I met Elise at a BSANE (Brazos Society for Alternatives to Nuclear Energy) meeting in college, Texas A&M University. I fell in love with Elise when she invited me to a BSANE rally to stop the opening of a Brown & Root power plant in Granbury, Texas.
It is our first political action together, and we decide to use aliases to hide our identities from the FBI and the media. I go as Frodo and Elise as Gidget. After listening to news of other rallies and a Chautauqua about clean power, the group dances around the fire and sings, chants, or yells like wild natives. Bonding ritual or rain dance? We climb into our sleeping bags and the rain starts around 1:00 A.M. Elise and I string a tarp in the trees above our site, but with the wind, it’s too late and little shelter. We cuddle together in her sleeping bag¬ to stay warm; mine is under a water trail.
“This sucks. Why the hell are we here?” I ask.
Calm, Elise looks at me, and smiles. “We are doing it for the future and safety of all human beings and to preserve nature’s beauty. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live underground in a concrete bunker or in a terrarium for any part of my life. I don’t want my grandchildren to either.” She says, and after a pause, begins to hum an old B. J. Thomas’ song.
She hugs me tight, and I sigh, relax my head on her shoulder. After a few moments I giggle; I can here it rise up in the distance like a tidal wave.
“Cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complainin’.
Because I’m free, nothin’s worryin’ me.
It won’t be long till happiness steps up to greet me
Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head.”
The rain stops around 4:30 A.M. and sitting up with our backs against each other, the bag wrapped around us, we sleep for a couple of hours. We watch the sunrise exile the twilight to a new day, a beautiful blue North Texas morning sky.
After a communal breakfast of apples, bananas, oranges, milk, and granola, activity around the camp sparks as we approach departure. People are talking in hush tones as they pack their belongings. One sojourner is topless; her white breasts, pink nipples are an instant drop-jaw distraction to anyone passing and several lieutenants argue and attempt to convince her that although her act is bold and courageous, she is a big interference with today’s no-nuke statement.
We load into borrowed church buses, pickup trucks, station wagons, and even a VW mini-bus. Our Lt’s are shaking everyone’s hands, and answering any last questions, as a chorus of “This land is our land…”can be heard across the caravan.
“Go over the fence quickly. The State Troopers will help you down, and take you to a bus for processing at the county seat,” she says. “Don’t fight the officers. They are not your enemy. Don’t curse or abuse them in any way.” She finishes, “they’re just doing a job. It’s not personal.”
She hands out last minute instructions to the drivers, climbs into the back of the lead pickup, and our convoy is off. Sitting along side of us, she clears her throat and joins in on a Pete Seeger song.
“Well, I got a hammer, And I got a bell,
And I got a song to sing, all over this land.
It’s the hammer of justice; it’s the bell of freedom,
It’s the song about love between my brothers and my sisters,
All – over this land.”
The troopers meet us halfway with lights ablaze and sirens shriek. They enter the Comanche Peak Nuclear reserve and park next to several school buses. It’s ironic that icons of the common good, public education will enjoin and deliver its next passengers to a judge. Three ladders straddle the concertina wire at the top of a 10-foot fence, and two troopers stand at the business end of each. Our leaders take up positions on our side of the fence.
An impromptu escape, I am getting away; am I going to be free? I dust the gravel off of my elbow as I run. I am almost to the north gate of the bridge, and look over the rail to judge the distance. Several ropes hang from the rail down to the anchor supports on the north end. The guards do not see me, and Agents of the Truth do not pursue. Strange? Benzie? If I had known him sooner, he could have been my best man.
The small Texas limestone church is transcendent, radiant at sunset from a stained glass western wall behind its alter and indirect twilight through the stained glass windows along the pews. They depict the passion play, the life of Jesus Christ. Yellow chrysanthemums, red roses, baby’s breath, and palm leaves arc between the inside backrest of each pew. An ivory candle on each lights the path. We are not members, but as kind-of-believers, a donation goes a long way in a westward, bootstrap town. A night of tequila and lurid visions of fertility leaves me pale, shaky, but not deterred. I wipe the sting from my eyes and chew up another breath mint to hide the worm’s, no dragon’s residue from bachelor night.
Cello, violin, and piano play Vivaldi’s Spring; Elise enters on her little brother’s arm. Her father an Air Force reconnaissance pilot died in Vietnam.
Elise is celestial. She is 5’ 2”, brown/blonde hair, 36-26-36. Her eyes are aqua blue lagoons of a southern summer afternoon sky on the shores of cumulus clouds and patience. Her skin is pale olive, and she smells of morning dew.
Till death do we part to meet again in eternity; from this moment, our sum is greater than each. Every ceremony has its dynamics. I stumble with the vowels and almost drop the ring. I am sweating like a hot summer lawn sprinkler, but it doesn’t cool. The pastor saves the moment with a prompt and a touch to my shoulder.
Elise’s wedding lips are soft spring rain on a warm tin roof, they lull and sooth the skin; her tongue is honeysuckle nectar only a child would taste, the sweet affirms wonderment; her breath is the spray of winter breakers along a rocky coast, it is company in quiet or turbulent pools; our wedding kiss is the first shooting star of all our memories, it is our toes together in a aquifer of time, and our kiss is all the hope in our next sunrise.
Brother Benzamin Harrows sighs, his upper lip quivers, he sniffles and looks away. He lowers his hand on the shoulder of the agent on my right. I take a another deep slow breath, close my eyes, and I am floating; like I am on a roller coaster my stomach rushes to the back of my throat or like at the top arc of the swing in my mother’s back yard at the picnic when I introduced Elise to her. I smile at Elise. She is sitting at a picnic table, and my mom offers her another spoonful of potato salad. My mother loves her; I can see it in her eyes. A warm blush builds in my stomach, I exhale, I couldn’t ask for anything more. I look at my mom, and she is smiling, laughing as she tells Elise about the time I lost my trunks at the lake, and ran up and down the dock looking for them. I look towards Elise; she is laughing and trying to hold the salad in her mouth. Her face is red and she looks into my eyes, my heart, and my soul. We are home.