A friend asks me if I love Tito enough. Then she hands me a white business card. Miriam L. Anderson, Esq., it says in type that looks lifted from a gravestone.
“If you’re worried about immigration, she’s worth every penny. And she’s the most honorable lawyer I know.”
I rub my hand over its embossed surface, unsure how to respond.
“You don’t want to take chances.”
I nod, thank her and tuck the card into my wallet and forget about it. As the weeks pass, other friends volunteer their suggestions. It is as if they have all been talking with each other. I listen to all their well-intentioned ideas. Soon my wallet swells with cards. But terrified of hiring the wrong lawyer and losing thousands of dollars and Tito in the process, I do nothing.
When I clean out my wallet Tito marvels at all the cards. What are they for, he asks. He laughs when I tell him. He tells me I only have to trust, words I hear from him all the time. “Our future will work itself out,” he says.
I line the cards across my desk. Within a day they are covered with papers. But something has seeded inside of me. I love him, and I don’t want to take chances.
I decide to make an appointment with the single immigration attorney I have at least met. A reporter I worked with introduced him to me. She was writing about the new changes in the law. This lawyer was giving of his own time to inform Central Americans of their rights, who qualified for a GreenCcard and who did not. The night I was there taking pictures, he stood at a podium for four hours answering questions in the packed church basement. I didn’t speak Spanish then, but I understood the hunger and hope that radiated from peoples’ faces. Maybe this is why I still remember his name, Jesús Peña. If he could help them, he could help us. He would know a way to make Tito safe.
“Señor Pena doesn’t take appointments. You have to come to the office between three and six, and he’ll see you in turn.” And then a dial tone. She hangs up before I can ask any questions. But I am determined get answers. I grab my handbag and head to the subway.
According to the address in the Queens phone book, his office should be right under the subway tracks, footsteps from the train stop. I walk back and forth along the single block and 88-19 Roosevelt eludes me. The noise from the subway above rattles me. I turn the corner off the block to escape the din, and there I spot it. Above a small door hangs a big blue awning with the words in script. “Jesús Peña, Esq., Abogado”.
I climb the narrow stairs maneuvering between the couples standing on the stairway. At the top I wedge my way through others who seem to be waiting outside his office. “Discúlpeme,” I say as I brush against them. I turn in to a reception area packed with more people. Someone points me to the receptionist and I follow the outstretched arm to her desk. She looks up from her People en Español.
“Quisiera ver al Señor Peña para averiguar los derechos de un amigo chileno.” I speak to her in the most formal Spanish I can summon.
She gestures with her long red nails. “You want to see Peña?” She asks in English in a tone that makes me think it won’t be possible. Everyone is looking at me.
“Is this possible?”
She sighs and pulls out a pile of handwritten lists. Each list has somewhere between ten and twenty names on it. “What is your name?” She motions to the room with a tilt of her small head. “You have to wait. There are a lot of people in front of you.”
“I’ll wait,” I tell her.
She pencils in my name in round letters at the bottom of one of the lists. I find an empty chair tucked in between the wall and a mother with two babies. I smile and squeeze in. The room is filled with faces that look as if they came from all the countries of Central and South America. Women in suits sit among men in dusty overalls spattered with paint next to frail, older women next to teenaged couples in matching leather jackets. Scents of perfume mix with the smell of sweat. We share only Spanish, spoken in the barest of whispers. The room is quieter than a library. No matter what anyone pretends to be doing, we wait in concentration together. We are looking for hope wherever we can find it. With someone else’s success, the possibility of securing a Green Card for a loved one becomes more real for all of us.
I am nervous. This wait will only be the start of longer, more difficult trials. What if Tito, being from Chile, does not qualify for special leniency? I don’t have a plan if Tito can’t get legal status. We could move, but wherever we moved we’d still have this problem. And I am tired of being worried all the time.
One person after another disappears down the black hallway. In the reception room everyone has found a seat. Those that went in come out carrying their folders and briefcases, and despite all the papers they carry, they look lighter, even relieved. When the woman next to me is called, she shoulders her sleeping babies and walks down the corridor of offices. Now I sit alone in my corner. But if he can help her, he can help us. My doubts about Jesús Peña begin to lift. The afternoon light pours in and over the shoulders of those of us left. Surely this means something too. I don’t want to hope, but I can’t stop myself. After all, everyone in this office seems to have found help. I wonder if I am guilty of magical thinking. I decide there is no magic.
