Particles in flight

I never understood the wedding thing. The urge to gather everyone you know, self-apply the pressure of trying to make the perfect day, investing so much in it that you’re almost doomed to either anti-climax or a pre-game breakdown. The need to spend ten thousand dollars (twenty… thirty…) that you don’t have on this one day. The need to sink twelve hours and several rounds of tears into choosing invitations that only a month later no-one else will quite remember. The right napkins. The appropriate corsage. The illusion that these things are somehow central to your happiness. The gambling of your months of work on the chance of sky-borne precipitation. The thing I learned from my 21st birthday – that if it’s your day, you’re hardly likely to enjoy it, or to notice it, passing by in a blur of worrying about what needs to be done next. Someone dropped a slab on the downstairs tiles. Foam is frothing up like repressed dreams. We’re running out of crockery. The toilet needs attention. Your stupidest friend is trying to wrestle people in October mud. These people that you care about will get you for three minutes at a time.

Instead of a wedding, I would just get all my friends together and torch a car. In the dry-dust country, somewhere coughing rocks out of the ground, grey scrub in the distance and rusted-out hulks dumped into old mineshafts. Or an urban desert, some grainy back-block junkyard or chunk of aqueduct, chainlink fences portioning the air into filthy baklava. Somewhere where space yawned above us like a promise or a fever dream. We would drink raw whiskey of the sort we never touch, play rock and roll on a silver plastic ’80s ghetto blaster, eight double-D batteries, nudge the cracked volume lever up its slide. Propped against broken couches or piles of scrap, watching the smoke smear greasy like a thumbprint across the panes of sky, the orange light all flat behind the trails as the day died out. And we would watch the particles mingling, knowing that the talk of people doing so is melodrama, knowing that we’re not on some creepy merger into one, but just two people agreeing to take things on together, knowing that this makes the deal a thousand times more admirable. Knowing surer than a cigarette or sunlight on your neck that one day we’ll come apart when one or other of us dies, or love does. That grief inherent, a contract with inevitable sadness written in. Smoke rising in switchbacks, particles in flight. We all die in fire, so we may as well live in flames.




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48 Responses to Particles in flight

  1. Pip Pie says:

    So… Who’s the lucky girl?

  2. Sav Rose says:


  3. Jimmy says:

    that was beautiful…

  4. Thoraiya says:

    That is pretty writing. Especially the part about the contract with inevitable sadness written in. BUT the wedding is about the woman having her world transformed into a fairy-tale by the power of your love for just a few hours out of a lifetime of feeling ordinary. So you better check with her about the whole car-torching plan, eh? Unless you are marrying a bloke and he would also prefer relaxing around a burning wreck.

    • jabba says:

      Way to perpetuate social stereotypes… I guess we shouldn’t allow gay marriage, then? Or do you plan on including some child-snatching Jews in there, just to complete the fairytale theme?

      • stacy says:

        I think the social stereotype is actually being perpetuated by the thousands of women who continue to get married in the fashion Thoraiya stated. I would even suggest that the legalisation of gay marriage would further perpetuate that stereotype further. You can’t possibly believe that being gay completely negates the desire for a ‘fairy tale’ wedding. The state of New York alone anticipates millions of dollars to be added to the economy now that they have legalised gay marriage and I don’t think that will be spent solely on the purchase of cars to burn.

    • Gen says:

      Geoff, that was lovely.
      Thoraiya, you’re an idiot.
      No, a wedding is not about a woman getting a fairytale, and it’s not biologically inherent that all women want to feel like a princess for one day “of a lifetime of feeling ordinary.” Hell, I’m a woman who will (probably, MUM STOP PRESSURING ME I DON’T KNOW IF MARRIAGE IS FOR ME) marry a woman — come on, change the laws before I feel like settling down, people — and a) there is no way I’m ever going to have my dad walk me down the aisle in a puffy white meringue dress, and b) I doubt I’d want to marry anyone who would yearn for it either. I think the socialisation of women to want their one “perfect day” or “the most important day of her life” is ridiculous. There are plenty of days which objectively have more impact on your life than the day you sign a piece of paper and exchange rings with someone you’ve most likely been living with for the past year or two anyway. How about the day you graduate from university? Or the day you have a child? The day you achieve a goal you’ve been working towards for the last ten years?

      Plus, fairytales generally aren’t all that desirable as life plans go: sleeping beauty is about a woman who is basically date-raped (the original is slightly more… explicit than the Disney version) and then marries the guy; beauty and the beast is about a woman who is captured and develops stockholm syndrome for an abusive captor; cinderella is about how even if you work your ass off, the only way you can improve your standing in life is if a prince falls in love with you, which he’ll only do if you’re incredibly beautiful, and the list goes on.
      What a wedding should be about is a lot more like what Geoff has written, where two people make a commitment to each other, and take on all that entails.

