Monday, November 18, 2013

Interlude 1.1

to read from the FIRST CHAPTER

previous CHAPTER


'You'll be given love
You'll be taken care of
You'll be given love
You have to trust it'

Interlude One

Iceland, 2012

Laurent & Fabrizio

The island of my childhood.

That at least I knew wasn't a lie -- it was my very privilege to have spent my tender years in a paradisiac and exclusive corner of the planet that people dreamed of visiting, and where they could stay only for a while, and then dream again about it upon returning to their ugly, crowded cities around the world.

Thinking about that night's conversation with Carlo at the Nirvana Lounge in Vice City, maybe I was being again defensive with my father, when confronted with so many news about my past, that radically transformed it. I was afraid of being caught up in a new web of lies and intrigues.

He had said that Punaouilo was the first leg of their return trip to France -- and it had been a misunderstanding that, starting from the Indian Ocean, Punaouilo had brought them closer to South America than to Europe...

But why then had we stayed there for eight years? Although, if they had asked me, I would have chosen to stay on the island until my teenage years, or maybe even until college...

But one thing no revelation would ever change. My love for the islands. Any islands. All islands. My childhood in Punaouilo had given me this strange twist as a traveler -- to spend my life visiting islands. I had begun this circuit in the days when I lived with Angelo -- my boyfriend from adolescence through college -- in Vice City, and the Caribbean Sea began at our feet.

And I have never wanted to travel the world in a different way. Islands. The Cyclades, the Grenadines, the Maldives, the Galapagos, the Baleares, Virgin Islands, French Polynesia -- not just places, not just names, but memories that nurtured me. Porquerolles, San Andrés, Pantelleria, St. Lucia, Montserrat, Los Roques sounded like delicious ripe fruits and made my mouth salivate.

My attraction to Iceland had begun in the childhood with Jules Verne, but only later would it become irresistible, through the music of Björk and Sigur Rós, with which I had infected Fabrizio -- and the idea to travel through Iceland on an off-road vehicle had actually come from him, after his interest in the country had been aroused by the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruptions.

It had been three weeks around the island -- and no day had been less than truly surprising and full of wonders. In a morning we visited a luxuriant green valley dotted with lakes and waterfalls, along a raging river with spectacular, dramatic falls, to then climb the road to the hills at the back, and on their top started a barren plateau scattered with rocks of all colors, and following that road we'd reach a field of steaming volcanic pools, and next we'd stumble upon an extraordinary icebergs' lagoon before we arrived on the coast, the black sand beaches where swans surfed the waves -- all in a single day, and we hadn't rushed nor were we trying to cross the country. A single wrong turn would take us on a deserted road along streams of hot water that ended at a stunning pond at the bottom of a volcano, or an unimaginable field of soft, tender moss extending till the horizon. 

Although I hadn't drank a single drop of liquor in years, I felt like I had been drunk daily in Iceland.

'Babe, look... The moon is rising over the ocean...' -- I had just seen it emerge over the horizon --- 'Let's watch it... Are you coming with me?'

For our last week in Iceland, Fabrizio had rented a house on the coast, south of Reykjavik. The house was a glass box opening to a striking wild and barren landscape, with no neighbors in sight, and it had been designed by a famous contemporary Icelandic architect -- this was a tradition and way of traveling for Fabrizio. 

He did not like being en route for too long, preferring to spend his holidays in one place only. His holidays in family had been spent on a palace at the edge of the Lago di Como, and had deeply, happily influenced and inspired him for the rest of his life.

In any country, was it Indonesia or Morocco, Fabrizio enjoyed renting a home, be it historical and ancient or the work of a famous contemporary architect, and turn it into his base for traveling -- or simply make it his entire experience of that country. He had done this for many years, usually in the company of Andara and their group of friends -- who now truly disliked me, or even hated me, because since we had started dating, Fabrizio would go traveling with me only. 

Not that any of his friends would have joined us, anyway.

Fabrizio had actually enjoyed the Icelandic Ring Road for having taken us to so many amazing sites through the astonishing landscape, and he enjoyed driving cars that were comfortable and safe, but he seemed much happier now that we were comfortably installed in our cozy Icelandic home with spectacular views.

I had rejoiced every day of our trip across the country, and was now happy to be in such a beautiful house -- but what mattered the most to me was Fabrizio's company.


And to think that this had been my first impression of him.

What a prick! -- that had been my second impression of him, and my opinion only got worse as that arrogant jerk made ​​me wait longer in the queue.

I had been quite angry already that day -- me and almost the entire population of Vice City, as a huge blackout affected most parts of the city causing monstrous traffic jams -- and I had arrived late and stressed at the airport, only to find out that my flight had been canceled.

On that day in 2010 there were hundreds of people in the same situation, but that presumptuous executive ahead of me in the queue seemed to think he was the only one with problems, and wouldn't leave the counter.

