PIECE OF PAPER
“Stephen? Where are you?”
“In here, Dillon,” I called, belatedly realizing that didn’t exactly say where I was. “In the den.” I got to my feet just as Dillon walked in. “I wanted to get all this paperwork squared away.”
“I know, I know,” Dillon said testily. “I agreed to sort that out last weekend.”
“And you hate anything so mundane,” I interjected with a laugh. I knew my Dillon so well, and I never really expected he would follow through with his offer to tidy up, but when he didn’t even respond to my gentle jibe I knew he had something else on his mind. And I was pretty sure what it was.
Frowning at me, Dillon said, “It’s been on the news all day. Don’t tell me you’ve not heard!”
“It passed! Finally, it passed,” he declared. “I know I told you it would this time, but…”
I hadn’t heard; I’d purposely avoided the news all day. I knew how he would react if it passed, not that I’d really doubted it would this time. I also knew, of course, what he would want; I just tried to ignore it, as if that would somehow make it go away. Dillon had been planning all along for us to get married as soon as the law was finally passed. Me? I wasn’t interested. I loved Dillon with everything I was, but I didn’t need someone else to confirm for me that I was committed to him; I knew that with my heart and soul.
Dillon had always been sure of who he was, what he was. Me, I’d fooled myself, lied to myself for more years than I cared to admit. I’d brushed off my interest in men as artistic and nothing more. I had no ulterior motive, I just happened to be an aesthetic man who saw form and beauty in everything around me. I simply admired the curves of a woman’s body with as much enthusiasm as I did the strength of man’s thigh, the line of his spine, the tightness of his ass. The light catching in an eye was as striking whatever the sex of the person whose eye it was.
It was easier to go with the flow than fight against the current, and my brother and my friends were constantly extolling their present girlfriends, or the next conquest they desired. So, I dated girls, denying the fact that I had any interest in the guys I hung around with.
Eventually I met Peggy. She was nice, she made me laugh, and we shared a lot of interests, and it didn’t take long before the casual dates became less casual and I found myself proposing to her.
I ignored the fact that kissing her didn’t set off any fireworks, that was for the movies; or that having sex with her didn’t rock my world either, that was only for the romance novels. I was doing what was normal, what was expected, I was getting married.
Once bitten, twice shy.
“Please, Dillon, not this again. You know how I feel about marriage. I went through hell with Peggy. I admit it must’ve been as bad for her. We promised to love and cherish each other, but it was a sham and all we did was hurt each other. Any love she might have felt for me I destroyed and she…” I stopped, there was no point trying to explain yet again, not even to myself. It had been a terrible mistake for which we had both paid dearly. “The only fact of which I’m certain is that the marriage license wasn’t worth the paper it was written on,” I added bitterly.
“For God’s sake, Stephen, your disastrous marriage has nothing to do with us. I know you love me and I hope you know what you mean to me.”
“Of course I do!”
“And I want the world to know it too. To know that my feelings are as real, as meaningful, as any straight guy’s.”
“That piece of paper doesn’t prove anything.” I was sick of going in circles with this.
Dillon stared at me intently. “Will you do it for me, just because I ask you?”
For a moment I felt angry that he put me on the spot like that, but it didn’t take but a few seconds to realize that my obstructive attitude forced him to push me into a corner. He had never hidden his desire from me and I had never hidden my distaste at my own false vows.
“I will do it for you if that is what you truly want,” I replied, struggling to keep the resignation from my voice.
“I do. Please. That piece of paper might not mean a lot to you, and, believe me, I don’t need it to know you’re committed to me, Stephen, but we can’t let down all those who fought so hard for the right to hold it in their hands.”
“I really can’t argue with that,” I admitted. “I just don’t want to feel like a hypocrite.”
“Stephen, love. Sometimes, your stupid pride blinds you to the truth. It’s not the piece of paper that’s important; it’s the sentiment that makes the paper so significant. It’s a declaration of the love I feel for you and want to share with our family and friends; that it’s there for the whole world to see is just coincidental. The fact is I don’t care who else knows, I wouldn’t care if we had no-one but each other to share this with. But what does matter is that I have as much right to make my declaration as the next man, any next man.” He took me in his arms, staring deep into my eyes. “No one has any right to tell me that what I feel for you is not as deep or as special as a man feels for his woman. The fact that it is, is what makes that piece of paper important to me.”
My heart was beating so hard I thought it might bruise against my ribs. Then, I knew nothing could bruise my heart today, or any other day; Dillon would take such good care of it. I smiled as I leaned in to kiss him, letting my passion say the words my heart was too full to release.
The vows I would make to Dillon would be real and honest, and would be for longer than the rest of my life. That piece of paper would have pride of place in our home.