nudity and sex
"You are healing me!" I confided to Fabrizio.
One afternoon, the sky had cleared completely and for the first time we could watch a sunset from our design house in Iceland. We interrupted our sauna session and went out to the balcony to watch that glorious and tragic display of a beauty that seemed oblivious of mankind, like all natural spectacles in that inebriating country.
Fabrizio, like me, loved the sunsets -- according to him, simply because he was too lazy to wake up and watch the sun rise. "Otherwise I might also like them, I guess", he laughed.
"It's about time that you start healing, Laurent!" Brazen had told me.
She was my best friend in Samsara Heights, along with Darren, a former affair and the only one to become a friend in all my sex life. They had often heard my sorrows and regrets about Angelo. "Since I know you, you've been heartbroken. It was more than time to start mending your heart!" She had told me, when I had begun dating Fabrizio and my happiness overflowed.
But again, sunsets reminded me of Angelo -- and I know I already wrote about this. It was at sunset that he and I first kissed, and then how I had wanted to establish sunsets as the daily celebration of our love, while Angelo would have preferred the moon, for he was an absolutely nocturnal creature.
That insistence from Fabrizio with sunsets, rather than making me rejoice, was hurting me. Since the end of my relationship with Angelo, I deliberately turned my back to the setting sun -- and several times, I had cried at that moment, feeling lonely and resentful.
In Santorini, Greece, while the other tourists were settling in cafes to watch the sunset, when the sun seemed to open a bleeding mouth over the flooded caldera, I had hid myself in my room, crying with rage as I heard the applause with which others greeted that spectacle of nature. I had thought that taking refuge in that beautiful island and in the arms of the gorgeous men that abound in Greece would help me overcome my grief, but everywhere and especially at sunsets I was reminded of Angelo -- because I carried him within myself, like a scar in my heart, and there was no escape possible.
It was during that sunset in Iceland that I finally understood it.
It was a powerful and liberating insight.
Fabrizio did not intend to torture me with his persistence in watching together every beautiful sunset -- in Vice City, in Capri, in Samsara Heights, everywhere that we had been.
He could not have known about my strange sorrow, and he certainly did not intend to stimulate any despair that afflicted me.
With his loving companion, he was offering me the chance to face my own suffering, and again turn sunsets into a beautiful and happy occasion, making peace with my past and finally leaving it behind.
That's what I finally realized -- what seemed like a torture was actually a chance for redemption and transformation, being offered through Fabrizio's insistence. I was just misinterpreting what he handed me with so much love and care.
And while all that happened within me, without Fabrizio noticing any exterior signs -- for he might have been the therapist, but not the remedy -- I had wanted to thank him for the opportunity to heal another old wound.
"I'm so happy to hear that, babe!" We celebrated my confession with a long kiss. As the end of our holidays in Iceland approached, we felt even more passionate about each other. It had actually been a great idea to have rented a house, where we could be as intimate as we would have wished for.
That long kiss brought us inside the house and into our room, where we made love on the big bed overlooking the sunset -- ironically, listening to a long sequence of Radiohead's songs.
Fabrizio's liking of that band was something that would again hurt me -- because my whole relationship with Angelo, the good and the bad times, had elapsed to the sound of Radiohead. But again, how could he have known it?
1993, our last year in France, had been marked by the release of Pablo Honey, and Angelo and I had flipped to that album. I felt I was 'Creep' myself, while Angelo had identified himself with 'You', and together we were 'Blow Out'.
1995, when we were already living in Vice City, the soundtrack was The Bends, and we had lots of sex to the sound of 'High and Dry' and 'Street Spirit', but would only come with 'Just'.
In 1997, when Angelo met Jake and Laura, to the wonderful album that was OK Computer, we had had fights while listening to 'Exit Music', 'Let Down', 'Lucky', 'Paranoid Android' and 'Karma Police', but we'd reconcile to the sound of 'Airbag' and 'No Surprises' -- although, at that point in our relationship, Angelo was delivering me only 'Bad Surprises'.
But since we had broke up, I never again wanted to listen to Radiohead with the same dedicated ardor.
Especially because they had done piercing songs like 'How to Disappear Completely' -- in fact, Kid A and Amnesiac entire albums translated my life and tortured me with their aching truths put into bleeding songs.
