A small amount of German is used in this story. The meanings are unimportant, but they are in a chart at the end if you really want to know what is meant.
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High on the volcanic headland, high above the small cove we'd scurried into to get out of the force six wind that was covering us with a fine golden grit, he stood. He was too close to the edge. Far too close. I was looking back to the beach and up the lava cliffs, and I was half scared for him. The wind threatened to push him off at any moment
Stronger up there, it blew his hair and long baggies as though wanting to take him and dash him to the rocks below. And he, unconcerned or seeing so, was walking too close to the edge all unaware.
Or, if he was aware, then simply aware of the wind, and just maybe of the danger in the cliffs and the wind, but not of the figure he cut, defying ancient gods, looking from Punta del Papagayo, or at least from a point just to the west, across the short sea miles to the north coast of Fuerteventura, perhaps to Isla de Lobos, perhaps to Corallejo.
Almost like an explorer, hand shading his eyes, he stood, frozen in time, gazing over the Atlantic Ocean into the far distance, his pale chest, not tanned yet, contrasting with the bronzed bodies down in the beach. He was gorgeous.
And I couldn't even see his face.
Earlier I had, though. I think that's half why I spotted him up on the headland. We'd been battling with parasols and a beach tent, half tent, against the tornado that blew across the beach, and we'd seen, well, I'd seen him, with his family, at the water's edge.
They'd walked west past us and set up camp. Then he'd walked east towards the cove I was in now, the one we'd declared originally to be too full of people to find a space in. I'd wanted him then, surreptitiously, as he walked past.
About my age, or so I guessed, probably my height, perhaps a little shorter. It was hard to tell while wrestling with the sunshades and windbreak and towels. Long blond hair, unusually long, wavy without being curly or girlie, dark blue knee length baggies that I wished were lycra trunks or even speedos.
It wasn't a beautiful face, not inherently beautiful. Ordinary. Normal. A boy's face just changing into manhood, with that awesome beauty that only teenagers have. But set above the torso and the teasing baggies, lit by the sun, alight with a wide smile, it became beautiful
I imagined his eyes met mine. Imagined an immediate bond, love even I imagined it so strongly I had to look away in case his eyes met mine.
And the imagining was even tougher because there was just no way I could give my imagination free rein on the beach. I have this thing about tan lines, you see. My thing is not having a tan line. Only two ways to achieve that: one is not going into the sun at all, the other is going into the sun au naturél. And since you can do that In Lanzarote on the Playa Mujeres, that's what I do. Was doing.
It's no big deal. I mean if you went there never having been nude in public I suppose it would take some getting used to, only I don't know, because mum and dad and I've been going to places like that ever since I can remember when we've had the cash, and none of us has ever bothered about clothes on the beach.
Anyway, there was a disadvantage sometimes. I'd half experienced the disadvantage as he'd walked past the first time. It wasn't something that happened often. To be fair I almost never had it happen just by seeing someone, but as he passed me, as I looked at him, I found I needed either to be face down or wearing very tight speedos.
He was not beautiful, not pretty, but there was an indefinable something about him that got deep into my subconscious and got me heading for rock hard.
I was glad I was behind dad's evil minded and virtually useless half tent. Glad that this time the wind wasn't strong enough to flatten out much hated Gelert Cambridge Shelter, the only beach shelter that can be flattened if you fart behind it at the wrong moment/
The embarrassment stayed for a short while after he'd passed by. It'd be silly to say that I'd forgotten about him by the time I saw him on the headland. I couldn't. He'd come back about five minutes after he'd walked east, walking purposefully past us back to his family group, pointing back the way he'd come to where I now knew the cove was, and they all packed up and followed him.
I had the chance then to look at him, to try to see why my interest had been caught.
Nothing special, at least.
Actually he was slightly shabby, almost a disappointment. Not 'ugly disappointing', but so very ordinary. Until he smiled. And that showed me why. Laughing eyes and a wide grin let me understand at last what people meant when they said someone lit up when he smiled. Lovely. Sexy. Spirited.