'Sir, I'm sorry, but it's not our fault. There is no network... My computer isn't working!' -- the attendant said, helplessly.

'That's no excuse, dear!' -- the executive replied promptly -- 'I cannot believe you just didn't take this kind of contingency into account and will leave us with no information! I should have been flying, and every minute here is costing me a fortune! I'll have to sue your company...'

'Sir, we were told to get all passengers' names and once our system is back, we will relocate them on the flights according to availability... There are many passengers in the same situation, sir, and I'm counting on your cooperation to...'

Exactly!, I thought. This queue needs to move, if this asshole moves too.

I was not happy to be back in Vice City. It seemed that my connection with that damned city would never end! After my relationship with Angelo had ended, I promised myself to never again reside in that town -- and that part of the promise, at least, I had kept. But my career in the arts seemed to be based in Vice City, and I was afraid to loosen this connection...

 Dan Charmand, the almighty and increasingly powerful director of Vice's Contemporary Art Museum, remained being the mentor of my artistic career, and I owed him all sorts of favors -- it might have been easier to have had sex with him to pay my debts, but he also knew that, and with so many hot guys at his disposal he'd rather play a different kind of game with me, and keep me under his protection and dominance.

He would often act as a father to me -- a despotic one -- and I think secretly he enjoyed taking the role that should have been Carlo's, the great painter he seemed thus to displace and replace. Dan had at an early stage in our relationship perceived my need for a fatherly figure, and had then installed himself at the center of my life, both personal and professional, nosy about my bed and my easel.

'The phones are working, aren't they? I'm willing to see your good will, calling your superior to offer us a better solution than simply waiting here!' -- the arrogant executive insisted, keeping his tone down and artificially calm... Actually, he had a nice and deep, very sexy voice -- 'As a frequent flyer and first class passenger I would have expected a different attitude on your part.' -- he had a slight accent, though, that was easily identifiable as Italian. Carlo had a much stronger accent, but my ex-boyfriend Angelo, even though he had tried to excell in losing it, had kept that same slight accent that was quite charming.

'One moment, sir...' -- the attendant was trying to remain friendly and polite -- 'I'll try to learn if there is any new information or instructions...'

And thus that standstill queue would carry on.

But my own life, especially in Vice City, had become a stalemate.

My exhibition in 2008 had achieved both critical and public recognition -- and my naked self-portraits had even yielded me an invitation to pose for an homoerotic photography website (that I had refused, of course). All that exposure, including the dreaded personal and private part of it, and even a bit of scandal when two men had broken into the museum during the night to make a menage à trois with the aluminium sculpture -- a life-size naked reclining self-portrait -- that I had included in my show, had also collaborated to invigorate the interest of many Contemporary Art collectors around the world, and my art dealer had been quite pleased with how my works were selling.

'Janice, you gotta get me out of here!' -- the executive talked over the phone with his secretary -- 'A helicopter! What is the flight range of a helicopter? Honey, do you know what the flight range of a helicopter is?' -- he asked the attendant at the counter -- 'No, of course you don't know that, too... Janice, get me a helicopter from the Army!' -- I tried to check the executive's age, because he sounded like a teenager playing a commando game, but I could not see his face.

But then came the financial market's crash in late 2008, and the art market had been paralyzed. My exhibition, which was to last only three and a half months, was extended to seven when sponsors withdrew funds and Dan Charmand asked me to keep the show in that room, that otherwise would be empty. 

At first, I had been happy with the chance to be seen in such a prestigious space by even more people -- but that extension was to become equally upsetting when Dan asked me to continue with a series of workshops, programmed only for the first three months, and which would eventually extend throughout 2009 also. 

Apparently, I was a success with the young crowd, with housewives and the elderly of Vice City, and I had attracted a paying audience that really mattered for Dan at the time. 

'Sir, this is a historic day in Vice City, and sadly not in a good sense...' -- the attendant apologized -- 'We have never seen such a tremendous blackout! All flights have been canceled! I ask for your understanding...'

'Honey ... This day is much more historic for me and my company, and I need to fly now!' -- the arrogant executive persisted.

Finally, when his phone's battery died, and there was no way to recharge it at the airport, the guy seemed to suffer such a blow as to discourage him, and he finally gave up. I was next at the counter. Good, because I was almost pissing in my pants.

I had spent so much time in the queue looking at that guy's back that I immediately recognized him, even though the airport toilet was almost in the dark. But just then did I notice that, without realizing where my mind had been, I had already qualified the nape of his neck and haircut as sexy, matching his breathy voice. And the well-cut suit with an outstanding fabric made that arrogant asshole also elegant.

Upon approaching him at the sink, I realized that he was also beautiful. Not just handsome, not ordinarily pretty. A male beauty indeed.

And my desire had been aroused.

During the period I kept coming to Vice City from 2008 until 2009, I had had a strange involvement with Gabriel, the handsome and helpful waiter from Nirvana Lounge. At first purely sexual, the frequency and length of my subsequent stays in the city had gotten us into a more steady relationship. I had followed his career launch, as he had gotten small roles in several films, and though his dream was the movies, he was working as a supporting role in a television series.

