15 June 2020

I’m walking quickly for a human, my shoes squeaking against the floor when my phone buzzes in my pocket. I don’t really need to see the ID, and I don’t, in fact, check it, before my thumb instinctively taps the green circle which connects me to my daughter. Her face appears on the screen. 

“I’m in the hallway,” I say quickly, forestalling anything which she might say, though I probably don’t need to. Over the last several months, she has grown to assume that both of us are at work any time she calls and is circumspect about the terms of address she uses.

“Is Dad there?” 

“He’s not with me, but unless he’s not paying attention, he’s already in my office.”

 I turn the corner and sure enough, Edward isn’t exactly in my office, but he is leaning against the door, his lithe frame supported by the jamb. His feet are crossed at the ankles, and his mask hangs down from his neck over his scrubs. A wide smile breaks across his face as he sees me, and I turn the phone toward him so that he can see Rene. But he barely waves to her before taking the phone from my hand, pulling me into my office, and kicking the door closed. 

His hands are in my hair before I have a chance to take a breath, and I yank off his scrub cap so that I can return the gesture, and then he’s sitting on my desk and our tongues are in each other’s mouths. And Edward is giggling, and pulling me between his legs, and we’re probably only seconds in when the voice pipes up from my now-facedown iPhone.

 “You know I still can hear you, right? Do you have a minute to stop swapping spit and look at the decision?” 

Edward laughs and draws back, picking up the phone. He’s grinning and so am I. We wave. Renesmee shakes her head exasperatedly, but she’s smiling, too. 

“That was a nice view of your desk I had there for a second before you completely cut me off, Granddad,” she says. “It looks very expensive.” 

“I didn’t do that to you, that was your father,” I reply, and she laughs. It was Edward who texted us both what, ten minutes ago? Just one word: 


“So have you been online? Obviously we haven’t had time.” 

“And I look like I’ve had time?” And we laugh, because she doesn’t. Her hair is pulled up into a ponytail and the wild copper locks she inherited from her father show no sign of behaving. Her own surgical mask dangles around her neck, just like Edward’s. I’m the only one of the three of us who looks remotely put together, although I’m fairly certain that my hair now bears witness to the assault of my husband’s affection I’ve just experienced. 

“Well, I can’t check and talk to you at the same time,” Rene goes on. “So that’s on you, Dads.” 

Edward sits down at my computer and brings up a web browser. The hospital would lose their minds if they knew that Edward knows every password I have to everything, but then again, they would lose their minds even more thoroughly if they knew why he does. I set the phone in a cradle I keep at my desk for exactly this situation–I spend many an hour doing charts and chatting idly with either Edward or Rene as I work. I move behind Edward and place my hands on his shoulders as he types in the address of SCOTUS blog. 

“Would you look at that?” he mutters. “Gorsuch wrote the majority. Six-three.” 

“Gorsuch?” Rene sounds as surprised as I feel. “I didn’t see that coming.” 

“And Roberts went with the liberal justices also,” I add, reading over Edward’s shoulder as the liveblog scrolls by. “I thought for sure this would be four-five. I thought we’d be lucky to get five-four.” 

Edward is speaking aloud now, half reading and half adding commentary, and I rub his shoulders as he does. This is instinctual: our bodies never get tired, and our muscles never ache, but our nervous systems still recognize the feeling as pleasure. Esme often rubbed my shoulders when she came across me too engrossed in something, her way of being with me even when my mind was occupied. That it’s now I who often rubs Edward’s shoulders never escapes me.

“If the employer fires the male employee for no reason other than the fact he is attracted to men, the employer discriminates against him for traits or actions it tolerates in his female colleague. Put differently, the employer intentionally singles out an employee to fire based in part on the employee’s sex, and the affected employee’s sex is a but-for cause of his discharge. Or take an employer who fires a transgender person who was identified as a male at birth but who now identifies as a female. If the employer retains an otherwise identical employee who was identified as female at birth, the employer intentionally penalizes a person identified as male at birth for traits or actions that it tolerates in an employee identified as female at birth,” Edward reads aloud. He turns to me. “Did Neil Gorsuch just use the phrase ‘identified as female at birth’?” 

 “He has a woke clerk who wrote that,” Rene replies, “and besides, it’s ‘assigned.’”

“Most likely,” Edward continues distractedly, “but nevertheless. Inclusionary language is not what I’d expect from him.” 

A term like “inclusionary language” isn’t something I would’ve expected from Edward, either, even ten years ago. And yet it’s been what–four days?–since he was talking Renesmee out of burning her Harry Potter books. “TERF” wasn’t a word we knew three years ago either. 

Edward chuckles. 

“What?” Rene asks.

