Dedication of a Lifetime(2)

By: Tamsen Parker

Sean didn’t always understand since chem had been his worst class in high school, but he could listen to Isaiah talk for hours about a new idea for a formula or a tweak to an existing drug that might someday make people’s lives better. Sometimes Isaiah would take the time to translate his brilliance into laymen’s terms, but even when he didn’t, his enthusiasm didn’t need any deciphering.

In some ways Sean loved coming home to something half-finished because he knew Isaiah would be excited and engaged. It was like a scavenger hunt: an incomplete chore would lead to a kid-on-Christmas-morning husband who he’d need to look after because when Isaiah was in one of those spaces, he’d forget to eat, shower, sleep. Since big and protective Isaiah usually got to play the role of care-taker, Sean relished being able to nourish his husband and loved to see how his synapses snapped in ways Sean’s never would.

Was he quiet because he was mulling over something from work? He could ask him. Should ask him. “How was your—”

But at the same time as he’d finally worked up the conversational nerve, apparently so had Isaiah. They were talking over one another, and while it shouldn’t have been a big deal—these things happen all the time—it felt to Sean like one more piece of evidence that they were badly out of sync.

Sean flushed and gestured with his empty fork. “You first.”

“Did you see the news?”

He had, but these days it was hard to keep track of everything that was happening. The blows came both hard and fast. Those that weren’t a slower push up against a wall that gave people enough time to get exhausted from digging their heels in, from slogging through the everyday fight of contacting their reps and donating money and shouting into the rain or the ether of social media at any rate. But one story among the clusterfuck of too many stuck out in his mind.

“The trans ban in the military?”

Isaiah nodded, his jaw working and his thick forearms flexing as he held his silverware just above his plate. Whatever else might be off between them, Sean still found his husband mouthwatering. He knew he shouldn’t, because they were talking about something meaningful and serious, but he let his gaze wander from Isaiah’s big hands wrapped around the knife and fork, over his forearms bared by his hastily and unevenly rolled-up sleeves, up to his broad shoulders and barrel chest to where his shirt gaped open at the collar and showed the tiny whorls of his chest hair. Up his thick neck to his shadowed square jaw, over the broad bones of his cheeks and the flare of his nose to his big wide-set dark brown eyes. Eyes that were boring into Sean now. Expecting something from him. Probably something profound and far-reaching, but Sean could only come up with one thing.

It was another disconnect between them that Sean used to think of as complementary but now he wasn’t so sure: Isaiah had a knack for looking at systems, larger scales. If they lived a thousand years ago, Sean had no doubts he would’ve led an army of warriors.

Sean was better with smaller scale: individuals, households, and that’s what forced its way to the forefront of his mind and out of his mouth.

“It’s going to kill Brady.”

“It’s going to kill thousands of Bradys,” Isaiah shot back, turning his gaze to the pork on his plate that he attacked viciously with knife and fork, rending piece upon piece. “If it happens. It was just a fucking edict spat out on social media, and it doesn’t have to mean anything. That isn’t how this works, and it can be stopped. In the meantime, I’m going to send more money to the ACLU. You okay with that?”

“Yeah, of course.” They had the money. Isaiah’s salary as a chemist for a drug company and his own as a school counselor meant they had plenty since they didn’t have kids. Yet. “I’ll send Brady a care package too.”

Isaiah grunted, and went back to eating his dinner. It wasn’t anything he’d said, but Sean somehow felt as though he’d disappointed his husband. Not enough outrage? Only thinking of their friend when it was a much bigger issue? He couldn’t tell. But he’d do what he always did: the best he could.

He couldn’t bake for Brady because brownies or cookies would never make it in one piece to Afghanistan, but he could pick up some of his other favorite things. Candy that wouldn’t melt, some books, batteries, socks, sunscreen. The guy who’d stood up as a best man at their wedding deserved more than that, but what he really deserved wasn’t within Sean’s power to give.