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With This Ring I Thee Wed

Copyright 2019 J.T. Evergreen

Published by J.T. Evergreen

at Smashwords

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Many thanks to Khris Lawrentz for his tireless proofreading.

With This Ring I Thee Wed

“Do you, Mathew John Davis, take this man, Peter Frederick O’Toole, to be your lawfully wedded partner? To love and honor him in sickness and in health until death do you part?”


I could hardly believe I was standing in Grace Cathedral, two feet away from my friend, Peter who I had told in no uncertain terms to go to hell a little over a year ago when he asked me to marry him.

“Will I do WHAT?”

“Matt, will you marry me?”

“Are you crazy? I’m not gay.”

“I know. But, will you marry me?”

I told him to go to hell and walked out. When I realized I had walked out of my own apartment, I went back in and told him to get out. I wasn’t very nice about it. He left and I haven’t seen him since.

I feel like shit. I began to realize Pete was my friend, probably my best friend and, more than likely, my only friend. I have lots of family but no friends in the true sense of the word. I hurt Pete, of that I’m certain, and I don’t know what to do about it.

I began to wonder if I might be gay and didn’t know it. I guess you would call it bisexual since I enjoy intimacy with women. With the exception of Emma Jean, I never found another woman I wanted to marry, but that’s not unusual I suppose. I didn’t love Emma Jean but I liked her very much. She was a lot of fun to be around. But she was always sickly. I think I married her just to take care of her. She’s gone now and I’m happy for her. She’s in a better place and no longer sick.

I missed being with Pete more than I realized now that he wasn’t there. After a month went by I decided to call him and see if I could salvage our friendship. I called but he didn’t answer. I apologized to his answering machine for being such an asshole and asked that he call me so we could talk. He didn’t. I called several more times and left messages. He still did not return my calls. I figured that was it and I needed to move on.

I knew he wasn’t eating well because he doesn’t know how to cook. I did all the cooking. My Italian mother insisted all of her children learn how to cook. We hated it but are glad now. I have two sisters and three brothers. Being Catholic, birth control was not an option. Fortunately, my father was a successful surgeon, so we lived well. Pete, on the other hand, came from a broken home. He has no siblings so when his mom passed away he was on his own.

Perhaps he fantasized our friendship into more than it was. His absence was noticed at family gatherings. I dismissed their inquiries with – he had other plans. The looks I got told me they didn’t believe me. I wondered if they knew something I wasn’t aware of.

I thought my friendship with Pete was over until one summer Saturday afternoon about six months later, my doorbell rang. I buzzed whoever it was in and left the door ajar. I was in the kitchen preparing Panzanella, the Italian bread salad when I heard a soft knock on the door.

“Come on in.” I heard the door close. When I saw someone move into the kitchen doorway and stop, I looked up, “Pete! Oh my God.” I wiped my hands and rushed to my friend and threw my arms around him. “I’m so sorry about everything. Please forgive me.”

“Forgive you for what? Telling me the truth.”

“No, for treating you the way I did.”

He gently pushed me away. “Is that Panzanella you’re making?”


He walked to the table, looked at me and smiled, “Can I have some?”

“Yes, of course. It won’t be ready for a few hours. I want it to blend first.”

“Yes, I remember. What kind of bread are you using? Sourdough I hope.”

“What else?”

“You wanted to talk.”

“Sure. But that was months ago.”

“I had to think about it.”

I laughed. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Are you?” He was eyeing the Panzanella.

“Yes, of course, I am. I hope we’re still friends.”

He just smiled and popped a tomato cutting into his mouth. “I stopped drinking,” he popped a cucumber cutting into his mouth.

I was so surprised, all I could say was, “I’m glad.”

“I figured you would be. I got arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct a few months ago. Figured it was time to stop drinking since I had no one to take care of me when I drank too much.”

“How have you been, Pete?”

“Miserable.” He continued sampling the salad.

“Me too.” I smiled.


“Yes, really. I realized too late what a good friend you were and felt like shit for treating you so badly.”

“I probably should never have said what I said.”

“I’m glad you did.”

