to read from the FIRST CHAPTER
All is Full of Love
'Oh my God! I think he is dangerous...' -- Fabrizio was whispering this to himself, but loud enough so that I could perfectly listen -- 'What have I done, now? He's got me traped in this secluded house with no neighbors, just like he wanted... Nobody will hear me when I scream for help! Oh, no! My time has come! He has a knife...' -- he shrieked like a little girl -- 'I have loved him so much, it was worth risking my life... And now I shall die through his hands...'
'Haha. Very funny!' -- I tried to look annoyed -- 'And the Oscar goes to... Fabrizio Molto Tragico! You can stop, now.' -- I had just put the knife into the dishwasher.
We had had dinner. Fabrizio had cooked, and as always the food had been delicious.
He could have easily been a chef. He had a true passion and the necessary discipline, creativity, curiosity and generosity in the kitchen. But Fabrizio was in a hurry to make money, living in constant financial competition with his elder brother, and he had never contemplated a career as a chef thinking that it would take too long to earn money, and that it wouldn't be as much as he intended.
Partially listening carefully to what Fabrizio told me, in part through an online article on "Young Global Entrepreneurs", I had learned that his family owned a conglomerate of companies ranging from hotels to a large and important newspaper, and even a shipyard.
His father, however, having felt pressed by Fabrizio's grandfather to take over the family businesses -- he would have preferred to be a physician --, had recently passed the administration of the conglomerate to professionals, thus relieving his children from a forced succession. Every child -- they were three, Franco, Fabrizio and Patrizia --, upon completing 21 years old, was given a certain amount of capital so they could work on whatever they liked. Thus had been born the financial competition between Fabrizio and his brother.
A competition that had been stimulated in other ways since childhood -- at least, that's what it seeemed to me --, so fierce that it lead Fabrizio to be competitive at all times, even when queueing for bread in a bakery, and even with me, if I did not carefully disarm his triggers.
Fabrizio had always felt to be in the shadow of his elder brother, but with the 2008 financial crisis, he had taken the front row. He had been 23 years old, and though feeling a bit like a coward, he had taken the money away from the stock market a little before the tremendous fall, believing that from those heights one could only contemplate the abyss.
He hadn't lost money, unlike his brother, who had suffered a severe blow. And since then, Fabrizio had made the fast-growing Asian countries the main market for the expansion of the luxury brands he owned or represented. More than that about his wealth I did not know, or did not understand, or had no interest in knowing.
After dinner, which Fabrizio had prepared with joy and ease -- having cooked during four years to Andara and her group of friends, he felt it was very simple and pleasurable to cook just for the two of us --, he had been checking my mp3 player.
During dinner, he had commented that my playlist sounded like a concert, different musical sections with the same rhythm alternating or succeeding, creating soundscapes through which the listener could travel. Or even storytelling through music.
To his comment, I had begun to explain my idea for that playlist, which I had called I'maginary Kingdom.
Fabrizio had actually enjoyed the music, and his mockery was for the "excessive" care I put on every playlist I created -- while his, as I had already seen, were called Like 1, Like 2, Like 3.
'I'm joking, babe!' -- Fabrizio was very practical for various things while I was recherché, putting dedication and care into the smallest things -- 'You know it, don't you?' -- Fabrizio felt the need to clarify it -- 'I love your artistic way of doing everything, Laurent!'-- and suddenly he said it with a very serious tone of voice -- 'It turns our lives into a daily experience of beauty, my dear.'
I had not been angry with Fabrizio, actually. Just a little sad.
His mockery tasted to Angelo, my ex-boyfriend. Angelo knew that I had suffered bullying at school. He was the only person with whom I had ever shared my secret wound that never healed, and he had reproduced it in a subtle way in our relationship, controlling me and imposing his dominance over me, even when he was repeatedly cheating me. It was as if I had had a private bullier as a boyfriend for eight years -- or that's how I interpreted it now that I saw our relationship more clearly.
It took me so long to discover that my slow way of doing things was not necessarily bad, like people said. It was just a more careful way, as often opposed to the carelessness and hurry of others. Fabrizio's mockery, however, hurt because it dated back to years and years of misunderstanding, of others to me and finally of myself at myself.
Just recently had I made peace with myself.
To think our relationship would have that component made me sad and discouraged me, and thus had I reacted in the worst manner possible to Fabrizio's joke. No way I would again live the fear ridden relationship I had with Angelo, and I wasn't happy to find out that this was an unhealthy pattern for my love.
Perhaps, more than the mockery that had carried a veiled criticism, it was Fabrizio's girly squeal, raising the ghosts of my past, which had hurt me.
'Come here, babe. I'm sorry for what I said earlier.' -- Fabrizio apologized sincerely -- 'Sorry, the joke wasn't funny.' -- we had just talked about the bullying that I had suffered in adolescence, and perhaps he hadn't resisted the temptation to mock me -- 'I truly admire the way you do all things, Laurent, bringing art and poetry into them...'
'Unless it's an omelet, right?' -- when I cooked, I had the same practicality and objectivity Fabrizio had for all other things. My dishes were very simple, very far from recherché. "Survival food", as I called it. I was unable to make an omelette baveuse, even if I had learned how to in the movie Tampopo, and again from Fabrizio --'Then, with an egg, you may be as obsessive as I am, don't you think?'
We rarely quarreled. Fabrizio had very stressful work days, and all he wanted at home was peace and harmony. And I had already learned how to live alone peacefully, so that to want to live in the company of another man, only if it was to be better than by my own. This was our agreement of coexistence.
And Fabrizio helped me out of the depressing moods that sometimes dominated me, and I helped him to relax and focus on his own peace. In order not to make him sad, I took care of my own sadness, and so that he wouldn't stress me out, Fabrizio took care of his own agitation and anxiety. We took care of each other as well as from ourselves, which ultimately was equivalent.
'I know, Laurent. I'm sorry. It was rude of me. Come sit with me. Please?'
Since Fabrizio had agreed to spend nearly a month in Iceland, we had divided the tasks -- he commissioned the house and the car, while I took care of our travel plans. An appropriate soundtrack was my personal touch. And Fabrizio had more than once derided the care with which I prepared the playlists, one of them exclusively on Icelandic music, of course.
'We are not condemned to listening to Icelandic pop for a whole month, are we?' -- he had asked, commenting on yet another playlist he felt was obsessively well done.
'Don't do like that, Laurent. Our trip has been so wonderful! Everything has been running harmoniously. I don't want my bad joke to spoil anything. Please?' -- and as if he was delivering me the peace treaty, Fabrizio asked -- 'What is this song? It's beautiful...' -- that was his way of showing appreciation and trying to overcome our momentary grief.
We sat silently staring away from one another for some time, listening to a beautiful, soft soothing song by Carla Bruni, "La possibilité d'une île" that gently filled the spacious living room and seemed to bring the twinkling of the stars inside the house.
'Please sit on my lap, Laurent babe.'
I gave in. Just like I had given in earlier, and rather aggressively I had turned off the playlist, to select random. Quite unexpectedly, Bruni was followed by a song from Radiohead.
'This song...' -- Fabrizio used his deepest voice tone, as if to erase that little girl cry he had given a while ago, which had arised the shame I had felt for my own voice in adolescence -- 'We have heard it once together in the Apennines, haven't we? It was the album I was listening to at that time, wasn't it? It had just been released... Do you remember it, Laurent?'
Fabrizio was trying to break my silence because he preferred to listen to me rather than talk about himself. Sometimes, when Fabrizio spoke of himself, it seemed like he was talking about a stranger, or even an enemy. At least, someone who disappointed him very much... because he was actually very disappointed with himself.
Fabrizio had beauty and intelligence -- and a certain need to have them confirmed by praise --, and he had lived accostumed to having money and power -- so different from my humble childhood in Punaouilo -- and he could not accept less than perfection for himself. The perfect son, the perfect student, the perfect abs, the perfect gentleman, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect lover, the perfect timing.
