The next morning I talked on the phone with Paoletto. He had already spoken to his grandmother. He told me Grandma Luigia was unhappy and worried.
"She came into my room to wake me up, but instead of opening the window and giving me a kiss, then leaving as she always has done for as long as I can remember. Today she came in and sat on the bed looking at me and bursting into tears. What do you think about that? Grandma Luigia crying? I hugged her. I wanted to console her. I tried to apologize for not telling her before about how I am."
He seemed to consider that reality, before deciding to add, "About our homosexuality, I mean."
I heard him affirm it with such a sense of dignity that for the first time the word that had terrified me, meant for me exactly what it was, a characteristic of his and our reality in the complexity of our life, nothing more.
"I implored her forgiveness, but she kept crying. Then I asked her if she would have preferred I had taken drugs, and she cried even more..." Paoletto paused, thinking that he had upset me talking about taking drugs. "I'm sorry I shouldn't have spoken like that...what I said about the drugs!"
"It's something I did. I can't change the past, Paoletto. You can talk however you like about it, I'm more worried about your grandmother!"
"No, wait! Listen to what happened next. It made me angry to see her like that. I wanted her to stop crying. So, I kissed her on the cheek and caressed her. I cuddled her a little bit, exactly like when I was small. I wanted her to know she would always be the most important person in the world to me. Apart from you, of course. But I didn't say that to her."
"Good for you…"
"And finally, she hugged me and smiled a little bit. 'Grandma' I told her 'I'm happy. I'm happy!' She looked at me but was still not convinced. She kept shaking her head. Then I told her, 'If I had had to keep that secret on my own, I would have gone crazy, but he came back to me. That's why I had the courage to tell you, Grandma, we both did. Now he's with me! I'm not alone anymore!' Still I saw she didn't understand. 'Grandma, please. To be the way I am, for me, is not something demeaning. My only regret is not to have spoken about it sooner with you and Uncle Giulio, but I could not, I wasn't able to. It was Roby who gave me the strength. So now here I am, this is me! In the same way I could have had black hair, but I don't, I'm blond. And Roby likes it that way! And I am happy because he loves me. Do you want to know how much he loves me?' I told her everything, but really everything. At long last, we cried a little bit together. She cried for me and I cried for you, my love."
"No, listen… explaining how much you love me, telling her was useful, and she understood. Now she will always be on our side. She is a tough character, my grandmother and she will be a formidable ally. I told her last night that we got engaged."
At that point I started to worry.
"You told her that too?"
He reassured me. "Don't be afraid. Grandma Luigia will never let us down. Do you know what she did? When I told her, just like that, 'Grandma, now we are engaged!' She smiled and replied, 'You have chosen him well, your grandfather would never have allowed it. Our grandson engaged to a wealthy man. I don't like that either, that he's wealthy!' My grandmother is a communist, you know that don't you?"
I knew the story well, during World War II Grandma Luigia was a Partisan and had been in the Resistance (1). Her husband, Paoletto's grandfather, was taken prisoner and deported to Germany. He came back only a year after the end of the war, when everybody thought he was dead. In the meantime, Grandma Luigia had decided to come and live here, because there were some cousins of hers and she knew English well and became an interpreter for the Americans. Everybody believed she was a widow and Paoletto's father an orphan of war. Then Grandpa came back, looking for her. They settled here. At that point Uncle Giulio was born.
"Hey...everyone in my family are communists," said Paoletto. "I think I am one too, but you are wealthy, how are we going to work that out?" (2)
"I don't know! You tell me?"
"We will have to talk about it, because I love you anyway!"
"There won't be much to discuss. I could join the communists myself. It's up to you, whatever you want, I don't mind either way!"
"We agree on that as well, so."
And a few months later it happened, just like that, we both became communists.
"What were you thinking about last night?"
"About you," I replied, "all the time, non-stop!"
"I don't believe you."
He ended the call, leaving me holding the phone and thinking about how much I loved him.
And then, there he was, in front of my house waiting for me. As he always had. He was looking impatient, because unusually for me, I showed up late.
When he saw the gate of the villa open, he ran towards the car and jumped in. Smiling as always, as happy to see me as I was.
Sitting in the car next to each other was a harder test than my actual driving exam which I had passed only a few months ago (3). He was like a magnet for my eyes, looking at the road ahead was not at all important compared to the vision of my lover at my side.
There were three cars that had been sitting unused in the garage at home. My father stopped driving when he became ill and my mother no longer went out after his death. I took my father's favorite red Fiat 500 (4). I asked my mother's permission, which she gave, without paying too much attention. She was simply happy to see me going out with Paoletto and getting back to a normal life.
Whilst I was backing the car out of the garage I saw my mother watching. I stuck my hand out in greeting, but she moved away. It was then, I realized I had used exactly the same gesture as my father used to. I was growing up to be more and more like him. I hurried back into the house to find her and we held each other. She rested her head on my shoulder and for the first time I spoke to her as an adult, the 'almost' head of the family.
"Mum, father is gone and will never come back, we are alive. I need you to be here for me, that's what I'm asking you, imploring you. Will you promise me you will make an effort and you will not leave me alone?"
She nodded, not absolutely convinced, however.
"Last night Paoletto and I spoke and decided to go back to being friends as before. And I'm so thrilled about that, Mom. I think I will stay here and study. I'm going to medical school. What do you think?"
She didn't answer, but she hugged me harder. I understood she was happy to hear I would stay with her for a few more years and that I had decided to become a doctor.
"And I want you to go back to teaching," I added.
She withdrew, frowning. She had resigned a year earlier, because of my father's illness. Now, she had to decide within a few days whether to come back for the beginning of the new academic year, or postpone again, or quit altogether, as I feared she wanted to do.
"Go back to the University. Do it for me."
"I'll think about it, Roby. I'm delighted you decided to stay. I'm equally content for Paoletto. He has always been, and still is, a very good boy."
"Mum, him and me..."
I was going to say something but stopped. I couldn't tell her about us. Not yet. Then she placed her hand over my mouth and in her language, she who was not Italian, nor had ever tried to be Italian, murmured to me an adagio from her country that sounded more or less like this.
"Even if her son is silent, the mother understands him!".
She understood me. So, she also knew and was happy with that.
"Will you go back to teaching?" I insisted.
"Yes, but not immediately."
"I am going, mum. I think Paoletto is waiting for me."
"It used always to be you, the punctual one. If memory serves me right, he was ever the latecomer."
She was right, and I found Paoletto waiting impatiently outside the gate, uncertain whether to ring and announce himself. I suspected he was also a little anxious, wondering if I hadn't changed my mind about the two of us.
I navigated carefully out of the city, having never taken that route before and not wanting to get lost, since I had a special destination planned for our first trip together. There was also Paoletto next to me, his presence distracting me.
"Tell me, what were you thinking about last night, instead of sleeping?"
I was aware he was staring at me, but I couldn't take my eyes off the road. I had to concentrate to change gears and at the right moment. I had to really pay attention, being new to driving a car, even if it was a small one. After leaving the city, the road had become very narrow and the hairpin bends had started right away. Thinking that I could be facing a bus, or a truck, made me shudder.
