Monday morning I drove Marcus to the clerk's office to get our marriage license. It had been three years since the state recognized same-sex marriage. Marcus and I figured the marriage license would be a non-issue. We decided to go to the clerk's office in the town where the new house was located, instead of the city.
We were welcomed at the door by a smiling woman. She greeted us and asked what she could do to help us.
"We are here for a marriage license."
"For the two of you?" She asked.
Immediately, I felt a little uneasy.
"Is there a problem?" I asked.
"Oh no, boys... I'm all excited. You are the first."
"The first what?"
"The first gay couple to get a license from our office, I'm all excited. We never thought it was going to happen. I mean it's been three years and I think I've issued over a hundred licenses, but you are our first gay couple."
"Oh, does it matter?"
"I'm sorry. I must sound like an old fool. Let me start again. My name is Mary Anne Warner. I'm the town clerk here. My daughter and her wife were married five years ago in Massachusetts. I've been hoping ever since our wonderful state leaders passed the law; we would get a couple in here. I know it sounds weird, but I so wish I could have issued my daughter's license. This is the next best thing."
I smiled. "I can't believe we are the first. Even after three years?"
"Well, the town skews a little older and a bit conservative. Honestly, I think people have been going mostly to the city clerk. Our office is a little out of the way here. Let's get the paperwork going."
The form was simple to fill out. When she got to the name change, Marcus grinned at me. After everything was set, he tried to sign with the hand that was wrapped up. I shook my head and smiled.
"That doesn't look like your signature at all. Are you trying to set this up so when you want to get rid of me you can claim you never signed the form? I mean Ms. Warner does still have to notarize the signature... "
"I'm doing the best I can. Seriously, if I signed with the other hand it would be worse."
"The question is Mr. Taylor, soon to be Taylor-Wallace... Will that signature hold up in court?"
"Well, Mr. Wallace, soon to be Taylor-Wallace, unless you challenge it down the road. I'm not concerned. As your lawyer, however, I recommend you refrain from signing any documents unless you are one hundred percent sure."
I pulled him in for a kiss, lingering for a moment with my hand on his cheek.
"I'm two hundred percent sure. I've never been more sure of anything. This has been the most amazing year of my life. I never expected my best friend would be the love of my life. I'm ready to sign. I'm even more ready to say I do. I love you so very much."
"Babe..." Marcus choked up for a second. "You are amazing. You find a way to make every moment so incredible. Let's get this taken care of and then celebrate with lunch."
"Sounds like a great plan."
"When are you guys getting married?"
I smiled and said, "August ninth, it's the day before the anniversary of the day we became a couple."
"How many years has it been?"
"Just one... "
"That's impossible. You guys seem like you've been together longer than a year."
"Well, we were friends for three years before we became a couple." Marcus said.
"Best friends," I added.
"That's pretty amazing. I hope you guys have a great day and many happy years together."
"Thank you." Marcus bowed his head,
"No, thank you. You made my day. I sent my daughter a text. We are going to catch up later. Good luck."
After a nice lunch and a quick trip to double check on the florist, I could tell Marcus was in some pain. I drove us back to the condo.
"You need to take some meds and relax for a little while. I know you are trying to wean yourself off the pain killers, but there is no reason to suffer."
"I need to call into the office first. I have court on Wednesday and Friday. I need to verify the time for Friday's hearing and make an appointment with the doctor."
"Seriously? You need to take it easy this week. Can't court be postponed?"
"Babe Wednesday is the judge's final decision on a custody case. I don't want to keep that family in limbo any longer."
"I understand. I just worry you are going to jump right back into things. I love that you care so much, but you need to give yourself some time to heal. "
"I know you are worried, but I have obligations. Families are counting on me to guide them through the system. The real estate closings are easy; the staff does the work. Custody cases, on the other hand, have serious effects on families. I can't just drop things. People need me. I hope you understand."
"I understand. I do, but I'm still allowed to worry."
"Okay, let me call the office and then I can make the appointment with the doctor. After that I'll take some meds, I promise."
