When Christy left at the end of October—when we thought the leaving was permanent—there were several hours between the time she left and the time her big white Pod followed her (those crates that are packed up, picked up, and shipped off to designated locations). In the two days before she left, I would drive up behind its open door to bikes and furniture, saws and garden tools, all belted into place for safe travels. But here, now, it sat sealed, locked… fallen leaves kicking at its sides on winds of finality. When the driver came to tow it off, I stood staring out my kitchen window through the slats of open metal blinds, my older son standing next to me. At first, I made pretense of wanting to see how the mechanics of lifting and storing such a thing worked. But after a time, my son said, “Mom, this is weird. That guy can see us watching him.” Then, giving up the pretense in a fashion so atypical of my usual self-consciousness I said, “I don’t care. I’ll never see him again in my life; this is the last I’ll see of Christy,” and I stood there watching, without apology, until the trailer with its gleaming Pod pulled away from the house and the last inch of its blocky whiteness slipped out of my view. It was a sad day.
Fast forward through the break-up-that-was-not-to-be to spring break, 2013. Christy and I are walking around Portland imagining the spaces of her new place, chuckling at funky yard art, folding into 60s era bar chairs crafted of wine barrels, and sniffing mason jars of herbal remedies and twined sage bundles—the ones sure to aggravate any of those pesky spirits hanging around to take out ancient grievances on happy new home-owners. Retailers comment on the public nature of our coupling:
“It’s sweet to see you so affectionate. How long have you been together?” asks the woman in the herb shop.
“About two years,” answers Christy.
“My partner and I are at three and a half. Good to be reminded…”
I have a couple thoughts: 1. If she only knew, and 2. Is three and a half all we get?
Then she asks, “Have you heard anything about what’s happening in the Supreme Court?” and she tells us how the first question asked of the attendees is something like, “How does anyone’s right to marry affect you personally?”
It’s an interesting question… one that takes the steam out of The Bible Tells Me So, though, I suppose, if you buy into James Dobson’s argument that the shooting at Sandy Hook was a result of the country’s opening to gay rights, then you could fear for your child’s safety in school.
But when I got home and read some of the other questions the justices were asking, I became confused. They were questions about the security of children raised by same-sex couples or the newness of gay marriage in society, a suggestion from which I can infer that the idea just hasn’t been tested sufficiently in time.
Hmm… I seem to recall from my high school civics class that the function of the Supreme Court is to ascertain the constitutionality of the law, and I can’t quite see how either of the questions above relates to an interpretation of the Constitution. Rather they look a bit more like stall tactics employed by politicians than the sound arguments of law I expect from the highest court in our country. To be fair, however, I suppose if the justices were making arguments that favored my position but lacked the argument of law, I might look the other way. Or applaud.
These days, having been married and divorced, both before I knew for sure that I was gay, I’m not even certain what marriage means to me, though Christy suggested the nearest meaningful purpose I’ve heard: It marks a coming of the fullness of a loving relationship though not the end of it. But like so many gay citizens of this country, it is the validation that comes of the right to marry that I hope for. It is a validation of love and the mess that often accompanies it—of the humanness, both for better and for worse, that gives birth to our choices. Maybe that’s the reason I’ve watched Noah St. John perform his story, “The Last Mile” on NPR’s Snap Judgment no less than a hundred times. He tells a story of love and family that transcends type—a story that humanizes us all. It says that love in all of its mess, with white crates that leave and come back again, is still love, after all.
In the days and years that follow our Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage, we will surely hear about the numbers and percentages of gay divorces and the children of gay parents sitting in therapy—we already do. But to those un-well-wishers I would ask, simply, how is my humanity different from yours? And add that maybe if we could all be supported in loving those whom we love, ourselves most of all, those statistics might begin to look a little different for the whole of us.
If you haven’t seen Noah’s story, check it out. I’ll be shocked if you can watch it less than five times or twenty in a day.