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A Word For It

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Edwin can remember when polite people said confirmed bachelor with an arch, knowing look. Hell, he remembers omi-palone--all those Polari words, secret code for men with secrets. And he remembers the others, will he nill he: queer and fairy, shirt-lifter and arse-bandit. There were so many, and on bad days he wondered why hate was so glib and decency so tongue-tied.

He remembers saying gay for the first time without meaning cheerful. The wicked thrill of pilfering a word, snatching it like an apple off a market stall and then not running, not hiding. Showing it off to everyone, unsecret, uncoded. The sweetness of it in his mouth.

And now, decades after confirmed bachelor, Edwin is learning to say husband. Both pedantically and politically, he can see it's not quite accurate. But the looks on straight people's faces when he says "my husband"! The way Edgar stands a little taller with learned pride and faint masculine embarrassment, as though Edwin has kissed him in public.

Edwin likes to be a little bit shocking. He shocks himself above all, every time he looks at Edgar and feels like the end of a storybook. And thinks, sentimentally, tritely, ridiculously, happily, my husband.