“What are you doing in here?”
“I just needed a moment. You?” Sam asked with a grin, knowing the 2 men were there for the same reason. “I just needed a minute”. They circled each other between the stalls and the urinals, as if sussing their counterpart before a battle. They stopped, both comforted that they were alone. “You looked trapped” Mark teased as he nodded back towards the party. Sam curled his body “I’m happy to be a part of your family and all but your cousin is pretty intense Mark.”
“Dans not my cousin, hes my second cousin.” Sam hit back
“I thought he was Deets son?”
“No Deets son died last year. Dan is my Nanas nephew.”
“Nana Callaghan or Nana Fury?”
“Nana Callaghan.” Sam stated. His confidence in the facts seemed to wane the further into the explanation he found himself.
“I thought the Callaghan side were all unmarried, save for your grandparents.”
“They are, but Great Uncle Jim had a baby out of wedlock, it was all very scandalous. Dan is one of our many skeletons in the family closet. Now funny thing about Dan is, he’s not actually related to my Nana. You see…”
“No. No. I love you but I can’t enter your family forest again. Too many branches to wade through.”
A laugh, a beat, and they ended that conversation.
Both dressed in black, the men looked like blemishes on the mahogany interior of the bathroom. Sam had his back to the unusually long stall doors. Each reaching from the floor to the ceiling. They dwarfed him. Mark on the other hand, stood with his back to the 5 white urinals, each tucked in their own compartment. His frame blocked one of the bowls from Sams view.
“The cake went well don’t you think? Everyone loved it” Sam was proud of his choice of cake.
Mark looked to the mirror between them, “Yea everyone lapped it up.”
The thing about a marriage, whether it is 30 years old or 6 hours old, you always get a sense that your better half is hiding something.
“You didn’t like the cake did you?”
“What? No. Of course I did.”
“No, I can tell you’re pronouncing vowels differently. Longer. That’s what happens when you lie.”
“That’s not -”
“Was it the icing? Do you not like icing?”
“Sam stop. The..”
The door blew open a crack. Both men froze. The world they had escaped, the world they had created, was seeping back in. The door returned to it’s frame.
“Why are you in here and not out there?” Mark was desperate to move on.
“I just wanted a minute. To take it all in you know? It’s been non stop all day and I haven’t spent any time alone to just think.”
Mark knew the man he married lived in his head. It was sometimes impossible to take him out of it. Like trying to wake up in the morning, Sam never fought to stay awake, he often let himself fall. It was one of qualities Mark found so endearing, but his years observing and learning meant he knew how to counteract it. “Who was going to be your wife?”
Stunned, Sam surfaced “My..”
“Your wife. We’ve talked about how we once lived on a default setting. A certainty of our future when we “grew up”. When you were younger, who did you imagine your wife would be?”
Quick to rise to the challenge Sam smiled “Well initially it was Daphne from Scooby Doo, the live action one not the cartoon.” He blew air out his nose in laughter “But when I was 12, I always imagined I’d be with someone smarter than me. She would correct my statements, read the most respected books. I knew I wouldn’t feel inferior, even before I knew what that feeling was. I just wanted a wife that would impress me by being herself.”
They paused for a minute, when eventually Mark spoke up “So you wanted to marry Velma?”
Sam hoisted up his finger “Velma wasn’t played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, I was an horny idiot, leave me alone. Who was your wife going to be?”
Although he had concocted this game, Mark hadn’t been prepared to answer the question.
“Well if we’re talking about the girl I fancied, it was Sonya Byrne. She was a girl in my class when I was four and I loved her. She always gave a huge lump of her marla when I was making a snake. I remember telling my Mam one night that I was going to marry Sonya, and you know what she said? She said ‘well does Sonya want to marry you?’ So I went back into school the next day and walked right up to Sonya Byrne and said ‘you and me are gonna get married.’ and you know what she said? ‘No, we’re gonna play chasing’ and then she ran away”
Sam held his hand over his mouth to muffle his laughter, but Mark continued “I loved her more for that. We grew up and our Mams kept in contact. I met Sonya in the smoking area of some club when we were 22. We laughed about the Valentines cards we made each other when we were 6. It was nice, she got engaged last year.”
