“Well, what about three men?”
— Rick Santorum, explaining his objection to gay marriage.
About six months after I decided I was gay, I got married. Nothing fancy, just city hall and a small party afterwards, and then Tim and I bought a nice place in a nice part of town and went about with our lives. We cooked meals or ordered out. We puttered around the house, not fixing things quite as well as we hoped. We slept in the same bed and usually Tim took too much of the covers.
Then one day we were eating Japanese food and talking about redoing the patio, and Tim looked in my eyes and I looked in his, and we just knew. We had to marry a third guy.
We didn’t have a boyfriend, really, but Tim made some calls and before long there was a man at the front door with a suitcase. His name was Pete, and he explained that he had recently moved to town, and that he had been staying with a friend of ours, Jason, but that he couldn’t really impose any longer. We liked the plainspoken way Pete talked, and he had a great haircut, long but not too long, so we married him.
If Tim and I were happy being married, Tim and Pete and I were even happier. That led, in a roundabout way, to Jason coming in as a fourth husband, and then Luis, Jason’s boyfriend, as a fifth. Luis had a former college roommate who had recently decided he was gay, and he joined up as the sixth, and then there was Howard and then a second Pete, who agreed to be called Peter so long as we were married, and Frank and Danny and Walter and Randy. There was a great moment with Guy, who was the tenth to come aboard, I think; Tim was going through the living room and saw him on the couch, and he couldn’t remember his name, so he just said, “Hi, guy.” Guy waved back, gratified that Tim already knew him. Marriage is full of those little stories.
It wasn’t all paradise, though. The house was big enough. That wasn’t a problem. We were all professionals, many of us working in food service or architecture or counseling or medicine or media, so money wasn’t a problem either. But the tiniest things can suddenly change the weather. TV, for example: Perry and Frank loved Project Runway, but Isaac and Kenny thought it was too stereotypical and watched MythBusters instead. And that was only the beginning. Barry, Ellis, and Warren were obsessed with Cake Boss; Paul and Rowan co-owned a football fantasy team so they had to see all the games; Randy was a news junkie; and Howard and Teo just wanted a room without a TV set.
Birthdays, too, were a nightmare. Anton had the idea to keep track with a big white board in the kitchen that Michael joked looked like something from NASA. (We all laughed except for Walter, who actually worked for NASA, and took it as an insult.) With the help of the white board, people tried keep on top of things, but even when we remembered, it was hopeless: how many designer iPad cases or stemless glasses does one house need? Luis, who was the funniest—though Ron was pretty funny, too, and Pete could do great impressions once he got some wine in him (you should have seen his Regis Philbin, and he also did a killer Anton)—thought of the best gift. He got Andy a shirt that said “I Do…And That’s All I Do!” Soon those shirts were everywhere, which made sorting them out after laundry day a living hell.
One morning, I woke up and went to the kitchen. Ellis had already started three pots of coffee, and lots of the guys were sitting at the tables, reading the papers. Tim looked upset. He was far away from me, almost at the other end of the room, but a husband knows. I threaded my way through the crowd and asked him what was wrong. “Let’s go outside,” he said.
Out there in the yard, Tim leaned up against the fence. It was actually a white picket fence; Harry, who was twelfth in or something like that, had put it up, saying it was ironic, but most days it seemed perfectly sincere. Our next-door neighbor, a lovely divorced lady with two teenagers, waved, and we waved back. “So,” Tim said. He tried to go on but he couldn’t and I heard the thickness in his voice and realized that he was close to crying. The lady next door put her back to us as a show that she was minding her own business. “I don’t know if I can go on,” Tim finally said.
“What?” I said. “Why?”
“I just feel lost sometimes,” he said. “Like I’m not being a good husband.”
“You are,” I said. “You’re a great husband.”
“I forgot our anniversary.”
“It’s not until next month,” I said.
“I know,” he said. “What I mean is that I didn’t remember when it was. The board only has birthdays on it, and I panicked. Finally I found an old letter from you, and I was able to figure things out.”
“Well,” I said. “It’s not that big a deal. Don’t worry about it.”
“But I am worried,” he said. “I want you to know something.”
“What?” I said. I was suddenly nervous. I gripped the white picket fence.
“I want you to know that I love you,” he said. “Only you.”
“I know,” I said. “But what does that have to do with marriage?” Tim laughed at this, and then I laughed too, and I relaxed my grip on the fence, and took his hand in mine, and we turned and headed back to the house. We could already hear the murmur of conversation.