While Marcus was on the phone with the office, I sat at the dining room table listening to him argue with Dorothy, his administrative assistant. I smiled. It sounded as though she was also trying to get him to take time off. After a few moments, she apparently relented and made all the arrangements for his week. He hung up and dialed Doctor Martin's office.
As I listened to Marcus on the phone, I started reminiscing. I'm not exactly sure why, but I began thinking about different times I sat in this chair. It was so much easier in hindsight to see the signs I missed...
I was in Marcus's condo. Sitting in the same spot, I could hear myself going on and on about Jared. The excitement in my voice was palatable. We had just started dating.
At first, I began to remember the scene the way it seemed to me at the time. Suddenly, I felt a separation and I was watching everything slightly detached and off center. The sensation was odd, very odd.
Marcus was smiling and laughing with me, but for the first time I could really see the sadness in his eyes. My heart was breaking watching him give me encouragement, while the pain was etched in his eyes. I began to tear up.
Suddenly the image changed to the party the night before Marcus and I got together. I was having a minor disagreement with David, the rebound after Jared. It was about something stupid and petty. Again, my concentration shifted to Marcus.
He and Jon were talking quietly in a corner to the left.
"I'm sorry. I wasn't leading you on. I thought... "
"You thought you lost him for good. Marcus, please don't apologize. You are a wonderful man. I wish things were different, but you can't help your feelings. What I don't understand is why don't you tell him?"
"I couldn't bear to add to his stress. He's been through so much. He needs a friend. I don't want to risk what we have. Relationships don't seem to work out very well for me."
"But, Marcus, you guys could be... "
"No, I won't add ... He needs me as a friend, just a friend."
"Suit yourself. But I think you're short changing both of you."
I was yanked back to my fight with David.
"That's it. I can't take it anymore. I'm out of here."
David spun around and bolted out of the apartment. I ran after him, leaving Marcus standing there.
I could feel the tears begin to flow. I was yanked back to Marcus's condo in my memory again.
It was a hot summer night. The sun was on the horizon glowing with the promise of a repeat performance. I was sitting in the exact same spot, crying. It was a few days after finding Jared fucking some nameless ass. I was so ridiculously crashed I could barely think. Marcus was making me dinner, while encouraging and listening.
"Tony, I know it hurts, but you are so much better off without that asshole. He's just a player. He thinks with his dick." He turned and went back to sautéing chicken.
"I know, but I thought this was forever. What am I doing wrong? Why can't I find someone to just love and to love me?"
Marcus was facing the stove. I was so wrapped up in myself... I never saw the tear slide down his cheek. He took a deep breath, wiped the tear, and turned to focus on helping me.
I felt like such a fool. As I continued to watch the memory unfold, I became aware of all the subtle and not so subtle reactions on Marcus's face and in his demeanor. Watching the scene made me angry at myself and depressed. There in full view was the pain I caused. Tears continued to roll down my cheeks. How could I have been so incredibly blind? Reliving it was so intense.
I felt Marcus's hand on my shoulder and was pulled back to the present.
"Babe, what's wrong? Why are you crying?"
I stood up and faced him.
"Seriously, I'm just having a moment. When is your appointment with Dr. Martin?"
Marcus stared at me. You could see the concern in his eyes. I pulled him in for a kiss.
"You have the most amazing eyes. I wish I paid more attention to them over the years." I put my hand on his cheek. "I remember noticing them the night I ran into you. But I never spent enough time looking into those beautiful blue eyes. I'm sorry. I missed so much... caused so much pain."
I clutched at him, my arms around his neck.
"I thought we were past this. You didn't cause the pain... "
"Stop. Please. I don't want to dwell on it. I'm... I was just reminiscing. I guess it hit me harder than it should. You know my emotions have been on the edge for a while now. Please let's just... It's all good. We are getting married in a month. Life couldn't be better."
I took a few deep breaths. The sadness had a hold on me and I couldn't shake it. After a few more minutes, the clouds lifted slightly. I forced myself to smile. Marcus was not going to comfort me. He was the one that needed me.
"So, when is our appointment with Doctor Martin?"
Marcus glared at me, but you could see the smile in his eyes. The glare softened.