But we had never taken on that relationship, nor ourselves as a couple. I knew Gabriel kept having sex with whom and whenever he wanted, and I had the same freedom to go to bed with the guys I felt like. But when I was in Vice City, he preferred my hotel room to his own tiny kitchenette, and the restaurants that I took him to were much more appealing than the staff cafeterias he usually ate at. We were together everyday when I was in town.

I had no expectations nor did I fool myself about Gabriel, who despite the angel's face and name of an archangel, was anything but angelic. 

During those first months when my scandalous exhibition had turned me into a local diva, and since during the year that followed I had remained being an object of desire in bars, nightclubs and restaurants that we went to together, Gabriel thought it was interesting to be seen by my side, and to apparently "own" me. But when in early 2010 he had found a theatrical producer who was not only able to promote and support him, but was also younger and more fun, Gabriel had dumped me. 

Even though knowing that the angel was not much more than a social and professional climber, using his great physique and good looks as his wings, my fall was still hard, and I was hurt -- and it still was hurting, in fact, for our final conversation had taken place that same morning. 

I was surprised when he had knocked at my door, but then he had been coming so often to the hotel to stay with me that he wouldn't even be announced anymore. Finally, it was all over between us -- even the casual sex we still had sometimes after he had dumped me --, when I did not agree to participate in a threesome with his new partner. And since he hadn't mentioned paying the money that he owed ​​me, I decided not to ever charge him.

'I was being a prick and I know it!' -- I heard from the beautiful guy next to me at the sink -- 'I'm sorry.'

The bathroom was not empty, and in there were other passengers who had been in the queue as well, but the guy directed his apologies at me.

'It's ok...' -- I did not want to say anything else. "Be kind to unkind people; they are the ones who need it most"... I recalled the practice, but I wasn't in the mood to be nice to a stranger in the bathroom of a chaotic airport, nor was I considering heading to the closest stall to have a quickie with him. Having concentrated on my breathing during the time I had queued, I had controlled my anger, and I did not want to fuel it again. 

I was already walking away when I noticed that he was still talking to me.

'It was like a bad joke. I should have flown last night, but yesterday the delivery of a painting at my place was delayed, since it did not fit in the elevator. It had to be hoisted today, but the blackout made it thoroughly impossible.' -- the executive gave a beautiful, ironic smile -- 'I really wanted to see the painting on my wall, but I waited for nothing... You know, it was a gift I gave myself in advance, for the contract I would sign today... but if the contract is not signed, I will probably have to return the painting... and the wall on which it will hang too, haha!' -- the young executive laughed with sincere sorrow, and despite my previous antipathy, I could understand and sympathize with his distress and anguish -- 'And I still had to go down 50 floors by stairs!'

'Wow, this painting must be very important to you!' -- I was definitely curious. A fancy new car, a huge television, a wine's shipment... that was the kind of stuff that seemed to be important for a guy like him, or even for most wealthy people... But a painting? Art? That was really off the curve... and yet, right up my alley.

'I have always wanted to own a Gerhard Richter, and only now could I afford one... He is a German painter...' -- I think he mistook my astonishment  for a certain imbecility, and he tried to justify his extraordinary attachment to the painting -- 'He is fairly well known... But it doesn't matter!' -- he finally exclaimed, giving up explaining it to me, as if I could not understand.

'Richter!' -- I finally reacted -- 'You got a Richter!' -- I was stunned indeed. The guy seemed to be elegant and have good taste, at least his appearance told so, but now that I was aware of his taste for Art, I was even more impressed. Delighted. And such a painting from the contemporary master, big enough not to fit into an elevator, should have cost a fortune!

And there was something else. While the guy was telling me how he had found the painting and how he had acquired it, seemingly excited to find another mortal who knew and liked Gerhard Richter, I could take a good look at him. 

Even in the dark, his beautiful blue eyes shone with childlike joy. He had a tanned skin almost like an Hindu's, the features were of a classical statue, though his mouth fullness was more to Angelina Jolie's. It was as if the most disparate aesthetic sources had converged to create a result of intense beauty.

'You're an actor, aren't you?' -- the daydreaming that his beauty had inspired was interrupted when I heard that question which was so common and I so often had been asked in Vice City, having been through the city in Gabriel's artsy company.

'No, I am a visual artist.' -- I answered, blasé and indignant.

'Sure! That's why you knew Richter!' -- he looked at me more closely -- 'I know you! You did an exhibition here in town... At Vice's Contemporary Art Museum, wasn't it? That "Dark Room" show...'

