Days were passing in the lazy, slow down rhythm that the hot weather was imposing. The girls enjoyed the chance to flaunt their couture bikinis matched elegantly with scarves and sun glasses, the guys enjoyed the opportunity to live a life in which dressing up was not an option. The long chatting sessions, very often took place in the pool; they all increased the consumption of alcohol. In London after a glass of white wine Amedeo felt slightly tipsy. In there, alcohol seemed to pass through them with little or no effect. Amedeo and Milton both mastered the preparation of caipirinha and they were more than happy to show off their newly acquired skill. Milton, who, despite an air of pragmatic person, very down to earth, very logic, was very perceptive of Amedeo’s moods, was the only person to be able to sense that his lover had something not quite right, but Amedeo kept reassuring him that all was good, nothing to worry about.
It was about 1pm, of a very hot afternoon. The plan set the night before was to reach a beach further down the main road that apparently was meant to be particularly pretty. It involved a longer trip with a car. Amedeo found an excuse not to join the group. Milton insisted, but eventually let him be. The 5 friends made the final preparations, packed some lunch to have on the beach, filled some coolers with beer and left on a rented vehicle that saw better days.
Amedeo was alone. He was not under the influence of any stimulants, alcohol of downers. He was sober. He needed to check the street one more time. He was terrified, but he knew he had to be alone. The action was quite mundane; he had to leave the flat, walk to a certain junction, one with the big avenue circumnavigating the hill, the other cutting straight through it perpendicular to the village main road.
He had no idea about a suitable preparation he should have adopted for the occasion. He thought that engaging in a short meditation seemed to be appropriate. He was no expert in such discipline, but YouTube offered him some general guidance. He sat comfortable enough and began to focus on his breathing. For a while he was able to watch himself thinking, acknowledge the thoughts and let them go. He was sure he must have been doing it for at least 15 minutes. He checked his watch and realised that the minutes spent meditating were not even 5.
:- Never mind. He said to himself.
:- I still feel the benefit. I don’t have to have a specific meditation time.
He changed into a black outfit. He had no reason to wear black, it was not night, and even if it wold have been night, he was not trying to blend with the darkness, however he felt that black was the colour to be using in that occasion, just to mark the solemnity of the operation.
The bottle of Cachaca was tempting him on his way out of the flat, positioned over the kitchen counter, ready to be poured. The colourful glasses ready to be filled. He grabbed the bottle, looked at it and put it down. Grabbed it again, unscrewed the top, had a smell at the scented spirit, desisted.
:- no, no, no, no, no. He said to himself :- the point is to do this without any influence. As I am. If I get even slightly tipsy I won’t know what’s what.
He said goodbye to the bottle of Cachaca and left the building. Outside nature was, as usual, wild and cheerful. The local dogs playing friendly with the stray cats a game of mock fight, in which, there was no violence. Some other cats were staring at frogs; very big, fat frogs, whom, unafraid, stared back with lazy eyes and, occasionally, flicking their long tongue to catch an unlucky fly. The greenery was lush, turgid after the brief, but intense nightly rain, The sun was bright, slightly orange and created patterns of light and shade over the muddy street. Small, simply built houses were sparse over the few miles between the condominium and the junction. This time, he would be taking the shortcut in the opposite direction; from the condominium toward the main road. From that end, the entry to the shortcut coincided with the access to a fairly luxurious private villa which gate was composed by heavy sliding doors. In that occasion the gate was shut. Just beside the gate the small tunnel opened up the way to the shortcut. That very tunnel that gave him the worse anxiety, on that night . Now it looked inconspicuous and harmless. It was not yet dark. The light was still colouring the narrow street of a shade of blue and orange. He curves a little his neck to allow his head to avoid a low ceiling . He walked through . In no time he gave his shoulders to the tunnel.
:- done, he thought, :- once passed that point, the rest is average, that was the scariest part. Once done that, the rest will be a piece por cake. He felt victorious. He felt proud to have been able to conquer his irrational fears . Automatically he began to sing to himself.
