Durango, Colorado

July 22, 2006

By evening, the rain clears. The wedding is to be held in a pavilion of stone and hewn logs on a ridge overlooking the Animas Valley, the peaks of the San Juans blue in the distance, the guests’ motorcycles parked out of sight in the lot below. The bride is tremulous and smiling, lovely in a gauzy white dress; the groom is soft faced and young, his leather biker vest adorned with frayed patches, one identifying him as clean and sober, another bearing the date he committed to that course.

This couple met through their commitment to reform, undertaken separately, though at the same time—so I’m told by the friends who invited me, insisting that I’d be welcome at the wedding of strangers. I do feel welcome. The members of the clean and sober biker club, in their regalia—battered vests and jeans, chains, tattoos, bandannas—give me, when introduced, the same comradely hugs they give each other. This wedding seems an affirmation of possibility and new beginnings. Most of the men, decades older than the groom, carry stories of hard luck and backsliding in their faces. The women seem livelier, more various; they wear flamboyant colors, tight sweaters, halter tops. One has a tattooed eagle with wings outstretched across her cleavage. (There are children too—each of the girls in pink, and none of the boys dressed up, though looking well scrubbed.)

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