“You are?” Pete stopped nibbling and stared at me.

“I decided it was your way of telling me you cared. I see that now. It also made me realize how I felt about you.”

“Which is?”

“There isn’t anyone else on the face of the earth I enjoy being with more than you. If it weren’t for the sex part, I think marriage to you would be a wonderful thing.”

“Jesus Christ, I can’t believe you just said that.”

“Well, it’s the truth. We’ve never lied to one another. At least I haven’t.”

“Neither have I, come to think of it. But a relationship without intimacy for me would be like having a lollipop with no licking privileges. It would be torture for me.”

“Yeah, I suppose so.” I paused a few seconds and then thoughtfully added, “If I let you lick, but didn’t lick back, would that be acceptable?”

“You mean to tell me you’d do that?”

“Yes, I would. I’ve thought about it. I decided if you ever came back into my life I would be willing to do that. I don’t want to lose you again.”

He sat down on a kitchen chair with a thump, obviously dumbfounded.

I stood across from him and finished preparing the Panzanella, placed a towel over the bowl and set it aside. “It’ll be ready in about an hour. Will you still be here?”

He smiled, “Yes, I’ll still be here.”

He paused and looked at me in a way I didn’t understand. “What?”

“I’m seeing a side of you I never imagined before.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“I can’t get over that you would do that for me. It just blows my mind. And no, I won’t let you sacrifice yourself like that. I can live without the intimacy but I don’t want to live without you as my friend.”

“My family will be glad to see you.”


“Because you weren’t with me on the last two get-togethers. They asked about you. I said you had other plans.”


“I don’t think they believed me.”

“That’s interesting.”

“You’re looking better than I’ve ever seen you before.”

“No booze.” We laughed.

“I’m thinking this is going to be tough on me.”

“How so?”

“I don’t know. I’ll be wondering each time I catch you looking at me what you’re thinking. You know.”

“Matt, for Christ’s sake. How long have I known you? I’ve been looking at you all these years and wondering what it would be like. Did I do anything?”

“No, but I didn’t realize then what was going on in your head.”

“Well, don’t worry about it. I’ve licked your entire body a million times in my mind. It’s familiar territory and I doubt I’ll be doing it again. You’re blushing. Did that embarrass you?”

“Yeah, kind of.”

“Well, get over it. You’re not that good looking just in case you’re wondering. It’s what’s between your ears that turns me on and the chances of fucking that are pretty minimal.”

I began laughing and could not stop. The expression on Pete’s face was more than I could handle.

“What the fuck are you laughing at?”

“You, just you. You’re back and I’m so glad. You could use a haircut. Want me to do it?”

“Yeah, please. I hate going to these la de da hair stylists that charge you an arm and a leg and can’t cut it the way you do.”

“Ok, after we eat. You want something more than the bread salad?”

“No, that’ll do. Got any ice cream?”

“Ever known me to be without?”

“No. Hope it’s not tutti frutti. Hate that stuff.”

“No. I have Neapolitan, chocolate, or vanilla with chocolate syrup on the side.”

“Ever have chocolate syrup licked out of your naval?”

“No, I haven’t. Are you suggesting . . .”

“No, just wondered. I had it done once. I thought doing the licking would be more fun than having it licked if you know what I mean.”

“Humm, I think I know what you mean. We’ll stick with Neapolitan tonight. I am curious about one thing.”

“Which is?”

“Why did you propose?”

“I don’t know. Emma Jean was gone, you were alone. I’ve always been afraid of dying and never having loved anyone or being loved. I’m not like you. Nothing ever seems to worry you.”

“That’s not true. How could I have missed who you really are after all the time we’ve spent together?”

He whispered, “That’s easy. I know how to hide.”

“Well, you certainly weren’t hiding when you popped the question.”

“No, I guess I wasn’t. Is your answer still no?”

“I don’t remember answering one way or the other.” Pete looked at me with such a hopeful expression I almost cried, “I don’t know what to say or how to answer you. One side of me says no way will that ever happen.”

“And the other side?”