:- Il mare d’inverno…. Come in film in Branco e nero vista alla TV…. E verso l’ interno…. Una nuvola dal Cielo che si butte giu…
He walked fast, but not because he was trying to get out of there. He just felt confident enough to be fast. In no time he arrived to the other end of the narrow street, Now, after the curve, the narrow street opened up, full of colour, over bars and restaurants. Music and and laughters were filling the atmosphere; tanned tourists were snapping away with their iPhones to immortalise themselves in this touristic landmark of the village. He did it. Now there was no mystery anymore. He proved to himself that the panic was drug induced and he could continue his normal life. He regretted that he wouldn’t be able to share this victory with Milton. His lover was not aware of the turmoil he experienced since that night. But he thought that, eventually, he would tell him the whole story and probably they will have a good laugh at it
He was in town, alone. Amedeo liked his own company. Not that he was a loaner, but he had no problems about doing things on his own: going to the cinema, or even to a restaurant or a bar alone was not a bother to him. Actually, he quite enjoyed doing it.
He hit a couple of trendy shops located in the touristic side of town, bought two overpriced swimming trunks but still cheap once you translated the cost in sterling, indulged in a way-too-sweet ice-cream, from one of the many parlours in that street, looked at a group of young men, with their surfing boards under their arms, speaking a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese and looking stunning with their long locks bleached by the sea water combined with the sun, their bronze skin, their thin, slouchy and muscular bodies oozing testosterone; youth and beauty. He was intrigued by the physicality they were flaunting. In apparent total innocence, they were grabbing each other, jumping on one another, mock fighting, hugging and kissing, thinking nothing of it. He thought that, at their age, he used to feel awkward about his body. Then, he did not feel comfortable in his own skin. Too many fears of being read as gay, too much repression, too much secrecy. He would have never even considered to be showing affection, even if purely platonic, toward another male. Or, maybe, in truth, he wouldn’t have been able to experience pure platonic affection toward another male. The repression was still too great, just the sight of a bare leg would have inflamed him. Repressed libido interfered with all his relationships with men. He felt slightly sad for his past self but glad that things were different now. He was glad to be a 58 years old gay man, in sync with himself, perfectly at ease in his own skin and proud of having given his active contribution to the gay community’s visibility, back the 70s and the 80s during that time when to be gay was still a big deal. :- At the time who could pass for straight, had no desire to be known as homosexual. The people that came out of the closet where those people that belong to one of the shades of the rainbow flag positioned in between the primary colours, the transvestites, the drag-queens, the transgenders and transsexuals, it was ether these people who, in order to express themselves had to be visible or those few that carried the flame of rebellion and became militants. They were not many. The movement grew fast, but to begin with, we were just a bunch. Amedeo thought
He remembered how hard the concept of being proud was. How alien the concept felt. Growing up surrounded by people who can’t even begin to consider that someone they know and love could be gay, In a family, if a boy showed some less than masculine attitude, he was taken to the psychiatrist, often given hormones, which made them even more gay. Hormones act on the libido toward what one likes to begin with! They don’t change your taste. He was told he was gay from his schoolmates. He had no idea what gay was. He found out the hard way when his peers began to point their fingers at him and call him names he hardly knew what they meant, but knew for a fact that they were not names to be proud to be.
He was deeply immerse in his thoughts, reminiscing of a painful and troubled past which inspire of the difficulties gave to him strength that, eventually, given time was to also turn into pride, when he realised that the sun was about to set. As soon as he had that realisation, he met another group of youngsters, similar to the previous bunch, but, instead of surfing boards, they carried displays of craft. Mainly jewellery made out of shells, beads and feathers, some dream-catchers, some hair pins and maybe a few bandana or scarfs. Very humble merchandise it was.
Those were the the beach improvised entrepreneurs that so often he met in the village or down on the promenade selling stuff to whoever felt the impulse of burying short-life jewellery. Amedeo asked to himself if any of them was able to actually sell any. He thought about his very stylish lesbian friends
:- Agatha and Loredana wouldn’t be seen dead on similar jewellery. He told himself. Especially Agatha, if she hasn’t seen it on Vogue, she won’t wear it. He thought back and couldn’t remember having seen anybody approaching them to even bargain over the price of such merchandise.
At that point, an unmistakable whiff of maconha filled his nostrils. He made an educated guess that the smell was coming from the boys. He elaborated that, if they were not really selling any of those objects, they must have had something else to sell to make all those hours hustling at the beach worth their while.
