nudity and mild violence
nudity and mild violence
Fabio was the first friend I had made since coming to Europe.
At school in France, I was shy and tried to isolate myself from the other boys, who were all aggressive, competitive and noisy -- or at least I felt so. Egress from my sweet tropical school where we had all been friends, I missed wearing uniforms -- to not only look the same, but to somehow even feel and think the same. Though in fact, despite being also born in Punaouilo, I was the only boy with European looks in my class.
I hadn't felt any different from my peers on the island, even if they all had the exuberant beauty from the Oceania natives in contrast to my pale suavity; however, in France I felt completely alienated from all other French boys -- compared to whom my physical aspect was no different.
Despite the French citizenship, I was a foreigner in France. My birth in the tropics had predestined me to be an outcast. I did not care for the games the other boys played, I did not want to compete, nor wanted to choose the appropriate clothes that I should wear to display a certain style and try to fit and belong to this or that group. I was aware that opting for being excluded from all groups and banned from all social activities in a school equaled suicide, but I held tight to my convictions of originality and inadequacy, seeing myself as some sort of a quiet rebel.
Apparently, my education in Punaouilo had been faulty, and I was set one year behind at school in France. Being thinner and taller than the other kids, one year older but not as bright, gave me the perennial awkward feeling of misfit.
In class, I was ridiculed every time I spoke -- beyond my lazy accent from the islands that elongated the words, my voice sounded nasal and feminine. And so did my way of sitting, walking, making any gesture -- compared to other children, I was too slow and delicate, and I was considered effeminate. I had been nicknamed 'La petite fleur des Tropiques', the small flower from the Tropics -- at first, I had been concerned that I smelled different from other children, but that was not the case. In French, flower is a feminine word, and that's why it had been picked. I used to cry whenever someone threw that at me.
Nothing I did seemed appropriate, and even in doing nothing, just standing still, motionless, paralyzed, someone would still think that my posture was effeminate, and I'd be ridiculed and swore at. La petite fleur des Tropiques. Once, they had tried to force me to dance the Hawaiian hula-hula -- using the straw skirt. I had fought and escaped when they tried to dress me, ripping my shorts in the process -- and had to come up with some story for Catherine, to justify ruining it.
There was nothing I could do. I came to the conclusion that I had been born completely wrong and flawed, inappropriate for socializing with my peers. I just wanted to be left alone, and during the breaks I sought to isolate myself. I would usually take refuge in the library, or, if it was being used for some other purpose, at the remote corners of the school where not even couples nor smokers used to go.
But my invisibility had ended earlier in that year of 1987, when some of the older kids at school had found out that my dad was a famous painter and my mother a bestselling author -- and I, a weakling, timid and fearful boy.
In fact, a happy occasion for me -- when Carlo had come to fetch me at school with his fast and fancy car, which was also very expensive -- had been my doom, as it stoked the interest of a bunch of bad boys on me.
They couldn't care less about my parent's fame, though they regarded them as an odd couple, too modern for the countryside community -- what had interested them was that I came from a wealthy family, or so they thought. That was the impression that the frequent trips abroad from both Carlo and Catherine gave, and their appearances in local newspapers talking about their careers, in addition to some foreign visitors who came on their foreign cars to our house, which was also too modern for that peaceful, somewhat old fashioned countryside. They couldn't care less about Mr. Chabrol or Mr. Leconte nor Mme. Varda, famous movie directors that were friends of Catherine and every now and then visited us.
I did not have any reaction when the older boys began to drag me with them, during the class breaks, to the back of our school. There, they would take all my money, and even the fancy watch that had been a gift from my grandmother Celeste -- I had to lie to Catherine that I had lost it when they took it away from me.
I had to lie at home about needing money to buy more books and do excursions with the school that never existed -- to be able to pay the daily toll to the boys who continually threatened me.
The school was the slaughterhouse at which I had daily to voluntarily present myself, to be massacred and humiliated, a renovated torture from Monday through Friday. I was afraid even to go to the bathroom for fear of what might happen to me there, and I spent all day with that urge, afraid that I would pee in my pants, which would have been the ultimate humiliation.