I knew that with that particular car, changing down from third to second gear you had to touch the accelerator to make the engine rev whilst still in neutral, before engaging the lower gear. Otherwise the gearbox would grind the gears. I had to do this at every hairpin bend, because if I slowed down too much I had to put it into first to pull away up hill, around the bend, then return to second, third and then immediately reduce the speed.
He kept staring over at me, waiting impatiently for me to tell him about my night.
"Have you ever driven a car?" I asked instead of answering his question.
"It's a nightmare! And this car is really a piece of junk. Next time we'll take the bigger one."
"When I am eighteen years old, you can teach me how to drive, it will save money on a driving school."
"Agreed, but what will I get in return?"
"My gratitude! And that of Grandma Luigia. It would be a godsend, she is waiting for someone to take her around in the car. Uncle Giulio is always busy, so I have to do the errands, because she has swollen legs."
"Well, for the next two and a half years, we could make an agreement. I'll be her chauffeur if you make a commitment in return."
"Commit to what?"
"You commit yourself to love me. Will you?"
"I don't know! That depends on you."
And he looked out, watching the panorama which was becoming spectacular as we climbed up the mountain.
"So what? What were you thinking about all night long? Are you going to tell me?"
He kept looking out the window and used his serious voice, the one he adopted when he definitely wanted something.
I decided I had to tell him if I didn't want to keep secrets from him anymore.
"First, I felt very sad at the idea that we had all suffered because of a misunderstanding. Then I chased that feeling away, because I realized I was so happy I was crazy with how beautiful my life had become."
"Do you really think so? But was that the only thing you were thinking about all night?"
"No, you fool, I thought about something else too. For example, about you and what you told me about being patient, because you want me to understand and be aware of what we are going to do together."
I felt he was getting alarmed. "No, don't be afraid, I only thought about it, because it is a proof of your purity, of your candor. And at that point I wondered when I had lost my innocence."
He had been looking at me but returned to looking outside. He was concentrating, brooding over some thought I had provoked in him.
We reached the Observatory and from there we climbed in silence along an even more impervious road to a vast square with the most extraordinary panorama imaginable. The night before, the mistral wind had risen and washed the sky, making it brilliant blue and clearing the view for an extraordinary distance. Below us, scattered on the side of the Mountain were a myriad of houses and palaces that gathered together to form villages and little towns. Further down you could see the gulf and the city that surrounded it. Even further away there were islands in the sea that blended with the sky making a distant border. It was a day when the air was exceptionally fresh and clear, and the view stretched as far as the eye could see to the line of the horizon.
We left the car and went to the parapet of the belvedere. Paoletto came close to me. I would have liked to hug him, but, and it was the first of thousands of times in those twenty years, I held back. There were other people, and someone could have noticed our too intimate attitude.
"I don't think you have lost your innocence," he said, in such a low voice that I could barely hear him. "I know because it cost you too much to maintain it. You attempted nothing but to continue being chaste and your way of being chaste was to stay away from me. And you succeeded. I think that was the best proof that you never lost your innocence. Whatever you have done to try and ruin it."
This boy was absolving me of many sins. Perhaps he did not imagine it. But had they really been sins? Those, however, remain my doubts and should not have interested him.
"You are exceptional sometimes!" I told him, half joking, because the emotion was sticking in my throat and I was afraid of bursting into tears.
"Thanks for the 'sometimes,'" he pretended to be offended, then he changed his tone and became serious. "You know, I always try to be exceptional. When I'm with you, I do it for you!"
He turned to look at the view and I saw he was staring at a distant point.
"See there?" he pointed to somewhere undefined in the middle of the city. "There is the Conservatory. I decided to study the piano seriously," he said after a while.
"You had stopped?" I was surprised. I didn't know anything about it.
"Yes, for a little while, but then I started once more and now I'm absolutely skilled!"
He wasn't being presumptuous, but self-confident, I knew that. He played the piano really well as I remembered.
He turned to look me straight in the eye.
"Why did you stop playing the piano?" I asked foolishly.
"You ask me that?" He replied, then he looked away, but he had also distanced himself from me. Something had cooled down between us.
"Excuse me...excuse me, I'm ashamed. Forgive me, Paoletto!"
That's all I said, but I felt myself dying. I had been aware of my own suffering and bitterness, but I had never thought about that of anyone else, or of Paoletto in particular. That same night I had done nothing but regret that I had wasted time, that I had suffered needlessly, but the idea had not struck me about how much I had hurt him.
I observed him drumming something on the parapet, as if he had a keyboard in front of him. His hands were moving with confidence, and his gestures were harmonious. Focusing on those movements, I could imagine myself listening to a piano playing. I looked at him, questioning him with my eyes, about what he was performing. He stared at me frowning.
"That's not Mozart," he said, "I'll never play him again!"
And he glanced away, once again staring at something far away that I couldn't see.
I felt an acute sense of exclusion, of deprivation, seeing he did not share his sadness with me. At that moment it seemed to me that he had become melancholy.
"Anyway… it was Chopin!" he said, without looking at me.
"Shall we climb to the crater?" he said instead, shaking himself and miraculously pushing away the sadness. I loved him so much.
We had already been to the crater with the Scouts, but now we would see it alone. It is a rugged and enchanting view.
We climbed along the path covered with blackened stones, dug into the lava heaps. Of course, there is no vegetation. In spite of this, one has the impression that life flows under those stones, because when you step on them, sulphurous clouds are released. Because of the beating sun and the considerable heat there, despite the wind, no one other than us had ventured up there. Before long we were completely alone.
The sunlight was violent and dazzling. We were both perspiring, our foreheads beaded with sweat, our shirts soaked. Making a screen with one hand I looked up and stared at the edge of the huge mouth of the crater.
"Forgive me," I said, to the Volcano and Paoletto.
I said it, because the Volcano hadn't erupted for many years and I didn't want it to do so at that moment, to punish me for my ineptitude. I had finally realized my egocentricity, the indifference with which I had treated him until a short time ago. And I said I loved him!
"Forgive me?" I insisted.
"Everything. All that you already know, what you imagine, what you don't yet know. All the things of which I am ashamed. For having abandoned you, caring only about myself and what I wanted to do..."
I had begun gesticulating, moving too much on the narrow path. He grabbed me, as I was about to lose my balance. I would inevitably have fallen, peeling my elbows and knees on those sharp stones. It was he who embraced me, drawing me to himself.
We ended under a spur of rock, a sudden dry, violent shadow spread across the sun and protected us. Paoletto pushed me back to shelter us from the scorching gaze of the sun. He kissed me fiercely.
Sheltered from the light we looked at each other and kissed again. This time my lips were apart. I touched his with the tip of my tongue. I tried probing gently. I moved away a bit to look at him and kissed him again. His lips were open too, and our tongues touched each other. We chased each other in a game that he soon learned. Something I was rediscovering after a long time and finally out of true love. His lips opened wide and I could taste his saliva as he could taste mine. He didn't hesitate anymore and suddenly became greedy for my mouth which he explored with a hunger that surprised me. When he was satiated, or out of breath, he paused to rest.
