So … here’s how this happened ….
I was late to the party, the Internet party. I didn't get a computer until the mid-90s, and didn't get online until a couple of years after that. But I have learned throughout my life that all things happen for a reason.
I got myself an AOL and through a friend at work I learned of something called a "chat room" where you can just talk to people from all over the world. Huh? What? Huh? But I decided to give it a shot and I found an AOL Chat Room called Gay Lifestyles and figured I'd go in.
I was the quiet one in the corner until I learned to speak up, or is it type up? But I digress. I liked the chat rooms just for the fun and jokes, not for the hook-ups — there were other rooms for that sort of thing. I was single and that was okay. I'd had a couple of mini-relationships that didn't pan out and figured maybe I'd be the single guy, and that was okay. I liked my life, my job, my house, my friends. What more did I need?
But in April of 2000, I was in a chatroom and someone asked the obligatory "Where is everybody from?" I answered "Cali here" because I'd seen other people call California by that name.
A few minutes later I got an IM from someone who asked about Cali. We chatted for a few minutes and then he asked me how long I'd lived in Cali. There was a mix-up; he was talking Cali, Colombia, and I was talking Cali California. It could have ended there but we decided to exchange emails and chat some more.
And then he suggested we talk by phone. I was already attracted to him just by what he said and the way he thought about things, and, being the shy one, I was a bit apprehensive, but I said ‘Okay.’
On the day of the call I raced home from work so I could be ready; there is a three hour time difference for us between Miami and Sacramento, so it was getting late for him, when my phone rang.
I remember hearing his voice that first time. I remember falling in love with that accent. I remember what we said, and how we said it, and how we wanted to talk more and share pictures and find out all we could about each other. I remember how he laughed that first time.
We talked every day after that; he’d called in the late morning from his job as I was getting dressed in the early morning to go to mine; and then I’d call in the early evening to talk to him before he went to sleep. And we emailed and IM'd and sent packages and pictures and songs we liked. It was a long distance romance, though I wanted to decrease the space between us.
I told him I wanted to meet him and we discussed who would come where and when and how. He had no vacation time and I was ready for some time off, so I took eleven days in July off and flew to Miami. I know! Miami in July! What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I was in love with someone I’d never seen in person and wanted to know what this all meant.
I was thinking I wanted to see Carlos face-to-face; I wanted to hear that accent in person. I wanted to know all about him. I was thinking he was 'the one.'
We met at the Ft Lauderdale airport on July 11th, 2000. He wore a bow-tie and had a bouquet of roses. He looked like his pictures, though much cuter, and he smiled so sweetly. We had lunch and then walked on the Lauderdale beach; we drove to South Beach and stayed in a hotel because his aunt was staying with him in his house and we wanted privacy. We spent a weekend in Key West and Carlos wore a sarong as we walked through town to see the sunset. I heard him play his trumpet with a volunteer orchestra he belonged to, and I met his Aunt Gloria — who became my tour-guide and friend, and, even before we legally tied the knot, my Tia Gloria — while Carlos was at work. I met Dengoso, the poodle; Thomas, Scruffy, Sweety, Lady, Voncie, Spunky and Squeaky, the cats. I wanted this, this man, this life, this place.
That vacation flew by and we were both in tears at the airport not knowing what was next for us. Moving? Staying long-distance friends and lovers? What was next?
Next was a visit from Carlos to California, and a ‘Meet The Family’ dinner. Of course, my family loved him. My Mom loved him because he loved me; my sister loved him because he's a nice guy; my brother loved him for that same reason. My Dad loved him because Carlos is Carlos, what you see is what you get. No pretense. And I took Carlos to meet my friends and we had dinners and parties and good times. San Francisco. Tea in the Japanese Garden. A drive around Lake Tahoe. Then he had to go home and, once again, we wondered what we would do next.
It didn't take long. We still called and emailed and sent things through the mail. He spoke with my parents and friends and I spoke with his family. And then, it was just clear: I would move to Miami. I didn't really have a job that I couldn't get in Florida and, well, there are times in life where you just have to, as I like to say, Shake the Etch-A-Sketch.
So, where does this all lead? It leads to today, fifteen years after I stepped off another plane in Florida, though this time I wouldn't be staying just a week or so. Fifteen years ago today Carlos and I started our life together and there was no looking back; only forward.
And it’s also a year after we stood before a judge in Bellingham, Washington, saying our vows. I seriously never thought I would see the day that I would ... I could... marry Carlos, with my father as a witness, but there we were doing just that. I just wish my mother and sister could have been here in more than just spirit because, as much as they love me, they love Carlos as much ... maybe more.
I remember as a kid — a not-yet-out-but-knowing-I-was-different kid — telling my mother that I would never get married, but I would have a maid to take care of my kids.