Or maybe that perfection was a persona he had assumed to disguise the big nuisance that was his own tormented sexuality, which from an early age he had perceived as a major flaw and the biggest imperfection of all. Social death, as he regarded it in the society he was accustomed to. And all his life he had hidden himself behind that perfection, like someone hiding behind a trench, or an armor.
But since he had decided to live a relationship with me, he had to be on the front line, with all the openness and honesty about what he believed was his imperfection. From his whole family, it was the elder brother who had hit Fabrizio harder after his coming out, in an attempt to debunk all Fabrizio's former accomplishments.
But if he no longer had ahead of him an army of social lies and hypocrisy to defend him, I tried to clearly demonstrate that I was always at his rear, a new position for an army as Fabrizio had never had before, an army of love and acceptance.
In Italy, I had taken a bus to a small village in the Apennines, where Carlo would pick me up in his new car -- always a new car. Carlo, usually a man of modest habits, who did not have many luxuries, had a curious passion for luxury sports cars.
While waiting for Carlo, I managed to contact Fabrizio. For many months we hadn't spoken -- we just had our e-mails exchange, Fabrizio's bold and painful messages and my single sentence answers to them. He was surprised when I told him I was in Italy with Carlo, and I was happy when he said that he could come within a week or ten days to visit us.
Almos twenty five years later, I felt the farm house had changed very little. The region was much more populated, with many properties having been purchased to become country houses to wealthy people. But Tarso's property, way uphill, despite having shrunk by losing a section to the National Park, had remained with its aura of isolation and tranquility, as if it were under protection itself.
A few trees had fallen with storms, but in general the external appearance of the house was the same as if it hadn't aged -- unlike me.
Carlo had done some renovations, restoring the roofs and walls, and the house seemed brighter, even bigger and more spacious, contrary to what is often said of childhood memories, that magnify everything.
Despite having brought the furniture from his apartment and studio in London, the city where Carlo had taken refuge under the auspices of Davez Drew after he left our home in France, the cottage still looked rather empty.
The modern and comfortable furniture seemed to perfectly fit the ancestral environment of the D'Allegro house -- the living room, made more beautiful, was still however dominated by the huge, frightening fireplace with its unbridled mouth. I was sure that if one day the house should collapse, the fireplace would stand still -- but I sincerely hoped that the house would hold on for many years yet, for I finally saw myself as its heir, for the first time imagining how I would take care of her.
To my surprise, I felt like a real D'Allegro, and connected to my family's history.
I hadn't seen Carlo for almost two years, since his retrospective in London. I could see the enormous effort that was for him to be absent from the shelter where he had been born -- and to where, after having conquered the art world, he had returned.
I found him to be even quieter, somewhat monastic, more like Tarso in his long silences full of acute observation, but without the same strain of my great-grandfather. Perhaps because one was looking outside, constantly worrying about the signs of nature, storms, crops, drouhgts, and the other looked inside himself and observed his own emotions, sensations, thoughts.
I felt my father resembled Tarso much more, and I began to fear for my days at the farm.
And I was afraid to inform Carlo about Fabrizio's visit. Only on the next morning after my arrival did I tell him. He was not pleasantly surprised -- I guess I forgot to ask his permission to invite Fabrizio, and instead I simply informed him that he would have a guest.
'If it's so important to you that this guy visits, of course I shall welcome him...' -- he did not seem upset, just a little bit doubtful -- 'Did you say he is an art collector? Are you sure that he is not some art critic or journalist in disguise? Or some sort of writer?'
In the beginning, Carlo had built his career without any support from the art critics nor anyone connected to the artistic elite. Instead, he got a lot of negative reviews on his debut, but ultimately the quality of his painting had imposed itself, being displayed at and purchased by museums, and no longer just in private collections and the commercial circuit.
'This is sacred ground, you know son?' -- Carlo was referring to the fact that he had never had anyone from the art market visiting the farm. No critics, no journalists, no art dealers -- unless perhaps an incovenient marchand from the United States who had "stumbled" upon Carlo's atelier while traveling in Italy on holidays. And he had kindly requested her to leave, without having let her see his atelier.
Although not on purpose, Carlo's isolation and refusal to give interviews had only increased his romantic aura of a reclusive painter.
He wanted to be left alone. But instead, people seemed unable to forget him, the fascination with his work increasing as he tried to hide himself, becoming even more mysterious. There were speculations that the dark red that he applied on some of his works was prepared and mixed with the blood of nightly animals from the mountains, and all sorts of other weird rumours.
I had an idea in mind, too, when I had come to visit my father in his atelier -- which had once been the old barn of my many conversations with Fabio. One wall had collapsed, and Carlo, rather than rebuilding it, had instead placed immense windows, so that his studio opened to the mountains and into the woods which, in my adolescence, I had crossed in the early mornings to meet Fabio on the fields.
My intention was to write Carlos' biography, with all the fascinating and hard moments of his rough start in Paris, which I had never heard mentioned anywhere. I had had this idea during the months I hadn't painted, having just returned from Sweden where I had visited Armand, and when again I had felt the desire to write.
My life career had taken alternations between Literature and Painting -- clearly between following my father or my mother's path. I had always believed I had greater ease for writing, despite never having heard any encouragement from Catherine. Or maybe writing had just been my most desperate attempt to be close to my mother, by all means.
My father, on the contrary, had given me painting lessons during my childhood in Punaouilo, and he had at least praised my imagination, if there was nothing else to praise in my childish blotches. But when he was gone, I quit painting at once, as my revenge against his absence. I had tried to deny everything I had received from him. Chosing the School of Journalism in Vice City, however, had been a manipulation from Angelo, whose strong might and determination compensated my lack of will and insecurities. When he decided that we should do the same college together, to escape our family environment, I coudn't agree more. At the time, it seemed like a very romantic adventure to live abroad with my boyfriend.
In Vice City, stimulated by my frequent visits to museums, along the disappointment with the way my poetic writings were downrated at college, and having finally distanced myself from Carlo and no longer needing to take revenge from him and his artistic heritage, and without ever having been able to connect me to my mother through my writings, I resumed painting.
But it was only with Dan Charmand triumphant entrance in my life, introduced to me by Angelo as a most valuable gift of consolation for his numerous betrayals -- and I'm guessing he cheated me with Charmand himself --, was it that Painting took over my entire creation.
Now, however, writing a biography of Carlo seemed to be a good compromise to bring together the worlds of Literature and Painting that had always been confronting within me.
But I would have to find the right time to propose it to him. For now, he was sufficiently disturbed by my presence, and the constant calls from Fabrizio.
'Is this guy your boyfriend, Laurent?' -- my father had finally inquired.
'No, Carlo...' -- I had replied quite simply, but the two words had sounded like a dreamy lullaby... Not yet, I thought, but did not say it.
'Well, clearly, he is not just a friend, as you told me. Your voice sounds different, Laurent, when you talk to this guy. It's like one can hear a string orchestra sweetly seconding your conversations, haha!' -- and Carlo then confronted me -- 'Even so, I would ask you to kindly keep your phone in the silent mode, and avoid answering his calls inside the studio. Is it okay with you?'
'Of course. I'm sorry, Carlo.' -- I was embarrassed, and suddenly I found myself again at twelve years old, intoxicated with Fabio without realizing my father's own feelings and troubles, disregarding him completely. But unlike my great-grandfather, who had yelled at me to stop crying and had punched me, Carlo had just made a joke and asked me to quiet down, quite lovingly. Where would my father have taken that love from, a love that he had never received from his deceased parents, nor Tarso nor Catherine?
'Listen to the silence around us, Laurent, this vibrant silence full of natural sounds... Doesn't this little noise from your phone annoy you, too?' -- I could understand Carlo's complaint, because I had also sometimes had the impression of being listening to a natural concert in the Apennines, that the mobile disrupted... but how wouldn't I answer Fabrizio? The same annoying ring was like the sound of music to me, when I thought he was on the other side... Since we had connected again, every conversation between us was like an orgasm -- 'That boy will be here within a week, non é vero?' -- Carlo was in good spirits -- 'Otherwise, you won't have much left to talk when he arrives, haha!'
