From across our one-bedroom apartment, I could see the light streaming in through the blinds, falling into rows like a piece of notebook paper. The low summer sun blazed, forgetting it was September and not the season for 95 degrees. He looked at me, and I could tell I wasn’t going to like what he had to say any more than he wanted to say it.
“So I called City Hall,” he began, letting out a long breath. “And it turns out they never got the paper. That’s why we never got our actual marriage license.”
I didn’t say anything for a second. I looked at him, watching him in the kitchen behind the butcher’s block counter, eating crackers right out of the box, the way he always did after work. It was a familiar sight. I knew him. I knew what he was doing. I knew that he, my husband, would eat a few more handfuls of sharp cheddar CheezIts before slapping the box shut and putting it back in the cupboard. I knew he’d walk the three paces to his computer chair, sit with his legs wide, and slowly slide over to me on the ottoman, where I sat perched in my running shorts.
I knew this man. I knew that his brownie-batter hair has a cowlick he hates and a widow’s peak I love, and that he uses pomade to style it for us both. I knew he’s patient and kind, and will listen to me whine angrily about a bad day, but will curse like a sailor if someone cuts him off while driving. I knew he says thank you every morning when I make the bed, even though we both know I’m the only one who cares if it’s made. I knew he’ll notice when I wear a new shirt, and will ask me to hold still while he snaps a photo to remember it by later.
I knew him. I knew he was the one whom I bought a big fancy dress for and sloppily declared my undying devotion to. He was the one who wore a perfectly fitted suit and made me laugh and cry in front of all our friends, almost a year ago to the day. I knew, in my bones, this man was my husband.
I looked at him and sighed. I could get mad. I should get angry—yell and scream and curse the ineptitude of the Washington County Recording Office for stealing a year of marriage from us. I should hate them for turning our small, simple wedding into silly, expensive make-believe. For not following up, for not letting us know that the window had passed between when we applied for our license and when the notarized paperwork should have arrived. For not marrying us.
Instead, I looked at him, at his ring I knew he never took off unless he was working on a dangerous machine, and smiled. Even if the State of Oregon didn’t know we were married, we did. Our friends and family did. Our coworkers did. Even the servers at our Friday night spot did. So we were.
Plus, now we get to have two anniversaries: our wedding day, and the day we (re)signed the papers. So I’m going to milk it for all its worth—wear white and call myself a bride and take photos and have a piece of cake in honor of the occasion. I guess it’s not all bad.