It’s always hard when someone dies, even if it’s your mother in law. In this case, she was a very special lady. From the moment we met until her death, I felt she didn’t like me. And I’m sure I was right.
She had always resented my hairstyle, then the way I dressed and, specially, my line of work. As it happens, I write for many magazines and newspapers about all of those starlets and music sensations you hear about everywhere. I do those bios about the kids that are beginning, discovered by the Internet somewhere in the middle of the world.
The woman didn’t like that. She thought it was a shallow job, unstable and not enough for her fragile daughter. The reality could not be further away from the truth. Amanda, my wife, wasn’t fragile or dependent of a man. When I met her, she was already working her ass off in a publicity agency and now she had created her own enterprise and was doing really well.
Amanda did not resent my job. She actually found it thrilling, as she was the first person to hear about the newest celebrity gossip. She always saw the most compromising pictures first and enjoyed, even more than I, when I had to meet some star to do an interview for some publication.
We had to travel in order to go to the old woman’s funeral. What was really special about that day was not the event as such. I mean, it was a funeral; they are all pretty similar except for some slight differences. This one’s different aspect was that I met Matthew. I saw him standing behind a tree, watching another funeral.
I saw Amanda talking to her sister and her cousins so I told her I had to go to the bathroom and then I went back to the tree, where I saw the young man staring at all those people in black. As I got near, I realized most of the assistants to that funeral were very clean cut, looking kind of military.
With care, I walked towards the young man and put a hand on his shoulder. He got scared but when he realized he didn’t know me, he pulled me aside and told me, with a sign, to shut up.
He gazed towards the funeral, again, as saw it all. I just stood there, watching with him. There was something really strange about the scene, a young person watching someone’s funeral from afar. Was he maybe a lover or even his murderer? Maybe I should have not gone after him but there I was. Amanda was probably missing me.
The ceremony we were looking at was finished. The guy was in tears, that he cleaned softly.
Who are you?
He nodded, as if he understood but I did not know what it was that he understood. He then asked for my phone, which I gave him for some reason, and then dialed a number. He saved it in and gave it back to me. He didn’t say anything else; he just left.
I went back to Amanda who asked me where I had been. I told her I would explain later, not really thinking about the lunch we were going to have at her sister’s house. I didn’t really pay attention to anything else that afternoon, nothing other than the number on my phone and the name of the guy.
I had always wanted to do something else with my career. Far from me to give my dead mother in law any reason to be right: I loved my job, it was fun, simple and easy to research. I also took pictures and did interviews. All was great and easy. But there was also a part of me that was a real journalist, interested in things that happened daily.
But when I took those chances, they would always be denied to me. So I kept to my celebs and music sensations of the moment. Until now.
The next day, I decided to call Matthew and meet him in a coffee shop. He told me he preferred it that way as crowded places made him more comfortable, less suspicious of anything. From our phone conversation, which was short, I noticed he was still sad. To be honest, I was scared he wouldn’t even show up.
But he did. It was difficult to start talking. We just asked for some coffee and stared, as if it was a date of sorts. I had experience with interviews but he seemed so sad and exhausted, that I had no idea how to start, so I just went for the only thing I knew about him.
What were you doing in the cemetery?
He started crying in silence and then he told me his reason to be watching a funeral. As it happens, it was not some unknown person’s funeral. They were burying a man that day, a man with whom he had lived the last five years.
He then asked what I thought about homosexuality and their rights and so on. I felt the interview had changed its course but though it was better to answer, as it would make him trust me. So I told him I had no trouble with gay people. I told him about these two older ladies that lived in my building. They were very nice people, feeding my dog cookies every time we crossed them in the park.
He smiled with my silly anecdote, so I understood he was ok with me interviewing him. I asked him then to tell me more about the man that had died; he was besides his life partner.
He corrected me there: the man was not his “partner” but his husband. And his name was Paul. They had been married in Massachusetts, in a small affair than only involved his some friends, no family member for either side though. I asked him if the families opposed and he smiled again but this time it was a sarcastic way to say, “of course they didn’t”. Although his parents knew and were not firmly opposed, they didn’t really care. They didn’t speak that frequently so there was no reason for him to know if they were ok with it.
Paul’s family, on the other side, were more extreme and had no problem calling them every so often to insult them or recite some extract of the Bible. They had to change their phone number several times in order to stop the insults for a while.
I asked more about their life together and then he went back to his real smile, the one that felt authentic and heartfelt. He told me they had met in a party given by a common friend. They just met there and, initially, did not like each other. Matt confessed he thought Paul was too full of himself, attracting attention to him much too often.
But then they kept seeing each other in other parties and on the street, as they discovered they were practically neighbors. So, with time, they began really knowing each other. After five months or so, they formally began dating. Drying his tears, he told me it was the best time in his life. They did everything together but not in the senses of being annoying or intense but really like friends who happened to be in love.
Many people stopped talking to them, as they didn’t knew their friends were gay. They got new ones and stronger ties bounded them with old acquaintances. It was the day they moved in together when the harassing and insulting began. But they moved on together and started to live life like the couple they would become years later.
In a trip to China, Paul proposed to him, with a ring with a special message for him. Having being in a military school, Paul knew all about codes and signs so the engraving could only be read by someone knowing about the codes and he taught Matt how to read it. They married six months later, in a private ceremony, after which they traveled to Iceland for their honeymoon. It was just the best moment in both their lives.
Only two years after their marriage, Paul had a surfing accident. He was with friends as Matt had been unable to join them because of his work. He was the first person to get to the hospital but was asked to leave when family members started to arrive. They yelled at him and he wouldn’t do anything. Finally a nurse told him that it was best if he left. She promised to call him if something happened.
That wasn’t the case. It was only through the call of one of the guy’s that had been surfing with Paul that he learned of his death. He was devastated but was prevented to go to the hospital. The family was already doing the paperwork to do take the body so there was no need to go and fight endlessly. He was theirs now, in flesh at least.
Matt told he that had happened a week ago. He had not been invited to the funeral or the wake, and had no infiltrate the cemetery without anyone noticing him. He was planning to go back soon. When I heard this, I told him I could drive him. It was not likely that any family members would be there so it was the perfect time.
So later that afternoon we were standing in front of Paul’s grave and Matthew just kneeled and cried. He didn’t say anything, just cried and touched the tombstone. I put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it as his story had touched me deeply.
I thought of Amanda, the woman I loved. What if someone had tried to stop me from being with her? What if her mother had forbidden our relationship? She hated me but she let her daughter do what she wanted and, ultimately, she was happy for her.
So when I got home, I started writing an article about Matt and Paul. I was sure it would be of everyone’s interest because; don’t we always say love is always first? That love always conquers and is the goal in our lives? I was sure that was the case and when I kissed Amanda that night; I got sure she realized how happy she made me.