Was Carlo jealous?
But I could understand his feelings about it. It was as if I hadn't actually arrived, or as if sometimes I again departed from the Apennines over the phone, at least once a day, and often for up to an hour.
Which reminded me of that visit to the farm long ago, when Carlo had spent most of his time with Tarso, while I had always been in Fabio's company.
'There is someone who would like to see you, Laurent.' -- and when Carlo said this, I knew immediately that it was Fabio.
It was only my second visit to the farm, and somehow I felt a great difficulty making a full connection with that Laurent boy that had once visited that same house. There was a string of so many Laurents linking that boy to the current me over the last twenty five years, that I sometimes lost their connection.
'He is married and has two children, Laurent.' -- Carlo told me on the morning before my reunion with Fabio.
A part of our farm had been taken for constituting the National Park -- and according to Carlo, Tarso had died because of this grief of losing part of his ancestral lands, and not of old age, since he still was not the least sick late in life. The rest of the fields left, Fabio rented them from Carlo.
'Do not worry, Carlo. Since our last conversation, I've decided I'm not going to sleep with married men anymore.' -- I said, because what he had just told me wasn't some trivial comment, but a request and a warning that I shouldn't act frivolously with Fabio.
And it was also a recognition that, after all, Carlo had indeed noticed my intense connection with Fabio, the budding of a childish romance. And suddenly I missed that boy I had been, pure and virgin...
And what would Carlo think if he knew that Fabrizio had a fianceé?
'Glad to hear that, son!' -- Carlo smiled, tranquilized.
Some things, perhaps many things remained unspoken between us. At least not very clearly said, but implied. Carlo had always been shy and discreet by nature, and not only because of Catherine's imposing and commanding presence, as I had believed. He had the soul of the D'Allegros from the mountains, quiet and restrained, minimal, accustomed to few words and just the essential emotions.
'Nothing has ever happened between us, Carlo...' -- for I, after all, was a D'Allegro from the beach, and the soft sand and clear waters that constituted me did not have the same characteristics of the hard rocks and the deep waters that made Carlo's essence, and again I was crying -- 'Not even a kiss...' -- I confessed -- 'No whatsoever intimate touch. Only the friendship between two boys.' -- I had tears in my eyes, recollecting and finally being able to open up to my father about my first love, of which he was the only witness in my life.
'It was pure and beautiful, dad.' -- I kept trying not to sob -- 'I have only delicate and fond memories of when I have fallen in love with Fabio... And even if he haven't fallen for me... and never even realized the adoration I had for him... He treated me with so much kindness... And respect!' -- I continued -- 'It is with these pure and sweet memories that I will meet him today, Carlo.'
But there was something else I wanted to clarify. Because I suddenly realized where Carlo, the orphan, took so much love from to give me. Even if he had not received it from people with whom he had lived longest, like Tarso and Catherine.
It was in his eyes. The way he looked at me, his son. In the loving look that he layed on me. I was not only the receptacle of his love. I was the source of it. My presence -- my existence -- awoke love in Carlo, and he gave me it all. Had I retributed him enough?
'Thank you for taking care of me at that time when I...' -- I gulped, unable to finish the sentence -- 'and realizing what was happening to me, dad...' -- my throat was tight, and I could not hold back the tears, having finally realized the love Carlo manifested towards me in all his attitudes, but also in the silence from which he calmly, lovingly watched me -- 'And thanks for still taking care of me, now!'
Carlo and I hugged, and it was a tight, loving hug just like years ago, when we had say goodbye in Vice City. A hug that communicated love, and won over time and distance.
But strong emotions seemed to leave Carlo slightly embarrassed, and he parted from me with his innate good humor, saying:
'No crying, not now, ain't it right, Laurent? You don't want to meet your first love with your makeup all smudged, do you?' -- and Carlo laughed at his own joke.
My conversation with Carlo had extended and when I left home to meet Fabio, I was already late.
I crossed the woods and fields running -- and that was perhaps my mistake, instead of having made a nice walking meditation, getting in touch with my feelings and my expectations at each step. Awareness could have helped me over the almost twenty five years that separated one Laurent from the other -- and one Fabio from the other too, after all.
´I'm sorry that I'm late...´ -- I blurted as I approached Fabio, who was standing in the same fields of twenty years ago. That was one part of our property that had direct boundaries with the National Park, and so it had remained especially preserved.
´No problem, Laurent.´ -- I did not remember him calling me by my name before -- ´I don't even have a watch!´ -- Fabio laughed, as if requesting me to relax... And suddenly I realized how I was again the city boy who had come to the mountains, always in a hurry, and afraid -- even if it was only afraid of being late.
And full of expectations, full of prejudice.
Looking at Fabio, I was shocked. Was this the man I had fallen in love with? Had this been my first experience with the rapture of male beauty?
The years hadn't passed in the same way for us, I thought. I tried not to show my shock and surprise -- mostly, my disappointment -- and faked a smile as I politely listened to Fabio telling me about his life.
He had aged badly. He was bald, and the body that once was strong and muscular had grown fat and limp.
´Carlo told me that you set up a regional landwoners association, to make them aware of the value and importance of preserving the National Park...´ -- I tried to find a subject in common with Fabio, because I felt that our conversations and interests of yore had also vanished with his beauty. At least, since then, I had studied a bit of Italian and we could now better communicate.
´Oh yes, we even have a private fire brigade to help the rangers, now...´ -- and Fabio told me how, twenty years ago, he had been one of the few voices among the natives of the mountains to speak in favor of the National Park. But he had gradually convinced more people, though never Tarso, who had ended up as his enemy -- ´Your great-grandfather loved these lands too much, and he was very attached to them...´ -- and he did not say it as a criticism, but with compassion.
´That's wonderful, Fabio!´ -- and I suddenly realized my own blindness. I recalled how Fabio had never cared about his beauty, and how his muscular body was no more than a working tool for him. Hearing the excitement with which he spoke about the preservation works, and watching the sparkle in his eyes, of a bright green like the pines around us, just like I remembered it, I finally realized that the beauty of the mountains all around us was Fabio's very beauty. Wrinkles and sun blotches did not make him ugly -- for the beauty of those preserved mountains made him a wonderful man, and his work so valuable -- ´I always knew you would do great things, Fabio!´ -- and again I saw myself praising my first love, with the same sincere adoration but without any desire. I tried to avoid sighing.
´Just imagine it...´ -- Fabio seemed embarrassed -- ´I knew I'd meet you today and I started recalling... that I wanted to study in town, but I ended up just doing a technical course by correspondence... I never left these mountains. Here I met my wife, and we had two children... a boy who is now in college in Turin, and a girl who lives with her aunt in the city, in order to get a proper education... At least my kids will have a future better than mine, with their studies.´ -- I remembered the love Fabio showed for education -- ´I ended up staying here...´ -- Fabio seemed discouraged -- ´Unlike you, Laurent... I know from your father about your travels around the world, and your exhibitions... Each one shall follow his own destiny, and if it is large or narrow, it is already fate from the beginning...´
´You cannot believe this...´ -- I made a gesture with my hands that encompassed the entire majestic landscape of the mountain range around us -- ´... is narrow!?! Carlo spoke to me about your work with sincere admiration, Fabio! He greatly admires and respects you... and so do I... since... ever! You had and you still have my... admiration.´ -- it had been easier to praise him when I was a child, naively stating my adoration -- ´I recall everything we shared... with... love... I have learned so much from you. Thank you very much indeed, Fabio. You have changed my life...´
´No, I thank you!´ -- Fabio seemed embarrassed... And indeed it was a strange feeling that, after having been so close for several weeks, we had never seen nor spoken in ages... I wish I had heard news from him, but through whom, since Carlo was gone? -- ´Nobody had ever listened to me before like you did, Laurent... Your... love... gave me the strength to fight for a slightly better life than I had been destined to, my friend...´
And that was the closest we came to a confession about our youthful love, when he said the word "amore". For a moment, I thought perhaps Fabio hadn't been so oblivious of my adoration and attraction to him. Had he noticed my eyes seeking for his muscles and his bulge, always eagerly drinking from his figure? Had he actually understood what I longed for when I constantly praised his beauty and tried to touch his body? But whichever his perception of my love and desire had been, he had handled it with so much care, perfectly appropriate towards a twelve years old intoxicated kid.
