My son has come home with the ashes of his husband. This is the word he uses, husband. I've never used it until now and I don't mean to use it again, though the alternatives aren't much better. Lover is the word he used to use—with other people, never with me—a term nobody around here would utter, for any sort of relationship. Not that the word is too graphic, though it is. The real trouble is it reeks of big-city pretension, an impractically romantic and hopeful view of life.
They were "married" down in the city this summer, when Jem's friend, Ethan, was already dying of AIDS. I met Ethan just once, five or six years ago, when I was still telling myself he was merely Jem's roommate. Looking back, I see that Jem's mother—my late wife, Meg—had long since given up trying to dupe herself, and frankly by that point it was a stretch to believe anything but the truth. I always hate when those moments come.
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