Union On Consecrated Grounds

by Denzel Scott

Terry and I faced each other wearing white custom linen suits. I had a fade, with a high top I twisted out for luscious, springy coils, and a tapered full beard accented with white baby’s breath. Terry sported a full shadow, his locks in a bun trimmed with white azaleas. We thought it would be a nice interplay between the masculine and feminine. In truth, I thought it was a fetching statement, and he was gracious enough to go along with it. He was gracious enough to go along with all of my madness.

I looked him deep in his brown eyes, made golden with the evening sun, then out at the crowd where I spied little details everywhere. Even the design of the wedding arch we stood beneath told a story—dried-out deer antlers and white chrysanthemum blossoms—our story of being poor black boys born and raised in Savannah, GA, friends from grade school that became more, finding strength and serenity in each other’s arms, taking our sorrows and joys to the altar of our making—him as steady as bone, me as charming as blossom.

I’d dreamt of my wedding, as unlikely as I thought it would be, since I was six, when I was a ring bearer in my own parent’s wedding service. I had known I was not like my father, brother, cousins, or uncles since I was four years old.

Such a lonely, secretive thing I was.

I looked at the faces surrounding us, especially those I thought would be hard and unyielding towards us forever. They were at our wedding, smiling for our happiness, enjoying every meticulous detail I put into place. How deliciously absurd this world was.

The theme was inversion. It was a black, gay wedding, and I’d had years to build up my fantasy. The chandelier was a custom copper sculpture that sat on the ground and held over one hundred slow burning candles, each flickering away in glass terraria, bejeweled with a bed of quartz crystals. The wedding cake was a chili-powder-infused chocolate croquembouche covered in jet-black candied violets. Our caterers served dinner picnic-style on long, low-sitting, white wicker tables. The menu consisted of a thick coconut and white truffle cauliflower soup, shiitake risotto, and my favorite: black-eyed pea fritters served with a scotch bonnet, blackberry-dipping sauce. The terrible Savannah heat didn’t like meat. Drinks consisted of virgin blueberry piña coladas for the children, and sorrel, heavy with Jamaican rum, topped with blueberry bitters for the adults. I couldn’t wait to gorge myself beside this lovely man. I couldn’t wait for the rest of my life with him either. So, I finally took a deep breath and started my vows.

“I never thought I would get married at a plantation. In fact, I never thought I’d get married at all. It wasn’t encouraged for my life; being a black, gay man was a contradiction to my mother and father, and being a married, black gay man was pure fantasy.

But here I am on this Sunday evening, standing before family, friends, and colleagues, saying my vows to another black man who, on occasion, when I purr incessantly in his ear, twists my hair with tea tree, jojoba, and shea oil. The wind, the rain, the living and the dead, allow me this opportunity, this impossible, this unprecedented chance. But this was not the case for my ancestors, who toiled on a plantation not far from this one.

Slave masters barred my ancestors from marriage, family, kinship, and community not because they thought them abominations but because they had to be convinced they were otherwise. Underneath the scattered oaks that fill Wormsloe Plantation are invisible black bodies, rooted in the moment of their expiration, just as the trees anchor themselves in this soil today.

The trees did not grow the strange fruit that once adorned their branches. The soil fixing them in place is blameless. The people that lynched them are dust now and the mountainous dust of their corpses, innocent. Even their descendants are unblemished by their atrocities. But because I am here, and you are here, on this consecrated soil, made holy by blood and suffering, free in body, free in mind, and free in spirit, I ask these shadows in attendance, please know we walk in a new world, of a new day.

Work is always required, but rest assured, beloveds, we, the living, are here because you, the dead did the work. May we never forget. May we change so that the world is changed for the better, and not the worse. May we never know the cruelty of denial again—you in your love, or me in mine. Amen.”

Terry wept as I finished—he didn’t even say his vows—and I wept too, though I’d practiced these words repeatedly. Our guests were silent, the wind and trees speaking in their place. Terry and I kissed, jumped the broom, danced the night away. We ate like hogs in the high grasses of the salt marsh, and I’m sure Wormsloe Plantation won’t see another wedding like that again any time soon.

Denzel Xavier Scott is a semi-closeted black queer writer who earned his BA in English from The University of Chicago and received his Writing MFA at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in his hometown of Savannah, GA. His prose and poetry appear in various literary magazines: Rattle, Empty Mirror, Spillway, decomP, both Euphony Journal and Blacklight Magazine of the University of Chicago, Linden Avenue, 3Elements Review, Cortland Review, Louisville Review, Random Sample Review, and HIV Here and Now, a project of Indolent Books, and many others. Denzel Scott is a past recipient of the University of Chicago’s prestigious Summer Arts Council Fellowship Grant. In September 2018, he became one of the winners of Writer Relief’s Peter K Hixson Memorial Prize.

 

Photography by: Jose Llamas