Nuptials & Palpitations in Madrid
How To Be The Best Man At A Gay Wedding
Accept an invitation to the marriage of Jimmy Shaw and Sergio Sanchez, to be held in Madrid on October 17.
Think back to the year they met, 2005, the very year that same sex marriage was legalized in Spain.
Recall that heart-pumping love-at-first-sight moment: Sergio standing on the balcony of his apartment as Jimmy is en route to a rehearsal for the Spanish premiere of Dream Man.
Arrive in Madrid the day before the wedding, just in time to help run errands with Jimmy: pick up the grooms' Hugo Boss wedding suits at the tailor's, help Jimmy try on at least ten white shirts before finding the right one, buy hot underpants for Sergio.
Celebrate the grooms' final night as single muchachos with a few dozen of the wedding guests, gathered from all over the planet, on a rooftop restaurant with a glistening view of the city.
Exchange breathless phone calls with Jimmy on the morning of the wedding, including one reminding me to bring Sergio's tweezers to the hotel where they are staying (in separate rooms, of course).
Take a cab to the hotel, tweezers in tow.
Burst into Jimmy's room where he stands, in his underpants, crying.
Be a diligent best man and iron "Bridezilla's" white shirt.
Walk Jimmy to the Plaza Mayor—careful not to run into Sergio on the way—along with Darren, also a groomsman, and Andrew, his twentysomething comrade who had flown in from Scotland hours earlier.
Pin the boutonnière/corsage on Jimmy's jacket.
Understand virtually every word delivered openly gay councilman Pedro Zerolo (even though it's spoken entirely in Spanish) because the impassioned cadences are so clearly emotional, political, and spiritually.
Hold Andrew's hand.
Wonder—had he been alive to see you marry a man—if your father would, as Sergio's does, lovingly caress your face in his hands, as the ceremony concludes.
Miss your daughter.
Remember the support from your mother when you married Philip in 1992, weeks before he died of AIDS, in a bittersweet ceremony that was symbolic but not legal.
Observe the sea of people, unrelated to the newlyweds, who have assembled in the plaza to offer their congratulations by applauding and shouting wildly, looking up at the dazzlingly handsome couple, standing on the balcony of the Casa de la Panaderia.
Hop on a chartered bus for a two-hour ride to Palacio de Hoyuelos, a Sixteenth Century Renaissance palace in Provincia de Segovia, where the spiritual ceremony will take place, and where a couple dozen of us will luxuriate for the entire weekend.
Perform the evening's first piece of layman theatre, after the minister's stirring invocation, incorporating the uber romantic words of Romeo and Juliet.
Dine on lamb, as melt-in-your mouth delicious as sherbet.
Toast—to the husbands!
Toast—to the family!
Toast—to the friends!
Observe—with a tinge of voyeurism—as the couple take to the dance floor, sensually entwined in each other's sinewy bodies.
Party like it's Studio 54, circa 1977.
Make love—really make love, not merely have sex—to a young man in the early hours of the morning after the curtain came down on the post-nuptial festivities.
Laugh hysterically when he says, "You aren't going to have a heart attack—are you, old man?"
Sleep until 4:00 PM or so on Saturday.
Make artistic comparisons at ever turn: Cezanne-like landscapes, Almovodarian trysts, Shakespearean balconies, Cowardesque repartee.
Create a game, utilizing the grandiose staircase of the castle (approximately 30 feet in length and 10 feet wide) in which each player descends the stairs portraying a famous personage, fictional or not.
Stumble down the stairs like Elizabeth Taylor playing Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
Laugh until it hurts.
Think that you might have a heart attack, old man.
Debrief with Jimmy on the train ride from Segovia to Madrid, determined not to forget a single juicy detail of the prior 48 hours.
Return to Los Angeles, jolted by the very notion that something as noxious as Proposition 8, depriving people who love each other of the human right to be married, could be passed.
The following piece opened the spiritual ceremony at the Palacio de Hoyuelos in Segovia:
Jimmy and I are walking up the hill of the street where he lived, Calle Marques de Santa Ana, on our way to a rehearsal for Dream Man, the play we were about to open. Jimmy is gesticulating dramatically, telling me that his neighborhood, La Movida, was part of the spiritual and sexual revolution after Franco died. He points heavenward to a balcony. Sergio is standing on said balcony, leaning his cheek upon his hand, smiling.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might touch that cheek!
By whose direction found'st thou out this place?
By Love, that first did prompt me to inquire.
He lent me council, and I lent him eyes.
I am no pilot; yet, wert he as far
As that vast shore washed with the farthest sea,
I should adventure for such merchandise.
Jimmy and I flee because we have to get to rehearsal but he is mumbling to himself, as if talking to the handsome man on the balcony:
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flow'r when next we meet.
Honey, I say, Why don't you go back and actually speak to him?
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightening, which doth cease to be
Okay, I say, so let's get to rehearsal.
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks
A few days later, we see Sergio again, standing on his balcony. Jimmy does a bit of a pantomime, suggesting that they should exchange phone numbers.
"Bajo Yo", Sergio says, which means, "I'm coming right down".
O, speak again, bright angel, for thou art
As glorious to this day, being o'er my head,
As is a winged messenger of heaven
Unto the white-upturned wond'ring eyes
Of mortals that fall back to gaze on him
When he bestrides the lazy puffing clouds
And sails upon the bosom of the air.
They meet, face to face. I keep my distance. Although I can't speak Spanish, I translate by what I perceive through the language of their bodies.
My ears have yet not drunk a hundred words
Of they tongue's uttering, yet I know the sound
Jimmy seems to be saying.
I take thee at thy word.
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized.
Romeo—I mean, Sergio—kisses Jimmy on both cheeks, grazing the soft skin of his mouth.
What shall I swear by?
That kiss seems to say.
Do not swear at all; Jimmy answers.
Or if thou wilt, swear by thy gracious self
Which is the god of my idolatry
And I'll believe thee.
Invite him to the play, I say in a sotto voce whisper, like an offstage prompter in the wings, keeping my distance from the lovers' scene.
A few hours later, Jimmy receives a text message:
"I have seen you for so long in the neighborhood, and have always wanted to meet you. I am so looking forward to getting to know you."
Jimmy immediately texts back:
If that thy bent of love be honorable,
Thy purpose marriage, send me word tomorrow,
By one that I'll procure to come to thee,
Where and what time thou wilt perform the rite;
And all my fortunes at thy foot I'll lay
And follow thee my lord throughout the world.
Thankfully—since Jimmy's phone was out of credit—Sergio doesn't receive that text. A few days later, Jimmy sends another text that goes unanswered.
O, will thou leave me so unsatisfied?
Jimmy asks his imaginary Romeo.
What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?
I ask Jimmy.
The exchange of his love's faithful vow for mine
Bondage is hoarse and may not speak aloud
Else would I tear the cave where Echo lies
And make her airy tongue more hoarse than
With repetition of "My Sergio!"
They would not meet again until after I returned to America. And when they did, Sergio and Jimmy began their destined love affair.
My bounty is as boundless as the sea
Sergio would eventually tell his future husband
My love as deep; the more I give to thee
The more I have, for both are infinite.
And undoubtedly Jimmy thought to himself:
O blessed, blessed night! I am afeard,
Being in night, all is but a dream
Too flattering-sweet to be substantial
But it is not a dream, for three years later, they are wed!