Ooops... The "Dark Room" had been an strategy of Dan Charmand to draw public to the show. As the floor of the room was already black, he also had the walls and ceiling painted black. My naked self-portraits, all faceless but very explicit, and the forty five male models portrayed by me, each one depicting only a face, lent my exhibition "the claustrophobic, electric atmosphere of a Dark Room in a gay club. A great sexual tension permeates the air, as if at any moment we would be assaulted by some of the beautiful, lustful men that face us with intensity and insistence from the portraits by young D' Allegro." A single critic had used that bombastic analogy, but from then on "Dark Room" was how people had referred to my show. They were stimulated by Dan himself at the press releases, since that nickname was attracting a larger audience. And even more so after the scandal when two guys had tried to shoot a video in the museum, having sex with the black aluminum sculpture that was my life-size naked self-portrait.

 'Laurent D' Allegro.' -- I took the chance to introduce myself -- 'Did you visit my show?'

For some people, through the "Dark Room" -- who still recalled that my exhibition was originally called "Portraiting Dorian G"? -- I had become a scandalous celebrity; for others, like Fabrizio, a media aberration. Would he have recalled the embarrassing detail added by Dan, when he decided to place my self-portrait with an erection -- the last canvas I had delivered at the museum -- right at the top of the stairs, so as to be the first painting that visitors met? It was shocking, and I did not quite like Charmand's choice, but I had to submit to his will. For some time, it had been quite common to see photos taken with cell phones of my anatomical details, front and rear, on several internet sites.

I realized how the executive guy tensed and grew cold toward me -- probably considering me grotesque and distasteful.

'No, I have not had...' -- and I was sure he would say "interest" -- '... the time.'

'I think I'll go back to the counter to see if there is any new information!' -- he apologized while already walking away -- 'I cannot believe I'm still stuck here! A blackout of this magnitude right today! I cannot believe my bad luck...'

I think it was the indifference and coldness with which he suddenly had treated me, from the moment when he had identified me as the "Dark Room" artist, as opposed to my own interest, that had just awakened to that gorgeous man whose supreme object of desire was a painting by Gerhard Richter. Or I guess I was trying to save my image and reverse the damage, but also sincerely trying to help the executive who again seemed to sink in the hard economic mishaps, that led me to appeal to my spiritual guides.

"If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?" -- and as the young executive looked at me puzzled, and in that airport bathroom such wise sentence sounded like cheap self-help, I tried to clarify it to him -- 'It's Shantideva,  an eighth century Buddhist master' -- the guy raised his eyebrows --'who has said it... It's part of a book, A Guide to the Bodhisattva 's Way of Life... the Dalai Lama often quotes it...' -- I seemed to set a trap to myself in my own explanations, getting lost into further complicated explanations -- 'You've already heard of the Dalai Lama, haven't you?'

'I'm sure this is an interesting Way of Life, whatever it is... But now I really need to take care of my own life.' -- he dismissed me --' Thanks for the chat, Laurent. And have a nice trip!'

And so I watched that gorgeous man leave without even telling me his name. But I also thought, and I was relieved -- no more gorgeous men for me! I just got kicked by one this morning, and I'm already interested in another? No, it's enough from this roller coaster!

But we would meet again at the magazine stand. The situation at the entire airport was chaotic. The vending machines had stopped functioning and there were long queues to buy cold food and warm drinks. People were angry, confused, and frustrated when their phones and computers had stopped working and they could not recharge them. There was no music, the TVs weren't working, and the speakers would only repeat the same emergency warnings. Added to an atmosphere of irritation, there was boredom and lethargy.

At least I had the beautiful executive to entertain me. His profile was absolutely perfect, perhaps the most beautiful I had ever met in my personal and professional life. 

I was even considering starting a new conversation with him, to talk him into posing for me... I always pictured just the faces of my models, being my own the only nudity I explored. But ever since the "Dark Room", my art had been classified in a whole as adult erotica. "Noses, mouths, chins... the young D'Allegro seems to display them with the same intense sexual charge that he paints his own intimate parts" Art critics seemed to enjoy going wild in their reviews about my art. And the elegant executive did not seem very interested in my infamous fame.

It was actually one of my current grievances with Dan, and one of the reasons for asking him not to renew the series of workshops at the Museum for 2010. I needed some time away from Vice City to clean my personal image. That had been another difficult conversation from that stay in Vice City, Dan and then Gabriel. The blackout seemed to come to crown it all.

'What's the name of the self-help manual that you mentioned?' -- I could hardly believe it when the guy approached me again.

'Um, I think this is not the kind of book that sells in an airport, but we can have a look... it's not quite a self-help manual...' -- I knew it was useless to search for it, but I grabbed the opportunity to enjoy his company a bit longer.

'Thank you for helping... By the way, my name is Fabrizio Caprice. Sorry, I forgot to introduce myself earlier.' -- and I almost sighed at his charming smile directed at me.

After all, my invocation of the Buddhist masters had given Fabrizio a better impression of me,  superimposed to that of the sensationalist artist. And, like me, he had liked my "profile", and within the boredom and chaos that paralyzed the airport, someone to talk to about Gerhard Richter and the art market did not seem a bad option. In fact, he had been as surprised as I upon finding someone with that kind of interest, because among his friends, his involvement with art was looked upon rather as another game or an extravagance.