"I kissed you because I don't want you to say what you just said to me anymore. And I don't want you to think it anymore. You will see the past will not return, and we will never suffer again."
In that moment I felt gratified for what life was offering me and above all I was convinced that Paoletto's words were true. They were the most genuine and absolute truth of the universe. We would never suffer again because we would confront life together. But he was mistaken and believing him I was committing an even bigger and more terrible error.
He came back embracing me, and I felt his body adhere to mine. His hands ran over my shoulders, seeking my skin under my shirt, still wet and cooler. We were sweaty and in the shadow of that rock, it was almost cold. I squeezed him and together we realized we were excited. I felt him stiffen. I caressed him and my embrace became more delicate. I lay my head on his shoulder and brushed my hand through his hair. He had moved imperceptibly away from me. We were always in contact, but no longer like before.
"We have time, Paoletto, we have our whole life, don't worry!" I kept stroking him, until I felt him relax.
He came back, kissing me greedily again. He was so beautiful, and I felt like I would go crazy at that particular moment for how happy I felt. Maybe, he read my thoughts.
"I love you too," he said, "and I am so happy that if I died now, I wouldn't care. Kiss me..." then, as if in a whisper, he asked, "will you touch me?"
I did as he wanted. First, I stroked his shoulders, then my hands came down and stroked his butt. We did not stop kissing. He pulled his lips away from me to look at me, then he rested his head on my shoulder.
"I'm about to..." he whispered to me, trembling, certainly blushing.
He broke away from me but did not leave my arms. I heard him breathe more slowly trying to soothe himself. I caressed him again, but out of caution, we dissolved our embrace. We had to regain our breath together. I snuggled up to sit on the ground and leant against the rock that was sheltering us from the sun. I pulled him towards me, until he sat between my legs. I hugged him from behind, squeezed him, caressed him. I kissed his neck, the back of his neck, I made him smile and laugh from tickling. He bent his head back, and we kissed again. It was a bit uncomfortable, but we stayed like that.
From where we were, we could practically see the bottom of the crater. We stayed there, contemplating that mysterious cavity. Then I felt numbed and we had to move.
"I'm sorry about before..." he said to me, as he stood up.
"Why is that?"
He came back kissing me some more.
"It would have been a mess and my grandmother would have noticed..."
"I understand." I pretended to think about it. "If you want, we will find a solution."
"Oh yes, I do."
"I want to manage everything that..." and he stopped seeking the words, and this time he didn't blush, "I want you and I to make love. I don't know how! But I want to do it!"
"Swear it! Say it to me!"
"Sure! I swear to you. I want to make love with you!" He shouted, so loudly that laughing I turned to reassure myself nobody was listening, but we were absolutely alone.
He wanted to make love with me, and he didn't know how? I blushed, thinking back on his words. And I did it so violently that it was evident with all that light and on my tanned skin. I trembled with emotion. I took his hand and brought it to my lips. I let him caress me and while his hand was over my eyes, I spoke to him.
"I did it," I said.
"I can imagine it and I don't care. I am not jealous. Not of what you did while you were away from me."
He caressed me with such sweetness that I calmed down, I thought maybe I should ask him to forgive me again. I closed my eyes and placed my head on his shoulder.
"The first time was with an American boy," I confided, "but it was with you that I imagined doing it. When I told him about it, he was happy that I had confided in him, that I trusted him enough to confess that I was in love."
"Did you really tell him about me?"
"So, it is as if you had done it with me."
"Only you can't recall it!"
"Yes," he laughed, "and I can't tell you how sorry I am!"
I smiled too, then we looked at each other and immediately became serious. I still had something to confess to him.
"Paoletto, I even did it for money. With the money I procured drugs and once I bought heroin for myself and for someone else. That was the last time I did drugs, because the very next day my father told me he had cancer."
He thought about it for a moment, assimilated what I had just told him. I understood it must have been difficult for him.
"I didn't know that."
"I don't care anyway" he said, then he looked at me, resolutely, "I love you, Roby, there can be nothing you have done that frightens me, that would make me change my mind. Do you understand that? Was it what you were afraid to tell me?"
"Yes..." It wasn't everything yet, but I was still afraid to confess the rest.
I pulled him to me, and he held me. I was very excited, really horny, but not desperate. I had waited so long and now Paoletto was in my arms, moved by the same desire that moved me. We shifted so our bodies touched, our hands looking for the warmth of exposed skin. We were back to where we were before.
"And if it gets messy?" he murmured.
"Do you want to see how to take care of that?"
"But you won't protest..."
"No, I won't!"
I lifted his shirt up under his armpits and then I started to lower his shorts and briefs.
"But close your eyes!" he said.
He was obstinate, I knew it. He would only let me do it if I closed my eyes, so I did. I closed my eyes, and he let me. When I was about to undress myself, he stopped me, pulled my hands away and did it himself.
"What if someone comes by?" he asked, a moment later.
"No one will pass by. And in any case, it would be too late."
I felt his cock standing up straight, crushed against my belly. I moved my own, next to his, between our bellies, and we moved simultaneously, with caution. The embrace became immediately more intense, and I felt every contraction of his orgasm against my body. I instantly followed him, and my seed merged with his, messing us both. We continued to kiss and held each other. At that moment I felt fulfillment, but at the same time the desire to rub each other again.
In the embrace I felt the desire had not run out for him either. It was a new lasciviousness, a languor born from the fantasies we had both made up for years. Our desires suppressed for so long. And from the seed that had just bathed us, and then the hot, dry air that was blowing around us. That liquid noise, that smacking, we made as we moved, was beyond the wind the only noise we could hear up there, in that absent muffled world.
Our kisses continued.
From a kind of mutual unspoken commitment, both of us had our eyes closed and listened only to the beat of our hearts. Lulled by the warm wind that caressed our skin, our nakedness.
"Do not open your eyes. I beg you!"
"Don't open them. I am ashamed."
"But I know you are beautiful. I want to see you." I said, still committed to my promise to keep my eyes closed.
"Not now, but I promise you will see me. Unless you tire of me."
"That would be impossible. It will never happen..."
"Keep them closed for now," he insisted, delightfully stubborn as he was.
"Definitely," I said, squeezing my eyes tight shut with a grimace that was supposed to be laughable.
Maybe even to convince me to keep my eyes closed, he kissed me again and moved against me. We were excited again and soon we would enjoy it. When he came, his orgasm surprised me. It was violent, convulsive. If I had not been well planted on my legs, we would have fallen. He ended up tired, leaning on my shoulder and struggling to breathe through his mouth, taking in the air with desperation.
We were always hugging each other, and I kept my eyes closed to keep the promise I had made. I waited for him to calm down, then I began my own movement. I quickly reached the explosive height he had and together we descended, returning to earth. On those sharp-edged stones that were the natural floor of the crater. He took a handkerchief from my pocket while we were still hugging, wiped himself clean, then he untangled himself from our embrace and arranged his clothes.
