regret I ever once used love to punish someone else, even if it was my mother, who could not love the woman I had become.

No, I am not thinking of them as we cross the threshold into our room at The Chrysalis, a grand hotel for which they were breaking ground just as we moved away. But if I were, I would send a small blessing to my parents watching Jeopardy! in one of their homes, eating popcorn and drinking Shasta (diet, of course), my mother impassioned as she calls out, “What is Burma, Alex?” and “What is the Prime Meridian?”

I am not thinking of them, though, or how even if they knew I had just married my true love on their side of the country, neither would have found the—what would you call it, Alex?—the wherewithal?—to come.


Julie Marie Wade is the author of eight collections of prose and poetry, most recently the lyric essay collection Catechism: A Love Story (Noctuary Press, 2016) and SIX: Poems (Red Hen Press, 2016), selected by C.D. Wright as the recipient of the 2014 AROHO/To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize. A recipient of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir and grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus. "In Perpetuity, I Shall Remain The Question My Parents Guess Wrong on Jeopardy!" belongs to her forthcoming collection, Same-Sexy Marriage, to be published in 2018 by A Midsummer Night's Press.

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