But what is the right measure for poisoning oneself?
I don't think Angelo had planned it for that night, and the medicine cabinet was out of reach for him, in my mother's bathroom. Downstairs, he took whatever was available in the kitchen. He would never have died from a mix of strong spices, vitamin pills and cleaning products, but he did get a severe intoxication that equaled to a mild poisoning.
For several weeks, after he returned from the hospital, he complained about pain in his stomach, and also in the throat, from the medical procedures. Stubbornly refusing to eat anything , he accepted only water and light juices -- and often threw them up, after spasms and convulsions that shook his whole body and the bed. He grew frail, thinner than himself as a teenager. We tried to eat as family in the bedroom, to keep him company, but quit it -- to the sight and smell of food, he would vomit.
"A sin leads to another sin", I overheard Edoardo's comment to my mother.
It was clearly intended as an accusation. Even in the gravest of moments, he could not leave his prejudice aside, condemning our love as the cause of Angelo's suicide attempt -- and never his own lack of support.
'The intolerance of a father will lead to the death of a son', I wanted to reply. But wouldn't I sound intolerant myself? I preferred to practice temperance, and anyways, I could never have pronounced the word 'death'. I did not want to even cogitate that Angelo could die.
It was a torment to watch him loose weight every day. Worse, his mood did not improve. He avoided facing us, and denied to talk to us. He flinched at our touch, and seemed to oppose my presence close to him.
We were afraid that he would try it again, and thus never left him alone. When I had to shower or go to the bathroom, Edoardo stayed by his side. Edoardo was cooking as usual, and I did the washing, while Catherine had to resume her routine of writing and teaching in Belgium, leaving her house to her men.
As usual, Edoardo did not knock on the door to come into our room -- because I was leaving the door always open.
Edoardo and I were no longer speaking to one another -- but the silence between us had changed from being another wicked form of aggression and despise into a belligerent peace treaty. To avoid quarreling, we avoided simply talking to one another. That way, at least, we were able to occupy the same room, the room which Angelo never left.
Probably suspecting that Angelo and I were going to have sex in the shower, like so often when we were teenagers, Edoardo had invited upon himself things like bathing and changing his son. It was moving to see them back to how it must have been in the first year of their relationship -- that if Edoardo, a patriarchal macho, had ever helped Angelo's mother to take care of the baby. And hadn't he, his time had arrived. He was even humming songs as he tended to Angelo, awfully melancholic melodies that were not the least uplifting -- and though I thought them inopportune for the recovery of someone depressed, I no longer criticized anything Edoardo did.
"Io te voglio tanto, tanto benne, figlio mio." Edoardo would often whisper love declarations for Angelo. I was touched.
Sometimes, the father would try to get in bed with the son, and try to cuddle.
But Angelo continued to dismiss all displays of affection, be it from his father or me.
Especially me, it seemed.
"Alone." I would often hear Angelo whisper, out of nothing. But since it was said loud enough, I knew it was supposed to arrive at my ears.
"What? Why do you say that?" There was no point in asking -- Angelo knew we were not leaving him on his own. We all thought he still wanted to die, because he was not eating, and often refused to take his medicine. Not as desperate, it seemed like another form of suicide was going on. He had refused to see a psychologist, too. "I am here for you." I replied. Weren't we a pair, a couple, a team any longer?
Angelo seemed to think not. 'I am alone.' he would say, when I was right on the bed next to him, just like it had always been, since he had moved into my bedroom.
Looking back, the weeks of Angelo's recovery -- though he was not really recovering -- marked the end of our teenage years. My boyfriend's health and well-being -- life, essentially -- had me willing to answer accordingly to his importance to me, and I grew up a lot. I matured.
Angelo was a macchiato person.
Until Edoardo came to live with us, coffee had never been part of our household. Carlo reputed it was too strong for the senses, hindering his meditation and the finer aspects of his sensitivity and concentration. Catherine thought it killed the aftertaste of the exquisite wines she enjoyed so much.
Edoardo brought with him a professional espresso machine, that he intended to use later in his restaurant. That occasion, of course, never happened. But he would put it to use daily, justifying he had to keep it working well. He liked his espresso 'corto', really strong. To my dismay, even Catherine started having it, 'lungo', just to join her partner.
