An Unworn Pair

grooms

Franklin was intent on dating someone who offered him no conveniences. He looked down on his friends who dated women that cut their hair very stylishly for free, or cooked gourmet meals. Likewise, he looked down on his friends who dated men that did their oil changes or helped pay their student loans. He wanted no pragmatic advantages. He saw them as sellout compromises, reminiscent of the comforts that keep older unhappy couples from divorcing – once they thought of all the hassle, the little bits of laziness they would surrender. He wanted no ignoble and petty considerations like that in his calculations of freedom or commitment.

When he met Mac, whose real name was Josh McKenzie and joked that when everyone called him Mac they were spelling it Mc, Franklin was picking up his sister’s kid from day-care as a favor. He heard Mac telling a couple picking up another child that he had told the class because of his diarrhea their boy would that day need “extra hugs,” and Franklin thought for a moment he would hate this newly met child-care teacher, Mac, for saying that, but found he loved him for it instead.

When they were on a date to see Umphrey’s McGee, Franklin tripped over his own untied Chuck Taylors, worn down to almost flapping, and Mac bent down to mockingly show him how to tie his shoes step-by-step the way he would a child, which Franklin found vaguely creepy but also endearingly funny. He decided, under the clarifying haze of 11 Rogue Dead Guy Ales, that Mac was one of those people who wouldn’t offer him any petty practical assets, and he could love on principle alone.

“What are these called?” Franklin asked, holding up one of the plastic shoe-lace tips that help you loop laces through the holes; he knew the answer but wanted to see if Mac did.

“Winglets,” Mac deliberately lied, and Franklin kissed him.

When they moved in together, Franklin would find while walking catatonic through his routine in the morning that he couldn’t find the mug he always used for morning coffee. There were other mugs, but they were lesser mugs, and Franklin felt his whole day would be thrown off-course by their usage. Finally he would yell at Mac and find out that, once again, the worn-down old mug was sitting on the back edge of the kitchen sink next to the faucet, where it was all the other times Franklin went frustratedly back and forth to every place a mug could be and couldn’t find it.

“Why is it there again?” Franklin would ask angrily, because he felt stupid but also right.

“It was dirty,” Mac would say.

That,” Franklin would say, gesturing at the back of the sink, “is an invisibility zone to me! I do not see it. I am a man and I navigate by landmarks – when I lose something, I look for the pre-determined location spaces where it could be present. I am not scanning for shapes and colors like a woman would be to find an object. I am blind to the cup when the cup is there. Is this all one big joke to you? Are you doing this on purpose?”

After that, Mac started doing it on purpose, putting Franklin’s phone and toothbrush and one time his shoe on the back edge of the kitchen sink next to the faucet.

When they got engaged, Franklin found out Mac had a lot of money in the bank, and he felt betrayed. “Why were you working all those years with all this money sitting there?” Franklin asked.

“I like to work. I don’t want to sit around all day watching TV,” said Mac. “Have you seen the kind of TV they have during the day? The commercials tell you who they think you are. They’re targeted to who would be watching TV at that time. Watch daytime TV commercials sometime. You’ll feel like you’re a dead-eyed, grease-eating idiot who hands over his car title for 200% interest loans every weekend to buy more lottery tickets on his few days left inching towards the cold, elderly grave.”

“I can’t marry you with all this money!” Franklin said. “I just – I can’t.”

Mac sighed, picked up the same tattered old Chuck Taylor Franklin had tripped on years ago, and threw it at him.

“It isn’t funny,” Franklin said. “It isn’t who I am.”

Mac kept staring at him in his usual, kind kind of way. “Being rich doesn’t stop you from denying and depriving yourself,” he told Franklin. “It won’t prevent you being harsh with your wants because you feel you don’t deserve even what life is allowing you by circumstance to have. It just gives you the option to stop punishing yourself if you ever decide to stop hating yourself for who you are.”

When they got married, Franklin watched one frame of whirling life while the room was clogged with friends and family: Mac was dancing in the middle of the floor to Sublime’s “Santeria” and pausing his eyes-closed lean-back jazz-hands to pantomime how he would pop a cap in Sancho and slap a heina down; and ten years later, when they celebrated their anniversary, Franklin walked into the house to find Mac teaching the same dance to their son, Josh, who they sometimes would call Josh the First.

When Josh tripped in the middle of a rock step, Franklin told him to tie his shoes. “What are these called?” asked Josh, indicating the plastic tips on the ends of his shoelaces.

“Aglets,” said Mac.

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