Sometimes, I thought I could kill someone listening to 'Idioteque' -- or perhaps, kill myself.
Until I met Fabrizio who, with the King of Limbs album had again brought Radiohead into my life -- and to my heart. He had just downloaded it when he had visited me at the farm in the Apennines, and had driven all the way up the mountains, windows open though they diminished the aerodynamics of his potent Lamborghini, and screaming to the new songs he was just listening the lyrics to. In Fabrizio's recollections, our first kiss closed the album. And our brief reunion had closed with a long kiss, leaning against his car, while King of Limbs was already playing -- and we would listen to it together again other times, too, in celebratory moods.
I gladly accepted the chance he was giving me to once again belong to the sect of worshipers of Thom Yorke, along with Fabrizio himself. He was the one man we both sighed for.
Our love and the sex we made were both redemption for us. Despite being only 37 years old, before meeting Fabrizio I foresaw myself alone for the rest of my life, cultivating bitterness and lack of interest in love. I'm gonna lock my heart and throw away the key, I used to sing along with Billie Holiday -- and I thought I had done that, in fact. Fabrizio, ten years younger than me, had found himself in a self-imposed trap, having been sentenced to a life of lies and hypocrisy in love. Together, we were saving each other, delving paths into the other's heart.
Secretly, I sometimes feared that Fabrizio would not bear social and family pressures and have a relapse. With his extremely masculine looks, he was always attracting women glances and interest. And though outwardly I laughed at them, knowing that gorgeous man belong only to me, deep inside I felt insecure when I realized how he was a target for them, everywhere that we went together. And what, when he was on his own?
Maybe it was just another ghostly legacy of Angelo's cheating, or due to his own behavior towards Andara, having had Helmut as a lover in parallel to his fianceé for several years -- though not as many, it's true, as my grandmother Celeste, had been Monsieur de Montbelle's lover and second option for a good part of her life. Sometimes, it seemed, everywhere that I looked into my own past, all I could find was cheating and deceit -- and feeling I was doomed from even before birth, I feared for my present and my future.
Another redemption for us had been my return to Vice City. My reunion with Fabrizio had happened less than a month after his visit to the Apennines. Rather than going back to my own house in Samsara Heights, Fabrizio had suggested that I stop in Vice City to be with him.
He had offered to pick me up at the airport -- that same one where we had talked for the first time almost one year earlier, during the blackout -- late in the afternoon, and from there we'd go have dinner. Although I had changed clothes in the bathroom of the airplane shortly before landing to disguise being travel weary, I was still tired from the long flight -- but at the very sight of Fabrizio, my fatigue had ended instantly, as I was reminded how much I longed to make love to him.
Naively, or perhaps boldly, Fabrizio had taken me to the most fancy and expensive restaurant in town, installed on a pier -- in 2011, the Nirvana Lounge of my conversation with Carlo no longer existed, having closed with the financial crisis in 2008.
Fabrizio was disconcerted by the looks we received upon entering the restaurant -- even if only by sight, many people had known and remarked the golden couple formed by Andara and him. Now, following the gossip of their disconcerting breakup, that still agitated the international jet set, he presented his new Platinum blonde -- me.
I had done a little research on Andara, on the internet. To find that she had not always been blonde, and anyway, always less blonde than me! Or did she dye her pubic hair, too? She was pretty, elegant and impeccably dressed -- she seemed to be flawless, while I had been only vulgarly promiscuous in the past. My biggest asset was the controversial success coming from a shameless, scandalous career, while Andara must have had millions in her bank account. Maybe her family owned a bank. In fact, I might have hated her just because she reminded me so much of Laura, the socialite supreme for whom Angelo had dumped me. Andara, like Laura, was perfectly nice, while in that story I was the bitch -- how cheap, worthless to her eyes I must have been when I had snatched her princely boyfriend. Yet, made bolder since his coming out, Fabrizio -- in his new feisty and defiant gay persona -- was apparently enjoying not just being seen by my side, but flaring me like a gaudy medal, representing his new freedom.