'You know, it was the most sensible advice I've heard in a long time... but it also seems a bit defeatist, don't you think?' -- he inquired.

I had heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama's explanations about Shantideva's sentence a few times, and I explained it to Fabrizio the best I could. But we did not have much time to talk because half an hour later we were called to the counter. The situation had normalized and we would embark.

And again we parted -- he didn't have to wait for the first class, while I queued for the economy. But after all, we were on the same flight to Samsara Heights, on the West coast. I was thrilled with the perspective of seeing him again at our destination!

But before boarding, my name was called and I had again to report to the counter. Thinking I would be removed from the flight, I was getting ready to be tough with the attendant with whom I had been so kind some hours ago. Just to compensate Fabrizio's rudeness and insistence, since I had been the next in line, I had tried to be funny and positive with her, and now... 

 'With compliments from our company, Mr. D'Allegro!' -- smiling, she handed me a boarding pass upgraded to the first class -- 'We really appreciate your frequent flights with us! Have a pleasant journey and we apologize for any inconveniences...'

I almost kissed her -- and I should actually have, when I found out she had placed me next to Fabrizio.

 And although we seemed like opposites -- the artist and the executive, one talking about meditation and the other concerned with business --, something lit inside us both the moment we realized we would be sitting side by side on the plane. I believed more in enchantment than in mere coincidences, and even to Fabrizio it seemed quite remarkable that we had been brought together again.

'I'm glad I've apologized to you...' -- he laughed -- 'Otherwise, it would have been so embarrassing to have you sitting by my side...'

We still waited a long time inside the aircraft, but at least we were comfortable and being served. And while waiting in a long queue for the airplane to take off, we talked about art, about cinema, travel, music... He had watched "Malpertuis", a cult movie for the chosen few, and he had read "Tales of Love", the touching, memorable book by Nobel Prize winner Sch. I. Agnon from which I had never met another reader... He loved the Île de Porquerolles, the only place I had actually been happy during my teenage years in France... And as we went on exchanging impressions, we kept finding common interests with an astonishing ease... 

I was very impressed. And thrilled. It was as if another person -- not just another person, but that elegant, educated, travelled, gorgeous man --, following another route, had been taking steps that were quite similar and synchronized with mine, until our paths had finally met.

The thought of love at first sight must have crossed my mind at some moment.

 I don't remember being sleepy, but at some point during our conversation I feel asleep. I sure was tired, too tired even from the life I had been leading, and Vice City always made me feel exhausted. 

The feeling of defeat and betrayal with Angelo's departure had left me sad and depressed for a long time -- I hadn't seen him since 1998, but it still would hurt when I recalled him. My rather ambitious exhibition I owed solely to Dan Charmand's consistent support and tyrannical, unstoppable demand. 'Boy, I want to see new paintings!' -- Dan would often phone me to check on my production -- 'Show me the way to the next pretty boy... For if I don't find the next pretty boy... I tell you, I tell you... You must die!' He would sing a parody of Brecht's song, and even if I couldn't care less for whisky, the "Alabama Song" actually got me in the mood for painting and having sex -- and with each painting and new lover, I had buried Angelo a little deeper. Not entirely, not yet, not quite, more than 10 years later.

But after that productive period, and Charmand's unreasonable charges, which kept coming also from the public and different art dealers around the world, and finally yet another romantic failure -- my superficial relationship with Gabriel --, I found myself exhausted.

It was more like surrendering, when I closed my eyes and leaned toward Fabrizio's shoulder.

He was moved by my sleep, and the way I had abandoned myself in his presence. 

"We only sleep in the presence of someone we trust," he believed. But there are sleepers who seem to rely on the world... Anyway, my almost childlike sleep gave Fabrizio a chance to observe me. Later he would say it was like seeing me naked more than if he had actually seen me undressed. "Your sleep is as innocent as a child's, Laurent, and your expression so peaceful... You smile in your sleep, so beautifully ... And I felt like a consummated voyeur. It seemed like I knew your secrets and saw your soul behind that pretentious veneer of the cosmopolitan artist." I even drooled on his shoulder, leaving a small wet mark on his expensive Italian suit.

He later said he started to fall for me during my sleep, and that it was the little mark my drool left on his suit that first inspired his love.

Fortunately, I woke up when the flight attendant came with the meal. 

I was embarrassed to have drooled on his shoulder, but not only for that. Actually, I was already feeling a little inferior to him because I hadn't the money to buy a painting by Richter, and I had dressed as informally as possible to catch a plane, and not to actually meet l'homme de ma vie, who in turn was impeccably dressed for his important meeting. 

