October 05, 2008

Happy Anniversary

By John 'Falstaff' Hartness © 2008

I walked into work roughly on time and said to my boss "Victor, I need to take a long lunch today, I'm going downtown to get married."

Victor, being the gentle, caring soul that he is, replied "Really? Hell, take the whole afternoon off!"

"Nah, Suzy's gotta be at work at 3, so I'll come back. And we're not really getting married, we're just going to get the license."

"Oh, okay then. Well, hurry up and get your ass back to work.”

So I meet Suzy at the courthouse a little after noon, and we walk in to get our marriage license. We pay our $75 fee ($45 of which goes to domestic violence prevention programs, something that I found less than promising), and the nice lady behind the counter says "Y'all gone do it today?"

"We called yesterday and they said we could only get married by the judge on Tuesdays, so we figured we'd wait 'til next week."

"Oh no, honey. That's just when he does it in the courtroom. Y'all can go across the street to the magistrate's office anytime and get married."

I looked at Suzy, she looked at me, I said "You want to?"

"Why not?" she said.

So we went across the street and asked the receptionist where we went to get married.

Then we had a thought - no witnesses. Shit. So we asked the receptionist if she could come back and be a witness if we needed one. She cooed a little bit and thought that was just the sweetest thing, and then said that we should be ok, there were a couple of people in the office.

So we went back to a little gray room where two people were filling out paperwork, a twenty-something woman with crutches and a severely swollen eye, and a friend who was reading the paperwork to her and filling in her answers on the papers.

"Y'all go ahead."

So we went up to the glass and asked the magistrate if he would marry us. He asked if we had witnesses, and we asked the two people filling out paperwork if they'd witness our wedding.

"You ain't serious!"

"I am serious."

"Alright. I'm Darryl, this is Dawn."

"What are you guys doing here?"

"We're filling out a complaint against Dawn's boyfriend. He done beat her in the head with a telephone last night."


Without much else to say, we all four walked (or crutched, in Dawn's case) our way up to the front desk, where the magistrate read us our wedding vows through bulletproof glass. He slid the paperwork under the glass, we all signed it, and went on our merry way.

As we stood outside the courthouse in our newly wedded bliss (which also somewhat resembled the look of people who have just survived a tornado, as it happened much faster than we expected) we decided that since Suzy didn't have to be at work for another couple of hours, we'd go have lunch. So we scraped together a few bucks and trundled over to a nearby McDonald's. Suzy went to the pay phone in the parking lot to call her dad and leave the good news on his answering machine, and we got in line to sit down and have a nice romantic Happy Meal.

As we stood in line discussing the mild level of ridiculous involved in the whole thing, the cashier overheard us talking about the fact that we had just gotten married and were having our wedding lunch at McDonald's, and told us our lunch was on the house. A nice gesture, but if she'd said that before we ordered, I probably would have added an apple pie. So we had our first wedded meal at a McDonald's in the middle of the work day, then we went on our separate ways back to our jobs.

It might not have been the big elaborate wedding every little girl dreams of, but for the past twelve years, it's lasted. Today I woke up, rolled over and kissed her on the forehead and said one of my favorite phrases, that I only get to say one day a year.

Happy Anniversary.

John Hartness is a writer and thespian from Charlotte, North Carolina.

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