Horse kiss

Excerpt from the chapter "The Horses Are Going to Kiss Me."

We didn’t do much planning for our wedding. Dave and I had been throwing rockin’ parties together for six years; we knew how it should be done. And, although we were acting more like tame grownups, we’d always be DIY punks at the core.

Many of our friends suffered through stressful weddings. We decided not to plan out of obligation. Invitations would only go out to the people we absolutely wanted there, and we wouldn’t invite anyone who would cause stress or create drama.

Many of our friends acquired debt hosting their weddings. We’d do it cheap, keep it simple.

We were unceremonious about telling our friends and family. A few days after the bathroom chat, when Dave and I confessed our desire to get married, my dad and his girlfriend came to Quintessence. After I took their dinner order, I said something like: “Hey! Big news! Dave and I are gonna get married.”

Two days before the wedding, I went rock climbing. After finishing a difficult 200-foot climb, my partner and I sat on a ledge to admire the view. One strap of my loose fitting tank top slid from my shoulder.

“Dude! You have a serious tan! It looks like you’re wearing a white shirt where your strap should be,” my partner said.

“I guess you’re right. I’ve been out climbing a lot this summer. And I always wear this shirt,” I said as I looked down to examine my skin. “Oh, well.”

My mind flashed two days forward to my wedding. I pictured myself standing beside Dave dressed in the lacy, white gown I’d picked to wear.

“Oh shit!” I said. “My wedding dress is strapless!”

I pulled the other strap down so both shoulders were exposed.

“Maybe if I keep the straps off for the rest of the day, the tan lines will fade?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh, man,” my shocked partner replied, “you’re wearing a dress?!

The day before our wedding, I drove Dave and myself—adventure-girl tan lines and all—to the 18th century farm where we’d host the love fest. It was late September, and sunny. Only a few leaves on the trees had changed color.

Almost everyone we invited was coming to the big party at the farm in the woods. Most of our guests were staying for the whole weekend.

We unloaded Dave’s gear from my over-packed Honda. We set up a sound system under the huge tent erected in the field and filled with tables, chairs, and a dance floor. Together we hoisted two half-kegs of beer from the trunk and onto the lawn.

The rooms in the main house, barns, and farmhouse were ready to receive our guests. I ran around putting nametags on the doors, assigning bedrooms according to proximity to other guests and personal tastes. Our older, mellower friends were in the main house. The rock climbers were on airbeds in the huge wide-open loft in one of the barns. The hard partying, sure-to-be-up-all-night crew would crash, dormitory style, in a few bedrooms on one side of the farmhouse.

In the afternoon, our friends rolled in. Glenn, the farm’s proprietor, saddled his horses for our guests to ride the trails through the surrounding woods. Some friends took off on the bikes they brought to explore the backcountry roads. Others started day-drinking on the porch.

Dana, our chef friend, bought a bunch of fresh ingredients from the farm stands she passed driving up from New York City. Impromptu, she recruited a team to back her up as she prepared a meal for the fifty of us. We ate in the converted tack room just before midnight.

Saturday was more of the same. Glenn served breakfast. The late risers ate Dana’s leftovers. Our guests ran around the grounds partying or adventuring.

In the afternoon, Dave and I exchanged vows. A good friend officiated over a traditional civil ceremony. That fall day was warm and clear. Everything was perfect; everyone was happy.

I noticed Dave was missing within ten minutes after we were married.

“Have you seen Dave?” I asked as I wandered from guest to guest.

After a while, I saw Dave walking arm and arm with Susanne. They were heading back to the party from the horse barn. Susanne’s unwieldy fancy camera hung from her neck; she’d fallen into the unofficial role of wedding photographer.

Dave answered my curious gaze as soon as I was within earshot, “We had to go visit the horses!”

“Yup, they were waiting for Davey,” Susanne said. “They wanted to give him a kiss.”

With my groom back in grabbing distance, I wrapped my arms around Dave. He was always on a mission and often wandered away. I was determined to hang onto Dave in those moments: he was mine, my husband.

Dave pulled Susanne into our embrace.

“Show her!” he urged.

I rested my head on Dave’s shoulder to look at Susanne’s digital camera screen.

Inside the frame, Dave stood in front of the horses’ pen. Two enormous horses towered over Dave, looking in opposite directions away from him.

“When I shot this one Dave said, ‘No, wait, the horses are about to kiss me,’” Susanne said.

She let the camera rest around her neck and looked at me dramatically, with tears in her eyes.

I wrinkled my brow, confused.

Susanne held the camera up and advanced to the next frame. In it, the horses’ heads framed either side of Dave’s face. Their noses were resting on his cheeks. A window-shaped sunbeam shone on Dave’s face and the horses’ noses. All three were staring into the camera. Dave’s smile was huge, illuminated and glowing.

Susanne’s eyes watered as she showed me the pictures because sometimes just being around Dave was overwhelming. He connected with people and animals deeply and intensely.

Oh yeah: Dave wasn’t just mine. He belonged to Susanne, and to the horses. Dave belonged to us all; he was too good to keep to myself. And sometimes, he just had to go on a mission for a horse kiss.