The House Where My Husband Doesn’t Exist

“What are you doing up there?” she said.

“I’m taking time to write.” Which was partially true. I moved there because of him, because he got a job, and because we wanted to start a life together on neutral ground, rather than on my home turf in Los Angeles or his in New York.

She waved her hand in disapproval, disappointed that no one in the family became a doctor. Perhaps one of my cousins’ children will go to medical school, but by then it will be too late for her.

“Are you living with anyone?” The question was not prying, merely curious.

What could I tell her? Yes, Nana, I am living with the love of my life, a man who chipped away my walls, brick by brick, until he could see me inside. When the hole was large enough for me to fit through, he held out his hand and I took it and walked into the world, exposed. This man who rescued me from my own facade, the one I am forced to reconstruct for your benefit.

I looked at my aunt, the only other person listening.

“Am I living with anyone?” I said. I didn’t know if there had been efforts to coordinate this fiction. Had anyone bothered to give me a back story? If I were going to lie about who I was, the least someone could have done was prepare a dossier of my false self.

“A roommate,” I said. The word reverberated like an incantation, as if I had summoned the ghosts of every gay person who had ever been forced to use this pretense. A word to protect and erase.

From the moment I accepted my husband’s proposal of marriage, I promised I would never forsake him. For decades, I hid my feelings from the world and suffocated them into nothingness. Our engagement was not only a promise to him; it was a promise to myself that I would never hide again. But here I was.

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