I had a dream:
I wake this morning, my neck and back sore from sitting in the green vinyl waiting room chairs, hunched over Nolie sleeping on my chest and with one arm cast around Addie in the chair next to me. I manage to wriggle away from both without waking them, and go to stare through the glass at Eric in his hospital bed, tubes going everywhere, machine lights blinking. I lean my head against the glass, leave it there a minute.
In January, Eric and I will have been together six years. But because the state won't recognized our union, our commitment to each other, I cannot be at his bedside now. Because I bore the children and he didn't, they are considered "my" offspring only, and the state will not allow them to see their father except through this pane of glass.
This is the worst part of all of this, of course--not being able to be with him while he fights this thing. But, too, there are other things. He lost his job when his coworkers found out we were living together. First, it just started as distancing, an occasional heckling. But then it got worse, and eventually they "let him go." His supervisor took him aside and told him he was a good worker, but that him being there was just causing too much disruption with the other workers. So he was fired.
Which means he has no benefits. I'm still working, but I don't make nearly what he did, and of course he can't be covered under my benefits because he's a man and I'm a woman. Which means that all of this--the hospital, the medicine, the tubes--won't be covered by insurance.
I glance over at Addie and Nolie, officially "my" kids and not "our" kids, and wonder about their future. Wonder about what it would be like if society embraced them having a mom and a dad, wonder if their lives will be full of struggle, financially and emotionally, because Eric and I cannot marry. Are not "officially" recognized and always less-than, always second-class.
The nurse did let me sneak in one night, let me hold his hand. I leaned in to kiss him, too, but she pulled me back, hissing, "No! Someone might see you! You have to go now!" I could tell she was disgusted. The kids don't understand why they can't see their dad, sit on his lap. The recovery is bad enough, but then to also explain why they must be kept apart. It's too much.
But this is what our neighbors and family and elected officials have decided is right. They argue that it is better for the kids to be in a "normal" family then to be exposed to what Eric and I have together. Endorsing what we do in the privacy of the home, they argue, is like endorsing child abuse. The absurdity of this is too much for me to grasp, my anger at this injustice too enormous.
The kids wake up and need to be fed, so we trudge down to the cafeteria. The women who work there should know us by now, should wink at the kids and say, "Hey, kiddo." But they don't. They know that the kids have a mother and a father, and so they won't speak to us--only stare behind our backs and tsk-tsk. And continue to cast their votes to keep us second-class. Lines are drawn, lines are drawn, lines are drawn.
Can you imagine? Maybe you don't have to.