But the guys from the gang would take me wherever they wanted, without asking me -- just pulling me by the ear or pushing me around, mercilessly.
The other students, seeing I was so weak as to be so easily mistreated, just laughed or mocked me, adding to my humiliation with more swearing. 'La petite fleur des Tropiques' had started sounding almost poetical, and I'd prefer to hear it rather than the daily slaps and smacks with which I was herded around by the gang that owned me.
At that time, no one talked about bullying. I think even the teachers who saw me hostage might have thought it was "just boys being boys," and no one ever came to offer me help. I guess nobody perceived me as being terrified, humiliated, miserable. I was just the kid who happened to be the mocking target of the school, and everyone saw it as just a joke. And anyways, no one dared to oppose my tormentors, who were the worst boys in school. Punishments for the gang meant flat tires and scratched cars in the teachers parking lot, and no one would go as far as calling the police. It was convenient to leave the bad-asses their distraction -- La petite fleur de Tropiques. Ecology was only to save the whales and the Amazon forest, and did not offer me any protection. I was fragile, helpless, and no one at school would really have cared about my extinction.
I had even stopped attending the library, despite my love and appetite for books. I did not go into any other room that was not the classroom, afraid to see myself ambushed. I used to cross all the corridors running, eyes on the floor to avoid anyone who would try to make me trip, as if running for my life and from the mockery that followed me in shouts and laughter.
"Are you eating well at school, Laurent?" Carlo had asked me one day. "You seem to be getting much thinner..."
The money I had to eat, it didn't stay with me. And if I took a snack from home, I had to devour it before entering the school, or it would also be confiscated. Later, even the imported food Carlo and Catherine brought me from their trips became a toll I had to deliver to the gang.
"That's exactly how it's supposed to be!" Catherine had justified. "He is in a growth phase. Look how tall he is! And pimply! This boy needs to eat less chocolate, that's it! What's done of all that Swiss chocolate I have brought you, Laurent?"
But if it were only the financial blackmail, which forced me to repeatedly ask for money from my parents, it would not have been so difficult.
The older boys, however, thought they would look older and way more cool by humiliating me. One of their favorite games was pushing me around among themselves like a ball, from one side to another, and back again, back and forth, until one of them would let me fall to the ground. I had no courage to react, and I also tried not to cry in front of them, not even when I actually hurt myself from falling to the ground -- because crying was the worst shame and confession that I was not a real boy!
I cried and sobbed like a little girl. Even Catherine had pointed that.
"Have you heard it said that boys don't cry?" Catherine had asked me one day, a bit annoyed with my tears. "That is nonsense!" She amended. "But boys cry like boys, not like girls! Please, Laurent!"
And I tried to handle the violence and the humiliation without complaining, without exclaiming nor screaming, for I also knew that my voice at times sounded shrill like a girl's .
Still, there was a secret thing that terrified me the most, and that I could not understand so well, yet.
Being constantly with the school gang, among those boys who smoked and drank beer and belched and were aggressive and noisy, I had realized how gentle I was, and quiet, shy, soft, fearful... and my perception was that I would never get to be a real boy like them.
Not that I identified myself either with the futile girls' world of vanity and consumerism, gravitating around silly novelties and small, useless things.
That's when I started wondering -- I do look like a boy, but I'm not like one of them... then, what am I?
Fagot... I had heard other kids call me that in France. The general abbreviation of my very special and unique nickname, La petite fleur des Tropiques. Fagot -- that seemed to set me apart from the other boys, and define me. I was not sure what it meant, but the disdain with which it was said made me feel deeply ashamed, and different from all the other kids. It was also like a code that allowed others to disrespect me, like a confirmation that I was inadequate, unworthy, the worst and filthiest scum of all. They threw that swearing at me like stones -- fagot was the password to my daily exclusion from the school community.
Those holidays in the Apennines had also represented a break from that suffering -- and, in a sense, a redemption, to be able to befriend a boy who was older than me, and also much stronger, and tougher. But who was not the least threatening.