      If you think a wedding is welcome respite from a lifetime of feeling ordinary, I have to say I think the best option is not to fix that for one day that costs you thousands of dollars, it’s not to live such an ordinary life.

      • EJ says:

        Gen, excellent words. If I was into chicks and wanted to get married, I’d suggest we meet up.

        I’ve been asked. It’s not happened. I don’t want to look like a marshmallow or spend stupid amounts of money on something that will cause me stress and get me nowhere. In the right relationship anyone can feel special (almost) every day. Why not just have a relaxed party to announce your commitment and then get on with being committed and having a good time together.

  5. A bunch of people coming together and torching a car?

    Dunno, reckon I’d want something a bit different from a regular Saturday night out in Frankston.

  6. Ainslie says:

    If I weren’t married, I would want to marry you.

  7. Tallulah says:

    I too have an issue with weddings. I’m not against them, I’d never try to persuade people to not get married.

    A year ago my parents were happily married, and then it just crumbled and now they ignore each other. After 35 years. My point is this: marriage is a vow to someone that you will love them until the day you die.

    How can you possibly promise someone that?

  8. blu-k says:

    That’s what a wedding is Geoff. Do it your way, torch a car, f*ck the napkins.

  9. Ezo says:

    Don’t breath those particles in dood. Burning vinyl’ll kill you.

  10. mctell2 says:

    Particles in flight….your writing indeed reminds me of why I subscribed to your blog. If I be so bold as to award the grade of A. Your took a idea, a thought, a concept, a vision of love, temporal rewarding an bittersweet , although provoking ,conclusion and given to this reader the “cloud” of consummated love. Amen.

    • ‘If I be so bold as to award the grade of A’.

      This comment’s so cute… ‘If I be so bold as to award the grade of A.Your took a idea, a thought…’

      Wow Geoff, your piece was so beautifully written but I’m not convinced about the car-torching thing. It’s a bit paganistic. Would there be any kind of chanting?

      Also, which car would you use? If your own, would you then buy another one?

      How would you get home afterwards? There’s not much public transport in the dry-dust country. I guess one of your friends could give you a lift home.

      One has to consider these logistical issues when one organises a commitment ceremony.

  11. Marc says:

    While there is of course truth and beauty in what you say, and while we are indeed still paying ours off, I’d do it again tomorrow in a heartbeat…

    I agree that you have to write your own fairy-tales every day. If that involves you torching a car, burn away my friend… I’ll bring along some high-octane unleaded… 😉

  12. best before lunch says:

    Come a long way since your youth, Geoff? No doubt car-torching rituals don’t fit in with the renaissance man’s small carbon footprint future.

  13. kate says:

    Marry me. We’ll burn something.

  14. Sean says:

    Hmmm, yeah, torching a car has some nice ambiguous symbolism that might be appropriate. Perhaps too much. Although the way mine’s being behaving lately, it’s extremely tempting to just do that and forget about getting married again altogether. Can’t help agreeing with Thoraiya though, having been through something like that. And it was great…for the day. But all fairytales end, though not before turning into deep, dark archetypal immersions in which our own demons either devour us or our dearly beloved or both. Maybe that’s when we should be torching things. Like the family house. And the car. Maybe even the dog. Whatever it takes to slay the demons.

  15. Jim says:

    If your goning to do it, don’t make it a pressure job – since when do you have to go with the socital expectation of spending 20 grand etc – make it fun meaningful ceremony + party of your own chossing with people of your own choosing – if its mutually agreed (thats where the together bit comes in) to bask in the glow of torched cars – then do it ! We did a bush weding, dinner for 120 (incl 30 kids) under a tarp (big one) sitting on the ground with home made wine and acoustic music baying at the full moon – worked for us – still happily together in our 20th year- But if you want to blow 20 grand – do it on the honeymoon – thats the bit where you get to be just the two of ya (doesn’t happen too much ever after) – in allowed lushness of your own choosing – make sure you do that bit – it keeps you going through your ‘free radical’ particle periods!!

  16. katinspace says:

    Different strokes for different folks…. your opinion is, as always, interesting and beautifully written.

  17. John Jacobs says:

    I did the fairytale thing once, not for me, not even for her. Hell she didn’t really want it either, her parents did. They paid for it and it was like being in a movie called “The Wedding” where I played a guy obliged to get married. It really was a bizarre out-of-body experience. So it turns out that vows are really just recommendations and subject to amendment, such amendments which may or may not be passed on to the other party, and naturally, it ended.