“Oh, nothing, Carlisle is just accusing me of being old-fashioned.” He gazes up at me wanly, and I lean over him again and our lips touch, more gently this time. When I glance over to my phone, Rene has her eyes covered.

 “You can look, Monster,” I tell her. “We’re not going to get up to anything you shouldn’t see in my office.”

“Not right now, you’re not.”  

“Oh stop watching Grey’s Anatomy,” Edward shoots back. “We’ve never had sex in this office.” 

I can’t help beginning to laugh. “What?” he replies. 

“Okay, Bill Clinton. I see we’re taking the narrow reading today.” I poke him in the chest.

He looks down sheepishly and smirks. 

From the phone, Renesmee’s eyes are half closed in a suspicious gaze. “Why do I not fully understand that reference and why do I have a feeling I shouldn’t look it up?” 

“Because it was before you were born and because you absolutely shouldn’t look it up,” Edward answers, but he’s begun to laugh also.“Speaking of people whose sex lives we are absolutely not discussing, how is Jacob?”  

“Oh he’s fine.” The gentle smile creeps across Rene’s face again. There was a time, many years ago, when Edward and I both worried and hoped that somehow, the imprint would break, or that she wouldn’t reciprocate, or any of a myriad other things that would forestall what to us, felt like denying our daughter a very important choice. But when she talks about him, every line of her face softens, and her eyes go alight, and I can’t help but feel foolish for ever hoping otherwise. 

We call him our son-in-law even though they haven’t married yet. Rene is posing as twenty-four, ten years older than she is in body, and almost none of her women classmates in med school are married at this age. Not to mention that at least for the next year, it would look incredibly strange if a large crowd of us gathered for their wedding, no matter how immortal we know ourselves to be. 

“He’s joking about moving into CHAZ,” she goes on. “I’m not entirely certain he’s not being serious. I mean, I’m not happy with the United States right now, but we do have plumbing.” 

“Please don’t move into CHAZ.” This is me. Rene and Jake live in downtown Seattle, not far from the six-block protest-turned-commune-turned-protest. They posted photos on Instagram a few days ago of a burned-out bodega where we had all gone shopping the last time Edward and I visited. Rene is all but invincible, and so is Jake, but that didn’t stop me from pacing our apartment for three hours straight when she and Jake attended a protest march until I received the text that said “Back in the apartment!” accompanied by a cheerful selfie of them, side by side in face masks, Rene in her “Nevertheless She Persisted” shirt and Jake in black tee emblazoned with NATIVES 4 BLACK LIVES. 

“Granddad, I’m joking. He’s joking. Stop worrying.” 

Edward smiles gently. “Sweet, he worries because he loves you. Let him be.” 

It was Edward who reminded me that it had been my idea to take the entire family to the March on Washington in 1963. We stood and listened to impassioned speeches, none more so than by Dr. King, and I considered myself having come a long way from my father’s teachings about the mark of Cain. So when I hesitated a week ago about whether to go to the Manhattan Bridge, Edward ribbed me a little bit as he penned NO JUSTICE NO PEACE on a large piece of cardboard. Rene, upon hearing later that day of my hesitation about participating in something which could end in violence, offered to write Vampire Fragility just for me.  

But in the end I went. We sent Jake and Rene our own selfie, Edward with his sign, and me with one which said simply BLACK LIVES MATTER, which still feels like a small, personal transgressive revolution. 

We don’t own protest-appropriate t-shirts.

“Just be careful,” I manage. “Please.” 

She gives me a small smile. “I’m being careful, Granddad. Very. And while it’s unbelievably annoying, it’s kind of sweet that you still worry so much.” She pushes a lock of hair out of her face. “I think Jake is just bored and worried about not being able to go home. Billy is fine, the rest of the tribe is fine, there have been 30 COVID cases in Clallam. But they closed the Rez and even though he obviously could pull rank, he isn’t. He’s feeling disempowered and so he’s taking power where he can get it.” 

“We’re sorry we can’t be out there with you,” Edward says, and the understatement is evident, at least to me. 

Rene shakes her head. “You are right where you need to be. New York needed you. Besides, 24-hour shifts in the middle of a pandemic must feel…nostalgic or something.” She grins the same devious grin her mother had when she was trying to get Edward to do something.

I run a hand through Edward’s hair.  “It does bring back memories, that’s for sure.”  Edward swivels in my chair and gazes up at me, a small smile playing on his lips. I drape my arms over his skinny shoulders and rest my chin on them, gazing at the phone. 

“So six blocks of my neighborhood have seceded from the country, my dads are out marching against the cops, and Neil Gorsuch is using trans-affirming language. 2020 is a very confusing year.” 

