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Borrowed time: some reflections on an uncommonly beautiful event

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This weekend I went to see one of my best friends and the best man at my wedding get married in Chicago.

Aside from sharing the same first name and a surname of dubious Irish pedigree, Dan and I attended preschool, grade school and high school together. Our families and friends are as intertwined as the double helix of DNA.

In the tradition of all truly great friendships, our relationship was based largely on my either exploiting or annoying Dan, whether it be bumming rides home from him or cursing loudly at his parents’ computer screen while editing the short films we used to make.

And, I am ashamed to admit, on more than one occasion, in a paroxysm of insecurity, fear, jealousy and a whole other catalogue of the basest and darkest impulses I possess, I would tease him about being gay.

At the time, the concept of being homosexual was simultaneously as near and as foreign to us as it could be. In the close and woefully, at times, closed-minded atmosphere of a Catholic high school in a small rust-belt town, it was more an insult than an orientation. I didn’t know Dan was gay, but, like any decent adolescent with a keen nose for difference, I suspected it.

Several years later, after we had both grown into a more mature worldview, Dan told me he was gay.

In his typically good-natured way, he even used a particularly egregious instance of my ignorance to bring up the subject, recasting it as a positive, revelatory episode.

The fact that he has remained a close friend of mine, despite my hurtful transgressions, is a far greater testament to his character than anything I could write here.

I can’t imagine, even now, what Dan was going through in those years and how my comments must have hurt him. But I do know one thing — I’ve never seen my friend happier than I did Saturday night when he married his partner, Blake.

From the venue to the vows to the speeches to the dancing, it was a beautiful ceremony.

And if you have your doubts about the validity of same-sex marriage, I wish you could listen to the words of commitment these two men spoke to each other and the song that Blake, a classically trained opera singer, sang to Dan. You would find love in those proceedings, I am sure.

A law authorizing same-sex marriages in Illinois went into effect June 1.

The wedding was small, compared with some others I have attended.

Only about 100 people were invited, I’m told. In his speech, Dan’s father made the point that Blake and Dan did not have to do this — did not have to have a ceremony, did not have to publicly declare their love, did not have to spend the money or put themselves through the stress of wedding planning to share their commitment, but they wanted to.

“And that’s good,” he said.

At a certain point in the night, I stood off the dance floor and had a conversation with another close friend.

We talked about how things were changing, about how we had both been there at the beginning of Dan and Blake’s courtship and about how they now had their own life, had experiences about which we knew nothing and would never understand.

And we talked about how, as we get older and pair off and have children, our social circles will get smaller — time off from work will be spent with family and friends in close proximity, not with far-flung high school confidantes.

That, I’m afraid, largely will prove to be true, based on what I have observed of the world.

Indeed, the ceremony and reception went quickly, time refusing to be cowed by even the most sincere outpouring of love and affection. The official event concluded, we were whisked into the night by a limousine before the night ended in one of those abrupt cosmic shutdowns that occur before the system can be overloaded.

Thus ended, the event and the evening gave way to their only logical conclusion, to the next thing: to work, to play, to another fit of memory.

Reflecting on it now, I feel immensely privileged to have been there and, in defiance of the usual order, I look forward to both exploiting and annoying Blake and Dan for many years to come.

Daniel Flatley is a staff writer covering politics for the Watertown Daily Times. He writes a column once a week for the local section of the paper. He can be reached at dflatley@wdt.net.

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