I was sunbathing face down, getting coated in an array of multi-coloured grit from the wind and wondering why the Papagayo area was so much loved as he walked past between me and the water's edge. I raised myself on my elbows to see him more clearly.
Slim, slightly built, even, and pale just like me. Maybe he'd been here a day longer, but that was it, for he wasn't yet tanned like the other visitors. My age for sure, perhaps a month or two older, perhaps younger, but definitely my age. Wide shoulders tapering to a narrow waist so slim that I felt I could almost encircle it with my hands alone when I kissed him.
Oh heck, hard again. That 'when I kissed him' was too much. I was starting to ache for him, was being drawn to him. There was only one boy that's happened with and that was at home, at school, and I loved him, had loved him. I'd even thought he might have loved me in return, so strongly had I imagined a life together with him.
On his fifteenth birthday I told him so. That was in November. The date was engraved on my heart. "Hugh," I'd said, "I have a card for you. Happy birthday." I handed him the card. I could have stopped there. "I wrote it specially." I couldn't stop. At least it was private because he and I arrived miles before anyone else at school. "It's with my love." And that might have been all, could have been all, should have. Wasn't.
"Love, Nicky?" His face was puzzled, I think, not offended.
"Love." In for a penny in for a pound. "I love you." Surely love wasn't too much to give, too much to ask? We'd been best mates for two years, more. We just about lived in each other's houses.
"As a mate?"
That was it. I didn't love him as mates love each other. I love him as a lover. I dreamed about him, ached for him like I was aching for this stranger. "More than that." This had to go right. Hugh Penfold just wasn't prejudiced against gay people. We'd talked about it Well, thinking back I'd talked about it.
"More?" He paused. "Oh shit."
Even hearing the 'Oh shit' my brain tried to make up all sorts of reasons why Hugh was going to rush into my arms and kiss me Even hearing the tone of his voice.
But not looking into his eyes. Expressionless.
Hugh Penfold may not have been prejudiced against gay people in general, but he was definitely prejudiced against one who wanted him. "Nicky, if you mean what I hope you don't mean the answer is that no guy, not even you, gets his hands on my body."
That had been it, pretty much. We'd stayed mates and Hugh hadn't spread it round the school, and that was as good as it had ever got It wasn't the worst experience of rejected love, I suppose, but it sucked badly at the time. Still sucked, was probably always going to suck. There wasn't a day when I hadn't wished it had been different, and the a vision on the beach showed me I could still feel for someone else.
Odd, though, too. Hugh and I were friends first, before I found out I wanted more than he did. This boy I didn't know. It felt like love, or felt how it felt when I ached after Hugh, but to love someone you have to know them. At least that's what we'd always talked about, dad and i. So this had to be different. Attraction? Lust?
I was certainly attracted to him. Muscled without being muscular, his body set off his radiant smile. I could see the outline of every muscle under his skin without the muscles being obvious. I wished he would stand taller. Instead of being proud of his body he seemed to be a little ill at ease, standing sometimes with head bowed forward, shoulders hunched. I wanted him so badly that seeing him stand poorly made me wince in pain for him and his feelings. But the mischief in his eyes set it aside, drew my gaze back from the soft light down on his calves back to his face.
I was wrong about his looks He was closer now as he urged his family on. I caught a wisp of English, too. His face wasn't beautiful, nor pretty Nor was it ordinary. He was handsome. Totally masculine and handsome, and, to my surprise, had soft brown eyes which I was half sure met mine with an extra smile Who could tell? I half saw an invitation to say hello, or did I half imagine it? Not a chance in my condition
So I let the opportunity, real or imagined, pass, and I let him pass, too, eastward along the beach and round the headland out of sight.
"Nicky, we're moving," dad said a while later after getting pebble dashed as soon as he'd put a new application of suncream on. "People keep going round the headland. It has to be worth it even if it's crowded." And he started to collapse the tent-thing.
We got round the corner and found a crowded but wind free paradise. Well, it would have been paradise if it hadn't been full of cellulite ridden flesh. Acres of flesh. We'd found the EEC's lard mountain! Luckily, in a way, I hadn't found my Ganymede. I couldn't have stood the embarrassment of having suddenly to hide an excited greeting. What it meant, though, was that I could forget him and re-forget Hugh and how I couldn't be what I wanted to be with him either. Fifteen and three quarter years old and I'd never been kissed.