"Did you keep your eyes closed?"
"Yes. I promised you."
It was true, I hadn't opened them yet.
"Thank you. You can open them now."
He had turned to stare at the bottom of the volcano, so that I too could clean and cover myself. I didn't understand if he was ashamed to look at me, or if he had turned away from a sense of justice. He did not want me to look at him and perhaps it did not seem right to him to spy on my nakedness. When I was decent again, I reached up to him and put my arm on his shoulders.
He turned to smile at me. "Do you know I am happy? Now everything has really changed."
"What do you mean?"
"That I am fine with you. You know that I love you, and I know that you love me. And all of this is beautiful. I don't need anything else. My life is with you! Roby, you are my life!"
If he thought that about me, what else could I have done or thought? I kissed him on the neck. I moistened his skin with my lips. The wind dried it immediately. I heard him sigh with contentment. With his eyes he implored me to stop. He was tired and so was I. But that place, that moment, the two of us, its beauty, everything was a combination of elements that would make me give up all modesty. I remember that day, those hours, like a long uninterrupted excitement. I wanted to embrace him again, but I held myself back. It was he who grasped me, to seek protection in my embrace. And I protected him. I swore to always defend him, even from myself.
"Will you tell me about yourself?" I asked.
"There isn't much to tell."
"I want to know anyway. I'm jealous, too."
"Do you want to know a secret?"
"I smoked a joint once. To try it!"
I felt myself freeze.
"No!" I shouted.
I gave him a little nudge, as if to push him away, before I realized he hadn't explained anything, and I was over reacting. It had probably been a boyish prank. But drugs didn't cater to jokes and baloney.
He looked like he was about to cry.
"It was only once! I just took a puff on it. I got a little fuzzy, but I wanted to feel like you...just for a moment!"
"You're a fool!"
"I did it to feel like you..." He hugged me tightly. "I wanted to understand. That was the only way. Two asshole classmates had the weed and rolled a joint. We smoked it, or rather, they smoked, it in the garden... in your garden. You know where?"
I knew where. I kept my eyes closed. Now the sunlight was hurting. A horrible film was playing in my head. Paoletto and I huddled down in the garden, passing a joint between ourselves. It was my hyped up imagination that was overreacting.
"I left immediately," he said, "and I never saw them again."
He tried to reassure me. He was always the one to counter my insecurities. Even in that moment.
"Swear to me, you won't ever do that again!"
"Of course not!" He protested, and I recognized his strength of character.
"Who do you think I am? You take me for a fool? Just because you got yourself into drugs, do you think I would too? I swear, on our love. And if you do it again, I will kill you myself, before you do it with drugs!"
His revelation bewildered me. I don't know why I reacted the way I did. Perhaps it is conceited to say it, but I was always the one amongst all the other unfortunates, with the most common sense, even in those challenging years. I wasn't so immature as to lose all my good judgement, even as a drug addict. Paoletto astounded me. I had never seen him so worked up.
"Don't worry about me. I will certainly not worry about you. Excuse me!" I said.
"Excuse you? I didn't even have to tell you!
"That you were a bit of an asshole!"
"What about how dumb you've been!" He smiled shyly
He had a point. I smiled.
"Guess I overreacted."
Paoletto glared at me, then squinted his eyes and made a sly face. "You were right about the underwear. It's safe!"
He touched himself on that spot where I had spent my whole life wishing to touch. I shook myself out of my lascivious thoughts. Paoletto had taught me another lesson. We could continue to live our love carefree.
"Oh... your underwear, we can do so much better," I said.
"Next chance we get … and you will get tired. Beg me to stop!" I winked at him.
"I am counting on it!"
We hurried back to the city because it was almost lunchtime and Paoletto was hungry, but not as hungry as me, I had forgotten one could be so hungry.
That night we went out with the other guys. It was not a great evening, because we had to face a new problem. It wasn't a complication that I had to consider before, but inevitably it was there, waiting for us.
My nights had become a part of my waking hours, I got so little sleep. This was the fault of certain thoughts running around in my head. No longer those ugly ones like before, but my anxieties. How could I keep my new found lover happy and content, and how could I solve this new problem? Ever since my mother and me had been alone, without my father, her parents, my grandparents, wanted us to go to Vienna and spend a few days with them.
The first weeks after my father's death had been a bad time for us. When the rites, liturgies, and mourning, to which all the living are compelled, were over, my mother slipped into an alarming apathy. The first day after the funeral, I went back to school and books. I studied with impatience and fury, whilst my mother shut herself away in the silence of our house, cherishing me with a devotion as mute as it was absolute. Until my examinations were finished she put aside my wish to decline the invitation. Afterwards, she waited for me to return from camp, and although I tried to convince her to go to Vienna alone, that I could join her later, she had no more excuses. We had no more excuses. They, our beloved parents, and grandparents, were waiting for us. We had to go there and also quite quickly. My mother ultimately seemed to have come out of the worst of her isolation and was perhaps returning to her normal self. I had no excuse either, apart for my love for Paoletto, but that was not something I could mention as it deserved to be, and so could not use that excuse. In short, we had to leave. And soon.
We would only be away for a couple of weeks, but I didn't want to think about it. Yet, I had to, because our grandparents were waiting for us and my mother would clearly benefit from the vacation. I simply was obliged to go there, as I couldn't let her go alone, she was not yet in a condition to do so and wouldn't have wanted to anyway. We had no choice and would have to leave in a couple of days, so my fate was decided and unavoidable.
Although I was tired from the full day we had had, I did not sleep that night. I was thinking about that sword of Damocles hanging over my newborn engagement. I wondered how I might solve the situation and there was only one way. If I had to go, Paoletto had to come with us. I couldn't even imagine the idea of leaving him, not now I had found him. Knowing he would be waiting for me when I returned, that I did not doubt his fidelity, or how we would run into each other's arms. All of these good reasons did not help me to bear the idea of separation.
I decided he had to come with us.
I only had one consideration, this plan should not disturb my mother in any way. I could deal with Grandma Luigia and everyone else. I needed to convince them of my good intentions. In my nocturnal delirium I also thought, selfishly, I might persuade Paoletto to leave without even telling his grandmother and to call her when we had arrived in Vienna.
It was seven o'clock and Mum was already awake. She slept very little, and every night I tried to convince her to take some pills that had been prescribed. Her initial refusal to take care of herself had made me very worried in the past months, but recently she had started to look after her appearance again.
I knocked on her door. She was not sleeping in the room joining my father's, but had moved to another part of the house, near where I was (5). She was still in bed, surprised and intrigued by my presence.
"Mom, can I ask you a favor?" I did not wait for her to answer me, because she loved me, and I knew she would do anything to please me. "I would like Paoletto to come with us to Vienna. Do you think it is possible?"
She smiled at me. We always tried to be nice with each other. We had suffered too much. I already knew that she would say yes.
"Grandma Luigia could be a problem. What does she say about it? It is up to her. Have you asked her?"
