IF AT THE WEDDING (AT THE ZOO)
If we hadn’t stopped on our way to the ceremony to look at the pen of black pigs, we wouldn’t have seen the very large pig lunge at the smaller one, to force him away from the feeding trough.
If we hadn’t come early and seated ourselves on a bench in the sunlight under the pavilion roof to await the start of the ceremony, we wouldn’t have seen the runaway pony trot past trailing its rope.
If we hadn’t heard the sudden murmur of our neighbors on the benches in the cold sunlight under the pavilion before the start of the ceremony, we wouldn’t have looked up to see the bride coming in her bright green dress from a distance walking briskly with long strides hand in hand with her mother.
If we hadn’t craned our necks to look around the people standing in front of us, prepared to officiate and take part in the ceremony, we wouldn’t have seen how the bride came, her head bowed, her mother’s head bowed, her mother talking seriously to her, the two of them never looking up, as though there were no one else present, toward the pavilion, the guests, the poised cameras, the ceremony, and her future husband who stood waiting for her.
If we hadn’t looked away from the ceremony in which the couple getting married stood before their officiating Buddhist friend while their other assembled friends and family chanted Indian and other chants, we wouldn’t have seen the Hasidic and Asian families walk past the pavilion gazing curiously at us on their way to and from the Corn Maze.
If we hadn’t walked across the room in which the reception was beginning, past the two accordionists, man and woman, to look out the back windows at the wedding party being photographed in the cold October sunlight late in the day to the sound of klezmer music, we wouldn’t have seen the two families of pheasants run along the crest of the pumpkin field toward the shelter of the woods.
If we hadn’t walked across the reception room to stand next to strangers at the back windows, we wouldn’t have seen the wedding party being photographed with their faces toward the setting sun, holding each other in the cold, laughing and stumbling as they changed positions and poses between shots, with accordion music behind us in our background so that the scene we were watching was suddenly like the end of a happy Italian movie.
If we hadn’t returned to look out the back windows later during the reception, after the speeches in the far corner of the room and after the dinner sitting close to people we knew but across from strangers, we wouldn’t have seen the brown cow raise her nose and toss her head, standing under a tree, and chew her cud looking up at the sky.
If we hadn’t left the reception hall for a moment after dark, before coming back in to the light and music and dancing, we wouldn’t have seen the black round shapes in the branches of the trees which were the chickens roosting.
—Previously appeared with The Paris Review