We didn't need the industrial windbreaks here, so we just set up camp with beach towels, and I let my mind run over that last thought. It wasn't strictly true, not really. A year ago I'd been taken to my first 'soft of party'. My cousin's Air Training Cadet Corps had a party. No alcohol, and I don't really know why I was there, except out of politeness.
We stayed with my aunt and uncle and cousin sometimes. This particular sometimes was the tie of his ATC party. I could almost hear the 'You have to take Nicky' conversation. Anyway I went. We had party games.
Oh puleeez! We were teenagers. Party games! Oh good grief. Then it got daring. Postman's knock. Spin the bottle.. The spinner was a large girl and she won me with the bottle spin. I was expected to kiss her. Oh God. Fourteen, in love with Hugh Penfold, and I had to kiss a girl.
I puckered up and braced myself. At least she smelt clean, tasted clean. Spearmint. The a tongue was rammed into my mouth. Hmm. Wet. Very wet. Total immersion in wet spearmint. Not the best experience of my life. Then it was my turn to spin the bottle, which meant I got a second kiss with another girl.
"Yuck, you taste of spearmint," she said
Jeez I tasted of spearmint! "Wasn't my fault."
"Don't care, you're not kissing me again."
"Fuck you, too!" Only I said it silently. I wasn't enjoying myself much. That had been my only experience of kissing. I reckon I'd never been kissed, not really kissed.
I ached to be kissed. Held gently and kissed by someone who wanted to kiss me, whom I wanted to kiss, who wanted me to kiss him. Yes him. Definitely a him. I don't know if I'm gay exactly. 'Gay' sounds so final, so defining. I don't want to be defined. I just want a boyfriend.
No, I want to be loved.
And good mates with Hugh Penfold just doesn't cut it. Mates is mates. Love is... Well, I'm nit sure what love is. I know what it's like to love someone, I just don't know what it's like to be on the receiving end.
Anyway, we set up camp in the cover and that brings me back to seeing him on the headland. Ganymede, standing, posing, for all the world as if he knew I was there. He couldn't, of course. Or if he did, why would he care? I was just another kid on the beach.
I gazed at him all framed against the sky. Not perfect by any means, but perfect enough. And English, which wasn't bad in what seemed to be a Spanish and Italian resort. Not bad at all.
Of course, he'd be in a different hotel. But unless he was in a different resort I could find him and talk to him and... Wait! 'Talk to him'. What about? 'Hi, I'm Nicky, and I want to... ' Well, I didn't know what I wanted to do, but talking? Football was a non starter. I'm not a football fan. I suppose I could say I support Manchester United, but I don't know a thing about them. Sod it, I was on a beach. Surely all I had to do was to bump into him?
The first thing was to finish spreading out towels among the heaving flesh. The second was to go for a swim. I'm by no means a weak swimmer, but I plug away at breast stroke in stead of an elegant front crawl. And when the sea's cold I'm crap at getting in, too.
And it was cold. At least after the hot sun it was freezing. I was getting used to the sun, though, so I didn't need to race for sunscreen every two minutes, so I could swim for ages without mum worrying. I minced my way into the water, gasping a lot, and got very pissed off when I grazed a toe on a rock, but I was in and away. Ganymede hunting.
What was daft was that I swam from cover to cove without finding any trace. I'd hoped to find him in the water and say hi. I ended up on the next major beach instead, facing either a walk over hot cliffs stark bollock naked, or a swim back against the current past every small cover. I didn't fancy either. I suppose there was a third option, if I'd had the wit to see it: the lave flows below the lava cliffs had a sort of path round the base of the cliffs. That would have been ok for the feet, ok for that weird modesty that happens away for the beach itself, and pretty sensible instead of trying to swim back.
And swimming back, as I soon found, was against the wind as well as against the current. Not a huge current, but one that, together with the wavelets smacking into my face, made the distance back seem twice as far. Front crawl would have been better, if I could have done it, that was, but I'm a breast stroke guy through and through.