"She doesn't know yet. And neither does Paoletto. But imagine it, it's a great plan..." I wasn't sure I should say this, but she was my mother and had the right to know. "I would like to spend as much time as possible with him and don't want to leave him right now. I would miss him. We...you see...we've just met again and..."
"I know" she said.
I was sure she did, she knew everything.
"Yes, we are… engaged… so, you see… but don't worry. We will work it out!" I added, hoping that we could without upsetting anyone.
She smiled at me and off I went. The most challenging part of the plan was not convincing my mother, but Grandma Luigia. I had to be careful and catch her at the right moment, when she would not raise her voice to me and tell me how ridiculous it was. So the meeting should not be at her house. I knew every morning she went to Mass at seven o'clock in a neighboring church and decided to stop her before she returned home after Mass. I already imagined asking her for grace as if she was a Madonna. A communist Madonna, perhaps.
I found her where I was sure I would, sitting in one of the first pews, intent on repeating, as every morning, those same words. If she was really a communist, I thought, she was a bit unusual, but this was not the time to go into her philosophical and political beliefs, even though the subject was fascinating.
I sat down next to her. If she was surprised, she didn't show it. I waited politely for the Mass to end. I hoped that the blessing bestowed on us by the priest, his invocation of goodness, would also apply to me and to what I was about to do. After we were discharged by the gruff patriarch who administered to all the souls in the neighborhood, including Paoletto's, which was now mine, Grandma Luigia gave me a look. The usual penetrating look that made me uncomfortable.
It was the kind of look that intimidated me when I was younger and would always frighten me a little. The kind of look rivals traded, which was how I interpreted it that day. I finally understood those ominous glances which Grandma Luigia and I used to exchange. We both loved Paoletto in our very different ways, but we were insanely jealous about him.
She had not expected to see me at that time and in church. My meeting her there must mean I had to have something urgent to ask her. Something that concerned Paoletto and which must be serious and important. She was right.
"What do you want?" she roared, with a voice not at all proper to the place where we were.
"I would like to speak to you."
Instead of replying she got up and waited for me to let her pass. There was not enough space between the pews and the passage, and the other side was blocked by stacked chairs.
"Will you move? I have to go shopping" she said, ignoring my request. "And I have to hurry, because later Giulio will take me to the hospital for my analysis."
"Are you not well? I am sorry."
"Don't worry, it's merely a check-up. I have no intention of dying! For the moment!"
Her tone startled me. We had talked before to each other in worse circumstances, but here in church definitely didn't help me.
I didn't move and she sat down again. She looked at me crookedly.
"And what do you have to ask me that's so urgent? If it concerns Paoletto, the answer is no!"
It wasn't a good start, but at least she was listening.
"My mother and I are going to Vienna. We are leaving the day after tomorrow."
"I know that. She told me. Have a nice trip!"
That she must have thought was the end of things. She got up again, forcing me to move, pushing with one knee, so I would shift and allow her to pass. But I stayed where I was, contracting all my muscles and preparing to receive a slap, which I feared would hurt.
She had never hit Paoletto. Uncle Giulio and Paoletto's father had suffered frequent beatings themselves, which they had described to us, still remembering those blows. I was expecting her to vent her anger for everything I had done, taking her beloved nephew from her.
"I came to ask you," I said, heroically, looking at the altar and feeling determined, "to let Paoletto come with us. We will be guests of my grandparents."
"No! Absolutely, not!"
"I thought it would please you?"
"Please me?" she hissed. "How would it please me? Please you, you mean. So you can keep him with you all the time and convince him to do whatever you want."
At least, facing her in church stopped her from screaming at me, slapping me, or kicking me out. Paoletto wasn't there to hear us arguing, who knows what we would have said to each other if he was. I thought I had the upper hand to get her to agree.
"Paoletto, whether you believe it or not, does not need to be convinced to do anything!" I said firmly.
"What do you mean?"
She went back to her seat. This time making a greater effort.
"He knows much better than I what he desires! Always has… he wouldn't stop looking until he found it. You ought to know him better than I do. As for me, instead, I..."
It was a question, maybe she wanted me to say one more time how sad and useless I was. I didn't mind repeating it. I would have told her I was a Martian if it had the desired effect.
"You know what I did. I drugged myself and other stuff. Then I waited until my father was dying to go back to being a good guy, a good boy, if you prefer. Believe me, I love Paoletto, and I would never do anything to hurt him. That you have to believe!"
"Does he know about this trip?"
"Not yet. He only knows that I have to leave and is very upset about it."
"I had understood that because last night he was moping around. I knew it was your fault. I was about to do something about you, but he dissuaded me."
I hesitated, intimidated, thinking of the consequences I risked. Then I recovered.
"This morning I asked my mother for permission. She agreed. My grandparents have a big house. There won't be any problems with the accommodation."
"We should ask his father."
It was an excuse, and I knew it.
"There is no need," I said. "Paoletto has the documents we used at camp to go to France. They will be fine to go to Austria as well. Please, Grandma Luigia!"
"What do you know about it? I will have to ask my son if he wants his son to go to Austria with strangers. You don't think I should?"
"No, because I know you have never asked him anything. Paoletto and I have never had any secrets! I know everything!"
I really knew everything. I do not know why, it surprised her.
I knew how she had gradually taken Paoletto away from his father, from the genuine affection of that man. How she had discouraged any attempt for closeness between father and son. How she had avoided Paoletto and his stepmother forming a relationship. His stepmother would have accepted him into her arms, or at least into her home. She was a caring person, according to my mother. I knew Grandma Luigia had taken advantage of her son's frequent absences from Italy. She had managed to obtain a kind of foster care that allowed her to retain power over her grandson. I knew everything. We had discussed it. We had asked ourselves if and when he would be capable of reconnecting with his father. Paoletto did not really miss him. He was puzzled about his father's character. Something which, needless to say, Grandma Luigia was very accustomed to belittling. Although, I myself, conditioned by my father's judgment, tended to agree with Grandma.
"Then you also know I am the one who decides," she said, after a while when we were simply staring at each other.
"That's why I'm here."
She glared at me with a look that could kill. I was about to hear the verdict. There would either be peace or war, if she said no, there would be a clash between us. Perhaps she had grasped that. Or maybe she was just aware of her nephew's maturity, definitely not wanting to adjust her thinking about me.
"All right," she finally said. "Take him wherever you want but be careful! These are the keys to the house, go and tell him, that little devil. But be careful," she repeated, "I've already told you how much I will make you pay if you hurt him again?"
"Yes, you told me, and I won't forget."
I went to get up, but she took hold of my arm and pulled me back down.
"Another thing, if you really think you're taking him away from me, you're mistaken. I have seen the way he looks at you. When he talks about you, he sees you like you're a god, but for me you're still someone who's a druggie and worthless. So be warned. I know what you are and how much you are worth, don't forget that. It is something I won't let him forget!"
