Ranjani smiled as she sprawled out on the brand new queen mattress alongside her husband, David. They’d been married only five hours ago at a courthouse in Brooklyn in front of her mother (her father had passed away of lung cancer a few years prior), David’s parents, and a few friends.
She was thinking about how her poor, sweet David had struggled mightily in the beginning of their courtship to pronounce her surname. How she knew it was love by the lines that appeared on his forehead as he struggled.
“What’s on your mind, lady?” asked David.
“I think I’d like to add your name to my name,” she said, her left hand enmeshed in her new husband’s thick, dark brown hair, which curled at the tips.
“Ranjani Venkataraghavan-Tannenbaum. What do you think?”
She giggled immediately after she’d said it.
David rolled onto her, bringing his face as close as possible to hers without touching.
“Okay,” he said simply.
And she laughed, kissing him long and hard.
Two days later, they went to the social security office, a drab, brown building with walls papered a sea green color. Upon entering, Ranjani and David found a man wearing a yarmulke sitting behind a large, mahogany desk.
“Hello,” the man said, cordially.
“Hi there,” David started, “we’re here to get a name change — or addition, rather — for my wife.”
Melinda handed over the paperwork, and the man began looking things over. A few moments later, the man’s mouth closed tightly around his teeth, and he shook his head a few times in short, robotic motions.
“Is there a problem, sir?” Ranjani asked him, puzzled.
“This doesn’t seem right to me,” he said, eyes on David.
“Excuse me?” David said.
“I mean, uh, uh, you should marry a Jew.”
The man behind the desk looked at Ranjani and smiled weakly. “No offense, of course, ma’am.”
David was the one who replied. “You’re serious right now?” he cried, and his eyes grew to a size Ranjani had never seen.
“You realize we got married a few days ago?”
“I’m just saying…”
“You’re just saying. You’re just saying,” David said, cutting him off.
At this, the man’s face grew red.
“I want to talk to your supervisor,” demanded David.
The man went away, grumbling to himself.
“Can you believe this guy?” David said, turning to his wife now.
Ranjani kissed him on the lips quickly and put her hand over his heart, which was beating wildly.
Another man, the manager they guessed, walked briskly up to the empty desk.
He looked younger than the man wearing the yarmulke, and his hands remained at his side as he moved toward them.
“Hi folks. My name is Rich. There was a problem, Maurice told me?”
“The problem is you’re employing this place with complete assholes,” answered David.
“David. David,” Ranjani said firmly.
“What happened?” the man said, his voice resembling that of a prepubescent boy.
“Basically he was rude to us,” Ranjani said, looking directly at Rich as she spoke. “We’d like to forget about it and go through with my name addition, the reason we came. Can you help us with that?”
The man smiled sadly, eager to get on with things and clearly relieved that he wasn’t going to have to learn the particulars of what had happened.
At that moment, Ranjani realized that she still had her hand over David’s heart.
She removed it, and then she and Rich went ahead as if nothing had happened at all.
When they were back in the car and their business carried out, David turned to his wife after buckling his seatbelt. His key was in the ignition, but he had not turned the car on yet.
“Why didn’t you say anything more? It didn’t make you angry?”
She sighed. “Of course, it did.”
“Then, why did you let him get away with it?”
“He didn’t get away with it, hon. The manager knows we were angry.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t tell him what he said.”
David looked for a moment like he had fifteen minutes before in front of the rude man. Ranjani smiled at him with all of the confidence she could muster.
“I just didn’t want to deal with it.”
David thought about this and decided not to push the issue any further. He started the car and backed out of the spot.
The two drove the next ten minutes home in silence. Ranjani wasn’t sure what the silence meant and that worried her.