I sat next to him at first class only by that attendant's sympathy. And although we hadn't exchanged such details, I had already realized that Fabrizio was some good years younger than me, and the recent defeat of losing Gabriel to a guy not only more famous but also younger still bothered me. And so I talked, on and on, hoping Fabrizio would pay attention to my discourse and not to my travel weary clothes, my glasses, my wrinkles, my gray hair.

And that's why Fabrizio had really enjoyed my sleep, when I finally shut up and surrendered, because the rest of the time, throughout the flight, I had tried too hard to seem interesting. 

And by that time I did not know if he liked men or not. But he did realize and appreciated my efforts to conquer him, and finally we agreed to meet at our final destination. After business, pleasure would follow in Samsara Heights, I thought! We had even discovered a mutual acquaintance -- Andrea, the Italian restauranteur who was openly gay, and that fact filled me with hope about Fabrizio being gay, too .

Unfortunately, he would not phone me during his stay in Samsara Heights. 

When I had finally decided to call his hotel the next day, since I knew it would be his only full day in town, he simply told me that he had arranged an earlier flight and wouldn't have the time to meet me. 

He was dry, almost harsh at me, and I decided not to insist.

Even if I had already bought a copy of Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life to give him. 

Someday I shall have the opportunity to give it to someone else, I thought, and I put it in a drawer and no longer thought of Fabrizio, nor of my fantasy of having fallen in love at first sight with that guy.

I didn't think about Fabrizio any longer. I mean, not everyday. At least, not that much. But one day when I saw an article about Richter on the internet, I felt like talking to him. And then I decided to watch Malpertuis again, that film for the few that he had also watched. And I reread Agnon, his Tales of Love:

Iael stroked his head and asked:
-- What are you?


Hemdat threw back his head and answered:
-- I? I am a sleeping prince, whose love woke him to a new sleep. I am a beggar of love, my backpack torn, and who drops love into it.

Reading Agnon, I thought Fabrizio was the prince and I -- I was the beggar. 

And I suddenly felt a strange nostalgia for the things that I had not lived with him nor by his side, but that still we had both lived.

Some time later, I rediscovered Shantideva's book in the drawer -- on the very day I learned Andrea had a new restaurant in town, and he hadn't invited me to the opening. 

Andrea was an affair of mine that had lasted no more than two weeks, and unfortunately he had decided to be my declared enemy by the end of it. Suddenly I realized that maybe he had said something venomous about me to Fabrizio.

'You know, he will be in a porno!' -- that was the first thing Andrea said about me to the two people who were with him, his new boyfriend and a woman, when I found him on the second floor of the new restaurant.

' Wow,  is he?!' -- Andrea's young boyfriend exclaimed excitedly.

'Yes he will, dear, but do not get carried away...' -- Andrea was feeling envious from his own bad joke --  'He has a fairly big dick, but yours is even bigger, haha!' -- Andrea intended to humiliate me, to make me feel unwelcome at his restaurant. Just as I had expected, and I didn't feel threatened -- 'What do I owe the displeasure of your presence?' -- he spoke calmly, enjoying all the irony he could fit into each sentence.

'The new restaurant is beautiful, Andrea. Congratulations!' -- I was sincere, and polite. But I had already regretted coming.

'Oh, it is doing very well, too... Without customers like you!' -- Andrea had fallen in love with me, and though I had told him I did not want to start a romantic relationship with him, nor with any guy, he felt like I had dumped him when I did not call him after a two weeks liaison, much longer than anything else I had had during that period of my life, when I was having one night stands only. And since I didn't want to encourage him, I did not want to see him at all, not even to be friends, nor fuck friends -- and when he learned I had been with other guys already, he decided to become my enemy. And he fought me as if I were some public plague he had to stop in the name of mankind.

'I think we have a mutual friend... Fabrizio...' -- I did not want to fight Andrea back, since I had a very strong purpose in coming to his restaurant where I knew I'd be antagonized -- 'It was he who told me of your new restaurant...' --  I lied.

'I think he will not be your friend anymore, darling!' -- Andrea said emphatically --' He's already been warned about the kind of person you are.'

Unfortunately, I laughed at the restauranteur's statement, which seemed to irritate him even more.

'Fabrizio is an angel!' -- and Andrea's use of the term "angel" gave me goose bumps since it reminded me of Gabriel... and Angelo -- 'He is a god living on the Olympus, well away from the gutter where you crawl... In that porn... will you be top or bottom, honey? They say bottoms get better paid...'

The funny thing is that each worse fact that Andrea invented and threw at me seemed to increase his young boyfriend's interest on me. But the youngster was not my type, and I hardly looked in his direction, so that soon he was antagonizing me as well. It also seemed to increase the interest of the woman by Andrea's side, who remained silently staring at me.

'It will be an orgy scene, Andrea!' -- I retorted. It was rather annoying to have such a dedicated enemy in Samsara Heights, when we were seeing the same people and had many acquaintances in common -- 'I'll do a flip flop with another three or four actors, I think..'. -- I laughed relaxedly.