I hear my name and look up. The man I remember as Jesús Peña is standing by the receptionist. He is portly, with gray wavy hair and thick glasses. I get up to shake his hand, but he has already turned. I follow him down to the end of the hallway and stand at the threshold of his office. It’s bigger and brighter than the others I passed on the way. He has the corner office, of course. He sits behind his wide desk covered with files and papers and smiles at me. Barely stirring, he motions to me with his finger, pointing to the chair across from him.
“Peña, teléfono.” A secretary shouts for him from beyond his office. He peers down at the phone, picks it up, and swivels away from me. I study the walls of his office while I wait. All over hang framed newspaper clippings. They tell a history of being honored many times by various civic committees. I recognize the type fonts of El Diario, Hoy, Noticias del Mundo, The New York Post, and The Daily News. They show him shaking hands with Miss Colombia, accepting a medal for helping the earthquake victims in Armenia, and giving speeches before the Colombian Civic Committee. I turn my head and study the yellowed clippings along the wall next to me. I’m looking for The New York Times article I worked on, but I don’t see it. Finally I find it. It’s on the wall behind his desk, where every visitor can see it.
His conversation ends, and he turns to me. “So, what can I do for you?”
I take a breath. After sitting among so many people, I’m suddenly aware that there are just the two of here in this office. It feels strangely intimate. I’ve never done this before, and I’m not sure where to begin. I ask him if he remembers me. He doesn’t, but of course he remembers the article. We get up and look at it together, and I show him my name in little letters underneath the picture. He’s pleased, but he’s not sure why I’m in his office.
I tell him that I’m living with a Chilean who is now here illegally, and that I can no longer bear this. In just one sentence I have told him my entire problem.
He asks when Tito arrived, how he traveled, where he entered, and if he had a visa. The light from his window makes a halo out of his hair. He listens to my answers, makes a few notes, and nods. I don’t know what his assent means, but I want to believe it’s because he thinks our problem is easy. Maybe there really is a special provision for Chileans that will enable Tito to get a Green Card.
He strokes his chin. “This is not a hopeless problem.”
I push myself to the edge of my chair. I try to look into his eyes through his thick glasses, but they are too cloudy. I’m reaching for anything he might have to offer. I sit waiting.
“Do you love him?”
I feel my face grow hot with his sudden forwardness. Then it dawns on me that this is what passes between a client and a lawyer. I nod. “Yes, yes, I do.” I tell Tito I love him every day. But it is always private. And perhaps because I’ve hidden him from so many friends, so much of my family, for so long, it startles me to admit my love for him outside our bedroom, to a stranger. And yet in acknowledging it, my heart grows full and buoyant.
“Then your problem is easy.” He smiles.
My heart soars hearing there’s a law exempting Chileans. I wait. Whatever it costs, I am willing.
I stare back at him.
“Then, after you are married, apply for his papers.”
I shake my head in disbelief. The simplicity of what he’s suggesting stuns me. Tito and I had kept matters of love strictly separated from any urges for a Green Card. That was my rule. It was difficult in the beginning, not ever mentioning marriage, but in time we grew used to it, even comfortable with it. We had abided by this for so long, that whenever marriage occurred to me, I discounted it. And anyway, up until a few weeks ago, marriage wasn’t an option.
One night Tito handed me a small blue slip of paper, practically weightless.
“Qué es ésto?” What is this? I looked down at the words, in Spanish, small and faint. It looked too complicated to read.
“Mi anulación.” My annulment.
“De verdad?” For real? The paper I held looked nothing like the sheaf of papers that are the proof my own divorce.
He nodded, his eyes on mine. I rose from my computer and kissed him. If we hadn’t eaten dinner already, I’d have taken him out, to celebrate. We caressed each other through the night instead. But when he drifted off, I was left with a queasy emptiness. Now what? I pushed it away, and woke up the next morning next to him as if nothing had changed.
Jesús Peña takes off his glasses and cleans them. Then he puts them on again. “You love him. You say he loves you.”
I nod at him. I am so emotional I can’t speak even if I want to.
He focuses back on me. “You are one of the lucky ones.”
Él que no se arriesga, no cruza el río.
(The person who doesn’t take
risks, doesn’t cross the river.)
– Chilean proverb
The pale morning sun shines into our bedroom and promises the sweetness of a rare, warm November day. I roll over to look at Tito, to stroke his hair as I do every morning. He opens his eyes and smiles at me. Then he jumps out of bed and slips on his pants. I rub my eyes. Today we are marrying.