I pulled myself out of the funk. I wish it had really been as easy as I make it sound. But, Marcus's need was the catalyst. I moved forward, slowly.
"My appointment is at eleven on Friday. Fortunately, court is at nine. We could drive to New Hampshire after the appointment, if you'd like."
Suddenly, it dawned on me what we needed.
"You know what we should do. Bring the twins with us to my 'rents. They could go swimming and fishing at the pond. We could go to the beach. It would be a ton of fun for them and my parents would love it. What do you think?"
"Won't they have a game?"
"No, they have two weekends off around the Fourth. Hey, it's just an idea off the top of my head; we don't have to do it."
"No I think it sounds like fun. I'm sure the twins would love the idea."
"Are you sure?"
"Wait... what about after the twins go to bed for the night, we go to the club at Hampton Beach. I know it wasn't the best night ever, but we had fun at first the last time we were there. What do you think?"
"I think it sounds like a good plan... Except, are you sure you're going to be up for dancing with the stitches in your side? Shit, you shouldn't go swimming either."
"The doctor might clear me on Friday. But even if he doesn't, I can still hang out by the water. The boys won't go that deep anyway. Besides I haven't been fishing in forever, although I will admit it's not exactly my favorite thing. It will be fun with the boys though, so long as we get a minute to ourselves at Old Man Jones' Rock."
I smiled. "Why don't you call Jamie and set it up? I'll call my parents and make sure they don't already have plans. And it needs to be more than a minute..."
Marcus smiled at me, but I could still see the concern in his eyes. I smiled back and threw his cell at him.
"Call your brother."
"Uncle M, are we almost there?" Stephen joked as soon as we pulled out of Jamie's driveway with the borrowed van.
"Stephen Taylor, don't you dare start. We have at least two and a half movies to watch before we get there."
"Haha, I got you. Uncle T already told us it would be a while to get to his Mom and Dad's house."
"Alright, you two little devils, you be good while Uncle T drives. Go ahead and start the first movie."
Josh burst out laughing. "I can't wait to see Grandma and Grandpa Wallace. Are you sure we can go swimming and fishing in the pond right by their house? Really?"
"Absolutely, we can row out to the raft in the middle or fish off the dock. Fortunately, Uncle M will be able to swim with us so long as he wears a protector over his hand and the bandage on his side."
"Yeah, wicked cool."
Suddenly, there was hysterical laughter coming from the back seat of the car. Marcus got a huge smile on his face. I tried to hold back my grin.
"Don't make me pull this van over. You will be sorry."
"Aw, Uncle T, we are just kidding with you. Please don't get mad."
"Uncle T isn't getting mad. He can barely keep from smiling. Don't let him kid you."
"Well, just remember," I smiled. "You are going to my neck of the woods and you best not make fun of the way I talk, because we all talk this way. So, I suggest you get the funny business out of your systems now."
Josh continued to laugh, "Well, Uncle T, we only pick on you not anybody else... you're fun... everyone else is fuddy-duddies."
"Thanks buddy... but why don't you guys start the first movie. We will hit a rest stop after the movie. Don't forget, if you get hungry there are snacks in the cooler."
"Cool, Uncle T."
We arrived at my parents' house just in time for lunch. The twins bolted for the porch as soon as the car stopped. Dad met them at the door.
"Grandpa Wallace! Wow, you have a really nice house. We are super excited to be here. Thank you for letting us visit," Stephen burst out.
"Yeah, this is awesome. We can't wait to go to the pond. Are you going to fish with us? We never done it before, we will need your help." Josh gave Dad a huge hug.
"C'mon in boys; Grandma Wallace has lunch ready, and then we can check out the pond. I'm looking forward to showing you how to fish."
Marcus smiled as we lingered by the car. The weatherman had promised a typical summer weekend. The sun was beating down on us, helping the temperature to climb into the eighties.
"Babe, I think bringing the twins along was a great idea. I hope you still want to hit the club tonight. I might be a little stiff, but I'm moving better than I was a week ago."
"I can't wait to go dancing with you, but we need to be careful. The very last thing we need is for you to pull out a stitch."
"Well, I guess we are going to have to request slow songs."