I tried stretches under the surface. I made better progress under water, out of the wind and wavelets. A huge effort and I made one cove's worth of progress. There was the option of hauling myself out of the water to rest on the rocks. If I'd done that I'd have spotted the walk along the lava flows, but I didn't have the guts to rest. Somehow it takes more courage to give something up that to continue when it's stupid.
I continued, even though I was tiring and making very little useful progress.
Out and around the next headland. The current and wind seemed stronger this time. I seemed to stay level with the tip for ages. I could see a small cover around this headland, more important I could see Ganymede. What I didn't see was the wash from one of the powerful boats that trippers some to anchor off Papagayo in. I'd seen the boat, for sure. It had passed way out to sea and fast a while before, same direction that I was battling away in.
The wash hit me from behind and swamped me. Short, steep waves crossing the wavelets coming in the opposite direction, and where the peaks met they magnified each other. I was taken by surprise, and got a splutterful of water, lost my rhythm, and panicked. I never panic in the water, but I was so tired, so very tired, that I lost it. Hot feeling in my nose, that was the worst. Spluttering, and stinging inside my head, I was thrashing my arms and trying to get back to the surface, or trying to get my head into a place I could breathe.
I heard someone say once that drowning's a gentle way to die. They'd obviously had personal experience, and died that way, then come back to tell everyone about it. Gentle? My lungs were bursting, I was trying not to splutter, and I was suffering. Gentle my arse! I know I was flailing my arms about. I mean instinctively. What was worse is I was only in about two and a half metres of water. I mean I could almost have put my feet on the sand and bounced to the surface. Well, if I could've managed to stop spluttering.
My life did not flash before my eyes.
All that happened was my control on my lungs broke. Had to breathe in. Had to. Solid water. Head bursting. Red. Ears roaring. Roaring. Spluttering. Vomiting. "Aarggghh!"
Some babble. Lips on mine. Conscious of feeling awful.
Voices, different voices. Sounds only. No words that I understood. And it was red and roaring in my head. Men's voices. Women's voices. "Oh verdammt, er hat sich übergeben"; "Wisch sein Gesicht ab"; "Atmet er?"; "Ruhig. Atme ganz ruhig."; "Kannst Du mich hören?"; "Wie heißt Du"; "Er kann Dich hören. Er versteht Dich aber nicht."; "Deck ihn zu, ihm wird kalt"; "Verstehst Du mich?"; I got that one between throwing up. Did I understand her? I mumbled something. Got a reaction. "Oh, er ist Engländer. Wer spricht Englisch; "Irgend jemand aus England hier?"; "Spricht irgendjemand hier Englisch?"
I felt awful. Rasping, struggling to sit up. Surrounded by a group of people I didn't know, all speaking German. All rather large people, one straight from a cartoon with a walrus moustache. "Oh shit." Not very gracious, and I regretted it at once. "Sorry, I mean thank you." I was dazed. Oddly I was also sitting there with a fully functioning brain.
"This man pulled you out, lad." An English voice just behind me was pointing to the man I'd ungraciously dubbed 'walrus face'. "They had to give you the kiss of life." I tried to get to my feet. I needed to thank him. I was covered with a towel, even though the day was blistering hot, and I moved it aside. "You relax there a minute. Plenty of time." I turned my head. He was from Ganymede's party, looked like Ganymede's dad. Which meant Ganymede was here, or hereabouts. I needed to see. Needed to stay still a bit, too. Hot it may have been, but I was shivering. "You're cold. I think we need to get you dry." He paused for a second. Turned away. "Gregory?"
"Come and give me a hand. I need to get this lad dry. What's your name, by the way. Can't keep on calling you 'lad', can I?" This last was to me.
"Nicky, it's Nicky."
"Stand up, then Nicky. Gregory'll support you. I'm going to give you a brisk rub down with this towel and get the circulation going. If that's all right, that is?"
Dreamy. Ganymede was Gregory, and he was going to support me while his dad towelled my dry. I mean it wasn't my ideal meeting or anything, not by miles, but a meeting it was. "I have to thank the man who pulled me out. And yes, I'm cold. Shivery cold."