"I know as well as you, how much I am worth, Grandma Luigia. I have not lived without learning something, even though it may seem I have. Paoletto doesn't need me or you, you understand that. He will stay with us as long as he wants, and we wouldn't be able to hold him back if he decided to leave. You know this as well as I do, don't you?"
She seemed impressed by what I said.
"I know... he is growing up…" she said, in a low voice.
"You raised him well," I said, to console her, because I felt so much tenderness for that brave, even if a little selfish, woman. "Paoletto is happy living with you. Better, much better, than he would have been somewhere else... and we know where. Me, he adopted the first day he saw me. I believe he told you this. But he could just as easily leave me. He will never leave you. I hope that will not happen with me, because it would kill me. Even though I know about death and it doesn't scare me, what frightens me is that I may lose him one day. Believe me, it frightens me so much. I will do my best to make sure it doesn't happen."
"Young man, you are worthier than I thought! Come, take me shopping, so you can carry the bags and drop them at home. Make yourself useful, my legs are swollen again."
After an exhausting tour of the neighborhood, I left her with Uncle Giulio. He was going to take her to the hospital and then home for lunch. I slipped into the elevator this time avoiding the stairs. I was loaded with bags and packages hanging under my arms.
I knew the ritual of Paoletto's waking up in the morning, he had told me so many times. Grandma would tiptoe into his room silently and open the window and the shutters, slowly. To make sure the daylight did not fill the room all at once. I did exactly as she did, then I went to sit on the side of the bed and waited for my blond angel to open his eyes. He looked like an angel at that moment. I patiently waited for him to wake up and see me instead of who he thought was there, his grandmother.
He was gorgeous, for me he was beautiful, wherever he was, but asleep he was even more so. At the camp, in the two nights that I had spent next to him, I had observed him, watched over him. I was desperate, but I couldn't even touch him and now I felt like I was living a dream, but it wasn't like that. I was there, next to him. He was mine, my lover. Finally, I could touch him, caress him, rest my lips on his forehead. Wait for him to wake up, receive his smile. He would certainly smile seeing me.
How did it happen that he fell in love with me? I left him, abandoned him. He had waited for me, looked for me, reconquered me, almost as if he had to make up for something.
Under the sheet one could guess the shape of his body. He was almost supine, his legs slightly bent, one arm along his side, the other to defend himself from the light that had invaded the room. He wrinkled his eyes and murmured something about the time. Perhaps it was still too early for him. He did not immediately understand who was with him. He did not recognize me. The emotion of being there, of seeing him so innocent, defenseless, overwhelmed me. I bent down to touch his forehead with my lips. I too with my eyes closed, because I was afraid a tear would fall and wake him up.
"But what..." he finally opened his eyes, "what are you doing here?"
I could only look at him. Two tears slipped down my cheeks and then fell on his face.
"What happened, why are you crying?" he asked me worried.
I tried stopping because it was silly. I was crying. He looked worried until I was able to speak and then he calmed down.
"It's nothing," I said, but he looked at me strangely, "I met your grandmother in church..."
"You? In church? And did you quarrel?"
"What were you doing there?"
"I helped her to do the shopping and I brought over the bags and packages" I said instead of answering him. "Now she has gone with Uncle Giulio to do the analysis in the hospital."
"How come you met her and what were you doing there at that time? What were you doing in church this morning?" he insisted.
"I had to ask her something. I went looking for her there, at the end of Mass. I knew she went there every morning, and..."
"What did you have to ask her? Did you leave home at seven o'clock?"
"Almost. It was seven twenty..."
"So what? What did you have to ask her?"
"I don't think I'll tell you!"
He made a smart face.
"What was her answer?"
"She said yes!"
He was still lying on the bed. He suddenly got up and kissed me on the cheeks. Then he looked at me and we kissed better, as we had learned the day before. He pulled me down and I ended up on top of him. We clung to each other and it seemed to me I was in heaven.
Those were days when I had to struggle to distinguish reality from fantasy.
A kiss is a kiss. About five minutes there on the bed, clinging to each other with our mouths attached and playing with our tongues, chasing each other in every corner of our mouths. And then kisses on the neck, eyes, nose. And tickles. At a certain point I got up and he had lifted himself with me. I held him in my arms, then I went down to kiss his neck. He had pulled up my shirt to caress my skin. We were short of breath, but his curiosity had won, and he was stuck trying to free himself from my embrace.
"Whatever it was," he said, seriously, "thank you for doing it! But what did you ask her? What did she say yes to?"
We were alone, at least until twelve noon, nobody would disturb us. I thought it would not be a grave sin to take advantage of the situation. A sin for which Paoletto would certainly have thanked me.
"I will tell you, but first I want to know what I am going to get in reward."
He made the face of someone who did not understand but suspected something.
"You know, I had a hard time convincing Grandma Luigia!" I said again, to help him make up his mind.
He lay down on the bed, sitting up. He put his head on the pillow, looking sexy. It was made of feathers. I knew it because he had described it to me. It was soft and thin. He held his eyes tight shut, only occasionally peeking at me through half-open eyelids. Then he moved the sheet that still covered him.
"Are you okay with this reward?"
He was not sleeping in his pajamas. He had never used them, summer, or winter, always in briefs and a T-shirt or tank top. That day the briefs seemed too small and the tank top didn't even cover his navel anymore. He was the prize. Suddenly I realized that what I had achieved that day was nothing compared to this reward. I was tempted to cover him. Say no, that I did not deserve the gift, but it wasn't something I could give up, not for all the riches in the world.
"It is a beautiful prize," I said, "Are you sure I deserve it?"
"Yes," he whispered to me, "whatever you demanded from Grandma I want you to have me as your prize."
I bent down to kiss him on the mouth.
"I asked Grandma Luigia," he took off his tank top, "to let you come with us." I stroked his cock which was now forcing the fabric of his skimpy briefs, "to come with Mom and me to Vienna!"
I couldn't finish taking off his briefs because he jumped around my neck.
Although he was trembling with emotion, my hands were skillful, and he was soon naked for me.
"I can really come too? And what did your mother say? Does she agree?"
"Yes! I asked her this morning before going to see your grandmother in church. You know, I didn't sleep last night thinking about how not to separate us."
"I love you," he said, "but...do you really love me?"
He was beautiful, but he was unaware of it.
"Yes..." I whispered.
"I am no longer ashamed now," he murmured, as he embraced me, adapting to my body. "Last night I couldn't sleep either, not after you reminded me about Vienna. I kept thinking about everything. That I wouldn't be able to see you. That you had to live your life. That if you went to Vienna it was only for a couple of weeks and then you would come back to me. That in a while school will start and then you will have classes at the University. We won't be able to see each other all the time. But at least once a day, we will still see each other! Won't we? Will we see each other at least once a day?"
For the first time he was naked, hugging me, and had not yet asked me to close my eyes. I had half-closed them out of modesty and prudence in case he realized.
"Yes, my love," I murmured, but he started talking again. Fortunately, he remained naked and in my arms. He was too fervent in his story to realize that he was now buck naked and always in my arms.
"Is it foolish to be ashamed with you. You wanted to see me naked, and I also wanted to see you..."