Tito tells me he has to go to the Chilean consulate this morning, and he disappears into the bathroom. He’s told me this before, and why, but I have forgotten, and I can’t understand why it’s so urgent today. All of our paperwork is in order. We have our marriage license, and there is nothing more to do today but get married. Tito returns and kisses me softly. His face and hair are still wet. “When are you coming back?” I ask.
We could have married at any of the city’s courthouses. We chose Staten Island because of its brick courthouse, a 1906 French Renaissance edifice that stands on a hill looking out towards Manhattan. It seemed quieter, being both in the city and away from it. Best of all, we would have to take a ferry, cross a river to get there. But it has meant extra coordinating. Everyone is coming from different directions. We are meeting our witnesses—Nonnie, my cousin Janet, and a few of our friends—at noon. It’s just nine o’clock now. Tito and I have to leave the apartment in a little over two hours.
“Sólo una hora, na’más,” he says. He says it quickly, as if to prove how little time he will be gone, but I know there’s no way he can return in an hour. A mere trip to the consulate takes a full thirty minutes. I know Tito hasn’t allowed time for whatever meeting he has to have today, let alone the obligatory wait. He strokes my cheek and looks into my face with his bright eyes. “We’re getting married today, mi amor. I would never be late.” And then he walks out. From the bedroom I hear him lock the door, walk down the stairs, open and close the front door. Suddenly the apartment is empty. This is not the morning of my wedding I’d pictured.
I get up. I have only to shower, get dressed, and put on my makeup, but without Tito it feels like an eon. I call my best friend. She already knows everything about the wedding, so we talk about her instead. I ask her what she’s planning on doing today and where she’ll be when we say our vows, since she lives in California, three hours behind us. But I am too nervous and excited to linger and we hang up after a half hour, short for us. I take a quick shower. When I get out I put on music and dance around the apartment. Another half hour passes. I look over my list of things to do. I’ve crossed out everything on our list. Our clothes are ready. The hors d’oeuvres I made yesterday are wrapped and waiting for tonight’s reception. My bouquet is cut and bound, a bright burst of deep reds and oranges from late autumn, fuchsias and ranunculus fresh from the farmer’s market.
I’ve wanted to be a bride since I was a little girl. I feel it every time I pass a bridal shop. I missed out on it the first time around because we eloped. My husband insisted, and it seemed easier to acquiesce. But I ached for my family and friends even as I said my vows. Once divorced, I said never again to a wedding without loved ones there to witness the occasion.
I pull out my dress. Its rich aquamarine silk shimmers in my hands. I slip it on. With its sexy little straps, tight bodice, and full, puffed skirt, it’s both modern and retro, with a hem that comes right below my knees. I reach into the closet for my shawl, long and sheer. If I feel too bare, I can always wrap myself in the soft green, vaporous silk. I try various ways of draping it and then go back into the bathroom to brush my hair. My hair is short so there’s nothing to do but put in a clip to hold it. I draw a thin line along my eyes and brush on mascara. Then I touch my cheeks with a little blush. I’m finished. I check the clock. It’s almost eleven, two hours since Tito left. Fifteen minutes remain before we have to leave.
I lay out on the bed everything we’ll need. The marriage license, my pocketbook, and an extra check for the judge in case Tito forgets. Next to them I place my cell phone, lipstick, and an alternate necklace and earrings. I take the rings from Tito’s bureau and put them in the center. Tito took me to Tiffany’s for our rings because that was where my father bought my mother’s ring, and my mother never forgot that. “With our rings we’ll keep your mother with us,” he said. And so we chose wedding bands like hers, gold, thin, and unadorned.
The clock now reads eleven. I am frantic. Maybe if we’d spent our last night under different roofs none of this would be happening. But Tito laughed when I suggested it. Nothing could undermine the providence of our marriage, he said. “I have known you my whole life and before, Rebecca. This is our destiny. We will live the rest of our lives together. I feel it.” This is what he has always said.
I used to be cynical about men and wary about commitment. I was afraid of being suffocated, and if not that, then being reined in, limited, curbed. I needed to protect my heart. I had failed before. But then I found someone to love again, better and more wisely, someone who loved me in the way I’d always wanted to be loved. It terrified me. Now I had something to lose.
