Stories are important. The ones we read, the ones we write, the ones that make us and shape us. The rough-edged, imperfect moments that tangle up in the haphazard tapestry of an ordinary life.
So I'm going to tell you a love story. Well. Sort of. I'm going to tell you my love story.
I'm a... well... I'm one of those loud, political queer guys, you know? And something that used to occasionally confuse my friends was the way my passionate commitment to same-sex marriage co-existed with my strong personal resistance to... uh... marriage.
But it's actually pretty simple: I believe in equality, including the right of non-heterosexual people to make themselves miserable just like everyone else.
Turns out, I'm kinda married now. Although I basically pretend I'm not.
Because, the thing is, I still have a strong, personal resistance to marriage. I can understand why other people are into it. And there's definitely meaning in standing in front of your community -- whatever that community may be -- and affirming the depth, the reality, the value of your relationship. Whatever that may be.
But I don't know what socks I'm going to wear tomorrow. How can I possibly promise someone a forever of commitment and cherishment? Don't get me wrong, I'm profoundly and sickeningly in love. But, for me, a relationship happens every day. It's not a lifetime thing.
Except. Yeah. Married.
So what happened? Were my politics overturned in a flood of rose petals? Did I go the way of so many of my other anti-marriage friends, tripping sheepishly down the altar to the tune of 'oh, we might as well because we can'?
No. I'm married because of the water board.
We'd just moved house and the bills were supposed to have been transferred to my name. (Because I'm the Organized One. And he's the One Who Puts Up Flatpack Furniture. That's how it works.) And, mostly, it was fine. Except the water bill which had been transferred into the name of ... well ... a name no human has ever had ever. A string of vowels and consonants so outlandishly absurd they practically read Prostetnic Vogon Jetlz.
So I would see the letters come, assume it was a hilarious misspelling of his name and put them aside. And he would see the letters come, assume it was a hilarious misspelling of my name and put them aside. And this went on for the best part of a year until the water board told us they were taking us to court.
Or rather, they were taking Prostetnic Vogon Jetlz to court but that probably wouldn't have counted as a legal defense. And we still only realized what was going on because the summons arrived in a very unfriendly red envelope which led us to conclude it was either exceptionally premature Xmas junkmail or something important.
Needless to say, it led to a very anxious phone call to the water board, during which I patiently explained to quite a lot of people that Prostetnic Vogon Jetlz wasn't a resident, but a couple of earthlings were, and they wanted -- as a matter of urgency -- to settle the water bill. This proved contentious. Eventually it was conceded that the name referred to my partner. Okay, great, good, could I pay the outstanding bill and set up a direct debit?
I'm afraid not sir. Your name isn't the name on the account.
As I've just explained, it's my partner's name. We live in the same house. Can I please pay the bill?
I'm sorry, sir. Your name isn't the name on the account.
You do realize I'm trying to give you money, right?
Your partner can have your name added to the account.
Wait. How do you know I'm not him? How can you tell?
Because you told me your name earlier and it does not match the name on the account.
So you keep telling me. Just out curiosity, if I was Mrs Prostetnic Vogon Jetlz, could I pay the water bill?
Oh the pause. I could feel it down the phone line. Like this poor harried man who was only doing his job had suddenly noticed he was on a tightrope strung over a lamprey pit.
Anyway. The short of the matter is, I was not permitted to pay the water bill. And when my partner came home from work he found me in an angry huddle on the sofa. "You have to pay the water bill," I muttered, "because I'm not allowed. Because the water board believes I don't have the goddamn right."
My partner is kind of a peace-maker. "I'm sure it's just a fraud protection thing or whatever."
"Yes, right, because paying the water bills of total strangers is a crime that runs unchecked in our so-called society."
By this point, a histrionic fear of randomly going to prison for an unpaid water bill (yes, I know this is ridonkulus but my brain works the way my brain works) and the sort of disproportionate irritation associated with being prevented from completing a trivial task had built Thames Water into something from a Terry Gilliam film.
And thus worth opposing at all costs.
"You know what would show those bastards? We should get married."
And my partner... well. He just smiled. "Okay," he said.
There wasn't a ceremony as such. Just some admin. But now all household expenses are handled on time and by direct debit from the account of Mr & Mr.
The water bill in question hangs above my writing desk. My partner had it framed.
As far as happy endings go, it works for me.
For more from Alexis Hall, head here.
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