Because it was an Edoardo thing, I decided to hate coffee -- though I loved its aroma. And above all, I enjoyed preparing it for Angelo. When he once said I had the best hand for coffee he had ever seen, another dispute between his father and me started. But to my boyfriend, I was the undisputed winner.
When once more Angelo did not touch his lunch, I figured out I could bring his appetite back by fixing him the best cup of macchiato ever. It was not so easy to achieve the exact proportion of coffee and milk foam, and when I tried too hard and too carefully, it would chill a little bit -- and Angelo hated that.
After three tries, I decided I had made the perfect macchiato, my best ever. I ran upstairs to deliver it properly hot. Angelo would have preferred a cannolo as by side, but I could only find an éclair in the fridge, and hoped it would do.
Coffee was not very appropriate for someone who had his stomach hurt by chemicals, but my intention was to bring a smile to ngelo's lips, and a taste he loved. Ultimately, I wanted to bring back his will to live, his intensity and enthusiasm -- even if it were for arguing with me.
He did not smile, as I placed the coffee by his side, on the bed. But his eyes did lit like I still hadn't seen in weeks. I helped him recline on his elbow. Like me, Angelo was in his underwear only -- it was sultry, one of those summer days when cicadas scream higher and higher, indicating the temperature is always increasing. I could not help but notice the difference between his arm and mine. He had always been beefier than me, and to grab his biceps and triceps while we made love had been a fetish to me, since our first time. But no longer. He had thinned so rapidly and heavily that it seemed like someone had sliced his flesh away. I was saddened, and touched, and my hands trembled as I took the cup to his pale and lackluster lips, that once had been so juicy and red.
He sipped the coffee eagerly, and I was instantly made happy -- for a few seconds only.
I observed his eyes widen suddenly, and coffee ooze from the corners of his mouth. I might have been giving it too fast for him to drink. Next, Angelo chocked, and trying to push the cup away, spilled the burning liquid on his own chest. He screamed.
"Fuck you!" He loved swearing in English. I was paralyzed in the chair that I had placed at his bed side. When, nearly half a minute later, I did react, things got worse. His delicate white skin had instantly grown from rosy to red into purple, and I hurt him more by rubbing it, trying to dry the coffee. He didn't have the strength to back off, but he did slap my hand "Fuck off, Laurent! Are you trying to kill me?" He started crying, from the pain and the humiliation. And I cried, too, seeing my boyfriend laying in the dark pool staining his bed sheets. The last drops of coffee were still finding their way down the side of his chest, into his armpit. When, within seconds, small blisters started visibly springing up on his burnt skin, I started sobbing.
Angelo yelled at me, commanding me to leave the room. I was glad that Edoardo and Catherine had both left after lunch, and there was no one to witness my goofiness. No matter how much he shouted, I did not leave Angelo. I wasn't supposed even to have been downstairs fixing coffee, abandoning my boyfriend all on his own -- for that, alone, I could be blamed. What had seemed like a wonderful idea turned out to be disastrous.
"I hate you!" Angelo yelled, before turning on his stomach and hiding his head under the pillow, moaning in pain.
Angelo's suicide attempt, and his reluctance in claiming his health back, contained a clear message of lasting desperation -- but his father seemed unable, or unwilling to hear, or interpret , or understand it.
I concluded Edoardo would not change his mind. Ever. He was unable to see how his intolerance and lack of support was hurting his son. He thought Angelo's damnation had one source only -- sin, or his love for me.
But hadn't I been just as intolerant myself? I hadn't helped Angelo like he had asked me to. A Matisse? What was a Matisse compared to someone's life?
Silently, or yelling, from within his suffering Angelo kept pointing at how useless I was.
I hate you. In three words, he had stated very clearly how I was responsible for his misery. Edoardo might not have helped his son handing him the money he would need for himself and his restaurant -- that is, if he did have the money, for it was never clear to me. But I, I could have helped Angelo -- had I really wanted to go to the USA.
I knew just what I had to do.