Awkwardly, I could imagine that until some months ago, she was the one at the table with Fabrizio at his best loved restaurant in town. Somehow aware of her existence somewhere else on the planet, I had thought of her throughout the dinner. Had she found a new guy to console her -- I couldn't find anything about that on the internet -- or should I anonymously send her a dildo? The main question was -- did she still pose any threat to my budding love with her ex-fiance?
But I was not entirely unknown in the restaurant, either -- in fact, in Vice City I was a demi-celebrity, like the demi-sec champagne Andara used to drink at that same restaurant. There was always my notoriety from the 'Dark Room' exhibition accompanying me, but not only that -- among those present at the restaurant, there were at three of my previous one-night stands. One was the waiter who was serving us, which was awkward enough, but the other one sat at a nearby table with a girl he was holding hands with, while he kept facing me with intensity. Until Fabrizio noticed it and faced him back, defiant and menacingly.
"Do I have to kiss you in public, Laurent, so these bitches quit aiming at you?" Fabrizio asked, noisily deposing his fork. I should have been reassured with his demonstration of jealousy, but I actually regretted seeing him so distraught, and drinking bigger gulps of wine than he normally would.
Our first romantic dinner was not ruined by any of those things, but neither did it elapse peacefully.
But none of that mattered to Fabrizio. He was determined to have a memorable night -- our first in Vice City officially as a couple -- and had clearly outlined his plan. From the restaurant we went to his apartment.
I felt a little embarrassed to go in there again, remembering how I had left it with harsh and discourteous words toward my host, who eventually had become my boyfriend. Catherine would have been ashamed of my behavior, and Celeste would certainly have disowned me, if they learned how rude I had been to Fabrizio.
Fabrizio also seemed to be aware of the bad memories that lingered in that beautiful living room with its stupendous views of the ocean and, without turning the lights on, he pulled me towards the stairs.
"Come, Laurent. There's someone waiting for you upstairs."
I gasped, and tried not to frown. Andara, I thought for a moment? People were strange and had their weird vices, but I really did not expect anything of that kind coming from Fabrizio. Another threesome? Had he fooled me? Nevertheless...
How hadn't I thought of that, too?
Gerhard Richter -- the painter of our first conversation, in the bathroom of the chaotic airport -- and 'St. Andrew', his glorious painting, awaited us at the top of the stairs. The rest of the apartment was dark, except for the dim city lights coming from outside, but Fabrizio had left the lights that illuminated the painting on. It glowed -- and if a painting could have breathed, that one certainly did. I was elated, aware that he looked at me smilingly, while my eyes shone with admiration. Standing before good art, I always felt life was worth experiencing for moments like those. Richter's painting was one of those miracles to leave me speechless, breathless, my faith restored in mankind, when it proved capable of the most wonderful doings.
From the beginning, when in the Apennines Fabrizio had said he wanted a special occasion to make love to me for the first time, he had been thinking of that painting. The painting that had been our first connection and, representing my presence as much as my absence, accompanied him all along his 'crossing'.
"Alone, at last..." I laughed, "with Gerhard!" I jumped on Fabrizio's neck and embracing him, we kissed.
Fabrizio's bedroom was another radical visual experience -- no concessions for colors other than black and graphite, unless in Richter's painting of course, that thus dominated the room. It was as if the whole room existed to display that painting. It might be too cheap to mention I almost immediately forgot about the painting, but just because I knew I would have plenty of time to later admire that stunning work of art.
Naturally, all of Andara's traces in the apartment had disappeared. No clothes, not one framed picture, of course -- but even so, I could not stop thinking about her, she who had once occupied that same bed with Fabrizio, a jarring touch of femininity in that austere and completely masculine environment. And at first, it was a strange ménage-a-trois that I experienced in my mind.
Next, I thought I would probably have to burn my own bed at Samsara Heights, before inviting Fabrizio to lie therein, otherwise it would be a real ghostly orgy.
And then I realized as I was still clinging to the past -- and perhaps that first night with Fabrizio was another redemption, and the end of a long sentence, full of mistakes and misspellings that I had been writing until then.
That week along which we occupied the house in Iceland, I had the privilege to get to know Fabrizio better. After a year of being in love, it was with greater intensity and scope that I felt my love for him growing, as I was able to admire and respect him even more.