Maybe he was not too enthusiastic but had simply decided that perhaps he didn't care.
"I looked at you…" he said.
"You naughty trickster…"
"Because yesterday" he was laughing while talking "I only pretended to avert my eyes... You are beautiful, by the way. And when you left, I thought that it was horrible doing what I did. That because of me we had not been as happy as you wanted us to be, as we could be. Only because I am a fool and was ashamed to undress! And so, look at me, my love. I desire you only to look at me! As often as you want, always!"
He slipped out of my hug and lay back down on the bed, laying there languidly, one arm behind his head. He stared up at me a smile on his lips. I knew he wanted me to touch him, it was an invitation. For a moment I held my breath and stared at this happy, serene, and terribly excited boy. I moved close and allowed my hands to glide over every inch of his smooth skin. As I explored his body he trembled.
I whispered eagerly for him to turn over.
"I'm almost… there," he pleaded, before rolling onto his stomach.
And then I started to caress him again, devouring every wonderful curve of his body. He stayed still, he did not contract a muscle, and he allowed me to explore him. I followed the line of his spine, all the way to the bottom. I lightly grazed every inch of his shoulder with my fingertips. Finally, when I kissed him in his most secret place a giggle escaped him.
"Get up!" I told him. "Do you want to touch me?"
He stood up and we faced each other. He began to quickly undress me until I too was completely naked. He watched as I took his place on the bed.
Neither of us spoke, but I could see in his eyes and from the little tremors of his naked body, what he was feeling.
The bed was still warm from his body and still vaguely damp from the night's sweat left by Paoletto. I was afraid to have an orgasm simply from those sensations I felt on my back. And it was a miracle that I was still resisting.
It was now his hands touching my body, gliding across my bare skin. His touch on my nipples made them instantly hard, my body quivered.
My body was different, mature, and it made him curious, temporarily distracting him from his excitement. He paused to evaluate my body hair. Not that I had so much, but he had almost none. My legs were covered with dark hairs, and I had some on my chest too. My armpits mesmerized him. The faint smell they had, the long, silky hair. He sniffed them. We both smiled. My nipples were bigger and darker than his. He lightly kissed them.
"Can I continue later?" he mumbled and then suddenly he climbed on top of me.
Our breathing was coming in gasps as he pressed his body into mine. I wrapped my arms around him, hugging him to me, as his body shook. I released my grip as he pushed up and covered my belly with his semen. Looking down and feeling him I quickly followed suit, our essences pooling together.
"I'm sorry, I couldn't..." he whispered in my ear, half laughing, breathing heavily.
I kissed him on the lips. I wanted him to know I didn't care. We kissed each other again and hugged. We lay there, him resting on top of me, before we got up, careful that our semen did not drip onto the bed and mess the sheets.
Grandma Luigia didn't have to know.
He went to the bathroom, and I saw him come back with some paper handkerchiefs.
"Maybe we will need them," he said, "are you busy this morning?"
He ran to hug me again.
"We will see each other at least once a day. Forever! Do you promise?" he spoke into my ear.
"Sure! I swear it to you!"
"You say you swear it, but on what?"
"I don't know. It's difficult. When you swear, you pledge something, and if you don't keep the oath, you lose the pledge."
"Then swear it to me! And I will be certain you will keep your promise!"
"I want you to swear!"
"And I don't..."
"And if you don't keep the commitment, you will lose me!"
It was logical if a bit of a foolish reasoning. But it was impossible to explain it to him.
"All right. But it was you who wanted it."
We remained a little while longer in his room, playing with our bodies. We hungrily explored them. Perhaps Paoletto was right about my innocence. I could have kept it. I felt I was demonstrating the same modesty in showing myself. Even to him, my lover. I felt shame and excitement in asking him to do something, or in doing what he asked of me. I had regained my purity, freeing myself from my secrets.
"Tell me about yourself. There's something you haven't yet told me. That's true, isn't it?"
He asked me this after we had satisfied all our appetites. First it had been the most urgent and biggest, then we found ourselves terribly hungry, because neither of us had had any breakfast.
We went out and bought some pizza and went into the waterfront gardens. We sat under a horse chestnut tree which offered a canopy of shade. A pleasant breeze, coming from the sea, moved the air through the gardens the tomatoes cooked in the oven possessed a sour, salty taste. We ate taking big bites, messing our faces with oil. Paoletto more than me. But he was always a messy eater.
We talked about Vienna, about my grandparents, my uncle, and about my mother. The sun became warmer and the shade darker. It was then that he said he wanted to know everything, and I decided to tell him the complete truth without any hypocrisy.
I explained how I had prostituted myself and I shared with him how I justified that to myself. When I told him what I was doing in exchange for money, he did not look away. He did not lower his eyes once. He didn't blush. He didn't ask me to stop. He listened to my confession and every detail. It was I who kept my eyes down and it was right that I did. I was the one who should be ashamed.
"Why did you decide to inject yourself with heroin?"
"I was tired of everything, of living the chaotic out of control life, but also of not having you. I was tired of being dirty, but I didn't have the strength to change. Then I thought that dying would not be so much uglier than continuing to live like that. I thought without really believing it, that injecting heroin would kill me. Obviously, I did not die! And I woke up even more desperate. I must tell you one last thing, though. Do you want to know it?"
He nodded, looking at me sympathetically. I knew he was trying to give me courage.
"Buying drugs took more money than I could hope to find by doing what I had up until then. So, we thought of going someplace else and went to the suburban avenues. It was there when a car stopped and I knew the guy was going to ask me the worst thing, to do the ugliest thing I had ever done."
He saw me hesitating and took my hand. Perhaps he was also intrigued. I would never know, because after that day we never spoke of it again.
"Tell me now," he encouraged. "Tell me, and it will be our secret. Tell me…"
"That was the last time I prostituted myself... I let him rape me!"
I saw his strange look and understood that perhaps he didn't grasp my words. In those days, a fifteen-year-old boy could not immediately imagine the way in which a man can be raped. Paoletto no matter how informed he was, had no idea about this.
"How...did it happen?"
"Are you sure you want to know?"
"And you can't imagine? If you think about it a little bit..."
I said it in an extremely hoarse voice, feeling pretty upset. I was not bothered about confiding the secret, but I did worry about destroying his purity, because he had absolutely no idea about these things.
"I think I have understood!" he murmured. But without averting, for a moment, his gaze from my eyes.
If he blushed, I didn't see, because I kept my eyes down. I was too ashamed.
"I let myself be raped," I forced myself to repeat, "because I needed his money. I told you why I wanted it. But that afternoon I was not only looking for that. I wanted to lose any self-esteem I had left for myself. I wanted my end and wanted it to begin there!"
I had a fit of anger, I almost cried. He took my hand and kissed it.
"Don't cry. This is in the past."
