The Undoing of I Do

…but what about love?

“Marriage equality also means divorce equality,” but what about love?

It’s a fact that 41% of first-time marriages end in divorce. And I remember sitting on the sidelines, on the side of the stage, somebody important was speaking, but I couldn’t hear anything they were saying. I was waiting for my turn to take hold of that microphone to tell the 5,000+ people listening that Prop 8 wouldn’t be our last chance to prove ourselves worthy. It was May 26, 2009, a Tuesday afternoon, the steps of California’s Capitol Building were hot that day, and this was years before fires started taking over our summer months, but that didn’t stop any of us from feeling swept away inside the ash of our broken hopes. I was 27 then, young and queer and angry and unwed, shattered into 7,001,084 pieces, a piece for each and every one of the Californians that believed I didn’t deserve love. More than most, I have always believed in love, a kind of love that people make movies of, a kind of love that lasts long past our years of believing in magic, a kind of love that lasts forever without ever feeling the effects of time. I wanted to get married. I wanted to get queer married. And I wanted to set the whole world on fire.

It’s a fact that most people get married during summer months. And it was August 21, 2015, a Maui sunset Friday evening, when I first said “I do.” I remember digging my toes deep into the damp sand and realizing just how different it felt to be standing atop the proof and promise of weathered time than atop a land full of burnt hopes and forgotten ash. My mind was racing from the excitement and from the sound of the waves slapping behind me as I braced myself to take this leap into a future I had never thought possible, my legs swollen from the humidity and from wearing my binder for 12 straight hours and from the copious amounts of rum I had consumed the night before. Even still, I braced myself and let my crooked legs stand strong as I watched my late 20s dreams finally winning over all of the anger and after all of the fighting. And if there were anything I could take back about my life, it would be this day, those sacred and hard fought for words, to that human. I was married, finally queer married, and it would be a summer decision better left to the fires.

It’s a fact that divorces peak during and just before summer months. And it was May 28, 2019, a breezy Bay Area Tuesday evening, when I became part of the majority for the first time in my life. The night my wife demanded a divorce, it was cold and I had never felt so alone. I remember frantically grabbing my car keys, packing an emergency overnight bag, texting in to work the next day, forgetting to grab my dog, and leaving, slamming the front door behind me. And it was not the strength behind my leaving that had unhung the 20″ x 16″ last remaining wedding selfie from our barely rented living room wall her parents owned, that had already been taken down, I noticed it during her demanding speech. But it doesn’t matter what was left unhung, nor do any of the other cruel details created in the making of breaking hearts and promises. What matters is that there was no love left or lost here, just shock and anger. We haven’t spoken since. And I don’t miss her, and I never have. And, yet, I thought about those California Capitol Building steps and about how many people took stride before me to get me to where I am right now, able to become divorced. Yes, there is a sense of equality and freedom in this, but there is no sense of love. I had forgotten about love. That thing that I have always believed in, more than most, that’s what I wanted. I did not want to become only queer married, I wanted to be loved. Sometimes, when we set our worlds on fire, we can’t see past the smoke, we lose our sense of direction and our sense of self, becoming nothing more than ash begging to be swept away. I had lost everything I had ever fought for. And, yet, had gained a new sense of equality that nobody could take away.

It’s a fact that starting over might just be better fit for when we can make ridiculous resolutions that only life can force us to keep. And it was December 31, 2019, a rainy Sacramento holiday, another Tuesday, when my divorce was final. I was 38 then, less young, still queer, more angry, and again, unwed. Add to the list something I never thought I would be, queer divorced. It would take another 7 months before the feelings of failure would kick in, and then another 2 before the sound of slapping waves would do nothing but remind me of the steps I wasted in the promised pursuit of “I do.” Most people would say that time spent learning isn’t time spent wasting, but all of those people weren’t married to my ex. At best, at least now I know that life is better served putting out fires than always trying to start them. The smoke has only given me asthma and a sense of regret that nothing can be rebuilt to its natural and wondrous state. I am still wondering if I can be rebuilt.

And just then, I remember that there’s this girl that I’ve always had a crush on, but have never had the courage to talk to. So, I send her a message and hope that this one is the one that will prove my belief in love right. Who knows, maybe she’ll be the one to reignite the spark in me that my marriage had long ago put out. After all, it’s a fact that fires, once upon a time, saved lives by giving light and cooking meat and cleansing the water people drink and, in the winter months, staved off the bitter cold with a glowing and welcoming heat. And I’m still waiting for a reply, but it’s good to feel this excitement again. It’s good to feel a little bit of a crush again. And it’s good to remember that life happens in more months than just summer and on more days than just Tuesdays.

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