26 June 2015

Whatever it is that the bartender has put into Edward’s glass turns purple when it is set on fire. The bartender himself looks a bit confused, but douses the fire with whatever it is he’s concocted in his shaker, and at once, the martini glass begins to sweat. The cocktail itself is pink, and the barkeep adds two maraschino cherries before sliding it across the counter. He winks.

“That was some flame,” I say to Edward. “How was it purple?”

“I spit in the glass when he wasn’t looking.”

I laugh and lean into him, placing my hand on his upper thigh. The bartender throws a disappointed glance in our direction.

“You are being territorial,” Edward whispers.

“I am,” I whisper back.

“It’s kind of hot.”

“I think so, too.”

Behind us, twenty-first century pop music blares as people dance on the rooftop deck under the string lights. They are every gender and every realization thereof—women who look far more masculine and tough than I do, men in flamboyant drag, and everyone in between. Around us everything is rainbows, from the way the bottles of Smirnoff are arranged behind the bar, to the strobe light, to the clothing of so many of the people around us, and of course, the flags.

We have one too, now. Rene bought it for her room, but she slowly and surreptitiously moved it from her wall, to her door, to the kitchen. When Edward saw it, he just sighed and said, “Well, she’s not queer, so I guess this does belong in our space…”

We hung it on the same wall in the foyer as our poster of Barack Obama.

I’ve not always been one for politics, and I certainly have not always been progressive, but partnering Edward and parenting Rene have changed so many things it makes my head spin. Rene voted for the first time in the midterms, and we kept Cuomo in office. We all follow the news much more closely than we ever have before. And that is why ten hours ago, Edward and I sat transfixed in front of my iMac, anxiously reloading SCOTUSBlog.

Two years ago today we hadn’t been ready for how we would feel. Technically, these cases didn’t matter for us, in material fact or in our hearts. We knew who we were. But this time, we were ready for the crush of emotion, and even though all the pundits had predicted it, and even though we felt in our bones the certainty of the tidal shift in public opinion, when the word REVERSED appeared on the screen, we clung to each other and wept.

Edward’s phone rang two minutes later. “I refuse to allow you and G to be the only gay men in New York who somehow stay in tonight,” his daughter informed him as soon as he picked up. “We will meet you at Terrace on 53rd at sundown.”

“G” is my new name, a development from when Rene moved into the dorms at NYU last fall and increasingly had phone conversations that could be easily overheard. She still comes home for brunch on Sundays and I get to hear “Granddad” all I want then. We pointed out to her that I have a name and she could use it, but she’s settled on “G” to remind us both every time we spoke that to her, I am never merely “Carlisle.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

That “we” who’ve insisted we all four meet at a gay bar, however, is much more complicated. I catch Edward’s eyes searching across the crowd to where Rene is dancing close to a striking young man with short hair. His sleeveless shirt reveals the shoulder tattoo, and under the string lights, his earring glints. Edward deeply disapproves of both developments, but Rene likes them, so we are forced to go along with it.

Edward nods as he notices my thoughts. “So we’re really doing this,” he mutters.

I shrug. “Well, you know what they all said. Now that they’re going to let us queers marry, we’re just going to slide on down the slope to people marrying animals.”

He rolls his eyes, and I grin.

“Too soon?”

“A hundred years from now would still be too soon.”
As though they have heard us talking—which should be an impossibility, especially over the din—Rene grabs Jacob’s hand and they make their way across the rooftop to us.

“Dance,” she orders Edward.

“Drinking,” he replies.

She gives him an exasperated look. “Can’t.”

He holds up the drink. “Yours?”

“Sure.” She takes it from him, letting her hand brush his just long enough, I’m sure, to tell him whatever it is she means to. The one-word conversations are their game. Technically, they can communicate almost wordlessly, and so they challenge each other to have as long a conversation as they can manage without either uttering a phrase.
She swigs the drink. I am still getting used to this part. We agreed that it made the most sense to give her the freedom of paperwork that says she’s 21. Nevertheless, when I see her slender wrist cocked just so as she holds a glass of wine, my heart lurches and I want my little girl back.

Edward gives me a knowing nod.
Rene hands the drink to Jake and grabs my hands. “Come dance.”

“Should we really leave Jacob alone with your father?” I ask, as I allow myself to be dragged toward the throng.