“The other side says yes I’ll marry you and become so much a part of your life that people won’t be able to tell us apart. I love you, Pete, but I don’t know what that means. I honestly don’t know. You see, you were wrong. I’m not all that self-confident.” I laughed, “We’re rewriting the book on marriage. I hope you can see that.”

“I do, I do.”

“It would be terribly unfair of me to say yes and then never crawl into bed with you to make love. Although I think I would let you …”

“Let me what?


“You mean a blow job.”

“I hate that term.”

“God, I can’t believe I’m hearing this stuff from you.”

“Are you disappointed?”

“Of course not, you silly thing. That fact that you would even consider doing something like that blows my mind.”

“We probably shouldn’t talk about stuff like that.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. It makes me feel uncomfortable.”


“Matt!” Peter and the minister were staring at me.

“Yes, I will.”

“Do you, Peter Frederick O’Toole, take Mathew John Davis, to be your lawfully wedded partner? To have and to hold in sickness and health until death do you part?”


“Why me, Pete? All I know about gay life is that guys are looking for buff good looking guys to bed down with. That I am not and never will be. So, what is it?”

“There’s no one I can talk to except you. No one wants to talk. All they want to do is fuck.”

“We talk. If memory serves me, we have always talked our heads off, especially you. You’re the talker.”

“It’s more than just talking. It’s what we talk about. I’m not afraid to talk to you about anything. Even if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, you are always there listening and trying to understand. It’s what’s between your ears that I’m in love with. Not what’s between your legs.”

“Well, that’s a relief to know. So, lust after my beautiful body has nothing to do with it.”

“Your body is not beautiful, but it’s attached to your head where all the beauty is located. Don’t you get it? If I could, I would love to fuck your mind. No, that’s not what I mean.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I want to make love to your mind. That probably doesn’t make any sense either, but that’s the way I feel. And I’m not sure how to do it even if you were willing.”

“Jesus, Pete.”


“You're fucking my mind right now with what you’re telling me. And I don’t understand.”

“You understand my pain without sympathy – except when you told me to get the hell out of your life.”

“Yeah, well, that was a reaction for which I am more than sorry. You have no idea the nights I spent wishing I could take those words back.”

“It’s okay. We’re here. There are no hard feelings. I was at fault.”

“No, it’s not.”

“Yes, I was. I should never have proposed to you. It’s just that for the longest time I wanted more out of our friendship and didn’t know how to ask.”

“Well, that was a hell of a way for starters.”

“Yeah, I know but I was desperate.

“Desperate for what?”

“Desperate to let my guard down. I wanted to talk about the loneliness I was living with.”

Pete put his hand forward with the intent to touch me. I sat up.

“Can’t I even touch you?”

“Why?” I stared at him.

“To connect with you. I need to connect with you.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“I know.”

“Then why not.”


“Because why?” Pete wasn't going to let it go.

“Because I know when you withdraw your touch I’ll feel the pain of being alone, left behind and I don’t want that. I don’t deserve that.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking of you. I am sorry. You’re right.”

“No, I’m not right. I don’t know who I am when you’re around.”

“I should go.”

“Yes, and never come back.

“Never?” He stood.

“Not unless you return to stay and live with me, and love me, and grow old with me.

“Can I have some Panzanella first?”

“No . . . yes.”


“Matt?” the minister was handing Peter’s ring to me. I smiled and took it with my right hand while Peter slipped my ring onto my ring finger. He held out his left hand. I looked up into his face. His eyes were green. I never noticed that before and they sparkled in the Cathedral lights. Tears welled in my eyes.

I took his left hand and slipped his ring on his ring finger. Then I did something we had not rehearsed. I kissed the back of his hand and let it go. I heard murmurs in the audience as a few tears overflowed their banks and ran down my cheeks.

“By the power invested in me, I am so very happy to pronounce you lifelong partners. You may seal it with a kiss. Peter moved forward, took my face in his hands, kissed away the tears and then kissed me on the mouth. He held my face for a moment, gazing into my eyes like he had never done before.

Then it began, a few clapping here and there. It grew and grew until the hall was filled with thunderous applause, whistles, and multiple voices yelling things I couldn’t distinguish.


