Alex was born in Venezeula. I was born in Chicago. When I am around his family, not being fluent in Spanish, a lot is lost in translation. Often, I will ask his mother to repeat a word to me several times before I get the pronunciation or understanding correct. But there are some things that cross all boundaries. On the day that I planned my marriage proposal to Alex, I wrote a story titled, “Translation”, which explained the history of two boys, born across the world from each other, met and fell in love. At the end of the story, I had written quieres casarte conmigo? Will you marry me?, which I had childishly adopted the translation from google.
Earlier in the day, I had called my father and explained to him my plans of proposing to Alex on his birthday. My father, an intellectual and a man of science, always having believed that being gay was no different or less dominant, than the deep blue of my eyes, told me that he and my stepmother both adored Alex and believed he would be a wonderful addition to our family. After speaking to him, I went to my mother’s grave, sat down on the grass, and cried while explaining, out loud, my plans and how I wished she could still be alive to be a part of my joy, having never been alive to meet Alex.
After that, I picked up our matching, engagement rings from Tiffany’s, excited to finally have a reason to purchase something wrapped in their beautiful baby blue. I went home, hid the box under Alex’s side of the bed and waited to pick him up from work.
When we arrived home, Alex was excited about his birthday plans for the evening and his four days of birthday celebration to follow, not having passed into that age where birthdays were limited to a one hour birthday dinner at your favorite restaurant. I explained to him that I had been quite accomplished that day in writing and wanted to read some of what I had completed. He fell onto his side of the bed and told me to begin.
Reaching my trembling hand into my pocket, I pulled out the story and began reading it…”In 1972, there was a little guy born in Chicago, Illinois. His parents named him Peter, but they both called him “poco loco”, or, “a little crazy” in Spanish. A foreshadowing he wouldn’t understand until years later. During this time, a little brown freck was born in Venezuela, far, far away.” And I continued to read the story about how the boys moved closer and closer together, and eventually fell in love. “And so months passed, and they fell in love. One fast and one slow, but both headed in the same direction. They should have realized that nothing would be easy. They should have realized that great passion and great conflict go hand and hand. It is the definition of bittersweet. No love so great can be so easy. And many times, they often thought about separating and moving in different directions, because things appeared to be too difficult.” And at this point, I began to cry. “But how could they? No matter how they translated the differences, the feelings were always the same. And so one day, the American boy asked the Venezuelan boy to marry him and the Venezuelan boy said “Let’s do it!”
And there, written at the bottom of the page, were those Spanish words, which didn’t exactly translate correctly, but I tried…and he said yes.
And not in any of it, the proposal, the rings, the discussion with parents, not in any of it, did I for one second think about how we were gay, and this was really just a dream, a story, that couldn’t be lived out like The Smiths on Maple Street, who would be picking out bridesmaids and bouquets. We could do all of that, but somehow, it would seem like a fake. And it seemed like a fake.
Until Alex introduced me to one of his friends as his fiance. And then another. And then another, until I realized that we were creating our own reality. It was our responsibility to offer a translation of our relationship to theirs if we ever expected to meet on even ground. And tonight I saw a picture of a young lesbian holding a sign that said, “I didn’t ask her to civil union me!”, and I loved it. Because she was translating the similarities of gay marriage to straight marriage.
And we will continue to correct people, until they get it right. And one day they will. But until then, we’ll continue to grocery shop using the same cart, and continue to take our dogs to the vet together…and continue to curl up around each other as we fall asleep, slowly breathing together. We don’t need a legal document for that…but it would be nice.