It had been a long day and I was driving home from a meeting that had been of some value but still made the ride home late. The gates at the train track came down and I sat in my car and fumbled with the radio to find something to listen to as I waited for the next CSX or MARC train to fly by, alone at the crossing and then suddenly aware that I was not alone. The Unicorn which I had become accustomed to spotting in my backyard by the tomato garden was here in the center of town on a late Monday night, his hooves making a slight clopping sound on the cement sidewalk as he walked purposely towards my car. I rolled down the window.
"What are you doing here? What do you want?"
"I want you to meet my friend." He snorted.
"My friend the Griffin." He explained and I gasped as a large tawny and black feathered half eagle half lion creature landed next to my car with a sudden pounce. His body was the size of my car and his beauty both strong and elegant. He screeched a moment and then eyed me with suspicion.
"Does he talk?"
"Not to people. Only fellow Unicorns."
"Fellow Unicorns? But he’s a griffin. Even you said he was a griffin." The Griffin narrowed his eyes at me and screeched again.
"He doesn’t like when people call him that. He even eats some dissenters. He wants to be called a Unicorn."
"But he’s not."
"That doesn’t matter. That’s what he wants."
"But that doesn’t change the language. We don’t just decide something means something else just because someone screeches if it doesn’t. We don’t just proclaim all flavors are chocolate because all flavors aren’t chocolate."
"You don’t?" The Unicorn blinked. "Define marriage."
"A sacrament between a man and a woman, legally and spiritually binding them to each other for the rest of their lives…or a least we hope."
"Hope?" The Unicorn looked at me, he could stare in a way that made one feel menaced only by thought.
"Well, divorces happen. We say the vows hoping we can live them out."
"But people are moving to change what marriage means. It’s been around for almost 4000 years. Why are they wanting it changed?"
"Because people think that legally, a relationship between a man and woman is no different than a relationship between a woman and a woman and a man and a man."
"So a Griffin can be a Unicorn and all flavors can be called Chocolate." The Unicorn snorted.
"You’re being simplistic. What is happening is that marriage in the legal sense, has been pushed down in status to be the same as co-habitation, and as such, if marriage is the same as simply consensual sex and living together, then the Who involved in the consensual sex ceases to matter as long as the two in question agree to call themselves a couple."
"So marriage shall mean less and less until it means nothing at all. A fish is a dog is a lion is a rock is a train." and he motioned to the passing cars. "All words mean what we wish, no more, no less, and are subject to the fads, fashions, passions and whims of the day." The Unicorn nodded to his friend. "See, she understands that you’re a Unicorn and not a Griffin. A marriage is an arrangement between whomever and whomever for however long both parties deem it necessary. Why bother?"
"But the counter argument is that those who hold marriage to mean something, to be sacred and special and a unique arrangement between a man, a woman and God are being called bigots and homophobes for fighting this, for even bringing it up."
"And because you think words mean something, those words hurt." The Unicorn shook his head. "Words matter. Words hurt. Words mean something." I said. "But we shouldn’t have to argue that there is something unique and special and vocational and sacramental about marriage, we should just know that, the same way I know that your friend is a Griffin."
The Griffin let out a screech. It hurt my ears.
"You hurt his feelings." The Unicorn chided, "but he’ll get over it and keep insisting, because to him, reality is malleable and thus can be transformed when we decide to reassign meaning via language. But you and I know that words are powerful things, capable of much mischief if allowed to mean anything and nothing."
"Tell your friend the Griffin, I think he’s beautiful." And then I considered my next few words carefully, "for a Griffin."
"I’ll do that." There was a trace of smile in his voice. "You get home now. And save me one of the last tomatoes from your garden, winter is coming and I’ll miss them." He clopped off towards the park and the train finally finished passing and I could go home.
Copyright 2009 Sherry Antonetti