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Postcard From the Edge

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 PERSONAL ESSAYS


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I am standing in the middle of the Rainbow Bridge that crosses over Niagara Falls. There is an American flag to my right — naturally — and a Canadian flag to my left. The bridge makes a graceful leap — rainbow-like, I suppose — over the rushing torrents of the Niagara River. There are lots of tourists who want to be photographed with one leg in Canada and one in the U.S. They want their legs spread wide; they want to be ripped open by that hot, throbbing U.S.-Canadian border. Well, I should just speak for myself, I think.

    I’m here to plan my wedding, my big fat gay wedding, with my partner Alistair, here in the middle of the Rainbow Bridge. We’ll be married just two inches over onto the Canadian side, where gay people have rights. What place could be better to get married? The scene of the crime, Niagara Falls, all those millions of weddings and honeymoons over the decades! It’s the prime locus for unjust heterosexual marriage privilege: Niagara Falls on the Rainbow Bridge. Who knew they had made a homosexual bridge between Canada and the U.S.? It’s so culturally sensitive.

    When you’re at the Falls, you can’t help but imagine all the bad things that could happen. The Maid of the Mist might hit a rock and sink, sending yellow-slickered tourists plunging to their deaths. The plump white Observation Balloon over Goat Island might pop a panel and spill

Who
knew they made a homosexual bridge between Canada and the U.S.?

everyone into the American Falls, onto the rocks below. We can witness the meltdown of the heterosexual family unit: husbands push their wives over the falls, wives shove their husbands. Fed-up parents throw their children over the wall into the torrents below.

    Everywhere I look here, I see recently married straight couples walking in rented tuxes and wedding gowns. The straight couples promenade down the path, gracefully receiving smiles from all who pass. They look like shabby Balkan royalty. Alistair and I have already bought matching tuxes for our wedding — we maxed out all our credit cards on them. We put the tuxes on and take them out for a test drive, walking hand in hand along the Falls promenade. It’s weird how when we walk past the American tourists no one says anything nice to us. In fact, a weird woman from South Dakota who’s smoking two cigarettes at once actually spits at us! Where are all the other gay couples?

    Even though we are planning this wedding day, there is a huge clock hanging over our heads, ticking down to when we have to leave America. Since Alistair is from Australia and we can’t get married for a green card, we have to leave the fucking country. For a gay couple, the Rainbow Bridge is the perfect spot to really see how we are treated in the U.S. We can do the math here. Over to my right in America, lesbian and gay couples don’t have a single federal right respecting their relationship. Over to my left in Canada, they have rewritten hundreds of laws to include gay couples in the definition of “spouse,” and gay couples have complete equality of civil marriage rights. As a gay person, when you leave the U.S. and step into Canada, that’s when you enter the free world.

    I am balanced between the Maple Leaf Candy and the Kentucky Fried Chicken, feeling all existential and ripped in two. And as so often happens at moments like this, I start to hear bagpipes. Oh, God, it’s Alistair’s Scottish father come to stop our wedding. One of Alistair’s sisters must have tipped him off. He’s going to come up with all his drinking buddies from Glasgow to stop me from marrying his youngest son. He’s going to rush out onto the Rainbow Bridge, waving his highlander broad sword and shouting, “Ach, you dirty devil, you’ll not have me wee bairn Alistair Duncan McCartney.”

    But it’s not Alistair’s dad: it’s a Canadian bagpipe orchestra. About thirty people in kilts with bagpipes. It’s the Niagara Falls, Canada, Police Department Bagpipe Orchestra. They are being led by some guy in

The
Canadian cops look like sleek, sexy otters.

an eighteenth-century Town Crier costume. He steps onto the middle of the Rainbow Bridge, pulls out an elegant scroll and rings his bell. “Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!” he cries, as the bell clangs. “On this Victoria Day in honor of HRH Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of Canada and Australia, I welcome you to the Forty-Second Annual tug-of-war between the police of Niagara Falls, Canada and the police of Niagara Falls, America.” Three dozen buff Canadian cops march out onto the bridge dressed all in black, with neat berets. They look like sleek, sexy otters, and they’re carrying a huge rope over their shoulders, thick as an anaconda. The U.S. police department team arrives a moment later. They’re working a whole other look. Sort of a sky-blue-polyester-jumpsuit, too-many-doughnuts, changing-planes-at-Memphis-International-Airport kind of thing.

    At this point, 138 Boy Scouts from Troup 883 of Wexford,
Pennsylvania, suddenly surround me, and the crazy synchronicity of what is happening
becomes a bit too much. Let me do a checklist: I am standing here at Niagara
Falls, the historical heterosexual marriage destination, as I ponder gay marriage,
about to be tipped off the edge of the United States, forced to leave with Alistair
and feeling tugged in two, watching the U.S. and Canada have a tug-of-war on
the exact borderline between the nations on the Rainbow Bridge, surrounded by
the Wexford, PA Boy Scouts — yet another organization that only in America discriminates
against gay people. What comes next — Jesse Helms on a broomstick spelling “SURRENDER,
TIMOTHY!” in smoke?

    BANG! The game is on. The U.S. makes an immediate move and almost drags the Canadians over the line; but the Ontario cops dig their feet in, every Canadian sinew tensing, and slowly pull the U.S. team closer, closer, and finally over the line. Canada has won the first round. It’s going to be the best two out of three. It takes them a while to set up for the second match. The rope is straining so tight it looks like it’s going to snap and decapitate the sunburned head of the Troop 883 scoutmaster.

    I realize something scary about myself. I realize I want Canada to win this tug of war. But I don’t just want America to lose this little game. I want all our huge outstanding bills to be paid. Just a few little debts we owe. Like for 250 years of human slavery that created the nation’s wealth. Our huge overdue debt to the native people we took North America from. The fact that we are four percent of the world’s

America
slaps me and I say, "Thank you, Land of the Free."

population and use thirty-five percent of the world’s natural resources. For
the eighty-five countries we have invaded in the last century or so. I don’t
know about you, but I’m sick of our country’s racist, sexist, gun-loving, faggot-hating,
red-baiting, health-care-denying, sodomy-criminalizing, gas-guzzling, war-mongering,
carbon-dioxide-spewing, wealth-grasping shit! I realize I have become a daytime
TV cliché — I’m stuck in an abusive relationship with the U.S. America
slaps
me and I say “Thank you, Land of the Free.” The U.S. slugs me and I say, “I’ll
have two lumps, please.” She kicks me and my partner Alistair out of the country
and I say, “You’re too kind.”

    The U.S. is slowly pulled over the line and loses. The Canadians on the bridge roar as they win the best two out of three. The Americans do what Americans do when we lose: have an out-of-body experience, pretend it never happened, slink off and look for someone much weaker than us to beat up on. The bagpipes cry out as everyone marches back to their side of the border.

    I look at the departing, defeated U.S. police team. They march back to the U.S., which will not be my home much longer. I look to Canada, the civilized world beyond, England, our future home past the horizon. There on the Canadian side, I see a Planet Hollywood and a Hershey’s Kiss the size of the Goodyear Blimp draped over the facade of a fine old Canadian hotel. Alistair takes my hand; soon it will be our wedding. Surrounded by bagpipes, I turn and walk with him back over the Rainbow Bridge. With Alistair’s hand in mine, the drums and bagpipes swirling around us, and rain definitely falling on my parade, we walk slowly back to Canada.  

 

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Same-sex marriage
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©2004 Tim Miller and Nerve.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Tim Miller is a solo performer and the author of the books Shirts & Skin and Body Blows. He can be reached at his website
http://hometown.aol.com/millertale/timmiller.html.