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Lilac Wedding

By David Gardiner

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Monica my love,

I ainít stopped thinking about you once since you was over here. And since your last letter when you said you would be willing to be my wife you have made me the happiest man on this whole block Ė shit, in the whole state of California. I ainít slept for about three days since I got that letter and I canít stop thinking about us and our wedding and our life together and how I would like it to be. I am as proud as if I'd been a soldier and got the top medal they give, or a boxer whoíd just whipped the world champion or something. If youíd asked me a week ago Iíd said there was no way no beautiful white English lady would ever want to have nothing to do with me and I still canít hardly believe that youíve said yes.

I know I ainít made much of a shape of my life but I want you to know that I ainít no good for nothing bum because that ainít so and that ainít me. I can look after you real good and give you a decent life you wonít be ashamed of. I got skills and I got abilities. I never told you but I am one shit hot auto mechanic. When we lived down in Georgia my brother had an auto repair business and he trained me up and I can strip down a transmission and rebuild it in one day and every oil seal will be seated exactly right and every nut tightened to the right torque and you wonít know itís any different from the day they drove it out the factory. I ainít fixed autos for a while now, circumstances being like they are, but I can soon get into the way of it again and I can make top dollars in any auto shop in this country. My brotherís got the Pontiac dealership for his town now and he can give me a job or get me in someplace else with one phone call. You donít need to worry about nothing.

Folks always said my brother was the smart one of the family but he ainít no smarter than me. Only difference was he was brung up by Momís second husband Leroy, not by Horace our real Dad. Horace got his self killed in a knife fight in a bar in Topico, Georgia when I was nine years old. My brother Sammy was only a baby, he never really knew our Dad. Fact is every bit of guidance and example my Dad ever give me was wrong and dumb and every thing my Mom ever told me was right and sensible. But like most young kids I listened to my Dad and not my Mom and I wanted to be just like him. I never appreciated my Mom and how smart and good she was back then but I can see that now.

Fact is, you and my Mom are very like each other. I donít mean race and colour and education and all that because that kind of thing donít matter for shit, I mean you two is both good people through and through and not dumb and easily led like me and my Dad. Leroy was a good man too but he didnít have long after he married my Mom. He got shot in cross-fire one night when Sammyís gas station got raided. We used to say that violence followed our family and it would get us all in the end but thatís stupid talk. We werenít the most lucky but we werenít the most unlucky either. Everything thatís happened to me I brung on myself, I know that.

When I told my Mom about you she was so happy she cried Ė real tears, I ainít kidding. She says you are family now and no matter what happens she is going to look out for you, and youíre going to be the daughter that she always wanted but never had. You should always listen to her and take good account of what she says. If I had done that I guess my life would have turned out a lot different and a lot better but then I might never have met you so maybe everything was meant to happen just the way it did. Thereís two people in the world who love me now, you and my Mom, ainít that something?

I want to talk to you about the kind of wedding you would like because there ainít much time left. When my Mom married Leroy she wore a kind of purple cotton dress that she said was lilac coloured. My Mom never looked so pretty and happy as she did on that day in that dress. When I close my eyes I can still see her standing there outside the Baptist church in Topico wearing that dress with all her family and friends around her. So I wanted to ask you - would you mind getting married in a lilac cotton dress, with the skirt all gathered up into pleats like my Mom wore? It donít really matter, itís just that I want to be able to see it all when I close my eyes. Me in a black tuxedo and a white shirt with a big bow tie and a blue flower in my button hole and Sammy and the guys who work for him and all those smiling people around us wishing us well. I would like to get married down in Topico cause we donít have any real friends or family in California. And after the wedding I want to take you to the same place Sammy went with his girl, where there ainít many people but just big long empty beaches and palm trees and a tropical lagoon with bright coloured coral fish and dolphins and things that you can see when you swim and wear one of them face-masks. I think it was called Aruba or something Ė Sammy will remember.

Do you think you would like a big family? A lot of our friends had six or eight kids but my Mom only ever had the two. I donít mind a small family but I donít think all boys is a good idea because I think they lead each other on and go off the rails too easy. I would like one girl and one boy Ė maybe another kid too, I donít know.

You maybe donít think I would make much of a dad, but that ainít so. All I got to do in any situation is ask myself what would Horace have done and then do the exact opposite. And if that didnít work I could ask my Mom because she ainít never given me bad advice about anything yet. And I love kids, and I understand what makes them go off the rails some times and what really matters to them and what doesnít. And I wouldnít ever lay a hand on a kid of ours no matter what. If you do that all youíre teaching them is that you solve your problems with your fists and maybe later with your gun, and I know exactly where that leads. You and me would make great parents, and then when we get old they can be around and look after us and take us out on trips to beautiful places, and we can take our grandchildren to Disneyland and Universal Studios and maybe even back to Aruba to see the dolphins.

I know I donít deserve anybody even near as good as you but I can change real easy when I have a mind to and a reason, and Iíve got that now. I pick things up real fast and I reckon I could be a college-trained engineer if I set my mind to it. I donít want to be wild no more, that kind of life is shit. I only wish we could have met sooner when things was easier for me but no matter, what counts is Iíve met you now and youíve said that you love me and want to marry me and thatís the most wonderful thing that has ever happened in my life or thatís ever going to.

Iím sorry for going on and on like this but I just like to imagine things and I would sure like to hear from you about that lilac dress. Thatís the colour I would like you to wear Ė I think you know when I mean. Could you please write back just once more as quick as you can and let me know how you would feel about being married in that lilac dress. You donít need to answer the other stuff, itís all just nonsense anyway, but please let me know about the dress.

I will just end by saying that there is nothing in this world that I would rather do than bring up a family with you and for us to grow old together and for me to make you as proud of me as I am of you. You have give me so much to live for that I just canít find words to thank you enough.

With all my love and my deepest respect now and for ever,

Nelson Horace Cole
Death Row
San Quentin