'Can I give you a hug, Fabio?'
You know, I'm that kind of inconvenient person that likes to hug others, and I know that it embarasses some people. But I cannot help it when I feel real affectionate.
I had parted from Fabio with a giddy embrace, and twenty five years later, in a rather different state, it was lovely to be in his arms again.
During my second visit to the Apennines, I was to meet Fabio again a couple more times, and he explained me how discouraged he was by the uncontrolled growth of the region. Many farms had become country homes to the wealthy and not always scrupulous people, that had no love for Nature. They arrived in helicopters and roamed the mountains in fast cars, often trampling animals.
And worst of all, which at that moment was Fabio's private war, and he was even trying to submit very strict protection policies, were the farms that were allotted and became condos with several houses, with a harmful impact on the ecosystem of the region, especially on the water resources.
For this reason and for all the other things I have already told, I believe Fabio was one of the noblest persons I have ever met. Despite his apparent simplicity and humility, I think of him as a prince of the fields, with a different kind of wealth.
And it was from his combat against real estate speculation that Fabio fell victim.
'I had donated a painting for a benefit auction in aid of the preservation association founded by Fabio. But before the appointed day, Carlo called me to tell that Fabio had suffered a car accident in the mountains. A truck had thrown his car off the road, and then simply fled. It was never proven, but Carlo believes that Fabio was killed because of his opposition to the speculation with lands in the region.'
'Fabio died?' -- Fabrizio asked me, and surprisingly he had tears in his eyes.
´Yes... And now it's Carlo who pays for the college of Fabio's daughter... Fabio never got to see her get into college... Neither his son graduating...´ -- I sighed. I had already cried a lot on Fabio's unjust death -- ´And despite hating to leave the farm, Carlo was keen to go to Turin for Fabio's son graduation...´
´Oh, my God!´ -- Fabrizio groaned -- ´Laurent dear, how sad... I don't recall you mentioning Fabio during my visit to the Apennines...´
´Of course not!´ -- Fabrizio seemed to want to read me like an open book, but there were still things I was afraid to share with him... and everybody else -- ´But it was so important to reunite with my first love... At least I had that chance before he died... To see Fabio's true beauty, beyond his superficial beauty that had attracted me so much in my youth... I reconnected with that pure and lovely feeling, and then... We reunited, too, on those same mountains...´
´I wish I had a love like that in my early teens to recollect. But all I got was... nothing.´ -- maybe Fabrizio would have mentioned his former roommate Helmut, but he avoided talking about him just like I was not talking about Angelo etiher -- ´It's a truly beautiful story, that of how your heart awakened, Laurent... Too bad it ends like this...´ -- Fabrizio made a pause, just to allow me the time to leave my past and reconnect with him in our Icelandic home --´ My first love...´ -- I thought Fabrizio was going to make a confession -- ´...took long to arrive in my life. But now that he is here, I will not let him go, not ever again!´
´What did I do to deserve you, Fabrizio?´ -- I could not help but express my surprise aloud.
´Everything, Laurent! Every detail you tell me about your life... How your parents met. Carlo's frustrated love for your uncle. Your ideal childhood in Punaouilo. The bullying you suffered at school in France. And now, this love so pure that you had for Fabio. In comparison, it seems that I have not lived, being protected in a capsule. Everything was so neat and tidy and predictable in my life... Until you!´ -- again, Fabrizio paused -- ´But when I was with Carlo and you in the Apennines, I could never have imagined that you had been separated for so long. You are so close. Much closer than my father and I have ever been, though we lived in peace... or perhaps it was just a state of languor and unsincerity... until just the other day...´ -- Fabrizio's voice broke when he mentioned his family -- ´And how Carlo welcomed me...´
I realized that Fabrizio, once again, did not want to talk about himself, much less about the issues with his family -- and in Iceland, he wanted to take vacation from everything -- except me.
At first, I had been a bit frightened by the force with which Fabrizio had promoted changes in his life. I felt guilty, thinking that I was responsible for the feelings I had triggered in him.
But Fabrizio had changed his life not for me -- ultimately, for himself!
´Laurent!´ -- my name reverberated over the lawn and against the stone walls of our ancient house.
I had dozed under the sun, and I hadn't heard Fabrizio's car up the mountain, not even in the final curve before arriving at our house. Unlike Carlo, who had identified the sound of a Lamborghini and came to greet Fabrizio at the door, curious about the approaching car. But rather than inviting Fabrizio into the house, Carlo had directed him to the lawn in the backyard, where I liked to sunbathe and read during the mornings.
'Laurent!' -- I felt my heart swell as I woke up, when I heard him shouting my name.
´Fabrizio...´ -- I whispered. It was like waking from sleep into a dream, when I saw Fabrizio running towards me. His beauty always caused commotion in me, and to see him actually on my family's ancestral lands, I don't know... I wanted to believe in destiny, after all.
There was a brief moment of embarrassment.
And we both blushed when we looked into each other's eyes. It had been a while since we last saw each other. But it hadn't been so long since we had first met.
I was completely in love, and did not want to fight that feeling anymore.
I recalled that melancholic visit to Fabrizio's apartment, and how he had greeted me with a simple and brief handshake.
This time, our hand contact turned into a hug, and then into a kiss, to which I gladly surrendered.
It was our first kiss, but it didn't feel like a first kiss.
We had longed so much for it. Somehow, it hadn't happen when it should have -- our first date had been too many months ago. That kiss felt more like redemption, if not revenge -- and I didn't feel like considering whether I was kissing a man who was going to marry soon or not. For my own sake, I needed to kiss him, first. And then, maybe, ask.
While kissing Fabrizio, I wanted to forget everything that had happened before, for him and for me -- I refused to think of Andara and Celeste, about cheating and deceitful relationships, of Angelo or Helmut. I wanted to believe in a new beginning for both of us, even before he whispered in my ear:
´I'm just for you, Laurent ... I'm all yours, now.´
And we kissed again, unreservedly.
For the next couple of hours, at least, we lay on the grass under the sun, talking and kissing.
Fabrizio was eager to share about his "crossing".
"And you're breaking up with me because you want to be truthful to yourself? How noble of you! How selfish!"
"Selfish, Andara?" -- at first, Fabrizio had been surprised with his fianceé's reaction to his coming out -- "I do not want to act out based on a lie any longer. What is it that you don't understand? I'm doing it for both of us. Or do you want to go on living a lie?"
"We have been living a lie all this long, haven't we?" -- Andara confronted Fabrizio -- "Happily living it, isn't it? Why does your truth seem suddenly so important?"
"I'm not getting it, Andara..." -- Should I have just dumped her without further explanations?, Fabrizio wondered.
"At least one of my friends thinks her husband is gay." -- Andara continued, defiant -- "Another friend positively knows her husband is gay. Still, they have been married for a couple of years, now. Happily married. They even have a baby girl... You know them. Sylvia and Tonio. Why can't you live discreetly like the other married guys?"
"Andara!" -- Fabrizio had been truly shocked with her suggestion -- "You want me to lie to you? And be discreet about it?"
"You HAVE BEEN LYING to me for 4 years now! What is new, then?" -- she suddenly seemed to change her tactics -- "Oh, I know! You are always SO PERFECT, aren't you, Fabrizio?" -- there was a little anger in her voice, now, and she was ironic -- "Now you want to be P-E-R-F-EC-T-L-Y-G-A-Y, isn't it! Always perfect, Fabrizio Caprice must be ALWAYS perfect..." -- she snorted -- "And how do you know you're gay?"
"I know it, Andara. Trust me." -- at that, Fabrizio had thought... What am I supposed to tell her? Share my experiences in bed with her?