Finally, I realized that, just as he had been devoted to his work as a means to stay away from Andara whenever he felt suffocated by his own lies and her demands, just the same had he chosen to spend his holidays in a single house.
Actually, his choice not only contradicted Andara's, but her whole group of friends -- whom Fabrizio, after all, did not enjoy much. It was perhaps her way of defending herself from Fabrizio's lack of romanticism -- he was a polite and correct but cold boyfriend to her --, always being among friends, that to Fabrizio seemed a hindrance and an excess. What I had imagined to be a great loss to him at the end of his relationship with Andara, had actually been a relief.
Often he stayed behind when the whole bunch of people left on a tour, including Andara -- and he did not mind being alone, however, since he could devote himself to his businesses, which he led with dedication and seriousness. The same dedication and passion that he had in cooking -- and he did not mind spending hours in the kitchen, often on his own, while the other fellow travelers were at the pool or at the beach, like bees revolving around the queen that Andara was.
That behavior had earned him the reputation of being a snobbish and difficult person -- but Fabrizio did not care. It all seemed so fake to him, including the self-image he presented to people and how they perceived him, that during those years he had cultivated a fatalist feeling about the hypocritical social trap that he had laid for himself.
And talking about social traps, since their families had known each other, Fabrizio had met Helmut at his cousin's wedding. Casually and cordially, Helmut had introduced Fabrizio to his wife and shown him pictures of their baby boy, too small to come to such a big party. A beautiful baby in the splendid cradle of a glorious home -- Helmut's life was, after all, perfect.
And in a moment when they had been left alone by Helmut's wife, Fabrizio told his ex-lover that he had made his coming out to his family.
For an instant, Helmut had been baffled.He shifted his weight on his feet, to recompose the balance he had slightly lost for a single moment. But being a good politician in its worst sense, he had kept a thriving smile on his face, and the tone of his voice measured, sounding as if he was telling a holidays' joke to Fabrizio:
"I'm sorry, mate. I never thought it was serious to you. Of course this eliminates any chance of friendship between us." After which, he had lowered his voice to use a less friendly tone, leaning menacingly towards Fabrizio. "This is dangerous. More for you than for me, if anyone ever finds out anything... about our past. You know, politics is a rather unscrupulous world. This is the end, for us, you understand it, don't you, mate? Actually, it has never begun. It never happened." Helmut laughed out loud at the end of his own holidays' joke. "Goodbye mate. We'll never see each other again." And when Helmut saw his wife approaching them again, he almost spit his last sentence. "Now just fuck off."
If Fabrizio had been pacified with his parents attitudes during the wedding, Helmut's reaction was a new blow on him.
"We were just screwing around, man. It was no loving shit!" Helmut had hissed. And before Fabrizio had a chance to declare his loyalty to his former lover, whom he still held as a friend, he heard a threaten -- at least, that's how Fabrizio interpreted the words "It is more dangerous for you, mate, than for me... in a world so unscrupulous."
Anyway, Fabrizio had felt finally left alone.
A part of his life was thus ending, and all those characters of his double life leaving it. Had Monsieur de Montbelle felt a similar relief with his wife's death, and Armand's retreat?, I wondered. Not without pain, but the relief was even greater -- and I was the balm of his new life, according to Fabrizio himself. He was healing, too, and like a plant that had had all its branches cut, he was now learning to grow in new, unexpected directions.
And it was Fabrizio himself who had wanted to leave the house on our last full day in Iceland.
During our holidays, we had read two very good books by Icelandic authors -- the mighty 'Njal's Saga', the Icelandic epic par excellence, and 'The Fish Can Sing' by the Nobel Prizer winner Halldór Laxness. I had picked both books at a bookshop on our first day in Reykjavík, to be our introduction to Icelandic Literature.
We had read them the way we both liked best. We had been breathless to discover, upon having recently watched 'A Single Man' together, that we both loved best the scene with the two lovers reading at the sofa -- but unfortunately, not reading to one another!, we remarked. Like a dream come true, sometimes Fabrizio would read to me, and then I were to read to him aloud. It was such a small detail, perhaps others would consider it a foolishness, but reading out loud to each other was one of our most romantic rituals, symbolic to the blessed life we led as a couple.