Saturday, October 22, 2011
Send me some lovin'
Some days, I wonder how I could possibly consider doing any other job. Like Friday afternoon, when I left an interview with a Doris Day impersonator later than I imagined I would be. I still had to travel 30 miles west to the county courthouse to pick up a civil complaint. It was already 4:15 when I arrived; the records office would close soon. The security guards made me take off my shoes. And as I worked them back over my bare feet, I listened as the guards talked about the differences between marriage and civil unions.
"Big conversations here today in the courthouse!" I said with a wide grin.
A gay couple had just come in, one of the guards told me. Though the guards have all worked there for years, that's something they'd never seen.
"I wasn't even sure if it was legal, and if it was, where I should send them," he said.
"Well marriage isn't the same as a union," the other guard said. "It's legal."
"I just never saw it happen here before," the first guard said.
They didn't sound judgmental, just truly interested to see something happening at the courthouse they hadn't seen before.
"Well, y'all have a good weekend," I called, imagining two men marrying as I half-skipped back to the records room. The courthouse was nearly empty. No noise drifted out of courtrooms. The records office wasn't playing music as it usually does. By the time I made it back out to my car, I was amped up enough just on overhearing the guards' conversation (not to mention my previous hours spent with the Doris Day impersonator) that I called Anna up to declare my renewed love in journalism.
As we talked, I scanned around downtown. My eyes caught on the two 130-year-old giant sequoias that are kind of the pride and joy of the city. Six women and one man were hugging and taking photos of each other with a tiny point and shoot camera.
"I think I see them," I told Anna. "The couple who got married."
We got off the phone quickly, and I walked up to the crowd, a little nervous that I might look a little crazy in the suburbs if I asked if any of the women had recently married each other.
"Did y'all just have a wedding?" I asked.
"They did!" the oldest woman said. "They just got married."
Friday was their fourth anniversary. They met online under a shared love of horror movies. Only Sasha's parents -- including a father who grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana -- came to the ceremony. I told them I had a nice camera. I asked if I could take some photos of the group, some with the parents in the photo. They smiled. When I came back, camera in hand, half the crew was crying.
"My whole life, I thought I would never be able to get married," Sasha said. "I never thought this day would come."
Her tears stopped for a second as her betrothed explained that one day she will be a he.
"I'm transgendered," he said. "I want to transition, and then we'll be real married. Just married. Like normal."
He said his name was Stanley, that the night he proposed they watched the Shining. He said Sasha speaks fluent Japanese and sings beautifully. After the courthouse, they were going to drink and sing at a karaoke bar.
An official-looking man walked by, the kind of guy for whom the courthouse is an everyday gig.
"Congratulations!" he called. Sasha started crying again.
We exchanged phone numbers. I asked some more questions, hoping to maybe write something for the paper. Then I drove home past several century farms, down the lengths of wide open spaces not yet touched by Portland's urban cool. I dreamed of my own wedding, what my parents would be like. I wondered about Stanley's parents. The sun set. And as I wound my way on to the Interstate, I thought of Sasha, and I started crying.