There’s this guy. In his 30s. He sells books at the flea market really early in the morning. He’s getting married to this Audrey Tautou-type positive-energy French girl who was one of his housemates in college before he dropped out. They want to get married in the U.S. so that their college friends can come. He just moved into a two-room garden apartment in Queens. She’s moving in after the wedding. They are always broke. He just got 55 boxes of porno magazines real cheap. Boxes line the walls of the apartment, reducing the room to a box within boxes. Magazines, once in sorting piles, are now scattered across the floor after being cherry-picked for the flea. He is embarrassed by how they color his booth. He blushes when customers pick them up and sells too cheap just to make them go away. Tomorrow he will be a husband.
His soon-to-be French sister-in-law, a single mom with two young kids, arrives at the messy apartment. After hugs and kisses, the sisters laugh as they pick up the scattered porn mags littering the floor, the back porch, even the yard. The soon-to-be-wed couple are part-time actors and dabble in filmmaking. Joining the sisters at the apartment is another of their college housemates, now a cinematographer they often work with. He starts shooting everything. Early on, you see how cute the “movie” will be: Handheld camera, lots of out-of-focus smiles, a feeling of bonhomie with muffled dialogue that comes across as familiar in two languages, although never too clever or forwarding a “plot.” There is a shot along the side of the street where the bride-to-be and one of the kids pick up a turtle with one of the ubiquitous porn mags. There is a shaky shot of the turtle walking over porn-star boobs. A blurry child’s hand cuts across the frame to pet the creature. All voices are awkwardly recorded at close proximity with other awkward ambient noises, like the rustle of the microphone and traffic. It works because 20-something French female flesh is cute, porn-star flesh on magazines is cute, small children are cute, turtles are cute, while their wrinkly dark flesh is a nice contrast to the surrounding pink and smooth flesh; above all, love in chaos is cute. Shaky, close camera shots denote intimacy, and are cute.
Some loud American couples, friends from college, start to show up at the house. All the characters in the house have a small amount of camera time. They plan to have impromptu bachelor and bachelorette parties. The groom-to-be comes home from the flea market. Everyone except the groom-to-be is excited about having parties. The guys drag the groom-to-be out to a bar, then another bar, then into a cab to Manhattan, then to another bar where loose women with salon tans spontaneously lap-dance the groom-to-be.
The bride-to-be and women friends stay in with the children for their own party. Mostly, they talk about how silly their spouses are, but they love them. They drink a lot of rosé. Shots of the single mother show her casually stroking her children’s hair, hugging, reacting to the comments of the other women through gestures and looks to her children who are falling asleep with their arms around her on either side of her hips. One of the women is drinking Southern Comfort and is louder than anyone else. She explains that she was hanging out with her niece in Texarkana and forgot that she liked Southern Comfort in high school.
Out at the bars, the groom-to-be is increasingly tired and explains he needs to go home because his day started so early at the flea market. The men accept this and party on without really missing him. After a vigorous search through various pockets for the right keys, the groom opens his door and surveys the cluttered room as if mapping out his future. He walks through to the bedroom. The women, now unconscious, are sprawled about like piles of discarded dolls. He fondles the walls of the bathroom until he finds the light switch and pees. When he comes out, he can’t remember where the switch is and accidentally turns on the room light, waking up the women. Apologies ensue. While turning off the light, he accidentally turns on an overhead fan. He falls asleep in a reclining chair in the other room. Later, when the rest of the guys come home, they are loud. The dolls are rustled awake and rub their eyes. There is not enough space for everyone to sleep, and everyone has to pee at the same time. The groom-to-be absently offers his chair and passes out in the back yard.
In the morning, he wakes up to the smell of bacon and coffee, his face in the dewy grass. His soon-to-be bride and nephew survey the rim of the yard, picking up turtles with a porno magazine. The shot works because there are polemics, such as couple intimacy versus pornography, such as family and friends coming together despite how they might erode the couple’s one-on-one intimacy, and how one can love larger than one’s original capabilities. The conclusion is that life is sweet and meant to be savored.
Joe Maynard moved to Brooklyn from Nashville in the 1980s to attend art school. He published the zines Beet and Pink Pages in the 1990s, contributed to Andrei Codrescu's Exquisite Corpse, Nerve.com, Juggs, Ben Is Dead, X-Ray and Public Illumination Magazine. He has collaborated with the literary group The Unbearables since the early 1990s. He's been additionally anthologized in several of Susie Bright's Best American Erotica anthologies, and Brandon Stosuy's Up Is Up But So Is Down: New York's Downtown Literary Scene, 1974-1992.