“The marriage license costs thirty-five dollars,” she informed us. “How will you be paying?”
Wow. You couldn’t get a decent pair of socks in Manhattan for $35. What a bargain.
“Credit card,” I responded, as I handed her my black American Airlines Visa card, the points from which I intended to put toward the airfare for the African safari Kit and I were planning. She took the card and I shot Kit a look that said, This is all moving so quickly and easily and cheaply.
She ran the card, I signed the receipt, and she handed over the marriage license for us both to sign. I scanned it quickly before applying my signature. I felt a sudden onset of butterflies seeing the words “Marriage License” above the names “Michael T. Ausiello” and “Christopher E. Cowan.” I passed it over to Kit to sign.
“Where do we go now?” I asked the lady behind the glass.
“Are you having your ceremony here?”
She handed us a piece of paper titled “Marriage Ceremony Information.”
“Wait twenty-four hours and then return with your marriage certificate,” she said.
Um...Whatchoo talkin’ about, Willis? was what I wanted to say. I shot Kit and Nina a panicked look.
“We need to get married today,” I stressed to her, without explaining that the reason we couldn’t come back in twenty-four hours was because the marriage bureau was closed on the weekend, which put us at Monday and Kit started chemo on Monday and who knew what fresh hell awaited us after Monday and besides we really needed to come out of this day with a win.
“You need a judicial waiver for that,” she informed us. Oh...that was all? Phew. Easy peasy. One quick question: What the fuck is a judicial waiver?!? was what I wanted to say. Instead, I cleared my throat and calmly inquired, “What?”
“If you want to get married today, you need to go across the street to 60 Centre Street and get a judge to sign what’s called a judicial waiver.”
I looked at the time. It was now 2:45 p.m.
“You close at three-forty-five, yes?” I asked.
“Are we going to make it back here in time?”
She glanced at her watch, gave us one of those You’re fucked expressions, and said, “You better hurry.”
I stared at Kit. “Are we doing this?”
Without hesitation, Kit said, “Less talking. More running.”
And with that, the three of us raced out of the marriage bureau, dodging brides and grooms and brides and brides and grooms and grooms left and right. Kit was moving at such a fast clip that I almost felt the need to remind him that he had a fist-sized tumor in his asshole.
We made it out onto the street, and it was clear that Kit, who was valiantly leading the charge, had no fucking clue what direction to head on Centre Street. The lady had said “across the street,” but in what direction? As Kit began sprinting north, with me and Nina in tow, I imagined his infamous Cannonball Run–themed iPad alarm music blaring in the background. He took notice of a street number, stopped in his tracks, paused, and screamed, “Other direction!” He started running south and we followed right behind him.
I looked at Kit, and there was a childlike excitement and sense of purpose in his eyes. It reminded me of the time we were at the front of the line to get into the Magic Kingdom one year earlier, just as they were opening the park gates at 9 a.m., and we raced through the desolate Main Street ahead of thousands of other frenzied tourists, most of whom, like us, were heading to Space Mountain.
Kit spotted a cop and asked him where 60 Centre Street was, and the officer pointed across the street to the unmissably massive, globally iconic, hexagonally shaped, heavily pillared, granite structure—aka the New York Supreme Court Building. Oh, shit scrotums. That’s 60 Centre Street? That’s the kind of building that requires six layers of security to penetrate—four layers more than we currently had time for. Also, why was the seemingly mile-long marble staircase leading to the entrance teeming with so many people?
As I got closer, I noticed huge Panavision-y cameras and fancy lighting and boom mics and a smattering of important-looking millennials brandishing walkie-talkies.
Ugh. It was a film shoot.
“Excuse me, what’s going on here?” Kit queried one of the bystanders.
“I think Law & Order: SVU is shooting an episode,” the obvious tourist responded, excitedly.
Kit and I exchanged a look, the subtext of which was basically Seriously?!
The three of us made our way past the herd of looky-loos before being blocked by one of the power-tripping, walkie-talkied millennials, who ordered us to stand down. Kit was having none of it.
“We have to get inside now or we won’t be able to get married today,” Kit pleaded.
“It will just be a few more minutes,” the bouncer responded. “Thank you for your patience.”
I looked past Law & Order’s guard dog and noticed the cameras weren’t even rolling. The crew was merely setting up for the shot. “This is bullshit,” I groaned to Kit. “They’re not even shooting.”
That was all the confirmation Kit needed. “Let’s go!” he shouted, as he pushed past the perimeter and started rushing up the cascade of marble stairs, Nina and I right behind him.
“Stop!” the bouncer yelled as we zoomed past the production and toward the front entrance. Nina started hysterically laughing at the absurdity of it all, which made Kit laugh. Which made me laugh until I remembered, you know, the cancer stuff.
Once we were inside the rotunda, it took us a few minutes to get through the security line and head up to the judge’s chambers on the third floor. We entered the modest-sized office—the waiting area of which was empty—and approached the nonthreatening-looking man in his forties standing behind the counter.
“Hi, we need to get married today and we need a judicial waiver,” I said with palpable angst, as I placed our marriage license before him.
The gentleman, who was obviously operating at about ten speeds slower than me, idly looked up at the dusty clock hanging on the wall.
It was a few minutes past three. “The judge is done for the day,” he informed us. “He leaves at around three.”
“We were told we had until three-forty-five,” I replied angrily.
“That’s when the marriage bureau closes,” he clarified. “The judge works different hours.”
I looked at Kit, my eyes welling up. We were fucked. Just as I was about to wave the white flag and declare that today’s marriage ceremony was simply not meant to be, Kit said, “We have extenuating circumstances.”
“Oh, do you,” the gentleman responded, somewhat playfully. “What exactly are your extenuating circumstances?”
“I was just diagnosed with cancer,” Kit informed him. “I start chemo on Monday, which is why we need to get married today.”
The clerk looked at the two of us with a mix of suspicion and concern.
I looked at him with a mix of Fuck yeah and My fiancé just shut this shit down.
“It’s true,” I interjected in an effort to allay any misgivings he might have. “We literally just came from Sloan Kettering.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that,” he said, looking back up at the clock, which now read 3:08 p.m. “Let me see what I can do.”
He disappeared into a back room, and without missing a beat, Kit turned to us and proudly, unapologetically declared, “I just played the cancer card.”
Reprinted from Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies, A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Other Four-Letter-Words, courtesy of Atria Books.