'Charming! I foresee a double penetration!' -- the restauranteur teased further. He was not easily losing any battle -- 'Is it your biography that they are filming?'

'Yes, indeed, Andrea!' -- I had kept my sense of humour, which seemed to aggravate the restauranteur the most -- 'But the chapter in which you appear will not be filmed. It was too boring. In fact, it hasn't even been written. Ciao, Andrea.'

Already going down the stairs, I still heard him swearing, not too loud as not to shock his customers. And I also heard when the girl asked:

'Is he really a porn actor, Andy?'

'He is. And an escort, too, the cheapest in town.' -- Andrea added, disdainfully.

 Descending those stairs, I realized the sad truth -- deep within, I was happily confirming to have hurt Andrea. 

I could tell myself that I had unintentionally hurt him years ago when I refused to have a love affair with him -- but it hadn't been only with him. Since when Angelo had left me, I had had mostly one night stands. And when a guy showed any romantic interest in me, like Andrea had, I was sure to dump him, mercilessly. I was keenly cultivating my heartbreaker reputation -- just because, in fact, being heartbroken, I felt I had to pass on my own suffering as a way of alleviating it. So middle class, so cliché, so unwise of me.

I would have behaved exactly like Andrea if I had met Angelo. It was rather sad that I still was so hurt after all those years... Gabriel had again and recently stirred that suffering in me, and that evening, Andrea had brought up the bitch I could be at my worst, inflicting suffering on other men just because I had myself suffered. 

What saddened me most was the fact that, no matter how much meditation I practiced, my suffering was still there, still strong and ready to arise and take over.

'Hallo!' -- I heard someone calling when I reached the ground floor, and it was the silent girl who had descended the stairs behind me.

'Hello?' -- I replied, with curiousity -- 'And before you say anything... no, I don't do porn.'

'Schade... What a pity!' -- she laughed at her own comment, and I could identify her Nordic accent -- 'I would watch a porn movie with you...'

'I'm desolate, but it would have been gay porn...'

'Selbstverständlich... And they are the best!' -- she laughed louder -- 'Why would I want to see naked women?' -- she was then serious -- 'I know who you are. I'm a friend of Fabrizio. He told me about you.'

 'Did he?!' -- I exclaimed, pleased.

'He asked about you... But Andrea delivered your skull to Fab...'

'Glad to hear that! Anyway, it doesn't matter! I just wanted to give him a book...' -- it wasn't a lie I was telling her, but certainly not the whole truth.

'And that's it?' -- she grimaced -- 'I thought you were the Big Bad Wolf wanting to know Little Red Riding Hood's address...'

'And do you know that address?' -- I really liked the way she talked, jokingly, and I got into her playful mood.

'Not exactly, aber...' -- the woman knew the name of the company that Fabrizio had founded, but by that time I feared it was the one that had been sold. But she also knew the building where he lived in Vice City, at the penthouse. It was enough for me.

'Thanks for the information... But I don't know your name...' -- I was curious about her relationship with Fabrizio and Andrea.

'Kein Problem. I don't know yours either, Mr. Porn Actor. And we do not need to know, do we?' -- she laughed, wincing -- 'When you give him the book, send my kiss to Andara...'

'It'll be a weird thing to do not knowing your name... But who is Andara?' -- Did Fabrizio had a dog, I guessed?

'Lieber Got! Don't you know who Andara is? I think I have mistaken you for someone else...' -- she looked at me incredulously -- 'Andara is his fiancée...' -- she noticed my astonishment, and how I skipped one breath -- 'Where did you two meet, again? Aren't you his roommate from...'

'Sorry, but I have to go now. It was nothing, really. It's just a book I intend to send him. I can post it. I thank you.' -- astonished, I pulled away from the girl and left Andrea's restaurant, determined to forget Fabrizio.

Bastard indeed, that's what the Fabrizio guy was! And how I had fooled myself!

Once, the news of a hetero wanting to have a night of sex with me would have excited me enough to start hunting him, but after having had many experiences, it simply depressed and bored me. Or was it that such a smart and well educated guy would rather have a steady lover with whom to betray his fiancée, and it wouldn't be just a one night stand with Fabrizio? 

Anyway, I was not applying for the position.

I had promised myself that I would not honor my grandmother Celeste's melancholic legacy. Too many married men had already come into my life -- and after having had sex with them, I had thrown them out of my bed. They were actually the problem why I could not publicly assume that all the models I portraited had been my ex-lovers. I had their public consent to portrait them, but not to tell the story behind the portrait.

 I wouldn't become the lover of a married man. I had vowed it to myself, more than once.

I was not going for yet another ride on the roller coaster of love.

Goodbye, Fabrizio. I'd rather have not met another prick like you -- I thought, as I left Andrea's restaurant in Samsara Heights that evening.

'Babe, let's go back inside...' -- the Icelandic full moon was now hidden behind a dense fog -- 'It's getting very cold and you're barefoot out here.'