About the Author J.T. Evergreen

OCCUPATION - Retired from the grind. Reflecting on successes, failures, and regrets. Exploring new aspects of self, writing that book which will get me an Oscar, staying out of trouble - well, small amounts of trouble are ok. Bringing joy into people's lives with random acts of kindness - the ones who aren't expecting it are the best.

ABOUT ME - Alone in blessed singleness. Wicked sense of humor, enjoy my own company, glad I'm not young any longer. I do miss the intimacy of being in love. Enjoy the possibilities of every moment, an imagination that won't quite, a master weaver - give away everything I make, excellent portrait painter, a national treasure - though no one agrees with me, a good listener, intuitive, a good conversationalist, avoid boredom and boring people at all costs - that's a career all by itself.

INTERESTS - Intelligent conversation: hard to come by these days, metaphysics, mysticism, my pups - Charlie, Max, and Bailey, seeing the funny side of life, going to Macy's at Christmas time - kicking Santa and punching an Elf. If I had a singing voice, which I don't, I would sing all of the time, wherever I was - even in WalMart. Wouldn't that be enchanting? When I receive the Oscar for the book I'm writing, I will have some baritone sing On A Clear Day, and I will lip sync his voice. It will wow the audience.

LOVES - Color and lots of it, strawberry jam, hiking up Yosemite Falls, Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, sourdough bread, only made in San Francisco. Hearst Castle, Big Sur, sea air, Adams peanut butter, chocolate milk, rainy days, canaries singing, chocolate chip cookies my mother made, Greek yogurt with honey - oh, yum. Laughter. I make it a point of doing this many times a day.

HATES - Stupidity, insensitivity, bad table manners - come on, how difficult is it to hold a fork properly - it's not a shovel for God's sake. Snow, ice, slush, freeway traffic, lima beans - what was God thinking, sleepless nights, people who are late, texting - it's a cop-out, alcohol, red meat,

FAVORITE BOOKS - The Spiritual Journey of Joel S. Goldsmith.

FAVORITE MUSIC – Joplin’s Peachrine, Ahmad Jamal - Country Tour - the absolute best jazz - never tire of it. Someone Waits for You – Carly Simons, Helen Kane singing Button Up Your Overcoat and I Want to Be Bad – I relate to the lyrics. And the Tenor who sang Springtime for Hitler in the Zero Mostel version of The Producers. No one seems to know who he is. What a voice.

FAVORITE FILMS – The Celluloid Closet, Witness for the Prosecution, It Could Happen to You, Maltese Falcon, Inherit the Wind, 12 Angry Men, Harold and Maude, Murder on the Orient Express, Hope and Glory, Sorry Wrong Number, Speed, Practical Magic, Apollo 13, Where the Red Fern Grows, The original Producers - touch me, hold me - Estelle was terrific, and Zero - what can I say.

FAVORITE QUOTES – The poetry in writing is the illusion it creates: by me. Lord Chesterfield: “Sex: the pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous, and the expense damnable.” The saddest words of tongue or pen are these - It might have been - indeed they are. If you want to make a success out of old age, you better start now: my mother when I was 15. On a clear day, you really can see forever - you just have to look. I may be rancid butter, but I'm on your side of the bread. Inherit the Wind.

“The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,

Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,

Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.”

Omar Khayyam

Other books by J.T. Evergreen

Short Stories to Celebrate the New Year

Alone at the Beach 25 short stories to keep you company

Home Alone 8 Great Stories to keep you company

Born in the Twilight

Injun Summer


Short Stories for a Summer’s Day

Holiday Short Stories

With All My Love

Father Frederick Monahan

Shangri la, Stepping Stones to God

I’m Gay Mother – Get Over it

The Olde Book Shoppe

Naked Before God

The Italian Call Boy

The Silence of Healing

Death of a Pope Birth of Hope

The Best Short Stories Ever

My Love Affair with Father Tomas McTavish

Father Gibbon with Sister Mary Magda in development

I get choked up when I re-read some of my stories.

I’m told that’s a sign of being a good writer.

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Here’s a collection of tunes to send you on your way. Cheers, JT , , , , , ,

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