"That pig… but I let it happen. He raped me, but I let him do it. Do you understand? I wanted him to see why I did it. Maybe I could have fought and made him stop. I could have run away, got out of the car. He wasn't bad, he wouldn't have pursued me. If I had asked him, maybe he would have stopped. But I desired him to. And when he finished, I… I was still hard. I don't remember the pain he inflicted on me, only how I enjoyed it. I liked it...and now I have confessed everything. Now you know who I am, and I am ashamed."
I covered my face, and he took my hands and kissed them, my palms, my fingers.
"What you have told me will never happen again. It is all over. It is over, along with all the bad things that have happened to you. When the two of us will do it, before and afterwards we will only kiss. It will be for love. You won't hurt me, and I won't hurt you."
"But you must forgive me. For everything. You must forgive me."
"For what? You have paid and don't owe anyone anything anymore. I believe that now life is in your debt!"
"You say this, because you are good..."
"Please, don't say that, we haven't been together long enough yet!"
"Ask my grandmother first, then my schoolmates and then all those who know me!"
I smiled. I needed to feel good. I needed him.
"You are terrible, aren't you?" I asked, knowing very well what his answer would be.
He laughed then.
"Yes!" he admitted.
I kept after him, and the laughter became uncontrollable, until we were choking. After we calmed down, I felt like walking a bit, and we went to look for something to drink.
"Please, tell me that you forgive me..."
"It's okay," he said, finally, "I forgive you."
He knew everything now and I would never hide anything from him again.
I believe that those who are accustomed to lying have no desire other than to be able to tell the truth. Often, they can't do that, but I had had the opportunity to completely regenerate myself and the man who had come out of that catharsis wanted to be honest with himself and his loved one. From that moment with Paoletto, I would have been honest almost to the point of self-harm. Fortunately, in the years we spent together I never came to regret it.
"Tell me about yourself," I asked, while we were walking under the shade of those huge trees, along an awfully long avenue, "Paoletto, tell me something about yourself. Something I don't know… I'm curious."
"What about me?"
The avenue was so long that the trees at the end closed the perspective. I imagined it reflected our life. We were still too young to see the end of it.
"Something I don't know!" I repeated, "That you never told me, because I didn't ask you, or because you were ashamed!"
"I have nothing to tell you. I'm sorry. Your life seems like a movie, but mine has no twists and turns. You know, the beginning of my life seemed like a penny dreadful, but then my grandmother took charge, and it was so normal and quiet it was boring. Nothing ever happened to me."
"I was also referring to those things... You understand, don't you?"
"You idiot! Those things, as you call them, I have done almost all of them with you!"
"Well...once upon a time you weren't there!"
"What time? When was that?"
An unexpected feeling took hold of me. It was an unfounded, comical jealousy. I was about to make a scene in front of him, there in the middle of the trees.
"I want to know..." I said, changing my tone of voice.
Paoletto could see it wasn't a joke and it annoyed him.
"You said you want to know..." he was being very serious, "but remember I have been yours since the day before yesterday. Absolutely yours. I will never look at anyone else. But before, there was only me and what I did then only concerned me. You want to know about it, and I am going to tell you, but only because I want to."
He took a couple of steps away from me. Then he turned around and smiled.
"Perhaps it's only right that you should know, because in a certain sense you were there too...".
This, of course, intrigued me. Even though I found myself thinking how stupid I had been to doubt him, to comment on his behavior. My jealousy, like every suspicion, was so foolish and irrational. He had instantly set me straight. I went back to smiling at him.
"Well? Go ahead...Confess!" I encouraged.
"It was in the past, at camp. Obviously not this year," he clarified, as though he had to make that clear for me. "It was last year. One night, in the tent."
I frowned. What could they have done? As far as I knew, they only ever slept in the tent. That was what I had always done, it had never crossed my mind to do anything else. Was it a sign of the times? Three years between him and me must signify something.
"And what did you do? Didn't anyone hear you?"
"We were not at the camp! We made a sort of night Patrol excursion. We left at sunset and each Patrol walked in assigned directions. Then we pitched the tent. After the campfire, the little ones went to sleep and the three of us older ones started talking like adults. You know what kind of talk?"
"No! You tell me."
"Can't you imagine?"
"Yes, but I want to hear you say it, because I like seeing you blush."
It was true. He was delightful when he felt uncomfortable and I didn't want to give him a way out. In fact, a slight redness colored his round, tanned cheeks, those cheeks I had tormented with kisses all morning.
"We started talking about who knows what but ended up where you can imagine. It was me, by the way. I asked the others if they were jerking off. I got the idea from a friend of mine. You know him, don't you?"
"You asshole!" I slapped him on his bare leg leaving a hand print on his tanned thigh.
"Fuck you!" he snapped, then he laughed mischievously. "What's the harm if I used the same tactic as you. Anyway, of course they were jerking off. We told each other a lot of things about how we did it, when we had started, and how many times, where and when..."
"By the way... I also want to know all this stuff about you. You will tell me, won't you?"
"Of course! Even if you know most of it already."
"OK! Then I'll tell you what happened. Now you will have to tell me about the betrayal."
"As you can imagine, the subject was enough to excite us. Talking about it at length was the best. I don't know if you understand what I mean."
"The little ones had been asleep for a long time and there was absolute silence around us. I swear to you I can't remember who came up with the idea. I believe it came to all three of us together. We thought, why don't we jerk off? It was cold as hell outside, but we still had hard-ons. Because it was so cold we went to the tent. We made sure no one could see what we were doing and we each pulled it out. Of course, first we looked at each other's and then we had the best hand job I can remember."
"Is that all?"
"Well... what else?"
"No, sorry, that's everything. Nothing more?"
"No, apart from the fact that, while I was doing it, I was thinking about you, asshole! That night as well. I closed my eyes and thought of you. Did I do well? Because it was you that I was waiting for and no one else."
He took me by the hand and looked at me. I nodded, he was right. We kept walking like that, until we realized we were still holding hands and it shocked us a lot.
(1) The Italian resistance movement (Italian: la Resistenza) is a term for Italian resistance groups during World War II. It was opposed to the forces of Nazi Germany as well as Nazi Germany's Italian puppet state regime, the Italian Social Republic. Following the German invasion and armed occupation of Italy between September 1943 and April 1945. Known as partisans, the brutal conflict they took part in is referred to as the Italian Liberation War. The modern Italian Republic was declared to be founded on the struggle of the Resistance.
(2) Since 1943 the Italian Communist Party has played a leading role during the Resistance and has put together many partisan groups. After the end of the war in Italy there was a fierce opposition between the Christian Democrats and the Italian Communist Party in every aspect of political and social life. With the Communist Party defending the interests of the working class, against Catholics and other groups representing the wealthier classes. From this the idea that a Communist boy should not be engaged with a wealthy guy.
(3) In Italy, the car driving license is obtained at the age of 18.
(4) The Fiat 500 (Italian: Cinquecento) is a rear-engine, four-seat, small city car that was manufactured and marketed by Fiat Automobiles from 1957 to 1975. Despite its compact size, the 500 proved to be an enormously practical vehicle with massive sales throughout Europe.
(5) It is really a big deal that a woman in Italy abandons 'her' bedroom after the death of her husband.
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