“So she didn’t play chasing with him then?”
“No I guess that will always be our thing.” Mark concluded and moved closer to Sam “We lucked out not marrying those two, we got something better.”
Sam tied his fingers with Marks “I married someone smarter than me.”
Mark tilted his head “And I married someone strong willed and generous”
Sam blew more air through his nose “I am generous. I was especially generous with the servings of the cake.”
They broke away and Mark walked to the other end of the room. Sam continue “Did you eat the styrofoam?”
Mark swiveled around, his leather shoes creating little friction on the tiled floors. “What?”
“One layer of the cake is styrofoam. That’s how the baker could make a tiered cake. The sponger layer was incapable of supporting the chocolate biscuit layer so the baker made one layer with styrofoam as a foundation of sorts. She just threw some icing over it so it blends in.”
Marks mouth hung open “Logically I get it. But I can’t- we paid for an inedible cake?”
“No we paid for an impressive tiered cake that looks great in the picture. But in order for the cake to look like that, sacrifices were made.” Sam corrected.
“Unbelievable” Mark was pacing the floor, breaking his pace to move passed his husband and towards the sinks. He laughed at himself in the mirror before hanging his head.
They stood in silence. “Did you get a corner piece? Because the corner piece is the best.” Mark was defeated. “No I didn’t get..”
Cutting him off, Sam continued. “A corner piece has double the icing, double the cream, we should go back out and get you a corner piece.“ He began walking towards the door but he was caught by Marks hand. “I don’t like chocolate biscuit cake.”
Mark dragged the man back into the centre of the floor. “It was one of our first dates. We went to that coffee shop in Bray. I got the biggest chunk of chocolate biscuit cake, it may as well have been classed as its own cake. I wasn’t going to eat it but you were in the middle of some story or rant and I didnt want to leave. I was so invested in you and the words you said, how you spoke that I ate the whole thing. Just before we left..”
Remembering Sam finished “You ran into the bathroom. You vomited the whole thing back up.” Turning away in shame, Mark broke the tension “I mean I had the flu for the next week after so it was probably just my first symptom and had nothing to do with the cake itself.. But it’s like when you’re really hungover after drinking something and you can never drink it again.”
“Like me with Sambuca” Sam whispered.
“Exactly. You can’t drink Sambuca, I can’t eat chocolate biscuit cake. We’ve both been robbed of life’s simple pleasures.”
Sam shot around to face his husband “That’s why you’re in here. You were vomiting? Oh God, I’m so sorry” Rushing towards him, he held the face of the man “We haven’t even been married a day and I’ve already made you ill.” But all Mark could do was laugh. “You’re here. That’s all that matters. You’re here, in sickness and health.”
Face to face, with only the slightest distance between them, the two men broke down into laughter. Their foreheads kissing. “Those vows are rubbish anyway. I wanted to write my own.” “Sam if you wrote your own vows, we’d still be in the church.” Sam tilted his head slightly in acknowledgement that he was right. Eyes closed, Mark spoke in whisper “I vow to always be smarter than you. To listen to your long winded stories. I vow to be honest with you about your choice of desserts. And I vow to always love you.
Smiling, Sam responded “I vow to be generous with you. To chase you wherever you go. I vow to never feed you poison and I vow to always love you.”
A kiss sealed their promises.
“Take a breath”
“Do I have to?” Mark appeared to be more aware of his surroundings than Sam.
“Seriously, take a breath. Smell that? That’s clear air. We are above all the worry and panic and crippling anxiety. We made it. We have reached the summit and we are breathing clear air.
“All I smell is the lemon scented urinal cakes”
Laughing, Sam persevered.
“I just…I meant like we can relax now. We’re here. We don’t have to worry about life. Anything we do now, we do together.”
Another kiss and they peeled away from each other. Side by side, they faced the mirror. This moment captured in the frame. “Let’s do this”.