My friend is marrying a man against violence. He founded a club called “Men Against Violence” in college, when he was not yet sleeping with my friend.
“It’s not that impressive to be against violence,” I said, “if you would never be violent anyway.”
My friend was impressed. She promoted him to boyfriend and they moved to Washington DC to lobby for the religion that celebrates the holidays of all other religions. I promised to take the train, the bus, but never settled on a mode of transportation. It’s hard to get to Washington when you don’t want to go there.
Now they are back—law school, divinity school, nothing violent. My friend carries the Bible with her everywhere. She used it to hold our table at lunch because nobody would steal the Bible. I got falafel on the Bible. She paid for lunch. My friend promised to keep me posted, to send me more photographs of them getting engaged.
When my friend’s fiancé founded “Men Against Violence,” a lesbian at our college didn’t like it. A room full of men talking. What were they talking about? There was no way for us to know. I said they talked about porn. I said they were scared about violence in porn. This was in college, when we were all more scared about violence in porn. But porn won.
The lesbian attended the men’s meeting and screamed at them. She was the kind of lesbian who could shame a room full of men into disbanding their club according to the same principles upon which it was founded. Then the lesbian dated another friend of mine, a bisexual, and was violent toward her. It shed new light on the lesbian’s fury. After college, my bisexual friend dated men again, only men, men who wouldn’t hurt anyone, men who would have been against violence if they had gone to our college. Nobody was good-looking. Maybe being bad-looking made them want to be violent, and that’s why they had formed a club not to be. This explanation still made sense when I attended the wedding of my friend and the man who had founded “Men Against Violence.”
At the wedding, I made a toast. It was a job assigned to me because I was “good with words.” I wondered if I would have to let my friend minister my wedding because she was good with God. My toast was not very good. I did not mention the club my friend’s new husband had founded in college, though the club was all I wanted to say about him. I said my friend was marrying someone with a cool beard.
The beard was just a beard. I had seen cooler ones. I had seen cooler ones at this wedding, but most of the guys with beards had girlfriends, assigned to sit next to them in case the water glasses got mixed up.
When had my friend made so many new friends? Were they all ministers? I met Methodists, Episcopalians, Unitarians. The girls were pretty and seemed concerned about race relations. The men were quieter, chewing behind their beards, as though they had always been heading in the direction of wearing a tie at this table. Couples danced whether or not they were going to make it through the year. They were going to make it through the night, was the message, so back off. They didn’t know that I had backed off years ago, when all this was still for the taking.
“Martin Luther King espoused nonviolent resistance,” said a Presbyterian in a tube dress.
“He wouldn’t have been violent anyway,” I sort of whispered.
The bride and groom sat by themselves at a two-person desk, which I later learned was called the “Sweethearts’ Table.” They were in charge of what we valued tonight—responsibly farmed shrimp, token gay ministers, gift packets of seeds, nonviolent porn. They thanked the wedding community, though temporary, for taking planes to form this community. They handed a mic back and forth, and seemed moved.
Somehow, the two of them moved back to the town where we had gone to college. They must have liked it there. My friend became a minister to the students at the college, but it’s not called a minister when it’s students. It’s called chaplain. Violence might mean something other than violence, too, at this college. I always thought violence meant a punch in the face, a knife to the throat, but the students at this college meant anytime you felt violated. That could be anytime.
Right now I am violating my friend and her husband by telling their story. I am violating the college and all its clubs: Undergrads Against Plastic, Marcus Garvey House, Former Mormons. Someone at the college could point out that a girl at the college was once a victim of actual murder. There is a tree with her name at the base, on a plaque. The tree blocks the view from a hill where we used to sit. The tree violates the view. I didn’t know the girl, or miss her, because she went to the college after we went, after my friend’s husband’s club was formed and disbanded, but before my friend and her husband moved back. I didn’t know the guy who killed her, but I know violence has to mean what it says, and it shuts everybody up when it says it.