I did not fear Fabio's company. He did not seem to judge me like the other boys. Beside him, I did not care if my gestures were boyish or sissy, I did not have to worry on how I looked, walked or sat, nor how I was talking and how my voice sounded to him. Fabio never looked down, condemningly on me, and never ridiculed me. Instead of stupid, wimpy, sissy, he just called me friend. Amico.
I felt loved, accepted, just as I was, without the struggle to try be someone else -- nor silence, bury who I was.
And a feeling I had never had before, and that I did not know how to name yet, had been born. It slowly grew in me, with each day I spent in Fabio's company.
One day, an accident happened.
I was looking raptly at Fabio and not to the ground where I walked, and I stumbled on a root. I had been so relaxed and enraptured with Fabio that I fell without anyone having set a trap for me, unlike school, where despite all my precautions I was frequently being led to trip and fall by the other boys.
I slammed my face against the ground, scraped my hands and knees, and my left foot immediately started hurting a lot.
Fabio carried me through the woods to the house -- and though I was in pain and even bleeding, I just remember the feeling of being supported in his powerful, strong arms and being held against his broad chest, feeling his intensely masculine scent invading me, that made me shiver with pleasure, his sweat wetting me -- and when I cried, it was not like a small boy, of pain or fright, but as a teenager, crying from happiness and love, on the discovery that, after all, I wanted to spend the rest of my life in the arms of men.
For the first time, I had the perception that I liked boys.
My great-grandfather, after all, had been right, when he said that the mountains would make me a man. At that moment, in Fabio's arms, I stopped being a boy to start being the man that would forever be in love with other men.
But at that time there were no other men -- I cared only for Fabio, he alone existed, and it was with him that I was in love. But maybe a part of me remembered that at the end of the holidays I would have to go away from him, and that I would have to look for lovely Fabio in the other guys, among those who were aggressive, competitive and noisy -- and so I sobbed on his shoulders, nested in his arms.
It was the first time my heart broke from loving.
Nothing serious had happened with my foot, but neither Tarso nor Carlo let me go to work the following morning. I spent all day long in a familiar sad mood, that I hadn't cultivated in a while, and I only rejoiced when at the end of the day, Fabio came to visit me in my room.
For some days I was prevented from going to work, and so a new ritual was inaugurated between me and Fabio, who would visit my room in the early evening, before he went home.
I made him sit on my bed on purpose, so that after he was gone I would still have the smell of him, and I'd become inebriated and sleep on it.
He visited me even during the weekend, when he had no obligation to present himself for work on the D'Allegro lands -- to me, that was proof that our friendship was real. We had agreed to do a tour together on the mountains, but when my injury got it canceled, he still came to be with me.
I was not expecting him, and he found me in my room, writing. It was some adventure from which I cannot remember the plot, but the hero was clearly modeled on Fabio, so beautiful and extremely kind, absolutely perfect and wonderful as himself.
I was embarrassed and wanted to hide my notebook, without realizing that he did not know French.
It was then that I discovered Fabio's other beauty. He was not only a handsome and muscular young man, who was helping me overcome my fear of older boys. He would also bring a new meaning to my school learning -- when he marveled at my writing, and was enthusiastic with the fact that I wrote stories, and at my ease in learning Italian, and so many more things that I knew and had studied. All that I usually took for granted in my education, it was Fabio to teach me how to appreciate and value.
I was happy when he asked me to teach him all that I could. More Maths, more Geography, whatever I wanted and could remember, even if it was in French, he was eager to learn. I was surprised and embarrassed by the difficulty he had in reading, and I suddenly realized how much effort could there be in doing something that I considered so easy and simple.
Thus, we were also getting together after his shift, in my room, where I enjoyed the freedom of looking at him at length, without the fear of being observed by my father or great-grandfather -- without my wandering presence around the house, now limited to the upper floor, Carlo and Tarso finally dedicated themselves to the complicated bureaucracy that was threatening the farm.
One afternoon, the last of my enforced rest, I went in search of Fabio, wanting to invite him to study outside in the woods instead of my room, which was too hot.
And what I saw that afternoon buried forever the boy Laurent had been -- and put definitely in his place the teenager who would become Laurent, the man.