We all three laugh. “It really, really is,” Edward says, and it feels good to be like this. Happy, temporarily, at least. Talking with our daughter like she’s here in the room, instead of on the other side of the country. Like we’re at home in midtown instead of on the sixteenth hour of a mercifully-aligned shift at Mt. Sinai. 

Even though it was technically only our eleventh year of being partnered and our sixth year of marriage, Edward and I celebrated our century anniversary two years ago, with all of our family and cousins at their huge estate in Alaska. It was a multi-day party, complete with Alice’s overzealous decorating and programming. We didn’t hold back the revelry. We danced for hours. We told stories that went back hundreds and thousands of years. We introduced Emmett to RuPaul and he actually enjoyed it. A year later, he introduced us to Todrick. 

And maybe that’s why this year feels manageable. Edward and I have always held these things in tension. Joy and sorrow, health and sickness, life and death. We aren’t the husbands we are without the wives we lost. We aren’t the fathers we are without Rene not having her mother. The world seems upended right now, and yet…I’ve been living in an upended world for nearly three hundred eighty years. 

I’m made aware I’ve gone silent only when Rene asks, “Granddad?” 

Edward looks up at me. “He’s just having deep thoughts.” 

“I should’ve known.” She looks over her shoulder. “Look, I should go. We have rounds. I just wanted to be able to look this over with you the moment it happened. We can talk more later.” 

I haven’t gotten used yet to hearing her talking about going on rounds, but she’s right, it’s only just after seven AM in Washington, and I notice that her eyes look a little tired. But her white coat makes her look in control, and she projects the confidence of a woman at the top of her class. I feel proud.

“You’re wearing more PPE than that, right?” Edward asks. 

She rolls her eyes. “Yes, Dad. I just got to work.”

“Rene, it’s just that–”

“I know.” Her voice is exasperated again, but her smile is wide. “My respiratory system is the most human part of me; I’ve gotten colds from other coronaviruses; we shouldn’t make assumptions, yadda yadda yadda. Dad. Granddad. We all have to act like we’re just normal. So I’m acting like I’m normal. It’s fine.”

“Okay.” The sigh is long. “Go to work. We love you, sweet.” 

“Love you, Rene,” I add.

“I love you both. Congratulations on another important day.” 

And then the phone is abruptly back on my homescreen, and the office is quiet. For a moment, neither of us says anything, and I hop up onto the desk. I don’t need to sit, but I’ve been practicing human habits so long it is second nature when I’ve been standing longer than a human would. Edward stands and comes between my legs, and soon we have reversed our earlier embrace. 

“Six-three,” he mutters. 

“I’m six-two,” I joke, “and so are you.” Our bodies fit perfectly in that regard. He is lankier than I am, and my legs are slightly longer, but when we lie together in bed or in front of the fireplace, it is easy for us to become one set of body parts, for a back to meet a chest and ankles to twine between legs.

He rolls his eyes. “You’re impossible. And you’re going to have to hold the thought of all that skin until we get home tonight because our daughter isn’t the only one who has rounds.” 

I sigh. He’s not wrong; I have a 10:45 consult myself. I hop off the desk and for a moment we are body to body, from head to toe. Edward kisses my neck and then pulls away from me. 

“We haven’t talked about what we’re going to do for your birthday this weekend,” I say as he stuffs his dirty surgical cap into his pocket. “It’s already Monday.” 

He shrugs. “I figured we’d spend it together somehow. That’s enough.” 

“After almost a hundred days of stay at home orders, you aren’t tired of spending time with me?” 

He has taken a few steps away from me, but he turns and cocks his head, smiling with only half his mouth. It’s both alluring and sweet. 

“Carlisle,” he says, “I will never be tired of spending time with you.” He holds his hand out to me, and I take it, and then we are through the door and into the hallway. 

We aren’t in anyone’s face about our marriage, but when we joined the staff four months ago, we didn’t hide it either. Yet it still feels a bit surreal to do even just this in the hallway of my place of employment, holding hands with a man I’ve pledged so much more than my life to. But it feels good, too. 

Hearing my thoughts, Edward squeezes my hand. “What’re they gonna do, fire us?” he whispers. 

“Didn’t you hear?” I whisper back, smiling. “They can’t.” 

We hold hands until we reach the end of the hallway and go our separate ways. 

Historical Note: 

The decision in Bostock v. Clayton County was handed down on June 15, 2020. In a ruling which, surprising to most Americans, was decided 6-3, conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch held that the language of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964—regardless of the intent of its drafters—means that “an employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.” 

The decision was handed down amidst great unrest in the United States, including the continued threat of the global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and increased violence against protestors advocating for massive reform of American policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers.   


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