'I do not get cold so easy.' -- Fabrizio replied, nonchalant.

But even so I towed him into the house, hugging him to warm myself, since I was the one who wasn't warm enough.

Now that I think, I have never learned who that German speaking woman was.

'A German woman? I don't recall any of the girls in our circle of friends being German...' -- Fabrizio was also intrigued, when I revealed him how I had gotten his address -- 'Maybe she was someone who disliked Andara, if you say she was ironic when she sent her a kiss... But why would someone want to separate me from Andara?'

Maybe she wanted to reunite us instead, I had to think.

Fabrizio froze and his heart skipped one beat when I told him she had apparently mistaken me for a roommate of his.

'It's impossible!' -- he was deeply shocked -- 'No one knows about that story! At least, no one should know!'

During college, Fabrizio had had his first sexual experience with a man -- conveniently enough, with his roommate, an older guy from Austria who was through his second university graduation. Their families were acquainted, they had seen each other in a few social events, but had never spoken until they were made roommates. Their liaison had begun one night when they were drunk, it had continued for another couple of weeks out of sheer horniness and their renewed curiosity -- and they had been lovers for almost two years.

None of them had had a previous homosexual experience, and they did not think of themselves as gay. They even did it with girls every once in a while, to prove each other and themselves that they were not gay. But when things got too serious, according to Fabrizio, and they could not assume they had feelings for one another, they had decided to get steady girlfriends. It was no more than a cope out to remain having sex together, at least thinking of themselves as bisexuals, and have a social alibi for their secret relationship, that they could not let go.

That's when Andara, an old childhood friendship of Fabrizio's, had reappeared in his life, and they had begun dating. Fabrizio didn't think he was cheating Andara, since his original relationship was with Helmut, his roommate. And of course the guy was aware of Fabrizio's new girlfriend, just like Fabrizio was aware of Helmut's. They thought this way there was no betrayal -- Fabrizio and Helmut had thus each had two partners for over a year, but they had always remained faithful to them -- themselves and their girlfriends. If they ever did it with another guy, that would have been betrayal -- they had agreed on those terms like the good gentlemen they were. 

And when Helmut had gotten involved with politics, and he wanted to quit their relationship, they again calmly agreed on it, and decided changing rooms was enough to part. They were both terrified that public cameras could catch them, so their room was the only place they had ever had sex. They fucked one last time and then shook hands and parted, civilizedly enough.

And especially for Helmut, who had gotten married and elected a few years later, that story had to remain a secret.

'How can she possibly know? And who can she be?' -- Fabrizio was so distraught.

'It's not certain that she knows anything...' -- I said, trying to calm him --'She has just mistaken me with an older guy who could have been your ex-roommate... Searching for you...You have lost contact ever since, haven't you?'

'Helmut knows me! He knows my family, not just my ass!' -- I still had to get used to Fabrizio being either aggressive or ironic when he was stressed out -- 'My father and his uncle have a joint venture. He can find me any time he wants. No, there is something positively dangerous and wrong in this...'

Andrea would have told Fabrizio who that woman at his restaurant was, but the restauranteur had been mad at Fabrizio when he had learned about him and me. Like most of Fabrizio's friends, Andrea had turned his back on him, ending their friendship -- they were all for Andara, poor Andara. And Fabrizio had never had a chance to ask the restauranteur.

That story had haunted me, too, though differently than it had haunted Fabrizio.

I had to realize how he had had Klaus and Andara in parallel for almost a year. To Fabrizio it was very clear that it were different things, the public and the secret, the romantic and the sexual, the physical and the emotional -- but all those distinctions were purely mental, Fabrizio's rationality coming to his aid to disguise his actual confusion and misbehaviour. For in fact, he was going to bed with both, though not the same bed, and he was kissing and loving them both, though not with the same intensity, equally enjoying their companies, though not as openly... But he insisted it was different, and he tried to keep the feelings out of his relationship with Klaus.

But what if those feelings actually emerged, after all those years? 

What if it was some kind of relay race between them? There had been two people holding the same baton -- Fabrizio's baton -- and running... That idea was kind of funny, but the thought that I would have to share Fabrizio with someone else was actually terrifying.

Celeste's legacy was like a curse on me.

I wish I could just forget about his past, and my own, and that he would forget about my past, and his own past, and that we could finally live our love story.

Yes, I know.

 I have this tendency for a magical thinking. And I do enjoy coincidences and synchronicities, interpreting them under karmic laws and a fate based creed. And seeing symbols and signs everywhere, in people, places, events.

I still recall that attendant at the airport who gave me an upgrade and put me sitting next to Fabrizio, thus allowing us to find so many things in common -- actually, to fall in love at first sight. 

And the German speaking woman, who gave me his address, I also am grateful to her, and I tend to think of both women as our angels and anonymous madriñas, who helped uniting us, despite all the difficulties we would still have to face.

while you are away
my heart comes undone


so when you come back
we'll have to make new love