    The second time around it was a gathering of friends at a lovely place, with wine and more wine, gifts (mostly wine) and a small non-religious ceremony where neither of us promised to obey the other till death. It meant more because it was our idea of a wedding, not someone else’s. I’m sure I’ll love this particular woman forever and ever.

  18. 6 years ago, my love and I rocked up to the registry office; I wore black, though it wasn’t symbolic. Tagging along were the 2 witnesses the state required. Together we laughed at inappropriate moments, ensuring that the celebrant didn’t know what to make of us. Our witnesses took photos – there are quite a few immortalised butt-grabs.
    Afterwards, my brother took us to a gay bar where the delighted patrons and bar staff shouted us way too many tequila shots and Jagerbombs.

    We didn’t have a ‘wedding’, but we have a helluva marriage 🙂

  19. Kay Walker says:

    Frothy meringue dresses on princesses were never part of my horizon and were quite a minority thing for the hippy generation. Many of my female friends and acquaintances from that era either never [formally] married or were divided into the group who married young while already pregnant or the rest who married late after living together for yonks. The group of girls/women who succeeded us were a little more keen on marriage but did the white church thing on the cheap with receptions in church halls. Then came the rising tide of celebrity worshippers who started to have ever more frothy weddings, costing their parents as much as the Greek & Italian girls had always done! Especially the big private school girls seem to be trying to out-glam each other with pearl-encrusted bodices and Tiffany jewellery (no other brand acceptable). I see my hippy friends gasping at what their children insist on having for their “big day”, with most telling the kids to pay for it themselves! What’s it all about and where will it end? After the GFC/GFC 2, 3 etc, won’t we get to the point where there aren’t any more parents who can even BORROW the money for such saccharine insanity and perhaps settle back to quiet companionship? Here’s hoping.

  20. Tim says:


    see, this strategy still engenders panic.

    • Francis Bloom says:

      It doesn’t engender panic, because that version of marriage (or commitment ceremony or whatever) was only intended for the writer. It was his version.

      The main point of the article was that people should stop being lazy and settling for the stock standard marriage ceremony; that is, unless you have thought about it in depth, and that is really what you want. To, implicitly, say that the author was saying everyone should burn a car is to miss the point of the article.

      He is saying choose something that suits you, something that doesn’t engender unnecessary panic. Whatever that may be.

    • EJ says:

      Tim, don’t panic. I’m sure you can find some friendly neighbourhood wayward youths to give you the low down.

  21. Knackers says:

    So, you want to get married at a B&S ball? Awesome.

    Nice, pass the bundy.

  22. GeeOh says:

    As a woman who is currently planning her own wedding to a longtime partner and being pressured to have the fairy tail ‘White Wedding’ by some of the fam, and a ‘Sign the Docs @ the Registry” by the other half, ima say screw them.
    I’m gonna spend a few thousand dollars on food and alcohol for me, my partner and friends & fam to enjoy ourselves for a day, and if people dont like it, they dont have to come.
    ….there might be flaming cars….. 😉

    • teepee says:

      Damn straight. My marriage is between my wife and me. Our wedding was
      a celebration with our friends and family, a way of shouting it from
      the rooftops.

      We didn’t literally shout it from the rooftops (or from on top of a
      burning car) because we wanted that bit to be easier to fit everyone
      we wanted in one place with a low chance of people falling off or
      dropping glasses of wine over the edge. Hence booked out cafe, bar
      tab. We like music. Hence DJ. We got all dressed up (my wife in white
      with sparkles) cos we like the way it looked. So everyone else got
      dressed up too. It cost a bit – not heaps, but more than some, I’m
      sure. Would I do it again? Absofuckinglutely. It was the best party
      I’ve been to in my life, and I doubt it’s going to lose the crown.

      It’s a choice. It was our choice to get married as we did. But I’m not
      forcing this choice on anyone. And if one if my friends wants to dress
      as a mermaid and eat a ceremonial kelpburger with their picsean other
      I’ll be there holding the oyster sauce and doing my best to make it
      THEIR best party ever. But anyone who tells me we shouldn’t have done
      it our way will be politely told to get the fuck off our lawn.

    • Francis Bloom says:

      People like you piss me off. You assume that to dislike the idea of marriage means that someone had a traumatic experience that diverted them from the normal developmental path. Even Freud would have disagreed with you here (at those moments when he did follow the logic of his theories to their valid conclusions). You turn the dislike of marriage from a personal choice into a pathology. Bullshit I say, bullshit.

