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Under the California Sun
New Year at Savemart, January 1 2006.
She is a regular, her pink lipstick and chopped short hair garish
as the fluorescent lights and television screen, blaring
news of civil unions banned in the following states:
Alabama, Colorado, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee.
She smiles at me with her pink lips, comments on the weather
and the news. Oh, you know those gays, I tell her
and she laughs as she places a kiwi Snapple on the counter.
I count her folded dollar bills and change the way I will count her tattoos,
dark and permanent on her skin, when I finally sleep with her
three weeks later.
Our new apartment, August 9 2007.
Let’s move to Nepal, she tells me, curled beside me on the bed.
Nepal? I ask. She nods, tells me how Nepal has only just decriminalized homosexuality.
My brow furrows in the near darkness as the sun wavers
in its last minutes on the California horizon. I tell her that it’s legal here,
and she says it might as well not be. The television flickers
as we wait for a debate on LGBT issues that will never fully take place,
the GOP candidates refusing attendance.
Her parents’ house, July 4, 2008.
We lounge in plastic chairs in the backyard,
her father playing the masculine role of griller
as we sip iced tea with her mother, balancing glass cups
in nervous hands. A pair of gays has moved in next door, she tells us.
They’re married. She wonders aloud as to the blasphemy of such an act,
the June 16th decision of the California Supreme Court
to allow marriage between anyone other than a man and a woman.
It’s unnatural, her mother says, before diverting conversation from politics.
She and I are silent, exchanging uncomfortable looks and,
for the moment, relegated to the title of merely roommates.
Unnatural, her mother said. Unnatural as the summer rain
that soon begins to fall, ending the barbecue early.
The kitchen, November 5, 2008.
I can’t eat, she tells me as I prepare a meal of chicken and salad
that I already know will go untouched.
The small silver ring on my left hand is unfamiliar,
tapping against the wooden spoon in my hand
as I delegate her a portion of salad regardless.
We barely breathe and I ask if I should check the internet.
She shakes her head but I retrieve my laptop anyway
and watch the screen flicker to life. Yahoo News greets me as usual,
and I watch as she begins to cry. Blue states fill the page with a democratic victory,
yet underneath, neglected, is the headline “Proposition 8 Passed.”
The bedroom, November 6, 2008.
I wake to her sitting on the bed beside me, legs crossed
criss cross applesauce the way they taught us back in kindergarten,
when kisses were harmless and marriages were only games
played on the playground. She looks at me and I remember the lipstick,
the way she used to smear it pink over her lips
and the way she doesn’t anymore. I embrace her regardless and
she is tired, I know, but we are strong. I will marry you, I whisper,
and then she lies with me for a while as the California sun rises
brightly and steadily in the sky.