"Now, that will just break my heart, slow dancing with you."
I pulled him in for a kiss.
"Hey, you guys, Grandma Wallace says get the lead out. Lunch is ready." Josh yelled from the porch.
"We're coming. We will be right in." I yelled. "Why does it seem like every time we visit our first conversation gets cut short?"
Marcus laughed, "I don't know Babe. I guess we shouldn't wait until we get into the driveway to start talking."
After lunch, the twins fished with Grandpa Wallace's help. Dad still had a couple of little poles for the boys to use. He baited the hooks and added bobbers to the line. After a few practice casts, it was time for the real thing.
After just a couple of minutes, Stephen was the first to catch a fish. It was a tiny sunfish.
"Look, Grandpa Wallace, I got one, look."
"Excellent. Great job."
The excitement of catching his first fish lasted only as long as it took Stephen to figure out he had to touch the fish to get it off the hook. It was completely hysterical to watch.
"I'm not going to touch that. It's slimey and gross. It's wiggling everywhere."
Stephen jumped back as Dad leaned the pole towards him. Josh had already run to the other end of the dock.
"Boys, this is what you have to do when you fish. Sometimes the fish is too small or it's not an eating kind, so you need to let it go back in the water."
"I don't know. I don't wanna touch that. Make Uncle T do it." Josh pointed at me.
"Yeah, Make Uncle T do it."
Dad grabbed the fish and gestured for the twins to come over next to him.
"Okay, watch how I do this. You put your hands near the head and slide down. After you get a good grip, you pull out the hook. After the hook is out, you can slowly set the fish back in the water. I want you to help me get the hook out Stephen."
Stephen got a horrified look on his face. He walked back to Dad and put out his hand. He screwed up his face in utter concentration as he gingerly spun the hook. When he finally got the hook out, my father told him to grab the fish. During the whole operation, Josh slowly moved closer to the action.
Just as Josh got close enough to see what Stephen was doing, the fish started to wiggle. As the sunfish flapped its tail, Stephen began to lose his grip. Suddenly, Stephen threw it in the air and it hit Josh right in the face. As Josh staggered back, he lost his footing and splash; he landed in the water.
My father always made me wear a life jacket when I fished on the dock, so of course Josh bobbed back to the top in his.
I could see Marcus laughing out of the corner of my eye. He turned and walked away. Stephen was standing there looking at his brother. He ran over to the edge of the dock and reached to help Josh up. The whole thing actually seemed to happen in slow motion. As soon as Stephen and Josh's hands met, Stephen began to fall. A second splash and Stephen joined Josh in the pond.
I couldn't hold back. I started to laugh. The boys started yelling and splashing each other. They were getting louder and more upset, the longer the splashing went on. I walked over to the side of the dock and bent over the edge to calm the boys down.
"Alright you guys, you need to relax a little. It wasn't anybody's fault. It was one big accident. Come over here and I'll help you out of the water."
The boys dog paddled over to the dock. I reached a hand down to help Josh; both boys grabbed my arm and yanked me towards the water. I lost my balance and hit my head on the side of the dock as I splashed into the water.
"Ha ha Uncle T, we got you." Josh screamed.
"Yeah, we got you good... "
My feet found the bottom. I grabbed my head and blinked my eyes a few times. Almost immediately, a raging headache began. I laid back and started to float. The headache intensified. I felt as though I might be sick. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths.
I heard a splash and felt Marcus's hand on my shoulder. I looked up at him.
"Babe, what's wrong? Are you alright? Boys, give Uncle T some room."
"I'm fine. I just had the wind knocked out of me. Seriously, I'll be okay."
Marcus whispered, "Don't lie to me. You hit your head on the way down didn't you?"
I closed my eyes to stop the spinning. After another deep breath, I smiled.
"Just a little bump, no big deal really... Give me a minute."
A few more seconds and the headache started to subside. I looked at Marcus and mouthed the words 'I'm fine.'
"You guys got me good. But I still think Josh getting hit in the face with the fish is the funniest thing I've ever seen. That was wicked hilarious. Too bad we didn't catch that on video.