After my visit to Jesús Peña’s office I began to mention marriage from time to time. I waited for Tito to join me, but he only changed the subject. I grew concerned. What if he didn’t want to marry me? I watched him now for changes, but as much as I studied him, I saw only his tenderness and love. So what did he want? I needed to know. I broached it one night after supper. We were still seated at the wooden, kitchen table from my childhood. “If you do want to marry me, I can promise you all my love, all my faith, and all my hope, because marriage is what I want for us.”
He got up and pulled me into his arms. “I love you, Rebecca. This is what I have wanted ever since I met you.”
I held him tight to me. “And after we are married, I will make you safe with a Green Card.”
“That is not why I love you.”
We pulled out our calendars that night. We picked a date and told our family and friends. Everyone but my father congratulated us. Like my first husband, Tito was not the son-in-law he would have chosen for me. Maybe he remembers how long it took me to recover from the first marriage. We had just one conversation about Tito, by telephone a few weeks before our wedding, in which he told me all about his suspicions. “How do you know he isn’t marrying you for a Green Card? Lots of them do.”
I answered him with the patience of a daughter who knows she has disappointed her father again. “I love him. He loves me. This is what I know.”
“He can’t support you, Rebecca. He’s a mechanic, for God’s sake. How will he ever be able to do that?” My father worries about my freelance life. A rich husband would absolve him.
I tried to tell him that Tito wasn’t always a mechanic, that in Valparaíso he was head supervisor of operations for international shipping companies, but my father didn’t hear that. He had a litany of apprehensions. “He’s ten years younger than you, for God’s sake. Do you really think he’s going to love you when you’re sixty?”
I held my tongue.
“He won’t love you when you’re old and wrinkled.”
I didn’t ask him if he still loved my mother now that she was wrinkled and worse, struck with Alzheimer’s. I knew he still loved her. I ended the conversation before he could say anything more damaging. Even so, he had the last word. “I don’t want him calling me by my first name, you understand? He’s not to call me anything but Mr. Cooney.”
I hung up and wept. But an hour later l had recovered. I washed my face and put my attention on our wedding and the happiness of everyone else around us. As if to prove it, wedding presents began to arrive daily from relatives near and far. Tito wanted a simple wedding, a party of ten and no more. I wanted something more. So I invited a few close friends, and all of my family that has grown to more than 100 with cousins and relatives spread all over the country. Tito invited his friends. No one in his family had a visa, so no one from Chile could come. But that didn’t stop me. We planned a party with homemade canapés, French champagne, and Chilean wines. And Nonnie, who always loved dessert, offered to contribute the wedding cake.
I add my high heels to the pile on the bed and slip on comfortable shoes for the journey. I pull out a raincoat that will both keep me warm and hide my dress from Tito. With his lateness, I don’t need more bad luck. I debate about including something borrowed and something new, but I can’t remember the rest of the ditty. I turn on his computer to look it up on-line. But the computer connection is interrupted with a phone call from Tito’s best man and friend. Rodrigo, a music friend, wants to confirm the time we’re meeting. He tells me he’s leaving his apartment now. I tell him that Tito isn’t back yet. We are already late. I panic.
I call the Consulate, but the line is busy. I call Claudio, Tito’s futbol friend and one of his witnesses. They are always in touch, and maybe he knows where Tito is. I reach only his machine and leave a message. I don’t care if I sound hysterical.
I try the Consulate again and reach a receptionist. I explain that I’m looking for Tito Pizarro, a Chilean citizen who was visiting the Consulate this morning. I say it in Spanish and then repeat it in English. She listens to both versions patiently and then tells me that no one’s been there today with that name. Wordless, I hang up. Now I’m so hot I have to take off my dress. What if Tito has decided he doesn’t want to get married? What if he’s changed his mind and is making plans to go back to Chile? What if he’s already left? I think about the party I’ve planned. If he doesn’t come back, would I still hold the reception? My relatives have flown in from as far away as Ontario, North Carolina, and Denver. Who will take care of them? Who will take care of me?
My body starts to shake. Tears stream down my cheeks. I rub them away and see dark streaks over my hands, my eye make-up. I go back into the bathroom and reapply the mascara. We are now almost fifteen minutes late. I stare back at myself in the mirror. The other me gazes back as if she would know what to do. The real me is left with only questions. Did I rush things that shouldn’t be rushed? Did I want this wedding so much that I forced Tito into something he didn’t want to do? Was I blind in my insistence of something that wasn’t meant to be? I start to shiver. I put my dress back on and over it my raincoat.
