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The Marrying Room
"Forty Bucks and A Dream: Stories of Los Angeles," chapter 17
I am serializing Forty Bucks and A Dream: Stories of Los Angeles on Substack. New chapters drop Mondays. Below the current piece is the Table of Contents, with links to what’s posted before. If you like these stories please consider becoming a paid subscriber. And share away!
THE MARRYING ROOM
I woke up on a Thursday morning and asked my boyfriend of six years if he wanted to get married that day.
Din laughed. “Can I finish my cup of coffee first?”
While he did that, I went online and found the nearest city hall; Beverly Hills performed marriages on Thursdays, but they didn’t have any openings that day.
“Let’s go get the license, anyway,” I said.
We drove to the big, pretty police station on Santa Monica and Rexford. On the walk to the registrar, we started a discussion about who pressed for marriage more, men or women?
“Women,” said Din, who’d been married once before.
“All women?” I asked.
“Just about,” he said, pulling open the heavy door to City Hall. The ceilings were high, the floors marble; the light green and governmental. We passed through the metal detectors and waited near a bank of tellers’ windows, where three couples were filling out paperwork.
“What about her?” I whispered, nodding at a slender woman in pressed jeans, saying something clipped to her groom, who turned to look out the glass doors.
“She’s been busting his balls for fourteen months, and now the fun’s really going to begin,” Din whispered back.
I laughed, but I couldn’t keep up the cynicism — the other couples appeared goofy with love. A man in his fifties in ratty sweatpants lunged for a kiss from his bride-to-be as they were handed their license. A very tall man dressed like an East Coast banker could not stop grinning as his fiancée, in a lovely Liberty of London shift, silently moved her lips as she read the questions.
“I’m not a ball-buster,” I told Din.
“Well, I know that,” he said, and kissed my hair.
Another couple seemed to blow in on a gust of air. He looked like NBA coach Steve Kerr, with a yarmulke; she had an open face, great glasses and a head scarf.
“Look at all these people getting married. It’s so HOPEFUL!” she said to the room. I responded by telling her she needed to get a form from the center basket.
“Thank you, THANK you,” she said.
Din and I filled out our form and turned it in to a clerk with a Brooklyn accent. “You can make it out to me,” he cracked, when I asked how to make out the $67 check.
We moved to the waiting area, a gem of 1930s modernism with benches along three walls, where waiting couples sat and stared at one another. I felt as though I were filling up with helium.
“Din and Nancy?” called the clerk. We proceeded to the window.
“Raise your right hands,” he said.
We did. “Do you swear the information on this license” — which had been typed and now looked as official and permanent as a birth certificate — “is the truth?”
“Yes,” I said.
“I do,” Din said.
“I do,” I added.
“Okay, that’s it. Are there any questions I can answer for you?”
“Yes, where do we get married?” I asked.
“You can’t do it today,” he said, and then, to the crabby female clerk next to him, “We’re not going to have an angry day, are we?”
“I know, I know,” I said, “but for when we come back.”
He pointed left. “Down the hall, the door where the bell is.”
As Din slid the license into its envelope, I heard headscarf gal say to the clerk, “You help marry people. It’s SUCH a wonderful thing.”
“Yeah, it’s a wonderful thingamajig. Next!”
Din and I found the marrying room; a bell made of honeycombed paper hung outside the door. Inside, sweatpants man and his bride stood before a man in a purple-and-magenta satin robe. The room was small, no space for froufrou, and I felt, at that second, as though I had opened a closet and seen a jacket I’d forgotten about, then put it on, and it fit exactly.
Sweatpants caught me peeping. “Come in, come in!” he said, holding open the door. I stammered that I was just looking, for when we got married.
The man in the robe looked puzzled. “You’re not getting married today?”
“No, no,” I said, “but for when we do.”
“Oh,” he said, and grinned. “Well, be sure to call, so I know not to be here.”
This was getting better and better.
I backed into the hall, where Din and a secretary were laughing. What?
“She was just commenting on what he wore to get married in,” Din said.
“I know, but he was so happy,” I said, and then we left City Hall, discussing what we would wear.
FORTY BUCKS AND A DREAM: Stories of Los Angeles
4: The Waxer
7: Punch Drunk
12: Porn for Women
17: The Marrying Room
18: Meet the Neighbors
19: The Pathos of Failing
20: Bite and Smile