From behind a bush, I watched Fabio bathing, preparing to meet me.
And if until then my love for Fabio had been idealized and mixed with friendship, although some sensual elements had been there, like trembling when he touched me, or when I aspired his sweat -- that evening, upon seeing Fabio naked, my sexual desire sprang to life.
Recalling that occasion, I have to think that it was not Fabio's nudity that made me stay hidden behind a bush watching him.
That would have seemed natural to me. I had seen my father naked before, and sometimes we had even showered together.
It was the first awareness of my own desire, caused by his nakedness, that kept me behind the bush, my body and senses having awakened in a sudden burst.
I had an intense erection as I had never before experienced, and when I got up to leave, seeing that my friend had turned off the shower, I had my first ejaculation.
I froze, not knowing what to do, not knowing what had happened, feeling scared but also pleased with that new sensation, that was not the same thing as a nocturnal, unconscious emission, but so much more pleasurable, and clearly caused by Fabio and his male beauty.
From that day on, I started looking at Fabio in a different way.
It caused me to feel doubt and guilt, because my friend did not look differently at me -- he seemed different, but just to me.
Just looking at Fabio and inhaling his manly smell was not enough anymore -- I now wanted to touch him. And without any malice, but perhaps with a bit of pride and vanity, he often allowed me to touch his muscles.
"You are so handsome, Fabio..." I felt unsure in praising him, for it sounded almost like a confession of my love. I was suddenly afraid that maybe Fabio would estrange me, starting to ridicule me like the other kids at school had done. "You could be a model and earn money!" That was the biggest compliment I could conceive, and it still felt wonderful to be so sincere in my admiration for him, if a bit risky.
"No." I actually had nothing to fear from Fabio, no rejection, no violence. He had just laughed at my proposal. "I don't need that! I want to own a farm!"
"You are so strong..." I had started to praise him openly, anchored on a courage that was absolutely new to me, grounded as it was on my desire, and I was even bold enough to propose games in which we would have physical contact. "I bet you can carry me easily to the top of that hill..." All I wanted was to be back in his arms, only this time I might as well embrace him.
Now that I think about it, Fabio never realized my desire simply because homosexuality was not part of his repertoire. He never had considered its existence, I think, and so he was never suspicious at my constant and exaggerated praise on him. I also think he did not care about being beautiful or strong, since the goats and tomatoes that had been his daily companions didn't care about his beauty either.
"You are also getting stronger, Laurent!" he had replied. But unlike my praise, Fabio's contained no lust for my body. He did not notice my provocations, and was completely oblivious to my desire. For him, there was no other healthy feeling between two guys that had not been friendship, brotherhood.
And indeed, not only had my body developed with the work on the fields, along with a natural and enhanced nutrition, but I was also actually feeling stronger. If at first I had been cautious in carrying an empty bucket, I now felt confident to carry a stack of wood into the house and until the fireplace.
The force that I felt was also interior -- and along with it, a new sense of incredulity directed at my own past, at how helpless and passive I had been before my classmates.
I owed this new confidence to Fabio.
Not just because I adored him. He had actually respected and valued me -- although I was no more than a twelve, almost thirteen years old boy, he saw in me all the things I had already learned and knew, and he valued my talents and abilities that I had taken for granted.
And it was with guilt that, even during our study sessions, when he was so serious and concentrated in his readings, trying to learn everything I could teach him -- perhaps far more aware than I was of our imminent separation --, it was with guilt that I bent over him, rubbing against his muscles and his hairy skin, drunk with desire, wanting to awaken in him an interest in me that would be bigger than the one he manifested for the Urals or even for Punaouilo, and for everything else he did not know across the planet.
There was guilt, and also fear that he would finally realize my lust, and that it would put an end to our friendship, so sincere and pure on his part.
Author's note: if you are reading this, and you are being bullied, and the burden is too great on you, you can find help and solace, right now. For English speakers -- in the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and the Trevor Project’s Lifeline is 1-866-488-7386; in the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90; in Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. For other countries, please check these hotlines. Please, don't let bullies win. YOU are much more precious. I hope this helps. Like Laurent, I am a survivor myself.