you need a staple

“I brought my divorce decree. I don’t know if you need it,” I say to Shonda, the government employee who will decide my fate for the morning. My fiancé and I got up early for this and I did a really good job remembering to bring this vital piece of paperwork, so I’m kind of hoping she needs it. 

“How long ago was it?” she asks. 
Almost five years to the day since I signed the papers, I reply. 

“Oh. I don’t need it then. However.” She pauses for dramatic effect. “If I did need it, this wouldn’t work because you don’t have a staple.”

“A staple?” I repeat. “My divorce lawyer never mentioned anything about a staple.”

“Yes, a staple,” she repeats emphatically. “You have to have a staple. ”

Shonda then proceeded to inform my fiancé and me of the arcane rules that Hennepin County has regarding red pens and staples in the upper left hand corner of divorce paperwork. 

“Not only do you have to have a staple,” she continues. “It also has to say in red pen in the upper left hand corner, ‘Do not remove.'”

Okay, I think. That’s easy enough to do. Then she tells us the last and most important part. “Plus, the notary stamp has to be raised. You can’t have a photocopy like yours. You don’t have that,” she points out helpfully for the second time. 

A photocopy? I think to myself. I think this is actually a scanned copy. My lawyer was pretty up to date. I didn’t remember seeing a fax machine, but as Shonda noted previously, it was so long ago it didn’t matter, anyway. 

After her educational sermon, my fiancé and I fill out the rest of our marriage license application, having done the preliminary fill-in-the-blanks online. Because this is a government website, there is much skepticism on Shonda’s part about whether or not the online application would cooperate with her desktop application, having admitted that the office servers have been crashing all month. 

We check the spelling of our names. We check our birth dates and addresses and put our marriage license fee on a credit card like all good Americans. 

Shonda reminds us about the importance of staples, hands us a packet we don’t really look at, and we leave the DMV, which for some inexplicable reason is in charge of marriage licenses instead of the government building across the street.

Out on the street, my fiancé and I have a good laugh about government-issued staples, make mental reminders to get one, and then part ways to go to work. Before I leave downtown, however, I carry a Zappos box filled with wedding invitations to the post office, which, like all post offices when you need them, isn’t open. I wait. I didn’t come all the way downtown to not multitask. 

Later that evening, we realize Shonda never asked to see our IDs. All the effort we put into the wording of our invitations suddenly seems irrelevant. If the government doesn’t care who we are, who are we?

My fiancé and I stare into each other’s eyes. We are people made crazy by 7 months of wedding planning and we are in love, even if our names don’t matter. “We got our marriage license this morning and I mailed our wedding invitations,” I say. “This is really happening now.”

“Yeah,” he says.  “I felt that way back in July when I bought your engagement ring.”

Ah, love. 


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