      My partner and I don’t want to get married because there is nothing in that system (beyond financial and legal issues) that would benefit us or prove our love for each other more. I know that I love my partner, and I know that she loves me; we know that we love each other at the moment, and we don’t pretend that we love each other eternally. But that acceptance of the contingencies and vicissitudes of life does not diminish our devotion in the slightest; if anything, it makes us work harder. In my individual circumstances (I don’t claim this for anyone else), marriage would be redundant as an expression of love. We both express it every day in a million ways. It would also, with its idealistic promises of eternal love, not sit with our world views.

      I am happy for the people who can find something of value in marriage; it goes without saying that marriage is valuable for some. I just hope that people who do choose marriage do so because they have consciously thought about it and decided that it was the right choice for them–I stress choice.

      So go back to practicing your glib comments in front of the mirror.

  23. Mark says:

    My recipe for a successful wedding:

    1 bride
    1 groom
    1 assorted group of family and friends
    1 short stroll to a local beach (no, we didn’t notify anyone or book anything)
    1 marriage celebrant

    We then did another short stroll to a hotel where we proceeded to take over the beer garden.

    Sum total of expenses – $500 (mostly for a nice dress for the bride, celebrant fees and a few dollars over the bar)

    Eight years on (actually coming up to nine now) we’re still very happy and very much in love. Money might buy you a fancy wedding but it doesn’t mean you will be happy.

  24. geoff lemon says:

    There are some really excellent comments and stories being posted up here… lovely to see responses to what was essentially a prose poem. Thanks, all.

  25. Joel says:

    So, I went to this wedding on the weekend, and it was really weird, right? It was in an aqueduct for starters, and thee were a whole lot of old broken couches and some shit 80s music. The vows were bellowed at each other across a car they lit on fire. Yeah. Weird. It was kind of romantic, but also kind of wanky. I give them three months.

  26. Elle says:

    So speaking as a lass who is going to be hitched in a month’s time, I have to say… well, yeah, you got a point. Here’s what I know is in store for me on

    -rogue sister in law will rock up in thrift store dress and bounce, bra-less, around the dance floor
    -rogue brother in law will bring joints (that’s not an admonishment, I think I’ll be grateful)
    -me quoting Rick James in the wedding speech will go down like a lead balloon
    -my mother helping me into a dress will feel both a) creepy and b) unnecessary- she hasn’t had to do that since I was four years old
    -the cake will look stellar, but will taste like something purchased at Coles, because they always do
    -the excessively bogan uncle may very well walk out when the celebrant says “x and y believe that marriage should be open to all couples, regardless of gender”

    Would I go through the planning and expenditure and drama again? Weeeellll…. maybe not. I love him to bits but at the end of the day, a wedding is a glorified piss-up. Complete with tulle.

  27. Kathryn Harrison says:

    27 years ago we decided to marry because come what may we felt we would be together. Planned for one month (no time for tears or tantrums) and spent $2000 all up including the dress (I got out of a body cast of plaster from a back op a week before the wedding so no fittings). The focus was not on the one day and we had a good time. We had 100 people over 5 hours which is 3 mins pp. Best thing I will always remember….when my sister asked if her sons (page boys) could wear their new school shoes with their morning suits I didn’t realise they were white runners. Still brings a smile. We’ve made efforts to keep ourselves together and the rewards continue. Yes we will part but my life will always be richer and when I count my blessings I’ll count him twice.

  28. Santa says:

    You know my policy on torching shit….

  29. En el momento en que la relación de un buen amigo se va por el fuego, me acordé de tu prosa poética ‘Particles in Flight’, y el día de mi boda. Yo me casé en un vestido paraguayo que me regaló mi hermano. Estuvimos en el patio de la casa en que me crié, las flores que me decoraban el pelo eran las orquídeas del pequeño jardín de mi abuelita. Tomamos el vino del viñal de mis tíos, una banda espontánea compuesta por amigos y parientes nos tocaba música inventada y adaptada, comimos tortillas fritas y una pavlova, una mezcla tan ecléctica como el grupo que se había juntado para celebrar. Nos dimos arena blanca y negra que caracteriza las playas de los lados extremos del charco que nos separa siempre de una familia. Mejor que un anillo que, tanto como el amor que simboliza, muy fácilmente se puede perder. Mejor aun que el humo que vos ofreciste, porque las cenizas contaminan el aire y borran las estrellas, mientras la arena se va y se viene, cambia con los años y adapta su forma para absorber las fuerzas que la baten. Como siempre, grax por ofrecer tus pensamientos.

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