"But HOW?" -- she insisted. She was a stubborn young woman who had been a spoiled girl -- "Did you do it with a guy? Is it that?! Has it just happened? You tried it and..."
"Nothing has happened recently, Andara..." -- Fabrizio interrupted her. He had decided to lie about Helmut, having realized his loyalty for his ex-roommate and former lover remained intact -- "I did it with a guy before I met you..."
"I don't believe you! You have been lying to me for four years now, and suddenly..." -- and suddenly she had lost her temper -- "You already have someone else!" -- she screamed her accusation -- "Who is he? WHO IS HE?"
´I confess I still don't understand her reaction.´ -- Fabrizio shared with me -- ´Maybe she had known it already. Maybe Andrea had told her. I don't know. But it seemed she didn't care about me being gay. More than once during our final conversation, Andara said we could arrange things. She actually got mad when I insisted we had to break up for our own good. But she started losing her mind at the thought that I had someone else. It seemed worse for her that I was leaving her for someone else, but not so much the fact that it was another man...´ -- Fabrizio took a deep inbreath before continuing -- ´I'm sorry for Andara, but I know I've done the right thing. She would not have loved me through a marriage of lies, no matter how hard she would have tried. She hates me now. But it was the right thing to do. Though all her friends have also deserted me. My personal number won't ring anymore, you know. Unless... it's you, Laurent! Or Patrizia...´
We kissed again, and feeling reassured, Fabrizio calmed down.
´It was even worse with my family!´ -- Fabrizio continued -- 'I flew to Italy to visit them, and I warned them that I had something serious to share. I'm sure they must have thought it was about business, for there is nothing more serious in my family than money.´
Right on arrival, I met my sister on her way out to a party. Patrizia was in a hurry and I did not want to take her time. I was embarassed, I was ashamed of myself -- such a horrible feeling to have at an age when one is supposed to feel confidently adult. But I also felt courageous, or perhaps a bit suicidal, and after Andara's ghastly reaction, it was as if I did not really care anymore.
'Pati, I'm gay.' -- I mouthed, after we had just greeted.
She blinked, and stood still for a moment. I had spoken so low that for a moment I wasn't sure if she had heard it. And suddenly she was screaming.
´Oh my God! You're gay!´ -- she clapped her hands and cheered -- ´Woohoo! You're really gay, Fab?´
´Patrizia, please.´ -- I had started trembling at her shouts, afraid someone else might be listening -- ´I'm telling it to...´ -- I had lowered my voice -- ´...you, not to the world!´
'Oh, I'm sorry...´ -- she started whispering -- ´This is really a secret, isn't it? You're really gay, Fab?´ -- and she was using the same tone of when we were children and had exchanged confessions -- ´Look at you, Fab! Wow! You had to be gay, of course! Gay men are so hot!´ -- she laughed excitedly -- ´Can I confess something to you?´ -- she whisperd it in my ear, as if we were children indeed -- ´I rarely watch porn, but if do... it has to be gay porn! The guys are so hot! I know bunches of gay guys! The party I'm heading to now... I'm sure there will be some... Probably many! I can think of two I could introduce to you... This is so hot! Fab, this is Fabulous!´ -- it had taken her no more than five minutes to go back to Fabulous Fabrizio, as she had nicknamed me when I was a teen. I was her favorite super-hero, she used to say.
I hadn't expected a strong rejection from Patrizia, my younger sister. I thought she might cry, she might worry, she might make a bit of a drama. But I guess it was a lovely and warm afternoon around us, and she was all dressed up and smelling to perfume and looking so pretty in her light, partyish mood, that she had imediately embraced the secret that had tortured me for so long, as if it were some juicy gossip, dismissing the sad and heavy parts of it.
´Do you want to come with me to the party? Let's celebrate, Fab! I'd love to dance with my gay brother... Wow! And I can arrange that Yael goes, too... He is from Israel, and he is so hot!´
´Thank you, sis... But I'm not here for partying. I'm going inside the house to tell mom and dad.´
´That you are gay?´ -- Patrizia gasped -- ´Oh... my... God! Are you sure about that, though? Do you want me to come with you, Fab?´ -- she was the darling of our family, and she had backed me up before with her most charming smile.
´That's so lovely of you, but... Of course not. There is no reason why you should miss your party! I'm glad you were the first one I opened up to... Your reaction was... sweet!´
´Oh, Fab, I'll always think you're Fabulous, no matter what! But of course being gay adds tons of Fabulousness to you! Oh... my... God! Who else knows it? Does Andara...´
´She knows it. But can we talk later? Mom and dad must be waiting. We'll talk after the party. Come to my room. Like in the old times...´ -- suddenly, a thought crossed my mind, and my heart was filled with fear again -- ´I mean, if I don't get kicked out of here...´
´Of course they won't do that to you, Fabrizio!´ -- she only used my full name when she tought the matter was serious -- ´Remember when I came home with my piercing? Mom cried, and dad would not talk to me for days, but they never even forced me to have it removed... No, don't expect anything much better than that, but nothing worse, either...´
With my little sister's kind words in my mind, I went after my parents. They received me in the living room, and they had dressed formaly for the occasion, which seemed odd.
´Are you ill, Fabrizio?´ -- my mother asked me before I could say anything else.
´Ill? No, I'm not ill. Why do you ask that, mother?´ -- I wasn't expecting it.
´Andara has phoned...´ -- my mother looked at me inquiringly -- ´She has given some alarming news... And she said you were ill. "So sick" was the exact expression she used, in fact...´
´No, I'm not sick.´ -- I was fearful again, and that detestable feeling of being ashamed of myself took hold of me. I felt my courage abandoning me, and the suicidal tendency mentally taking over -- ´Did Andara tell you we are no longer getting married?´
´That's very surprising!´ -- my mother was so elegant, even in posing ironic comments -- ´Why have you postponed it?´
´We have not. We broke up. We are no longer together.´ -- I had to use short sentences because I felt breathless.
Both my parents were silent, and expectant.
´Dad. Mom. I love you both.´ -- I had rehearsed -- ´And I'm thankful to all you have given me in life. And I hope you feel I have been a good and loving son...´ -- they just sat there, silent and expressionless like judges from the movies -- ´And nothing changes, really, with what I'm going to say. It's just that from today on, there is a little detail added... to my biography. One of them is that I am single again, of course, and the other one is that I am gay...´
At that, my father slowly raised from the sofa, and almost fell again, as if he was feeling dizzy. My mother jumped to his side and helped him stand.
´Are you alright, darling?´ -- she was alarmed -- ´Are you feeling anything?´ -- but my father wouldn't say a word. Not one, since I had entered the room. Not one, when the subject was not business.
What led me to think my father was going to hug me?
He seemed so calm. But what is it called, when the shock is so great? Cathatonic state? He walked towards me, and my heart was pounding painfully, beating faster than ever, and I had begun to sweat.
Then he walked past me, without glancing in my direction, towards the door behind me. My mother just observed him for a moment, and then ran after him graciously. She did not glance in my direction, either.
´Mom?´ -- my voice had broken after my revelation -- ´Are you going to leave me here alone? Won't you say something?´
´Somethings are better left unsaid, Fabrizio!´ -- and suddenly she was angry at me -- ´You should have known that. At your age! Really! Are you trying to rebel against us at this age? How can you be so inconsiderate? With your father and his heart condition... Darling, I'm right after you!´ -- she shouted at my father, who was already leaving the room -- ´You should apologize to your father, Fabrizio!´
´Apologize?´ -- I was taken aghast -- ´But there is nothing I can apologize about...´
´If you think so...´ -- my mother grimaced --´Maybe you shouldn't visit us until you change your mind about that... fact.´
´Which fact are you talking about, mother?´ -- now I was amused --´That I'm gay or that I have nothing to apologize about being gay?´ -- I was being ironic on purpose -- ´What changes do you expect?´
´Goodbye, Fabrizio!´ -- and she ran out of the living room after my father, who had just started ascending the stairs.
I could not clearly think, nor feel anything, except for the heaviness that was also an emptiness in my heart.
