Days were passing in the lazy, slow down rhythm that the hot weather was imposing. The girls enjoyed the chance to flaunt their bikinis matched with scarves and sun glasses, the guys enjoyed the opportunity to live a life where dressing up was not an option. Long chat sessions socking in the pull took place regularly, 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 an afternoon very hot. The plan set the night before was to reach a beach further down the main road. 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.
Amedeo had no idea of the type of preparation he should have adopted for the occasion, but to engage 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, where there was no violence. Some cats were looking at frogs, very big, fat frogs, who, unafraid, stared back with lazy eyes. The greenery was lush, turgid after the brief, but intense nightly rain, The sun was bright, slightly orange, was creating 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. He would have taken the short cut 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, with a sliding door to a yard. The sliding door was shut., The villa’s gate ended where the narrow street short tunnel started. The tunnel that gave him the worse anxiety that night . Now it looked inconspicuous and harmless. It was not yet completely dark. The light was still colouring the narrow street of a shade of blue. He curves a little his neck to allow his head to avoid a low ceiling . He walked through . In no time he gage hips 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 Amedeo was experiencing 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
Well… now 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 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 and that he was able to overcome those externally induced disturbs and felt some pride for being who he was now: in perfect sync with himself and perfectly at ease in his own skin and proud of having given his active contribution to the visibility of gay people during the 70s and the 80s, in a time when in Europe, being gay was still such a big deal that only a few very courageous or vary camp homosexuals dared to be visible. He belonged to the former category.
In the tropics, days don’t get longer or shorter according to the seasons. At about 5:30, 6, the sun gorges down. Summer and winter.
Amedeo saw that darkness was embracing the village. 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. He already saw many similar groups or lone individuals walking at the beach or the village with those boards crowded with colourful beads. Amedeo asked to himself if any of them was able to actually sell any of those hand-made necklaces or earrings. 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 it worth their while to spend so many hours on the beach and then in town with those boards crowded of useless crafts. 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.
His Portuguese was not turned on automatically, somehow the sentence he decided to approach them with, came out in his native language, maybe because he said that phrase much more often in Italy than in London, where he had a reputation for not liking cannabis.
:- 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 point would have chopped the interlocutor’s whole head off with just one bite, but contained. Just. 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, we were all at it. Not like you, young people that get high on video games, killing zombies! We did the real thing! I was on the heavy stuff much before you were eaten conceived! Don’t you know your music? Who started to talk about drugs in rock and roll? Us, the 50s plus!
The little less cutie felt offended by this remark and was going to play difficult
:- Amigo! Com esso voce no me convince! 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 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. Alston, 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 had, 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! 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. Anyway, he thought, :- i am sure he 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.H
Hazelnut-eyes didn’t quite follow such elaborate request, but he managed to grab the concept because while Amedeo was talking he was 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 cigarette paper to glue together the two sides.
:- sim, sim, Ben! Hazelnut stated. Amedeo returned to the boy the lump of black-green stuff that he was sold and the boy, with no hesitation, with a dexterity truly admirable in less than aa minute he crumbled some of the hash in his hand, opened a cigarette and added half the tobacco content to the hash crumbles massaged it with the other thumb for a few seconds, 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 embarrassment about asking and he used his own initiative to create a good customer care so that the client returns.
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 of 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 and felt mesmerised by how the boy 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, even how’s brain.
:- 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 had to take a grip on himself to control it. He was walking the village street and he began to think with pieces 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 of experiencing an immense pleasure in checking news-agents shops for the comics shelf and try to find some of the comics he was a fanatic collector of. Marvel and DC took over the market, in these days. He was after something a little more…. Well… different, maybe European. Italian Spanish of French. He rarely was lucky, but he kept trying. Occasionally, very occasionally, when he travelled through Spain or France, 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 material to have left in his share of collective unconscious, to have 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 girl is terrified. He giggled. He saw an elderly lady, carrying on her face the result of many look-enhancing procedures. These procedures were so many and so obvious that made the words used to describe them complete obsolete. He saw the words:- the mutton dressed as lamb was greedy for more fun - appearing in the middle of the same 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 bar where he had a Margarita breaking down the consecution of events into single frames with the dialogue unfolding in clouds over the heads..
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 into comics streets his surrounding, 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 it. No sinister thoughts were popping up in his head.He realised he was already in the passage only when he was already in it.