26 June 2013

The bathroom reeks with the astringent smell of hair dye, halfway between burned plastic and gasoline. I have it at my side on the bathroom counter, in a small disposable plastic tub. Gladware, this very strange invention, which to me, still seems incredibly wasteful even though I appreciate its utility. We can pour the dye, and then just lid the whole noxious thing and shove it back under the sink for a week or so from now when we’ll need it again.

“You really should do a better job researching the bond structure of my hair follicles,” my son answers my thoughts. “Maybe you can devise a more permanent dye.”

I chuckle. “You also could become slightly less addicted to long showers, Edward, and it wouldn’t wash out as often.”

He snorts.

That,” he says playfully, “is not a sacrifice I am willing to make for you.”  

I smile and bend over him again. The teasing feels as comfortable as his thin body does between my thighs. As much as I joke about Edward’s long showers, it is lovely to spend this time with him every ten days or so, my fingers carefully parting his hair, releasing that sweet scent that is so close to my own, and then combing just a few streaks of gray into the locks at his temples and the crown of his head. Sometimes, we do this when Rene is gone, and we take off our clothes “so that the dye won’t stain anything.”
Fictions. Dyeing Edward’s hair is both literally and figuratively intoxicating, and the number of sheets we’ve ruined because we didn’t manage to wait for Edward’s hair to dry before hopping into bed…well. That’s why we have Amazon Prime.

Today we are clothed, however, because Edward’s daughter is downstairs, watching TV. Rene, pronounced like the bird, but with an extra ‘e’ as a nod to her grandmothers, is what we call her now. She favors her mother, but has the long shock of bronze hair she got from Edward, which she usually wears spilling over one shoulder. Two years ago, she was still experimenting—first the short, almost shaven style of her aunt, and two months later, a braid all the way down to her waist. But now we are hurtling toward her seventh birthday, and the swings in experimentation are growing less severe. My granddaughter, who has grown so quickly, is picking a hairstyle for forever.

She is the reason for the dye. As she has aged and we have not, our stories have needed to change. Edward suggested that he go back to baggy jeans and sweatshirts and pose as Rene’s biological brother. I could tell people that I am a widower with two teenage children, he explained. But Rene and I immediately shot this down for different sides of the same reason: we both wanted to continue kissing Edward in public.

So instead, we’ve aged her father’s appearance as much as we can. He poses as “thirty-five,” and I am “thirty-seven,” and while the gray is not strictly necessary, it takes the attention off his still-too-slender body and the youthful lines of his face. We tell people Rene is our adopted daughter whom we’ve had since she was taken away from Edward’s sister as a baby. Yes, he was only nineteen then. Yes, we both had to grow up quickly. Yes, of course she cramped our style. No, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Rene and I kiss Edward as much as we want.

I’m combing back one of the sections of Edward’s hair when we hear a shriek from downstairs. Edward leaps up, almost knocking the dye over, and I lay down the comb, not caring if it stains the counter. We are downstairs instantly, in the living room with the large LED TV that would not be my preference, but which Edward loves. Rene’s heart is pounding so loudly we all can hear it.
I had thought she was watching How I Met Your Mother, but she has on C-Span. The camera is on a young female reporter, standing in front of a white building with tall columns.

“It’s Windsor,” Rene breathes. “We won.”  

I blink, and for a moment, it is as though my hearing has gone. We had read in the Times as the case snaked its way up through district and appeals. I had figured that the legality didn’t matter. Esme and I were married for years in spirit before she was comfortable enough with her thirst to stand before a minister. And Edward and I are married under the laws of the State of New York. The other four visited us a year ago and sat politely in the pew in the small Manhattan courtroom as Rene bounced back and forth and the judge walked us through the simple vows. Even Emmett, for whose East Tennessee sensibilities this is all still a bit difficult, applauded us when we kissed.

My senses return to me within a second, and I see Edward, twisting his wedding band on his finger. We each wear both of them: the ring I shared with Esme is on my right hand, the one he shared with Bella, Edward wears on a short chain around his neck. I see it from the corner of my eye, glinting from the V of the neck of his t-shirt, as the reporter goes on reading from the decision.