"I think we should bag fishing for the day and take the rowboat out to the raft. What do you think boys?"
"Awesome." "Yeah, wicked awesome... "
"Just for that, I'm going to make you guys row the boat."
"Babe, are you sure you are okay? Look at me. Your eyes look a little glazed over. You need to relax for a couple of minutes."
"I'm fine. Seriously, I want the boys to have fun. Don't worry about a little bump on the head."
He looked frustrated at me. I waded to shore and pulled the rowboat to the edge of the water.
"C'mon boys, let's row out and do some dives off the raft."
It was less than half of an hour after devouring Mom's pot roast with all the fixings, the twins were asleep on the couch. Marcus and I carried them into my old room and put them down for the night.
"Babe, are you still up for some dancing? It's been a long day. I'll understand if you are tired."
"Are you kidding? I've been looking forward to going out. I'm just catching my second wind."
"We need to make it an early night. The twins will be raring to go tomorrow. They have never seen the ocean."
"Well then get the lead out... I'm ready to go." I smiled.
I drove twenty minutes to the club. As we exited the car, I flashed back to the last time. Suddenly, I saw Derek's face flash in front of my eyes and then Daniel's. Then, I remembered running... just running as far as I could go... and finally Marcus helping calm my panic attack.
Apparently, my pause lasted longer than it seemed. Marcus had a look of concern on his face.
"I'm fine. I was just remembering the last time we visited here. Not the best night ever... "
"Are you sure?"
"I'm ready to dance. Let's go."
I grabbed his hand as we walked towards the door.
After dancing for an hour, Marcus went to get drinks. After sipping a little soda, I pulled Marcus back out to the dance floor. We were laughing and joking. It was incredible.
Another hour later, I was getting really tired.
Suddenly, my head felt like it split open. I couldn't see. I completely lost my sense of balance. I began to see white spots in my peripheral vision. I quickly sat down at the edge of the dance floor. I put my head in my hands and between my knees. I lost consciousness and slumped back against the wall. The next thing I remembered was Marcus softly talking to me trying to get me to sit back up.
"Are you okay Babe? Are you getting tired?"
Marcus didn't realize I'd lost consciousness. It must have been a very brief moment. I still had a headache, but the intensity has dropped.
"Headache and a little dizzy... I think we need to call it a night."
"Let's go. I'll drive."
We stayed quiet on the way home. I rested with my eyes closed. When we pulled into my parent's driveway, I paused a second or two before getting out of the car. I wasn't entirely sure I would make it to our room without passing out again. Marcus put his left arm around me and I leaned against him. It was a little awkward for both of us, because Marcus's injury remained sore.
"Is your headache getting any better Babe?"
"I'm okay. Sorry to cut our fun short, but I had a great time dancing."
"We needed to end the night anyway. It's beach day tomorrow. You need to promise if the sun gets too hot or the brightness bothers you, you will let me know. We are only going to spend a little while at the beach. I think the boys would love a boat ride. Don't you agree? I booked a charter for the afternoon."
"And I know you're not okay... I don't know exactly what's going on with you, so I'm not going to push. I'm afraid that 'little bump' on the head was much more than you are letting on."
He shot me a scowl as we walked onto the porch. I smiled and leaned into him. I knew there was no reason to argue or deny anything. Quietly, we got ready for bed. I could feel Marcus's eyes on me.
I had trouble falling asleep. As much as I tried to slough the whole thing off with Marcus, the little spell at the club had frightened me. I resolved to make an appointment with the neurologist when we got home.
The next day was fantastic. The twins were typical pistols at the beach, building sand castles, splashing in the water, and trying to bury me in the sand.
"Uncle T, the water is really cold here in New Hampshire. Is the ocean always this cold?"
"Yeah, it's even colder in Maine. After a little while, your legs and feet get used to it."
"That's impossible. My feet feel numb. The sand is really cool though. The castle we built with the moat around it was wicked awesome." He grinned at me.
"You know you keep it up and I might throw you in the water."
"Ha, Uncle T, you'd have to catch me first." He dashed away.
