Jessica and I met the second week of graduate school at Tulane University in New Orleans. We were crossing Canal Street on our way to class and I (lost in my head and) stepped into traffic. Jessica pulled me back. We were in several classes together the first semester but didn't fall in love until later that year. And, when we did, it seemed as though the cards were stacked against us: We're both women; I am six years her junior and was the teaching assistant for two of her classes; and by the time we (unwittingly) fell in love, it was only three months from my scheduled departure for the Peace Corps. In the end, no obstacle could stand in the way of the feelings we had for each other. Instead of leaving for the Dominican Republic, I moved to New York with Jessica to give our love a chance.
Initially, we weren't sure whether we wanted to get married in New York City since it is neither of our hometowns. We e-mailed venues in California and Florida to assess their willingness to host a same-sex wedding. Some never wrote us back. One venue in Florida responded with an e-mail that read, "Dear Mr. Dirkes and Ms. Duffy . . ." I suppose they thought that if they ignored the fact that we're both women, maybe one of us would stop being one. At the end of the day, we decided on Battery Gardens. Jessica loved that we could have our reception outside on the water; I found it to be truly elegant. Then we met the owner, Paul. He asked who the bride was and we answered, "We both are!" Paul broke out in a huge smile and said, "Me, I love the gays!" We were sold.
While one of our friends played "Buckets of Rain," by Bob Dylan, Jessica's family and friends lined up on her side of the room and my family and friends lined up on mine. Before us were two vases, each filled with flowers the colors of our respective dresses. As the music began, Jessica's mom and stepdad picked a flower from Jessica's vase, hugged me, and handed me the flower. My brother and his wife then picked one of the flowers from my vase, hugged Jessica, and handed her the flower. This continued until we were each holding a bouquet with flowers the color of the other's dress.
I made a CD for the D.J. with songs I wanted to be played at the reception, including a traditional Irish song because my sister and I were planning to do a jig, but the CD didn't work when we attempted to play it. The D.J. played something else she had in her collection, but it sounded more like a polka than anything Irish.
There were so many. But if I had to pick one, I would say that it was the ceremony. For Jessica and me, our journey of loving each other and coming to terms with what that love has meant to the rest of the world has not always been easy. Though we now live in a very progressive community, our relationship hasn't always been accepted. But for this one evening, Jessica and I felt an overwhelming amount of support and love. It was as though each and every one of our guests were saying, "I've got your back." I can close my eyes today and feel that love. I am so grateful for that. We both are.