The Power Vested in me
It’s the first week of my last semester of grad school. My cohort’s classes are done for the week and while I don’t drink, I don’t want to pass up the chance to spend an evening with them at a bar. Every snide remark we made earlier in class had a sense of finality to it that I’m not exactly used to. I know we don’t have many Thursdays talking theory over cheap beer left in us. We might as well enjoy ourselves.
The weather holds little regard toward our celebration. It’s late January and it’s bitterly cold to a point that the snow drifts along the sidewalks have layers of ice coating them. I try to make space for everybody by walking along them, though it’s resulting in me lagging behind as I try to avoid slipping and falling.
My friend, Matt, is showing pity on me. He stays on the sidewalk, keeping a slow pace to accommodate my bizarre attempt to make space for people who are well ahead of us at this point. When I realize the ridiculousness of the circumstance, I look up, asking, “Hey, should we… you know, catch up?”
Matt looks up at the sky, his face bathed in amber street lights for a picturesque moment before he says, “Hey, can I ask you something?”
I watch begin lining up to make it inside the small doorway of the bar and I stop, toeing the snow bank, taking a deep breath before I say, “Yeah, sure.”
Matt stops as well, turning to face me and say, “Uh, so… could you be a witness for my wedding?”
I try to adjust my footing on the bank, one of my feet slipping. I slam it against the sidewalk, trying my best to not have my face give away the fact that pain just shot up to my knee. I swallow, imagine that I’m literally pushing the pain down and out of my body before he sputter out, “Wait… you have a boyfriend?”
Matt takes a deep breath, looking down at his feet. It makes me realize how strangely empty skeletal college friendships can be. I know about his favorite pretentious foreign films and his favorite toppings of pizza. I have heard him on call with his overbearing mother and I know that he has two sisters. But for whatever reason, this need to get married slipped by me, probably because we didn’t see each other over winter break.
I don’t know if this is what he’s wondering about. He takes a deep breath and says, “Well, I do. I’ve been kinda quiet about it. He’s a bit older and we got together when we were all student teaching and…” he took a deep breath. “His job screwed up his paperwork, Elyse. He can’t get sent back home. He just can’t.”
His hands twist into claws anxiously. His face is unreadable. I’m pretty sure mine is, too. There’s no emotion that feels tangible for this.
“Where’s home?” I ask, scrambling to find a place to recenter this conversation.
“India,” he replies, his voice glum.
I nod my head. “He definitely can’t go home,” I reply.
He takes a deep breath. “No… he can’t…”
I take a deep breath. “Can I at least meet him first?” I ask, “I’m not saying no, I just… want to meet this person before I commit some kind of felony for him. This is a felony, right?”
“I’m not sure what you’d be charged with,” he replied, “But I think if it gets found out you can go to jail for, like, six months? Or pay a fine. Just so, you know. You’re aware.”
I lick my lips. This isn’t exactly something I want to potentially have on my record, seeing as though I’m trying to teach children for the rest of my life. But the thought of anybody having to go back to a homophobic home scares me much more. “I mean, fine,” I say, “I don’t really care about that. I just want to at least know what he looks like.”
He smiles. It cuts the tension enough that I can smile back. “I think we can arrange that,” he replies.
“Well, good,” I say. I finally make eye contact with him for the first time in the conversation. “Everybody’s probably wondering where we are.”
“Yeah,” he replies, “Let’s go inside. I’ll buy you a drink.”
“It’s the least you can do,” I snap, making sure to tack on a laugh. We are able to smile with relative ease by the time we meet up with the rest of the cohort at the bar, though my mind is racing through trying to process what just happened.
DONNIE MARTINO is a social studies teacher based out of New Jersey. He's a cosplayer, rat dad, and embroidery enthusiast. He can be found on Wordpress at donniedontblog and Twitter at dmisunbreakable.