He didn’t even complete the thought that his automatic pilot took control. His legs moved toward them, his mouth formed a broad, friendly grin, unconsciously he began to swing his shoulders to try to imitate the penguin walk, so popular with all the youth around the world and he reached the group.
These were most likely local boys,Portuguese speaking, but he was unable to switch on automatically the local language. Somehow the sentence he decided to approach them with, came out of his mouth in his native language, maybe because he said that phrase much more often in Italy than he did in London, where he very seldom had opportunities to smoke dope, let alone purchasing it.
:- Hei ragazzi! Avete fumo da vendere? He said to nobody in particular but secretly hoping that the cutie with hazelnut eyes and jet black hair was going to reply. He did not. Another cutie, but maybe a little less, took the conversation in his hands.
:-Amigo! He said :- how do I know you are not a policeman? You are a bit old for this kind of things.
Amedeo, at that statement, felt his blood bubbling up and rushing to his head triggering millions of very camp, caustic one-line answers, many of which, he took from drag-acts he had seen throughout his life, but he contained it…..just.
Instead, he pumped up his chest, which it was considerably big, straightened his back and made sure he didn’t loose the friendly expression in his face, even if in his heart he felt murderous.
:- Oh! C’mon! It is because of my age you should trust me, people my age have done all possible drugs ever invented! We had it in our culture. Not like you, young people that get high on video games, killing zombies! We all were getting our kicks out of class A was much before you were even conceived! Don’t you know your rock’n roll’s history? Who started to talk about drugs in rock and roll? Us, the 50s plus! He was about to mention Lou Reed, Marianne Faithful, and the Stones but it occurred to him that the last time he conversed about music with an under 20, the youngster didn’t know who Madonna was, so he left it at that.
The little less cutie felt offended by this remark and was going to play difficult
:- Amigo! Com esso voce no me convince! He stated with a dismissive look.
Fortunately the rest of the group did not feel the same way, Maybe they were more perceptive or maybe just more prepared to take a risk, or maybe they didn’t take Amedeo’s observation as a go at their generation, Maybe they even may have thought that he had a point, but they laughed off the friend’s caution and super-cute hazelnut-eyes, with a smile to stop traffic and a body language so very sensual that Amedeo had to repress an impulse to start flirting, approached him, put his tight and muscular arm around his shoulders and walked him away, far from the rest.
:- I have cannabis, I have hashish, I have oil. Very high HTC content. Super strong.
Amedeo asked for a price list. He would have thought the prices to be cheaper, but, once again, he translated the cost in pounds and once converted, the cost was laughable. He went for the Hash. Oil might have been too strong, cannabis…. Well.. too common. He purchased a lump of hash that he was assured was 5 grams in weight. Amedeo didn’t roll a joint in, very likely, a couple of decades, He wasn’t sure if he would have been proficient in this operation. Also he had no tobacco to mix the hash with. He needed hazelnut-eyes’ services a little bit longer.Amedeo’s smile broadened even more. He positively felt some discomfort on his cheeks for contracting the zygomatic muscles for so long. He attempted a streetwise posture he never really mastered, not even when he was streetwise, but he had enough experience of films, comics, video games, cartoons and novels to be able, at least to avoid being stereotypical or right down pathetic.
:-Hey, my man! He started, and immediately cussed himself for having used that expression Hey, my man! So passe’! What was he? An ageing Ryan Gosling?
:- Well, well. He thought. :- too late now. It is out there. I may as well continue the performance. He thought, :- That’s ok! I am sure this boy is not adjourned on Anglo-Saxon slangs and colloquialisms.
My man! I only smoke joints, I don’t have any tobacco with me. No rizla ether, Plus, I need to make a call right now. Why don’t you roll yourself a joint ? Then I can puff from yours while I’m on the phone.
Hazelnut-eyes didn’t quite follow such elaborate request, but he managed to grab the concept because while Amedeo was talking he was performing his sharada by caressing the tip of his fingers with the thumbs in the universal sign language for rolling and he completed the sharada with a lick of the air between his fingers and thumbs to mime the final process of rolling a joint, when one licks the edge of the cigarette paper to glue together the two sides.