I walk back and forth through the apartment as I curse him and his errand to the Consulate. I decide to call there one more time. This time I remember to ask for Tito by his full name, José Hector Pizarro Ramirez. I enunciate each syllable. Then I spell it. This is taking forever. The receptionist isn’t sure. I ask her to ask someone else, and she puts me on hold. From the bed where I’m sitting I can see Tito’s bureau with the framed pictures of his family. Pictures of me are intermixed everywhere. I look over at Tito’s desk with his computer, printer and camera and all the pictures of the two of us he’s tacked on the wall above. I should know that this, if nothing else, is evidence of his love. But on the other end of the phone, hearing only nothingness, it seems possible and true that he’s decided to leave, unencumbered with nothing more than his passport.
“Hello? You were looking for José Tito Pizarro Ramirez? Yes, he left twenty minutes ago.”
I hear the front door open as I put the phone back in its cradle. I fling myself at Tito and pound his chest with my fists. He puts his arms around me and pulls me close. “I cannot believe you thought that, mi vida. I would never leave you, mi amor. Nunca.” Never. He kisses my nose, my eyes, my forehead, my lips.
I check the clock. “You have to change your clothes, quick, quick. Rápido,” I say for extra emphasis.
“I don’t need to change. I’m going to wear what I have on,” he says. He is wearing black jeans and a buttoned down shirt. I look at the bed where his wedding suit lies, the one we bought together for this day, a black Italian suit whose fabric felt soft, supple, and rich to us both.
“I’m saving it for the party.”
I frown and shake my head. “Our marriage ceremony is more sacred than our party. Por favor, mi amor, put on the suit.”
When we arrive at the terminal, we spot Rodrigo outside waiting for us. Here, with Tito by my side on the southern tip of Manhattan, I can barely remember the rush and panic of the morning. We hug Rodrigo and walk in together. To my surprise, the terminal is empty. The noon sun pours across the wide space. Dust is suspended in its rays, making the vast waiting room and its vacant benches look like a black and white photograph from another era. At this hour no one must ride the ferry, I think. We will have the boat to ourselves. We sit down and catch our breath. My sister Nonnie arrives next, then my cousin Janet, my friends Beth and Karen, and finally Claudio. Everyone, it seems, has a story about getting to the ferry terminal.
Then it’s time to board, and people appear from everywhere. The throngs swallow our little party as we move forward onto the boat. We find each other at the rail on the sunny side. I stand with my sister and cousin, and Tito stands with his two friends. Everyone on all sides takes pictures of us. We hold hands and watch Manhattan recede. We are quiet as they chatter and move around us.
In what seems like five minutes, the ferry pulls in. We stroll off in our little party. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, and no one is rushing. That is, no one but me. I cannot seem to slow down after the morning’s worries. I skip ahead and ask a stranger for directions to the Courthouse. He points to a building covered with scaffolding. I gather our little group and walk ahead, and then I fall back in pace with them. Tito and his friends follow us in the rear. I have to resist the temptation to nudge them closer to the rest of us.
At the entrance to the Courthouse a handwritten message is taped on the door. “Out to lunch. Marriage office will open at 2:00.” Only in Staten Island, I conclude. At the Queens Courthouse the line wound around the building. They took couples just ten at a time. Inside we waited at the end of another long line, threading our way from the hall into a room where it snaked in tighter loops, ending at a series of windows. Two and a half hours later we emerged with our marriage license.
In Staten Island we are the only ones outside. The streets are so empty that none of us can believe that we are still in New York City. We sit in the sun to wait. I remember that I’ve left my bouquet at home, and just as quickly I let it go. I have with me what is most important—my family, my friends, and my Tito.
Nonnie disappears. She’s an art historian, and no doubt she is exploring and unearthing details about the building that she’ll save for a lecture. Her specialty is American art, and this building is part of her epoch. But she comes back instead with a bouquet of pink carnations wrapped in plastic. I hug her, and we stand together for more pictures while I clutch the flowers, her gift, to my chest.
The Courthouse doors open, and we file in. The marriage office is at the top of the stairs. At each landing my sister points out things to admire—the symmetrical layout, the delicate cornices, the hand-carved filigrees on the wooden railing leading up the stairs, and, on the ceiling, a long mural from the 1940’s celebrating the historic moments of Staten Island. We trail after her, her audience. When we reach the top of the stairs I stop listening to her and start looking for the signs to the marriage office. I reach for Tito’s hand and together we enter the office, a spare, white room with a counter and a dark wood desk in the center. It is so small and simple we could be in a small town. An older woman behind the counter smiles at us over her glasses and takes down our names. She asks for our marriage license and gives us a form to fill out. Then she comes from behind the counter and leads us all into an open, pink room lined with benches. Signs warning, No Confetti Throwing, are its only decorations. She tells us to wait and leaves through the inside door at the back of the room. Tito and I stand in its center, overwhelmed. I take off my raincoat. Tito whispers, “Eres linda, eres guapa.” The cameras flash all around us.