And I did not have time to cry, for next, Patrizia ran into the room.
She hadn't gone to the party, after all. She had been sitting at the veranda just outside, watching the whole scene unfold. And she had already made up her mind.
´I'm going after them and I'm gonna tell them I'm a lesbian, too!´ -- and I did not laugh at her remark just because I saw she was serious about it -- ´That should ease their reaction on you, don't you think?´
´That would probably kill our father, sis... and next, they'll think I have influenced you, and blame me for you being gay, too...´ -- I answered with the residue of voice I was left with. My throat felt so tight and sore.
´Are you homophobic, Fab?´ -- but she quickly quit the joking tone, when she realized how devastated I was -- ´You're not leaving, are you?´
´Your mother was very clear...´ -- I whispered. It was an akward side effect, losing my voice after coming out.
´Dad has not said anything about it, yet.´
´His silence was very clear too, Patrizia, believe me...´ -- and I had not the tiniest straw of voice left to continue talking to her.
´Can't you stay in my room, then? Or do you want to come to the party with me?´
For a moment, we were both silent, listening to the natural symphony of the Apennines, as Carlo liked to call it.
´What did you do?´ -- I asked Fabrizio, when I realized he had nothing else to share -- ´Did you go to the party?´ -- I tried to sound jealous, but actually trying to lift off the weight from Fabrizio's shoulders.
Just from sharing his story, his eyes had lost their brightness, and their blue had never looked so dark.
´Yeah, sure, and there I met the Jewish hottie... and that's why I'm here, Laurent, to tell you that I fell in love with the Yael or Ariel friend of Patrizia's...´ -- Fabrizio grimaced -- ´I was actually flying to Israel to meet him, but I decided to make a quick stop in Italy and visit you in the Apennines just to tell you that.´
I confess I was surprised.
When Fabrizio had shared with me about his "crossing", and all the suffering which he was going through, I thought they were much more inner issues, and that he was facing his own demons and ghosts, all his fears and prejudice and lack of self-acceptance.
And if I imagined -- and expected -- that he could break up with Andara before getting again at me, in no moment I had imagined that he was coming out to his family.
Of which I knew very little, so far. In the following hour he would tell me a bit more about his ancestors -- of a family tree dating back to the Roman Empire. And it explained a mystery that intrigued me -- Fabrizio's beautiful coppery skin tone. Apparently, one of his most famous ancestors had been a Venetian merchant who visited India in the late sixteenth century, from where he had brought a wife -- an event that would be repeated in the family, centuries later, by Fabrizio's maternal grandfather, who was made prisoner during World War II.
In 1941, with about 2,200 soldiers, he was sent as a prisoner of war in a special train to Bangalore, and from there to the work camps of Byramangala. As Fabrizio's grandfather was one of the few to speak English, he had had a prominent role during the time in prison, and later in the negotiations' committee for the prisoner's release. His manners, his male beauty and witty presence had delighted one of Maharajas present at the negotiations, who had invited him to live under his favours and reside in the palace after the prisoners had been released. From war prisoner to the protegé of a king, Fabrizio's grandfather left India many years later, on a journey full of romantic details, with his wife -- a daughter of the Maharaja -- and a child, Fabrizio's mother.
Commercially, Fabrizio had not invented anything new in the Caprice family, which had long devoted themselves to dealing with luxury items -- but, unlike his ancestors, who for many generations had privileged the Italian and European markets, Fabrizio had, just like the old Venetian merchant, gone seeking new markets among the emerging Asian countries, where he had earned a lot of money.
And speaking of money, Fabrizio came to his greatest regret in life -- his elder brother, Franco Caprice.
´Imagine it, as a child he liked to torment me because of my skin tone, which I have apparently inherited from my Indian grandmother whom I never got to meet, however... He liked to say that I had been adopted! In hindsight, Laurent, I have also suffered bullying, from my own brother...´
"Disgusting! That's what you are!" -- Franco had called Fabrizio after having learned that their father had felt ill with Fabrizio's revelation -- "A disgusting fagot! You bring shame onto our family! You've droped our name in the scum of fagotry... You will pay for what you did to our father! He'll disinherit you, you will see! You can be so sure of what I'm telling you!" -- Franco was elated with the possibility of giving a fatal financial blow on Fabrizio -- "And Patrizia also... I've talked to her, and when she turns twenty-one next month, I will be chosen to manage her money!"
But that battle, Franco had not yet won. Fabrizio hadn't been disinherited, nor had Patrizia handed Franco the amount of money that traditionally the Caprices received when they turned 21. Patrizia had actually chosen Fabrizio to manage her money, Fabrizio being the brother to whom she cultivated an unconditional love -- increased now by both the fancy "gay aura" that Fabrizio had acquired for her, and strengthened by the rejection and opposition he met from the rest of their family.
´Patrizia wants to meet you, Laurent! I had to tell her about us. Do you mind? And she wanted to come with me to the Apennines to meet you, can you imagine it?! Tonight I have to call her to tell her everything...´ -- Fabrizio laughed.
The bell by the kitchen door rang, interrupting our kiss.
Unlike our habit of eating at the kitchen table, and it had been so since the times of Tarso, Carlo had set lunch at the small table outside his studio, with stunning views of the valley below, with the lake of my childhood at our feet, and a delicious meal full of fresh ingredients from our garden, that we had harvested together that morning.
´Guys, you can talk in Italian, please!´ -- I remarked, and got smiles of relief from both Carlo and Fabrizio -- 'I shall understand it enough!'
And then, it was as if two gates were opened...
For the past few days, I had been worried about Fabrizio's visit. Carlo showed no annoyance about it, however, and he seemed pleased to receive my guest, especially after having noticed the romantic bond between me and Fabrizio. But I was afraid of some uneasiness between them, and Carlo's long silences that were hard to break.
But what I did not forsee is that the two would have so much in common. I did not know yet that Fabrizio enjoyed cooking, and as soon as we started eating, he had quite sincerely praised Carlo's tasty food, identifying the ingredients at length, and next the two of them were exchanging family recipes and culinary secrets.
But they still strove to speak in French so that I could participate in the conversation -- just as a listener, for I had inherited from Catherine her total ineptude in the kitchen, improved to not much more than a practical simplicity -- the "survival food" I have already mentioned.
When I returned from the kitchen, after having washed the dishes, they were still talking -- it was about cars now, from what I guessed. The Italian Carlo and Fabrizio spoke sounded very different to me, but they already share two interests in common -- cooking and cars -- besides the same language, which helped bringing them closer, speeding up their connection.
I did not share any of it, but right before me were my father and the man I was in love with. It was the very first time that my father met a boyfriend of mine, and Fabrizio, although formally we were not yet in a relationship, was my first boyfriend who had the chance to meet my father. And no, I'm not forgetting Gabriel, just skipping him, for he was more like a one night stand that had been extended for too long.
And all this happening right there on the ancestral D'Allegro lands, which made it all even more emotional to me. Suddenly, I saw myself thinking about Tarso with gratitude for having taken care and maintained the farm, just like Carlo was doing now, and I clearly saw myself in that line of succession, and happily belonging.
'My son told me that you are interested in art...' -- it was Carlo who introduced the subject, after having realized that Fabrizio politely allowed my father to bring all the topics of conversation in his own time and pace. It was a wonderful generosity from Fabrizio's part, which allowed Carlo to feel at ease and willing to trust him.
Perhaps Fabrizio had studied a little bit before coming to the Apennines, but the admiration he had for my father's work was sincere.
Just like I had had almost noumenal experiences with the works of Morandi, Rothko and Richter, Fabrizio had repeatedly visited the retrospective of Carlo's work in London a couple of years ago, and he had been touched in a very special way by my father's paintings.
It had been an equally remarkable exhibition for Carlo, the first full retrospective of his work still during his life, and especially in the city that had so generously hosted him, and served as fertile and firm ground for his art.