:- sim, sim, ta bem! Hazelnut’s eyes stated. Amedeo returned to the boy the lump of black-green stuff that he just bought and the boy, with no hesitation, with a dexterity truly admirable, in less than a minute he crumbled some of the hash in his hand, after having it warmed at the flame of his lighter, opened a cigarette and added half the tobacco content to the crumbled hash on his hand’s palm, massaged it with the other thumb for a few seconds, to obtain a blend of the two ingredients, with one hand he was able to extract two Rizla from the packet he had in his shirt’s pocket, licked them and stuck them together to form a L, emptied the content in his hand into the L and started the rolling. The result was a perfectly designed joint, long, thin and elegant. He offered it to Amedeo and immediately he started to roll a second and a third. He was, effectively more perceptive than Amedeo gave him credit for initially, He clearly understood Amedeo’s needs and was kind enough to want to avoid embarrassing Amedeo with having to ask him to help him out. He used his own initiative to provide Amedeo with a customer-care he hoped will be remembered in the future
Amedeo gestured to him to go for it, light it up and smoke, but hazelnut-eyes, with a very amicable smile gave him a polite decline to the offer. Amedeo felt a little hurt. At some subconscious level, he was secretly hoping to get high in the boy’s company…. Maybe become friends, but that was not going to happen. The boy gave him his own lighter. After Amedeo got the joint going, he returned to the boy the lighter who smiled and gestured to him to keep it, by waving his hands backward and forward and, always maintaining a big smile with all his 32 teeth, perfectly white and regularly shaped, like if they were precious gems lined up in the fleshy, velvety, moist cavity of his mouth. Amedeo watched him, feeling mesmerised by how the boy sprinted to run back to his companions without hesitation, once the deal was completed. He already felt his head going foggy. He started to feel his thoughts being slightly dissociated from his body, and the brain doing its own associations without him allowing such associations to take place,
:- A puma, he thought. :- A puma with hazelnut-eyes. And he followed the train of thoughts with :-but don’t all pumas have hazelnut eyes?
And the giggle started. He needed to get a grip on his thinking not to giggle like a cretin for reasons only known to his neurotransmitters.
He strolled along, on the village main street and he began to think using fragments of memories he had of dialogues in old comics books he read in the past. Amedeo was, in fact, an avid comics reader and collector. He never lost the habit looking for them, and he experienced an immense pleasure when, maybe in some old news-agencies, or in old book-shops he found something worth of his interest. Sadly he knew that Marvel and DC comics took over the market, in these days.He didn’t snob them, he still bought whatever he could find, but what he was after was something a little more…. Well… different….maybe European. Italian Spanish of French. He rarely was lucky, but he kept trying. Occasionally, very occasionally, he was able to find some real jewels : re-prints of his favourite Italian dark heroes from the 60s and 70s, old Asterix or TinTin, or even those erotic publications that in Italy and France were read transversally by the population and they were to the limit of hard-core pornography but for some unclear sociological phenomenon became acceptable reading material for two decades in Europe. In his life, he read enough of them, to be embedded in his subconscious mind. He had a mental catalogue of the recurring sentences and colloquialisms typical of these publications. Now that he was stone, he began to imagine himself producing a bubble of smoke above his head and seeing alphabet letters forming in them, formatting fragments of thoughts or of descriptive statements. He saw a young woman shrinking herself against a wall when a dog of medium size, suddenly started to bark at her and he automatically imagined the smoke thickening over his head in a small cloud with decreasing clouds in a sequels toward the centre of his head and the words :- the poor woman is terrified. He giggled. He saw an elderly lady, flaunting on her face the result of many look-enhancing procedures. These procedures were so many and so obvious that did not help the lady to look any younger, she just looked like an old lady with a lot of cheap plastic surgery,He imagined the smoke forming the little cloud over his head and the alphabetic letters forming the sentence: -the mutton dressed as lamb was greedy for more fun - appearing in the middle of the cloud. He giggled a little louder.
He noticed two boys running as if they were trying to escape from an enemy and the letters in his imaginary cloud formed the words:- quick! Let’s get away from that! He was adapting whatever his eyes were framing into a comic book’s vignette.
