When I set up the ironing board and plug in the iron in the two foot margin between our bed and the wall, I turn off the window air conditioning unit in order to avoid tripping the circuit. I gaze through the window at the peeling paint on our neighbor’s building ten feet away and ask Paul “Are you the least bit concerned that your pay cut will affect our standard of living?”
He is not yet fully awake, drifting in between the land of reality and dreams. He lifts his head, opens one eye and scans the room.“Sweetie, I know you’ve become accustomed to the finer things in life, but we may need to make some cuts. Will you iron my work clothes?” he says and then adds “Oh, I’m wearing them.”
He steps out of bed, pulls on a pair of boxer underwear, takes one step and sits down at a desk in the corner of the room.“That was a rough commute,” he says while stretching his arms up over his head. When I walk past him to fetch my shirt, he reaches out one arm and without looking, gooses me.
“See that? We were meant to be together, my hand naturally falls at the right height,” he says. Five years in and the fire is still burning.Being eternal optimists, we are one lottery ticket away from financial freedom and one catastrophe away from destitution. Many people, art gallery owners for example, see two middle age gay men walk into their chic boutique and think “Ka-ching!” Those people would be wrong. They will point out a darling little objet d’art and look at us expectantly.
“Holy cow, we’d have to sell one of our five children in order to afford that!” Paul will say and I’ll watch the gallery owner totter off on her little broomstick heels in disgust.When I’m finished ironing my clothes, I fold up the ironing board and carry it outside of our bedroom. I open the closet door and our youngest child steps out, stumbling over the shoes on the floor.
“Beanie, you could have at least turned on the light while getting dressed in there,” I say.“That’s OK Willy,” she says and flops back onto the sofa made up as her temporary bed.
Something happened to my dream of being a millionaire, of having a big home, fast cars and healthy bank accounts and I’m well aware of what occurred. It was consumed by five children, two ex-wives and three college payment plans. But, we’ve made our bed and now we have to lie in it. Sometimes there aren’t enough beds to go around and someone gets stuck sleeping on the sofa, but Beanie doesn’t seem to mind.Throughout the day I think about our lives; of our 497 square foot third floor walk-up in a neighborhood on the very edge of the Boston city limits and our even more palatial cottage in Maine, nearly twice the size at 900 square feet, under occupation by two of our children. It sits behind the Rite-Aid, but we don’t mind. There at the edge of the tony towns of Kennebunkport and Ogunquit we get a cool ocean breeze and if we ever run out of anything, liquor let’s say, Rite-Aid has it.
We live in the margins and at times, it’s easy to get lost. But, as two gay men we know a thing or two about surviving here. Sometimes the edges get sharp and I begin to worry. Paul can see it etched into the lines of my forehead when he picks me up from work. “Turns out my pay will remain the same,” he casually mentions and for a minute the wind escapes my lungs.We sit down for dinner in our tiny kitchen and I pour Paul a glass of wine, the ten dollar stuff because today’s good news deserves more than our usual seven dollar bottle. I gaze through the window and see our neighbor sitting alone at his dinner table.
“He’s always alone. I wonder if he can see us?” Beanie asks.I look at Paul and Beanie, think about our four other children and a hundred pictures flicker through my mind. It pauses on a picture of Paul and Beanie, lying on a blanket one early June day in the park. I think about her question and that’s when I realize that it doesn’t matter what anyone else can see, because there in the margins, I can see us.