“They are not going to tear each other apart on a rooftop deck in Midtown. Besides, that cocktail is strong. Pretty sure Dad will be able to take him.”

I laugh. “I wonder if that was what he was thinking when he ordered it.”

We slide onto the dance floor, and begin gyrating to the beat of the music. We dance for two pounding rock songs without saying anything other than to sing along with the lyrics, until the deejay switches to something a bit slower and she can catch her breath.

“How are things with Jake?” I ask finally.


“Any new developments?”

I get the same eye roll Edward gave me only a few minutes ago, and I smile inwardly to myself at how alike they are.

“G, you will know when that happens.” She touches my hand, and I see the embarrassment she is already anticipating the day that she has news that she knows there will be no way to hide from her father.

The laughter bubbles out of me before I have a chance to stop it. “I’m not asking if he’s taken you to bed, Rene.” Not to mention that I am every bit as mortified she is about the inevitable prospect of knowing.

It has been a little less than a year since we all four felt the seismic shift, as Facebook check-ins and friendly phone calls turned into hours-long Skype conversations that our daughter preferred to take in private. When finally the distance was obviously untenable, we helped Jake get an apartment in the Bowery. Edward, of course, would have preferred Flushing, or Staten Island, or truly, that Jake just stay on the other side of the country. But the apartment is a few blocks from Rene’s dorm, and though her scent has been all over the place the handful of times we’ve been there, we try not to ask too many questions.

“I’m just wondering how you’re feeling about it all these days, that’s all.”

She smiles a faraway smile. “Oh. It’s good.” A hand finds its way to my bare forearm, and I am treated to the two of them, laughing over coffee, poring over LPs at the record store off Washington Square Park, under a blanket watching Orange is the New Black.

It feels…comfortable. A lot like you and Dad.

I look back toward the bar. Edward and Jake are deep in conversation, and I wonder if it’s the same one Rene and I are having on the dance floor. Edward looks up, locks eyes with me, and nods. Then he and Jake are standing and edging their way toward us.

“May I?” Edward says, and for a moment I am ready to move so that he can dance with Rene, but it’s not her hand he’s trying to take. Rene nods, and steps toward Jake, and Edward falls into my arms. We watch as Jake wraps his arms around Rene.

Edward sighs. “This still bugs me.”

“And me also,” I reply, “but he has matured, and we’ve raised her well.”

He nods. “We have.” He drapes his arms around my neck to dance, but the music fades, and is replaced by a clear male voice over the speakers, and it takes me a moment to realize what I am hearing.

“Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives; this binds families and societies together, and it must be acknowledged that the opposite sex character of marriage, one man, one woman has long been viewed as essential to its very nature and purpose. And the Court’s analysis and the opinion today begins with these millennia of human experience, but it does not end there. For the history of marriage is one of both continuity and change…

The whole rooftop falls silent for eight minutes as we listen, first to the history of homosexuality, to the history of the court, to the broad and narrow interpretations of the fourteenth amendment. By the time the recording of Justice Kennedy’s announcement reaches its zenith, most of the people on the dance floor are already in tears.  

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were, and it would misunderstand petitioners to say that they disrespect or diminish the idea of marriage in these cases. Their plea is that they do respect it. They respect it so deeply they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law and the Constitution grants them that right. For these reasons and others set out in the opinion, the judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.”

A rowdy cheer goes up from the crowd. People clink glasses. Someone rings bells. Around us, couples fall into each other’s arms. I’ve never been one for public displays of affection, and when we are even remotely less than chaste in public, it is usually Edward who is the instigator. But tonight, I take Edward’s face in my hands, and pull him close enough that I can drink in his scent.  

The country has traveled a long road, I think. Through hate. Through trouble. Through pain. And ours has mirrored it—my centuries of desolation, my elation in Esme and Edward, Edward’s self-loathing, his rescue in Isabella Swan. The crushing loss of our wives. The perfect acceptance we’ve found in each other.

I show Edward the conversation I just had with Rene, and when she says her relationship feels like ours, he closes his eyes and nods.

May their love be this complete, I think to him.

And with our daughter, her partner, and what feels like an entire rooftop of people watching, I pull my husband’s body to mine and drown in his kiss.


Historical note: The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges was delivered on 26 June 2015, two years to the day after Windsor. The 5-4 finding, along the same split as Windsor, held that the “right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty.” It immediately made same-gender marriage legal in all fifty states.


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