Life Story: A Cool Love in the Dry, Dry Desert
On a hot day in Clark County Nevada, just north of the magnificent lights blinking and glowing about the Las Vegas Strip, beyond the pseudo sensuality of the peep shows and the gambling, inside a quiet corner office in the buildings of bureaucracy, I, Courtney Clark married Christopher Kendrick.
Our elopement was as much a surprise to us as anyone. That morning we had prayed together in an attempt to assuage Christopher's doubts about our fresh engagement. In my heart I felt a definite divine push to go south as far as the desert and get married on the spot, that very day. October, our proposed wedding date, was too far away and we needed each other now. I think the Holy Ghost tipped Christopher off to this plan, because he said it felt peaceful, but not all together perfect. Anyway, he was the one who secured our hotel room and prepared plans for a ceremony.
Provo to Las Vegas takes six hours. Six hours in the car with Christopher and his worries, his chills, his seriousness. I kept the car driving down I-15 chasing the tumbleweeds out into the pinks and purples beyond. I wasn't going to turn around no matter his doubts, if anything we could at least spend a night in Vegas betting on a better future.
My faith in us was incredibly solid. We had worked hard for this, asked for it, believed in it. We had kept ourselves chaste and that was no small feat. This was a blessed union, I was sure. I was never more sure.
Along the way we were found out by my family who whooped and hollered in the background of the telephone waves. I was about to marry a third-generational eloper, his grandparents and parents had chosen Ely, Nevada to start their pretty lives in secret. We knew they'd understand.
When we arrived at the hotel Christopher's nerves were overloaded. He sat on the bed in his suit sobbing and shaking. I could feel his overwhelming desire to do the right thing, marry the right girl and have the right life--the happiest life. He was scared to do wrong.
So I left him in the room to think, went down stairs feeling jumpy and serene all at once. I walked the galleries in my wedding dress eating peanut M&Ms and smiling back and the crowds smiling at me. I smelled the tulips in the garden, thousands of them, a smell I have loved since studying in London, and again, while serving as a missionary in a little French town just off the shore from Quebec City. I sat on the couches for awhile listening to a nearby jazz singer ignored by everyone else. Then, after a half hour or so I called up to our room to ask Christopher if we were getting married, or what.
"I'm coming down to the lobby," he told me. I waited for him underneath the sea of Chuhily glasswork, swirling iridescence hanging from the ceiling reaching down into my reality. When he arrived, suit pressed and ready, he whispered in my ear the same sentiments I had heard before, "It's my choice, and I choose you."
Christopher wanted what I had, an unmistakable sign from beyond this earth that I was supposed to marry this person. My vision of Christopher as my husband--the fueling of my patience--came easily to me. But God wanted Christopher to own his choice in a way that heaven was almost hands off. In this way, I respected Christopher's resolution even more because he was stepping into the dark hall of blind faith.
July in Las Vegas is so rigid in high temperatures when a body goes from a cool building to the dry, heated air it's almost a shock. And the effects on the body begins immediately. By the time the valet pulled up in our black car we were a mess, silly, crumpled, melting and drunk on our own brave blood.
Up the strip we ventured, stopping from chapel to chapel looking for a space for our small wedding, finally settling on the solemness of a government ceremony. We didn't need Elvis as much as we needed a certificate and a few words to make it real. The County Clerk's office was just the place.
After pronouncing us man and wife, our officiator sent us out of her office with courage, "This one is going to last for eternity," she assured us. We walked out of the drab, cold building into the scorching city. We turned north to cross the street, holding hands and laughing wildly. I looked up to see the sky the brightest I have ever witnessed--like electric white puff clouds dipped into a sweltering blue soup. In that moment I knew I had never done anything so right in my entire history. I'd never known the goodness of God so sweetly. Never had I loved anyone as much as I loved my new husband. And I never, ever knew life could be so tremendously euphoric, impossibly triumphant, mysteriously pleasing than the day I married Christopher Erin Kendrick on a hot Nevada day in July.
For a more detailed account of our elopement, you can read Chup's version here.
Photo by Haley Warner.