How things change; as I remember that story, I think it was my first shot at coming out — as a six-year-old, I think — because, even then, I never thought I could get married, would be allowed to get married, but I always thought I could have children, if that’s what I wanted.
Years later, years later, after meeting Carlos, falling in love with Carlos, and moving three-thousand miles to be with Carlos, I still never thought I could get married, and now, fourteen year s after that, I realized I could get married — perhaps not in South Carolina, it wasn’t legal here at that time yet — and that I would get married. We both wanted to do it, and we planned it a couple of times, but it never seemed to work out; things happen, life happens.
I wanted to get married on our anniversary, October 17, because, and he’ll hate me for saying it and then he’ll quickly forget I said it at all, Carlos is bad with dates; I figured the last thing he needed was another “us” date to recall.
And so last summer we decided to go for it. We’d planned a trip to New York City — one of our favorite spots where equality has landed — and planned a week of sights and shows and drinks and just plain fun. I called my father and told him the good news; he said he was so happy for us but that he wouldn’t, couldn’t come, because he doesn’t 'do' big cities. I thought, Oh that’s okay, Dad and let it go, but every time we talked about it, he’d always say that same thing.
And then it hit me: I’m an idiot. My father was saying how much he wanted to see Carlos and I marry; he’d seen my brother get married, he walked my sister down the aisle, and he wanted to see Carlos and I marry as well.
New York was out, and Bellingham, Washington was in. The only difference was that in Washington we’d have a three-day waiting period from getting the license to the actual I do’s rather than the twenty-four-hour waiting period in New York. But, it meant that much to my Dad, and it meant that much to me to have him there for this big life event, so it was worth it.
So, Washington there we went; up to Sumas, in fact, a literal hop and skip — no jump because it’s that close — to the Canadian border. Dad’s house is about thirty minutes from Bellingham — a smallish beautiful city along Bellingham Bay — and that’s where we went last Monday to fill out the marriage license.
One hiccup? I’d forgotten Monday was Columbus Day and, as I tend to do, I was freaking out that, if the government buildings were closed, we might miss our three day window to get married on the 17th and since we were leaving on the 18th to come home, we might completely miss this chance.
Damn that Columbus and his bad sense of direction; had he made it to India, we wouldn’t be taking a day off in America!
Luckily, though, for whatever reason, all government buildings were open, and off we went for the license; the first step and it was a snap. Sign here, show an ID, and hand over some cash; bing bang boom, done. Then it was off to lunch with my Dad and while driving we wondered about the three-day waiting period. I told Carlos it gave people a chance to make sure this was what they wanted to do and he replied,
Yeah, three days! Because fourteen years isn’t long enough.
I almost drove off the road. But the wait was on; we spent time with my Dad; we spent time touring the area; we spent time making sure we had the rings, the jackets, the kilt, the shoes, the address, the judge’s name. I guess we did need three days.
By Friday we were ready and anxious to get this thing done. Since the only person we know in Washington is my Dad, and we needed two witnesses, my father asked a friend of his to join us. I’d met Casey before, and liked her, and, well, witness this already! Casey brought along her boyfriend Tyler, so we ended up with a spare, you know just in case.
At four-thirty we ran into the Bellingham Courthouse — through security … do I really need to take my belt off — and upstairs to where Judge Henley was waiting for us. Then it was short trek down the hall to an open courtroom, followed by a few instructions, a quick chat …
Judge Henley said the ceremony calls for the use of the words ‘spouse’ or the use of the words ‘husband’ and asked what we wanted to do. Carlos and I said, in unison, Husbands! Anyone can have a spouse, we wanted a husband.
I don’t remember too much about the actual ceremony, really. I remember giggling a little and giving Carlos a side-eye during the richer-poorer part because I thought he’d say, Hmm, poorer? Maybe not so much. And I remember getting teary-eyed listening to him repeat his vows because Carlos can be very serious and he rarely gets weepy; but he stumbled over some words, and his voice cracked, and my eyes watered, but we made it through.
A quick exchange of rings — again, that’s them up there on top — and it was kiss the groom. Kiss.The.Groom. Who knew? Bing bang boom, married.
Afterwards, my father took the wedding gang out for dinner at a great restaurant along the bay, where we could watch the sunset over the marina, and drink a little and laugh a lot, and just let it all sink in. My father, some new friends, and my new husband.
It was all so simple, really, and yet such a long time coming; from the days when that little kid never thought he could get married to last week when a much older kid realized he could, and would, and did.
So, this year, while we celebrate fifteen years as a couple as partners, lovers, friends, travelers, we are also celebrating a year of marriage, our actual First Wedding Anniversary.
It’s been a fabulous ride and, while I didn’t say this myself — Charlotte said it in one of those Sex and the City movies — I like to say that I am happy every single day with Carlos. Oh, not all day, every day, because that’s life, but every single day for the last fifteen years, I have realized how happy I am and how happy he makes me.
And that’s something to celebrate!