As a writer, I’m always people-watching and describing events in my head, and sometimes (not often enough!) I write my observations down. Here are a few people I watched one morning a few years ago while my soon-to-be new husband and I waited in line at the County Clerk’s Office to get our marriage license:
The security guard: A taller-than-average woman, a sack of potatoes stuffed into a two-toned grey security guard uniform. Her head, another misshapen potato set atop, crowned with spiky grey hair. Her mouth opens in frequent smiles to reveal large gaps, the few remaining teeth hanging like seed pearls from an expanse of pinkish gums. Her eyes are faded blue and kind as, with practiced ease, she motions people into the small cramped registrar’s office while holding the rest back.
The teenage bride: Baby-blonde hair pulled into a messy ponytail. Timid blue eyes, pink cheeks spotted here and there with incipient acne, small nose accented by a gold stud. Pink lips, a metal loop thrust through the bottom one. Her body, dressed in a plain button-down blouse and dowdy patterned full skirt better suited to a member of a strict religious sect, is slender now, but will run to fat in a few years. She stands close to her intended, arms crossed over her chest as if holding schoolbooks, pale unmuscled calves, too chubby for the rest of her body, ending in small white feet in flip-flops, baby toes tipped with chipped polish.
The young groom: A coiled spring of muscle and energy, lean stomach concave under a ragged tee-shirt, faded blue jeans hanging loosely on his hipbones. The sides and back of his head are shorn in military fashion, leaving a small patch of rough brown hair on top of his narrow head. No piercings in evidence, he is obviously headed for army duty. An open face, thin lips curved in a wide smile, clear brown eyes brave and ready for anything, with only a hint of fear. A stalwart farm boy to his farm girl.
(At this point, we were all inside the registrar’s office. The young couple announced that they wished to be married then and there by the justice of the peace, but were dismayed to learn they needed two witnesses, since they’d come alone. Rick and I stepped forward and offered to be their witnesses, which is how we were able to observe the following scene.)
The justice of the peace: An aging female orangutan with a white cotton-candy wig askew on her head, face slathered in thick orange paint. Small eyes pulled from their hiding place in her face by inch-long false eyelashes, bright pink lips pursed officiously. Adjusting her voluminous robe she limps to the table and indicates the spot the witness needs to enter his personal data with a two-inch-long fingernail painted in stripes and flowers. Then it is time for the young lovers to take their places under the tottering arch lavishly adorned with large red plastic roses and trailing vines. In heavily-accented English she reels off the admonishments deemed appropriate by the State of California, impressing upon the tender youngsters the responsibilities of marriage, then launches headlong into the ceremony itself, tripping over the words as she joins them “by the virtues (?) vested in me” in holy wedlock. As the two blush and twine hands together, oblivious of the sacrilege wreaked upon their names by the dyslexic officiant, she finishes triumphantly, instructing the new husband, “You can kiss your wife now, she ain’t your girlfriend no more.”
(Just a postscript: At this point, my darling generous fiancé stepped forward and tucked a few bills into their hands, telling them to go buy themselves a nice wedding dinner. Awww. . . .)