The Day I Dreaded
IN AUGUST 1985 I walked to Boston’s popular cruising area the Esplanade seeking a bed partner for the night. It was around 9:30 PM when I started touring the usual hot spots, the shrubs with hiding couples in the shadows. My addiction had dragged me again back to the bars, bathhouses, and public parks. We were all there despite, or maybe because of, the risks we were taking. Straight guys sometimes popped up armed with sticks and rocks and hammers; sometimes cops raided the bushes.
That night I was walking as usual from thicket to thicket. When I turned another dark corner a gang of five young men grabbed me. “We caught ourselves a faggot.” They pushed me to the ground onto my knees. They slugged me and cursed at me. “You’re slime! We hope you rot in hell!” Four of them held me while the ring leader stepped forward and kicked me in the mouth with the heel of his black military boot. “You won’t be sucking cock for a while!”
They released me and I fell flat on the grass, shot through with pain. The gang strolled away, “Let’s find another one!” Ever so slowly I stood up, not fully conscious, and walked out of the park in my blood-soaked T-shirt. “Somebody please, somebody,” I begged. “Please help me!”
A gay man came to my rescue, and soon I was in Massachusetts General Hospital. “You wandered from bed to bed totally crazed, screaming all the way,” a patient told me the following morning. In a day or so an oral surgeon wired my broken jaw.
What I had dreaded for decades had happened. In my mind the attack was inevitable because faggots deserve to be punished.
The Day I Dreamed
In 1991 I met Jack, and my life started over again.
In May 2004 Massachusetts became the first state in the nation with marriage equality. Jack and I supported the campaign for marriage equality by urging our Unitarian-Universalist congregation to contact our legislators. We contacted our friends in Massachusetts by phone and emailed asking them to lend their support. Jack became a volunteer for Mass Equality and knocked on the doors of state lawmakers.
We were among the pioneers who formalized our unions in matrimony. At the Unitarian-Universalist Area Church in Sherborn, MA, where I was organist-choirmaster, we proclaimed our vows on July 17 in front of over 100 friends and parishioners.
Jack and I planned the wedding in just six weeks. We consulted the minister, a photographer, a cake specialist, the church’s hospitality committee and a ‘flower lady’ in the congregation. Jack followed through with all the details.
I invited a jazz trio, colleagues of mine, to perform for the ceremony. The musicians so impressed the audience that applause followed every tune. For the recessional the trio played Jack’s favorite pop song “Teach Me Tonight.”
The most memorable reading in the service was Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s quote from Gift from the Sea: “When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way…We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity…”
At the reception a Klezmer violinist strolled through lifting everyone’s spirits. Several of our neighbors in Arlington greeted us. Folks from out of town hugged us. Our friend Ortelio flew in from Chicago. Family traveled from Houston and Savannah and Atlanta. Jack’s Mom Thelma embraced us. My hetero brother Byron, who had escorted me down the aisle, told me at the reception, “If this makes you happy, it makes me happy.” I learned afterward Byron wasn’t sure he could participate in a gay wedding. Jack’s brother Jason walked him down the aisle without hesitation.
Jack and I were charged with making a toast. Jack, who has never been at a loss for words, was the first to raise his glass and speak. After several remarks he dwelled on the difference in our ages; he’s 12 years younger. I became annoyed and raised my glass, “Here’s to younger men!” The single gays and the single women, and a few of the married ones, lifted their glasses with me and cheered loudly, “To younger men.”
The new minister, Nathan Detering, who had thoughtfully prepared the ceremony with us, welcomed all who came to the first gay wedding in the parish. The church women had polished a beautiful silver service for our reception in the hall the church had rented next door. It was heartwarming for us to witness the joy, the love expressed in word and deed by the congregation and by our friends and family who attended. Such a happy day!
Sometime later Jack handed me a newspaper. “Have a look.”
“What’s this? Boston Globe…Food…”
With a big grin, “Do you recognize it?”
“No way! This is the menu for our first date… when we shared the cooking. You saved it?” Jack has saved many things, rose petals from his mother’s memorial service, his grandmother’s Christmas ornaments, my valentines and this menu from 1991 the year we met.
I smiled and shook my head, “You sentimental sweetheart!” And I squeezed my squeeze.
Edwin Light grew up in Copperhill, TN in his family’s Colonial Hotel, where he began his lifelong love of music and the piano, including teaching at two universities.