It was about 2:15 as we stepped into our front yard – just enough time to see the wedding processional lurch slowly through the rutted street toward the church/outpatient department of the hospital. By our estimations we were right on time. We headed single file in the same direction, taking the pedestrian path that flanks the nursing school. Fancy was dressed in a bright pink linen outfit gifted her by one of her colleagues (a sight which Wry-ly, our other room-mate, decided made her look like a pink cancer patient) and I, in one of the ill fitting outfits I had made.

Even with the head start, the wedding convoy didn’t beat us. I mean technically it beat us to the church, but the wedding was far from starting. The bridesmaids, and somewhere the bride, sat huddled together in the backs of the cars. All around them, folks looked on, children giggled, babies stared, and every now and then – someone would dance.

An hour later and the procession began in earnest. The crowd parted and Bette Midler’s, From a Distance, began playing. Fancy and I exchanged bewildered glances as the song looped six times as the five bridesmaids and one maid of honor walked so slowly down the aisle their movement was almost imperceptible down the L shaped path.

It seemed a strange song choice – all the stranger on constant repeat- but the more I listened to the words the more I was struck by its appropriateness for a healing Liberia. “From a distance you look like my friend, even though we are at war. From a distance I just cannot comprehend what all this fighting is for…” there is more, about no weapons, no disease, no hunger, all the things Liberians are fighting now. And call it PMS or over sensitivity, but I was touched…less so as the song played over and over again, skipping in the same place like some musical version of the movie Groundhog’s day.

When the bride emerged, everyone stood up, which of course obstructed my view of anything but a bobbing veil and the backs of hundreds of heads. Perched at the back of the church on the very last pew, I busied myself by taking photographs of people focused elsewhere. As she inched toward the alter the heat closed in and sweat poured down leaving me feeling like I did the previous day in my corset-fitting orange shirt.

I escaped to the side, a seat with no chance of a view of the wedding but with a good view of the side action. A little girl, dress over her shoulders and panties around her ankles, peeing in the grass beside the wall-less church, a flurry of vendors selling everything from plantain chips to clear baggies of cold water – condensation clinging to their sides, and a grandmother lunging at a little boy and swatting at him – his timing just good enough to prevent a fall from the concrete ramp he was sitting on.

With so much to watch I almost didn’t notice the music had changed, I inched behind the wall of people toward the front of the church and strained to see over the myriad of heads. What I could glimpse in scrambled cable channel style, was women doing traditional dance at the front of the church – bending low, shaking hips, hands gesturing rhythmically. Occasionally, a man would join in, mirroring a woman’s movements, adding his own. The music sounded percussive, but not drum-like, but I never caught sight of the instruments. And just like that, the song ended and the rest of the ceremony continued: prayer, scriptures, sermon on true love, vows, and the saluting of the bride.

By the time the newlyweds were ready to sign their papers, we were ready to go. Having heard the reception was $10 a person – a heady fee by our PC standards – we headed home. Sitting on our front steps, I watched the wedding guests march to the dining hall about an hour later, and then listened to the music roll past us on cool winds and distant thunder.

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