Nonnie pulls me aside to give me all the items I couldn’t remember before, a handkerchief she wants back, a worn silver dollar she’s found, and a necklace she has bought especially for the day, something borrowed, something old, and something new. “I already knew you were wearing a blue dress,” she says. We hug one more time. Then I reach for Tito’s arm and the cameras click again in unison.
Suddenly the double doors open and the woman who has been tending to us all along stands inside, only now she’s dressed in the black robes of a judge. We gather around her podium while she explains about the service. She beckons Tito and me forward and directs our ring bearers to our side. Rodrigo holds Tito’s ring for me while Nonnie holds mine for Tito.
“This is a marriage ceremony between two adults,” she says, and I hear no more. I look around at the goodwill on everyone’s faces. We are getting married today.
“Do you José Hector Pizarro Ramirez take Rebecca Cooney as your wife?” I look over at Tito. He is completely focused on the judge. He nods. “To have and to hold, from this day forward.” She looks back at him over her glasses and goes on. “For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.” Tito is so still I wonder whether he understands her words. “In sickness and health, to love and to cherish,” she continues. Tito hasn’t even blinked. “For as long as you both shall live?”
Her question hangs in the air. Tito looks at her. His eyes are wet and shining. She looks back at him. I look at Tito and then back at the judge. The judge just waits. I can hear a wristwatch ticking. The flowers are moist in my hands. The room smells musty. These are only seconds, but they feel eternal in this room. We are waiting for something, but I can’t fathom for what. I have no idea what comes next. I look at Tito and he is still looking back at the judge, waiting. No one moves.
Finally my friend Beth intercedes. She’s the only one who knows what’s next. “Tito—you’re supposed to say I do.”
Tito’s face reddens. “I do, I do, I do, I really do,” he blurts. He says these two words to the judge, to me, to my sister, to Rodrigo, and to everyone who’s come today to witness our marriage. He’s not shouting his promise, but there’s no mistaking the force with which he says these words. He wants us all to hear them.
All of us, even the judge, laugh in relief. She turns her gaze to me. “Do you, Rebecca Cooney, take José Hector Pizarro Ramirez to be your husband, to have and to hold from this day forward?”
I hold him each morning and each night, but forever feels like a long time.
“For better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”
I think about how we have mastered parts of this already. We have faced disappointments together and rejoiced in each other’s successes. We have been poor. He has seen me sick and cared for me. I think about my father caring for my mother in the last stages of her life. He spends every hour of every day doing this. I never thought he had the internal resources for something like this, but he does, without doubt, without question. He gives me courage. He gives me hope.
“To love and to cherish for as long as you shall live?”
I have no doubts about loving or cherishing Tito. “I do,” I hear myself say. Inside I’m stunned at the enormity of what I’ve just promised. I’ve failed at relationships before, and a lack of love was never the reason. I pray Tito and I are strong enough to honor each other and these promises equally.
The judge asks for the rings. I watch my sister and Rodrigo pull them out.
We turn and face each other, and I am suddenly shy. Tito holds out his hand and spreads his stubby fingers. “With this ring I thee wed,” I tell him. I slip the ring on his finger.
I hold out mine for him. My fingers are long, my knuckles knobby. “With dees ring,” he says, “I dee wed.” And then he pushes it over those joints until it’s at the base of my finger.
On the ferry back, Tito and I stand together at the back of the boat. Neither of us can believe how quickly everything has passed. I can’t stop looking at our rings. At each glance they surprise me and remind me of what we have just done. The gold glimmers and winks back at us. We are married.
And then I remember the morning with all its doubts. “Mi amor, mi esposo,” I say, smiling that I can call him my husband. “What did you need to do in the Consulate this morning? It couldn’t have waited?”
He looks back at me in the bright light. “I needed the Consulate to stamp my passport soltero before I got married.” He laughs. “I know it was for only a few minutes, but I was soltero once.” I was single.
The next installment will be posted Tuesday, Jan 18.