Published in the Beaumont Enterprise
A steady rain was falling the morning I arrived for jury duty at the Mickey Leland Court House Annex in Houston. A kind of nouveau monument, it acts as a symbolic nexus among the diverse neighborhoods around it.
The jury pool consisted of 50 voters who reflected well the demographics of the area. Every age, race and nationality were represented.
We nervously settled into benches five rows deep in the rear of a court room while the justice of the peace, silhouetted against a seal of the state of Texas, blessed plea deals between prosecutors and defendants in both Spanish and English.
By mid-morning, the last of the criminal cases were disposed of without the need for our services.
The judge thanked us then added that someone else had also been waiting for the proceedings to end. A young Hispanic couple wanted to be married. When he invited us to attend, we nodded in unison.
The betrothed were in their 20s. They entered the courtroom from a side door. The groom was dressed in a camo jacket and jeans, the bride in black slacks with a white sweater. If they were surprised at the number of guests at their wedding, it didn’t show. As the old song goes, they only had eyes for each other.
She spoke some English, he very little, so the judge conducted the ceremony in their native tongue. It didn’t matter to us for in that room, at that moment, we all spoke the same language.
For those who had been married, the proceedings brought back memories of how we’d felt on our wedding day. The hopes and dreams. And for those of us whose marriages had faded away, what might have been.
When it was time to exchange vows, many of us whispered along remembering where and when we’d said those words before. For those of us who no longer had that special person, there was the haunting feeling of a life unfulfilled.
By the time the couple exchanged rings, there were few dry eyes among us. There were no gifts, no Cannon in D Major, or Ave Maria. Only the melodies played back in our hearts from the day of our own weddings. Each different, but all heralding the same gift — love.
We stood and applauded as the joyous couple walked past, arm in arm, to a new life. They will no doubt go forth without a memory of us, other than as a crowd of strangers. I knew, however, that I would never forget them.
Then I drove away alone, in the rain.
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Malcolm D. Gibson