Fabrizio wisely avoided speaking about Carlo's work through the critics' comments, and instead related it to the poets he loved best. Poetry and business? I wondered, listening to his remarks about my father's paintings. I didn't know it yet, but Fabrizio had the habit of reading a poem every night, before bed. Like he said it himself, "as an antidote to the stress of my workdays, as a bridge into dreams, and to keep my heart nourished and pacified." For Fabrizio was not only a businessman at heart but a businessman with a heart, though he did not use his heart on his businesses.
In the studio, Carlo spoke about his own work like I had never heard before, and secretly I reaffirmed my will and intention of writing a biography of my father's work.
I had never imagined, for example, that he could have been influenced by Catherine's preference for Russian art, and especially for the writings of Russian mystics, and even that country's contemporary classic music composers -- there was so much of Catherine in Carlo's paintings, and I hadn't known it.
Fabrizio listened with dedicated attention, and spoke only when Carlo prolonged his silence, thus indicating that he had finished speaking. I admired the care and reverence with which Fabrizio handled my father, and I also admired the candor and loquacity which Carlo dedicated to my future partner and the love of my life.
And thus that day, Fabrizio and I stayed less time together than we would have wanted to.
Between Carlo and Fabrizio a touching friendship was born -- the young man who recently came from a family rejection saw himself welcomed by another parent, without any prejudice or reserve. Except for his sister -- and me, of course -- Fabrizio hadn't yet seen his new persona plus the "gay detail" accepted by many people, and my father's warm welcome was like a soothing balm to him.
Carlo had demonstrated an unreserved affection to Fabrizio during that weekend. It was also a demonstration of my father's affection for me, since it was directed towards my new boyfriend. But also directly to Fabrizio himself.
'Does he have a family? I mean, are his parents still alive?' -- Carlo had asked me later. He had intuited that Fabrizio was an orphan, which in part was true at that time, and thus he had identified with my boyfriend, in his own prolonged orphanhood.
While Carlo and Fabrizio talked after dinner, again having washed the dishes, I felt a sudden desire to paint as I hadn't felt in a long time. The last canvas I had painted was months ago.
My father granted me permission to use his atelier, and there I lost track of time. When I returned home, to my dismay my father was expecting me alone.
'Fabrizio went to the studio to say good night to you.' -- Carlo explained -- 'But when he saw you so concetrated, he preferred not to interrupt...' -- and then, Carlo smiled, as if to a personal joke. It was the kind of courtesy and respect that he had never received from Catherine -- 'He has gone upstairs to his room, and he said he would be happy if you woke him up to say good night... He is a very lovely man, Laurent, very special indeed, and I'm happy for you. And I wish a great night for you both, son!' -- Carlo smiled and hugged me, like an accomplice, before heading to the atelier for another night of work.
Fabrizio hadn't slept yet, since he had talked at length with his sister on the phone -- 'Patrizia can't believe I haven't taken any picture of you to send her... She's so eager to meet the man who has "made me gay", according to herself...'
I met him coming out the shower, and seeing him naked for the first time stoked my lust and I jumped on him.
Fabrizio, contrary to what I had expected, was embarrassed and even blushed when I tried to kiss him.
Carlo had shown him into the room with double bed where I was sleeping, but Fabrizio had chosen to occupy the small room at the corner where I had slept 25 years ago, the same room that once had been Carlo's, with its narrow single bed and the stunning views over the valley.
'Laurent! Your father is in the next room!' -- Fabrizio looked as scared as a little boy.
'He is not! Right now, he is in the atelier. And his room is on the other side of the house. The next room is mine... and that's where you should be now...'
'I would like to respect him, shall we?' -- a notion of respect that seemed awkward to me. Fabrizio shared he wouldn't feel comfortable if we slept together with my father's presence in the same house.
'He wished us a good... an excelent night! Una bellissima e buonissima notte, I think he said... and I think he wasn't addressing our sleep...' -- and I tried to reason Fabrizio that my father was different from his father, and that Carlo wouldn't be shocked if he overheard the sounds of our love making.
To my surprise and frustration, Fabrizio insisted, contrary to my -- and to his own, he confessed it -- desire.
'And how different they are!' -- Fabrizio remarked about our respective fathers -- 'Nevertheless, or precisely because of that fact, I would like to respect Carlo... He has been so immensely kind to me. And actually... I wish we waited until a certain special occasion for both of us...'
But my special occasion was precisely that -- making love to Fabrizio in the same room where years ago I had desired Fabio. In my heart, it was the closing of a beautiful, meaningful circuit. And in fact, just thinking about the possibility of doing to Fabrizio that which I had never done to Fabio, in that same small room where my sexuality had blossomed, made me fell extremely horny.
But Fabrizios temperance won, and it was with a chaste kiss that we parted that evening.
And with the sad news that Fabrizio would have to leave the next morning.
'Please forgive me, Laurent. I should have let you know beforehand... I know, I should have told you over the phone... There are so many commitments and problems which I have to handle to finally take my time to be just with you. I know, my life is rather messy, and even more than usual at the moment... Will you still like me?'
I was saddened by the news that we would be together for a little over 24 hours only, but I was also impressed that Fabrizio had flown from Vice City to Italy only to be with me, even for such a short time. Even if he would be en route longer than he would stay with me, still he had come.
And it was the first time he had returned to Italy since being rejected by his family.
'I gave up my family to stay with you. Now I have to give up some of my businesses, too.' -- that statement from Fabrizio scared me, but he smiled as if he were happy -- 'My dad's heart attack was a lesson for the whole family which, however, no one seemed to realize... When I found myself in difficulties about leaving work and finding the time to come be with you, Laurent, I finally realized how my business was a compensation, and an excuse for not making myself available to Andara and to the relationship I had with her...'
It seemed a waste that we wouldn't even sleep together, cuddling, since we had so little time together -- but yes, I could respect Fabrizio's decision, understanding he wanted to respect my father, and respect his own limits.
Like the little boy I had been almost 25 years ago, that night I had a wet dream -- but instead of Fabio, it was with Fabrizio.
I woke up with my underwear all sticky, and I laughed at it. It seemed like ages ago when I was rushing to the bathroom to wash my semen away, all ashamed about my nocturnal emissions, be it in Tarso's home or back in France. Still, I changed my stained underwear before going into Fabrizio's room, who had already woke up, and I told him about my wet dream.
'Babe, I promise it!' -- Fabrizio seemed worried -- 'Our first time is going to be special. Do you believe me? Can you wait?'
In his voice, he implied the possibility that he would do it right there and then, if it was to make me happy and have me satisfied.
But since I had had sex with so many men before, sometimes a few minutes after having met some of them, I actually began to see Fabrizio's nagging insistence that we shouldn't have any sexual contact as something pretty special and unique.
He was not being prudish. He had already had in mind a very special occasion that I hadn't been able to forsee yet.
But I confess that I did feel insecure, thinking that Fabrizio might not be attracted to me -- I was aware that my glasses made me look serious, that my white, scruffy hair wasn't really attractive, and my discreet clothes that I wore like camouflage -- I had been gradually and purposefully becoming older and uglier since the end of my relationship with Angelo. No matter how many guys I had had since then, I only felt worse, and the scar was still in my heart.
Fabrizio, however, was always grabbing me into his arms when we were away from Carlo, outside the house that he seemed to respect like a sanctuary -- perhaps my father had used that term with him, and Fabrizio had misinterpreted it?
I don't know how many times we kissed during those 24 hours, but every kiss looked like another signature in the contract that we were spiritually writing in our hearts -- a contract that was to be for a lifetime.
It didn't seem weird when Fabrizio left the farm without arranging our next meeting.
So much had been said in that brief period of our reunion in the Apennines. In a way, Fabrizio had come to give a report about the significant changes in his life, which had brought us closer -- that, in fact, had placed us on the same margin, side by side.
From his conversations with Carlo, I had learned significant details about him -- like the fact that he read poetry every night before bed -- which made him even more adorable to my eyes.
But there was also all that hadn't been said between us. I hadn't had the time to share about my own "crossing", which had brought me back to my family's ancestral lands, and where we had reunited after our rough start in Vice City.
