by Kate Jones
(A homage to Joan Didion’s 1965 essay)
Everyone knows there is no time in Las Vegas. No night and no day. No past. No future. Clocks are non-existent. Neither is there any logical sense of where one is.
He is standing on a highway, in the middle of this vast, hostile desert, looking at an eighty-foot sign flashing “Stardust”. A name that further conjures the sense that this place has no connection to real life. Vegas seems to him to exist only in this moment, through his eyes.
She waits in their cheap hotel room, discounted by a friend of a friend’s uncle. The Chantilly lace and tapered sleeves of her dress fall becomingly around her eighteen-year-old frame, a borrowed item from her older sister, who also loaned her the five dollars for the marriage license.
She thinks, admiring her reflection in the chipped full-length mirror, of having a wedding in her home town, like her sister, her nieces throwing flower petals as she emerges down the aisle on her father’s sturdy arm.
He knows she doesn’t love him, he knows that. But this is no time for love. It is far greater than love. It is made up of big words like honour, and family, and war.
He meets her at the door as they wait in line. They don’t touch, they don’t talk. Yet, neither is being coerced. They like one another well enough; maybe even love will grow, in time.
She wonders, as she waits, of how she will relay these infinitesimal details of her wedding day to her child. Will she learn to allow a dusting of love to scatter over the memory of this production line of newlyweds? Perhaps, in time, she can even convince her own memory.
He thinks, as he stands, of his brother. Almost his twin, so close in age. Close enough that his child will easily be taken for his own. He tells himself that he is doing the right thing for his brother’s memory, whose bones now line the Mekong River.
She knows he doesn’t love her, not really. At least not more than a sister. She knows he loved his brother, and that marrying before midnight might help him avoid the draft. She knows that his family cannot afford to lose another son to the war, and that her child needs a father.
She knows all this, and so she stands, in a queue of expectant brides- and bridegrooms-to-be, waiting her turn. Patiently waiting, breathing in the dry air of the Mojave, underneath the ludicrously blinking lights of the strip.
Kate Jones is a freelance writer, yoga lover and coffee drinker from the north of England. Her work has appeared in various online and print journals including Spelk, The Nottingham Review, Feminartsy and The Real Story. Links to her work at writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com.