“…no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.

Personhood and dignity. The words cause my stomach to flip.  

Fingers lace themselves in mine, and Edward strokes my arm, leaning into my body and placing his head on my shoulder.

“I didn’t think it mattered to me, either,” he says.

“Of course it matters,” Rene says exasperatedly. “You are both so dumb sometimes.” She stands from the couch and comes to us, placing her hand over where ours are clasped together, and my head is flooded with images. The three of us crammed into her double bed as Edward and I take turns reading from Jane Eyre; Rene feeling gleeful as she realizes Edward is rubbing his foot against my leg as I read. The two of us, standing on the sidelines at Chelsea Park after we moved to the city, discreetly holding hands as we cheered on her soccer team in the rain.   Rene, running along the water at sunset on a private beach in Portugal, glancing back with approval at Edward and me, entwined on one chaise lounge as we watch.

They say that children are inclined to accept whatever reality they are presented with, and Rene has been no exception. She is born in the twenty-first century—this whole landscape is different for her. She’s the one who acts like we’re hopeless when we refer to two genders, and who throws around words like “demi” and “ace” and sends us scrambling to the internet to understand ourselves better. She calls us “Dad” and “Granddad” as though this is a customary arrangement, and when we asked if the constant reminder that, in some ways, I have never ceased being Edward’s father, made things a bit too weird, she only shrugged.

We are all three immortal, she explained. Everything about this is too weird.
So we let it be weird. We bought a penthouse in Hell’s Kitchen and took our daughter to Broadway shows after dark. We hung photos of Bella and Edward, and me and Esme, and I didn’t always refrain from calling Edward “Son.” We went to Madison Square Garden and reluctantly learned to root for the Knicks. On uncrowded days, we took Rene to the MoMA, and no one so much as batted an eye at yet another two men holding hands. Once, at Rene’s insistence, we even went to New York Pride.

But mostly we kept to our own private desires. We learned to cook, now that there was someone who could eat. We cheered soccer games. We made love more often than any two people had right to. We lived in the unending agony of our perfect memories of our lost wives, and in the overwhelming joy of the presence of each other. We were used to keeping to ourselves, and having one more thing about which to keep quiet didn’t seem that big an ask.
Like the vampirism, however, it has been something which feels, at its core, sinful.

On TV, the reporter is going on. “What this means, ultimately,” she says, “is that the Supreme Court is affirming that in the United States, the law can no longer find anything wrong with who LGBT people are, nor with whom they desire.”

Edward lets out a long exhalation—I hadn’t realized he was holding his breath.

I told you both that a long time ago.

Rene is standing in front of us now, leaning against both our chests. Though touching me is sufficient—I never try to shield any thoughts from Edward any more, and he plunders my mind any time he is close enough to do so—she has always preferred to directly convey her thoughts to both of us at once, when she can. Edward is still stroking my arm.

“So you did,” he mutters. He leans into me more forcefully, and his lips find their way to my collarbone. It’s his favorite place to kiss—the scars there were inflicted by him, in his vampiric adolescent rage before he left me in 1927. We both recognize it as an affirmation of his apology, his return to me, and now, our vow not to part. I turn my face to his and our lips meet.

“Gross,” Rene says. “But not because you’re guys.” She nods toward the screen. “Like, officially.” She squeezes our hands again and is gone at once. We hear her bedroom door close softly, giving us privacy.

Edward sits on the back of the couch and pulls me closer.

“It is okay, Carlisle,” he whispers, covering my lips with his again. “This…is okay.”

“No,” I mutter, my lips still pressed to his.

“This,” I tell him, “is good.”  

He laughs, grabs me by the buttocks, and we tumble onto the couch.


Historical note: United States v. Windsor, which was officially decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on 26 June 2013, struck down the core aspect of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act that  formally defined marriage as between one man and one woman, allowing federal entities to ignore same-sex partners in matters of things like insurance, social security, and taxes, and further allowing states to refuse to acknowledge same-sex marriages performed legally under the laws of a different state. In a 5-4 decision, the court found this law unconstitutional, as a “deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.”


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