'Are you okay, Laurent? Are you sad about something? Or worried?' -- Fabrizio had asked me, between one kiss and another. But during that brief visit we were to concentrate on him, and not on my issues.
And all those things left unsaid just signaled that we would certainly meet again to resume. Our evening of love that hadn't happened, too, was another promise of a new encounter. And we were now sure that we both wanted to share our lives with each other.
However, with Patrizia, Fabrizio's sister, it had been different.
We would meet for the first time in Vice City, where she had gone to visit her dearest brother, and by the end of our date she had arranged to meet me again in their cousin's wedding, which I should attend accompanying Fabrizio.
At first, Patrizia had been a little shocked that I were ten years older than her brother. If she had been capable of imagining Fabrizio falling for some of her hot gay friends, all in their early twenties, upon meeting me she had been genuinely surprised -- not only was I older, but I also looked older. Not exactly what she had imagined -- or wanted -- as boyfriend to her brother.
I did not go to their cousin's wedding after all. Not because I didn't want to meet Patrizia again.
I lied to Fabrizio, saying I had had my hair cut for the wedding. It had been actually an attempt to modernize my appearance, since I had been confronted with Patrizia's discomfort.
It was also an old habit acquired during my relationship with Angelo. I had changed my way of dressing to please him. With the same purpose I had started wearing contact lenses, despite the fact that they bothered me more than glasses. And I had started training at a gym and taking supplements to make my body more attractive to him, since Angelo liked beefy guys.
I was used to that look from Patrizia -- the disappointment about my appearance. Although hers had been very mild and hadn't lasted more than a few seconds. She was so polite and she loved Fabrizio so very much to be unkind to me, and she had tried to fix the discomfort she had caused by complimenting me the rest of the evening -- how I was uptodate in terms of music and movies and so on. Though your clothes and hair..., she must have thought, but never said it. Patrizia was a lovely young woman, and we had ended the night as friends -- even so, I felt old.
And I didn't attend the wedding.
It was a great event in the family. It had taken place ten days before our trip to Iceland, and Fabrizio and I hadn't yet spoken about it.
It had been Fabrizio's idea and suggestion that we left the house to wacth the Icelandic starry sky. We took a sheep skin rug and some blankets and headed to the rocks right by the sea. It was cold, and like a good boy born in the tropics, I had dressed warm like if I were to go touring the North Pole.
I hadn't attended the wedding because I didn't want to cause Fabrizio any more problems. Patrizia and he had turned rebellious and combative against the prejudice he had met in the family, and they felt that Fabrizio should fabulously display his new "gay condition" to its fullest, and a big family event was the perfect occasion to present me as his boyfriend.
'Dear... I don't think I should go. And I won't be sad if I don't..'. -- I was sincere with Fabrizio -- 'Just imagine how your parents would feel about all this? A coming out in such proportions, and with them right there in the middle of it... The questioning glances, maybe the family jokes our presence as a couple would arise... Wouldn't you rather like to give them some respite? Let them enjoy your presence without reserve...'
Though at first shocked with what he thought was an hipocrisy, Fabrizio had finally been able to understand my point of view, my own exercise of temperance, and had given in. And Patrizia had then also dismissed her boyfriend to spend one whole night with her beloved brother, at his arm throughout the festivities.
During the wedding party, the five Caprice had occupied a family table, something that hadn't occured in a long time.
'My parents were formal with me, but at no time less than cordial.' -- Fabrizio explained -- "You are looking great, Fabrizio..." was what my mother had said, since she had always liked to see me in a suit. "I hope all is well with you", I heard from my father, and I realized they were both trying to continue with our family story the best way they could, and signaling with peace. Even if it was a hypocritical peace, since they would prefer to pretend my coming out had never existed.'
But upon seeing the happiness they manifested with his cousin's wedding, Fabrizio had finally understood the huge disappointment that his coming out had brought them, and how many mental adjustments they would have to make now that he wouldn't give them a daughter-in-law and grandchildren. He also realized they preferred to remain silent than to stimulate his truth, as if by not confronting it, with time and their hoping for it, he could again show interest in marrying another woman, like they still wished for.
'Now that our family is... defective... we'll have to wait long for the next wedding... until that one over there decides to get married!' -- Franco, the elder brother, had said this with disdain and indicated Patrizia, whom he now resented, since she had handed her money to Fabrizio -- 'This... other kind... of beings...' -- Franco's show off at the family table was intended for his new girlfriend, a girl slightly older than Patrizia, who wasn't yet aware of the intricacies of the Caprice family -- '...they only attend saunas and nightclubs... and celebrate orgies, not marriages, isn't it?'
The accusation had been addressed at Fabrizio, who nevertheless laughed loud and happily.
'So you've just declared that you have no intention of marrying this girl, right brother?' -- Patrizia mouthed at once -- 'She is also not going to last, is she?' -- Franco had already had two wives, and a good number of girlfriends, all very beautiful but not especially bright, and the current one hadn't yet understood Franco's rudeness stated against her, that Patrizia had made so explicit.
But Fabrizio didn't make any comments and just smiled at his elder brother, and touched Patrizia's arm to calm her down, and to indicate he didn't need her to defend him.
'Franco!' -- it was heard before the elder brother was able to retort Patrizia.
Mr. Caprice did not need more than hissing the name of his eldest son to impose silence at the family table. He had never beaten his children, but his words could sound like whiplashes. And whenever he stated the name of a child that way, it was like a death sentence. Mr. Caprice would never say "Shut up now!". With the child's name he declared the loser of his children's disputes, the one who should be silent in the first place -- although in fact all of them should shut up, once he had shown his annoyance.
'And Patrizia... Please treat this girl with kindness.' -- he went on, indicating Franco's new girlfriend -- 'Today, at this table, she is part of our family...' -- and despite talking to Patrizia, it was Fabrizio whom Mr. Caprice had faced with a pervasive and very significant look.
'I confess that I did not get that look from my father.' -- Fabrizio confided that night under the Icelandic starry sky, when we had talked about the wedding -- 'I don't know if he meant that I again belonged to the family by simply sitting at that table, or if actually sitting at the family table was another proof of that.' -- Fabrizio sighed -- 'My father's insincerity always made our living harder. I mean, interpreting his silences and trying to guess from his signals is very tiring! And that night, our table had been a bit empty, with four vacancies. Franco's two sons hadn't come, and nor had Patrizia's boyfriend, and neither my boyfriend..' -- Fabrizio looked at me with intensity -- 'I wonder if my father didn't also imply that... if you, Laurent...' -- Fabrizio had tears in his eyes -- '... if you had been there, sitting at that table with us, you would also be part of our family...'
'Maybe next time we go to Italy, we can visit your father... and also mine...' -- Fabrizio whispered when I hugged and kissed him, welcoming his sincerity and sorrow, the pain that the rejection from his family still caused him.
Sometimes I thought how big Fabrizio's pain might be, for someone who had always tried to be perfect at other's eyes, to get their complimments, confirmation and affection.
Fabrizio recalled our parting in the Apennines, when Carlo had called him "son", in another demonstration of his true loving nature and generosity.
'You can come to this house whenever you want, son. Even when Laurent is not here. Whenever you are in Italy, remember that you have this other house to shelter you!' -- Carlo had said, without knowing anything about Fabrizio's rejection, but sensing he was an orphan.
Once we again fell silent, we gave ourselves to the spectacle of the Icelandic night. The sky was of an absolute blackness, providing a dramatic contrast to the brightness of the stars, and the sea was also pitch black, and in turn dotted by the brightness of the crests of small waves rippling in the wind. We just lay there listening to the sounds of the sea, which corresponded to the noise of the stars moving in the skies, and everything was a silent vastness and the harmonious wilderness.
We wraped ourselves in the blankets that we had brought and slept hugging each other -- until this tropical boy, who writes this, woke up shivering, and together we returned home, just before dawn broke on our last full day in Iceland.
If I let you in,
I'll never let you out,
never let you out...
from the song "If I let you in" by Perry Blake