This personal mind-game became so automatic that he no longer realised that he was doing it. During this singular experience, he sat at a table of a bar, where he had a Margarita and his mind kept breaking down the consecution of events into single, static frames and he visualised the commentary to the scenes he saw in stereotypical sentences appearing inside clouds of smoke.
He caught himself reminiscing of his attempt to designed his own comic story. In many occasions, in different times of his life, he made attempts to complete a graphic novel. He created his comic character, a space warrior, a female heroine, unapologetically inspired by the famous comic by Jean-Claude Forest Barbarella, which was his very favourite comic in absolute. Such attempts never saw an ending. He never had enough discipline to write a script, to construct a story-board, to study a dialogue, to edit it and finally to pass at the illustration of the story, Even if he knew the process for creating a [professional comic book, he was always too lazy to apply his knowledge to his own story, drawing randomly a story not knowing what will happen in the next vignette and, as a result, he went into such complicated story-telling that after an enthusiastic beginning, he always ended up dropping it half way through.
His phone suddenly began to buzz in his pocket and, just for a couple of seconds, he indulged in prolonging the pleasant sensation of a buzzing vibration inside his shorts, but eventually he accepted the call.
:- Hello Amedeo. He heard. It was Milton, adorable as he often was, Amedeo felt a sudden desire to be with his husband, in his arms
:- Milton! He said :- I’m in town. Are you still at the beach?
:- Not for long. We are getting ready to move. The bar I knew is no longer here. we didn’t find anything to eat, apart from some ghastly quesadillas from a vendor. We are all starving. You going back to the flat? Shall we reach you in town?
Amedeo, now infused with a sense of nostalgia for his lover, decided, on the spot, to be selfless and surprise Milton with some gourmet dinner. He was a fast and creative chef and confident to be able to improvise something very special for his man and his friends.
:- No, go home! He smiled to himself
:- I’ll meet you there. I’ll be home in 5 minutes and I don’t mind to start cooking. He paid the bill and left the bar. Amedeo was a fairly tall guy. He could walk fast. He kept up with his unconscious game of breaking down his surrounding into comics frames. He didn’t really decide to take the short-cut, but he directed himself toward it and, thinking nothing of it, he was walking the colourful and busy part of street that will end up narrowing into ithe shortcut. No sinister thoughts were popping up in his head.He realised he was already in the passage only when he was in it.
As soon as the realisation of being in the shortcut sank in, he was very disappointed to have to recognise that he was no longer high. As if an excessive production of adrenaline flooded his system and all the active THC left in his system was suddenly mopped up by the hormone. He also realised he was no longer thinking in bubbles . The comic book effect was gone,
:- shall I walk back? He interrogated himself, He considered the option but that would have destroyed the victory he had earlier, It was a matter of pride He had to keep going.
He soon came to the conclusion that he was having a deja-vu of the previous experience. The further he was advancing in the narrow street, the stronger the sensation of peril was pervading him. Once again he thought he heard unclear whispers. What were they? He could have swore to have heard :- Amedeo. He was aware of the dynamics of self-suggestion He knew of the neurological ability of matching unknown experiences to patterns that make sense to us. This is why so many eye-witness have the certainty to have seen things that were never there, or why a child in a dark room sees shapeless shadow as a terrible monster in all its details. In the same way his brain could have adapted an ordinary, perfectly natural sound , into his name.
Unknown rhythmic litanies seems to be overlapping on one another. he heard fragments of Italian, then English, the two walls forming the narrow alleyway, once again seemed to be pulsing. The concrete seemed to become an organic membrane translucent.
:- don’t look at the sides, don’t look at the sides! Look straight ahead. Don’t be tempted to look at the sides, He was telling to himself. He was no longer thinking, he was actually talking to himself loud. He heard steps coming toward him. They sounded very real, very tangible, No, this was not a fantasy, the steps were clear. Advancing. Terror! He needed to control his bladder. He was ready to pee himself, when he saw a young couple, a man in his 30 and his companion, a female in her 20, perfectly human, perfectly ordinary, advancing toward him. These were people, he thought with immense relief. Nothing mysterious about them. They crossed each other path, He, politely flattened himself to the wall, allowing them to pass by, they smiled at one another.
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