After a couple of hours in the sun, the boys started nagging about the boat ride. They were so excited about the chance to be on the ocean in a boat, they kept asking if it was time yet. Marcus booked a deep sea fishing boat. When he talked to the captain, he let him know it was just a boat ride for his nephews; there was no need to prep for actual fishing. Captain Mark promised to pull out all the stops. He did.
From the time the twins boarded the boat until we disembarked, they were grinning from ear to ear. The twins were treated to a tour of the coast. Mark told stories of pirates and buried treasure. He drove in and out of "secret coves" and then he had the boys look through binoculars to check for caves on the shore.
After traversing the coast for over an hour, he drove the boat far enough out to sea so the coast was completely out of view.
Steven and Josh got time to steer the boat, really steer, changing directions and speed, while we were tooling around deep water. At the end of the charter, the captain gave each of the boys baseball caps with the ship's logo on them.
"Thank you. That was the most awesome boat ride ever." "Yeah, it was so cool to learn about the pirates and the whalers and be able to drive the boat. Thank you so much."
"You guys did a great job steering the boat. If you are ever looking for a job, you should stop back." Captain Mark said.
When we were done, Marcus tipped him an extra hundred as a thank you.
"The boys are going to be talking about that boat ride for years. I can't thank you enough." Marcus said.
"The pleasure was mine. It's great having a couple of customers who have such a good time; who get excitement from the simple things. That was more fun than I've had in a long time. I'd tip you but it's been a tough summer so far. Thank you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend."
Marcus was right the boys talked about the boat ride the entire trip back to my parents. They bent Grandpa and Grandma Wallace's ears for hours until we finally shipped them off to bed.
Marcus and I crawled into bed ourselves after everyone else was asleep.
"Babe, that trip was worth every penny and then some."
"That was really fun. I'm glad we brought the boys with us. This has been an awesome weekend."
"You look tired. Let's get some sleep. I want to head out right after breakfast tomorrow."
"Okay, that works for me."
"Plus, you need to call the doctor when we get home."
"Yeah ... wait what?"
"Give me some credit. The little spell at the club and the restless beginning to the night, I'm not the clueless one. I know that 'bump' on the head was way more than you let on. I said I wouldn't push, but promise you'll tell me what the doctor says."
I slumped down on the bed.
"I didn't want you to worry... Or spoil the kids' fun."
"Babe..." He shot me a look.
"Okay ... yeah, that bump hurt more than it should. I thought my head was going to split open. Then, the spell in the club last night scared me. I actually blacked out for a second or two. Plus, you've seen my emotions right on the edge of depression. I'm worried there is something more serious going on."
"The doctor said you could experience symptoms months after your accident. Please don't worry. I'm sure things will be fine."
"But, the doctor also said the effects of concussions are cumulative. I'm a little ... not really scared, but nervous. I didn't really hit my head that hard this time, but it really hurt."
"We'll see the doctor together."
"You don't have to do that. I'll make an appointment when I get home."
"Ahh ... but I do have to do 'that'. If you're concerned, I want to hear what the doctor has to say too. Like I said, I'm sure everything will be fine. Try to stop thinking about it. Let's get some sleep."
It was my turn to shoot a look. He grinned at me.
"I know, who am I kidding? Like you are going to stop thinking about it ... But seriously, Babe, nothing is gained by worrying. We will see the doctor together. Remember we're in this together."
He sat on the bed next to me and put his arm around my shoulder. He pulled me next to him and kissed my head.
I tried to put it out of my mind, but my brain wouldn't shut down. On the other hand, I had Marcus in my corner. He was right, together we could face anything.
Just before leaving to head home, Marcus and I took a walk to Old Man Jones' Rock. Just the moment there went a long way to clearing my head.
The doctor said the reaction to hitting my head was a normal one for someone with past concussions. The pain, which seemed more intense than warranted, was the brain's reaction to repeated injury and expected.
He warned me the emotional effects and especially the depression could get worse. He advised touching base with my therapist and to think about trying different meds that could help. Not exactly a comforting visit, but there was no reason to continue to worry.
After the doctor's appointment, Marcus and I spent the afternoon hanging out. It was the last real quiet time before the wedding.