Two Brides

Please note that the following contains graphic details that will be disturbing for you to read. If you are in a good mood and don’t want that mood to change, don’t read this story.

It is while wandering the streets of old town Sorrento that I stumble upon a wedding.

The groom is waiting on the steps of the church, greeting each guest as they arrive: a kiss on each cheek – first right; then left.

Two flower girls pose for the photographer, giggling and fidgeting between shots.

The mother of the groom stands by with a proud smile on her face.

Men, women and families arrive in their finest, the women with designer silk wraps and 5-inch heels; the men in their beautifully tailored suits. Little girls are bedecked in Sunday best dresses, some with matching hats and purses. The boys, in short pants, are looking less confident in their attire. One young boy clings to his father’s leg, not at all sure this is where he wants to be.

It appears the bride is late. The groom paces, looking down the street every few moments. His mother gives him a reassuring smile as if to say, “All will be well.”

Tourists wander by. Some, like me, sit on a near-by stone wall to await the arrival of the bride. A man (North American I’m guessing) walks by sweating and shirtless. His jello-like gut has likely not seen the inside of a gym in many years. His ‘attire’ would be an affront to just about any situation in Italy; in this setting it seems particularly vulgar and disrespectful.

The bride arrives in a cloud of white meringue. The crowd outside erupts in applause. A tourist from France asks her partner to take some photos. “Non, il n’est pas approprié,” he responds. “It is not appropriate.” Regardless, I sneak a few surreptitious shots, feeling guilty for doing so.

The bride enters the church on the arm of an older man, presumably her father. The last thing we hear before the big doors close is the loud applause from the wedding guests inside.

***

I linger in the street, not yet ready to move on. I am enjoying the residual effects of ‘wedding glow’.

I look up the cobblestoned road and notice a tiny woman pushing a stroller. A boy of about five is walking beside her. She moves slowly with a limp.

Then I see her face.

I have looked at photos of Muslim women whose faces have been mutilated because of some apparent shame they have brought on their husband’s good name. But not even those images prepared me for seeing this full metal jacket of brutality and cruelty. Her nose has been crudely cut off, leaving two scarred holes.

I think of the bride inside the church, full of hope for her future with the man she is marrying.

What about this Muslim woman? What went through her head on her own wedding day? Did she dare to dream of a life of happiness?

Just then, the church doors open, and the wedding crowd pours out, followed by the newly married couple. There is much laughter and hugging.

I half heartedly snap a photo, but then leave.

The day has soured for me.

 

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