"It's the shock. We'll get you sorted and get you back to your folks." He waved walrus face nearer. Tried a few words of broken German.
Walrus face broke into a smile beneath his moustache, came closer. All I could think of was to put out my hand, not to shake his, but to grab it. He gripped mine and I gripped his. We let our eyes meet. "Thank you," I said. Inadequate words, but they were all I had. I knew he understood what I meant, whether he'd understood the words or not. He looked happy and worried at the same time. "Thank you," I said again. And found I was crying.
I so do not cry. Like not ever. I was standing on the damp sand in a red hot cover, shivering and sobbing, being towelled dry very briskly by a businesslike Englishman, and being held up by Ganymede, who'd turned into Gregory. "It's all right, Nicky, let it out. Was a nasty shock. Stands to reason you feel weird. Er, there are some bits I'm not going to dry, you know."
That brought a blush to my cheeks. Naked. Naked being held by Gan... Gregory. Oh God, this was not the way I wanted to meet him. Well, it was, too, but on my terms. I mean I wanted to see if he'd check me out and stuff, or I think I did. Not be sorry for me. Now he'd be sorry for me. "Is fine. I'll do it. Thanks. I, er, I don't know your name?"
"Jim Prothero. Greg's my son. The chap holding you up. About the same age as you, I reckon."
"Thanks, Mr. Prothero... "
"'Jim'. Everyone calls me Jim."
"Thanks, Jim." Such a silly word with such a big meaning.
"I did nothing. It was all the chap with the 'tache. I'm just sorting you out coz we speak the same language and stuff.."
"Well, thanks for that bit, anyway."
"You're welcome." He finished rubbing life and warmth back into me. "Lucky this isn't Yorkshire. We'd have a hypothermia case here if this were the North Sea." No answer required, it seemed. "Now, Gregory's going to walk with you to find your folks. If you're ready, that is?"
"Now or never," I was full of stupid words today. Or felt I was. I turned to look at Gregory for the first time close too. Looked at his face and saw heaven. 'Oh beauteous youth, potboy to Zeus... ' my heart was pounding. I stuttered. "Y-y-you don't mind?"
"Course not." Did I imagine his eyes holding mine a fraction too long? Was this a 'moment'? I doubted it. It was just shock still affecting me "I suppose," he said, after a pause, "that you don't need to look for your swimming trunks?"
"You mean did I lose them somewhere out there? Nope. Never wear 'em"
"Well. I sort of guessed. No tan lines." Greg was smiling. Ganymede was smiling. And a lovely voice. He'd be a tenor if he sang, a light tenor. Broken voice for sure, a little husky, and so sweet and soft. A gentle voice. "You happy to stand by yourself?"
Wow, I hadn't even noticed he had his arm supporting me still. "Well, we'll look like a pair of poofs if we walk back with your arm round me." What was I saying. Was I making it obvious? His eyes and mine were still mostly meeting and I was getting embarrassed."
He didn't move his arm. "Would that embarrass you?"
I wasn't sure I'd heard right. Or read it right. "Would what embarrass me?" Another stupid thing to say.
"Looking like a pair of poofs? Would that embarrass you?" He didn't give me a chance to answer. "So, which way are your folks? East or west?"
"East. No, west. No, er... That way. I pointed past the headland to the beach.
"Poor sods. Being sand blasted. Come on, let's go and rescue them from the elements. You never answered. Never mind." He paused just long enough for me not to say anything. "I wish I were brave enough."
"Brave enough?" For what? To look like a poof?
"To go starkers." We were walking slowly round the headland.
"It'd suit you." How the heck do you chat up another boy? How? Especially one who's just suggested you might look like a pair of poofs. "You... " I decided to go for it, not knowing how even so. "have a good body." 'Shit, is that too far?' My brain was doing cartwheels. And something else was stirring. 'Shit, I'm getting hard.''
"I think we need to go into the sea," Gregory was leading me seawards. "Near drowning or not, you're starting to show me why I need to wear swimming gear on the beach.
'Shit, he's noticed. Oh God, oh God, oh God, he's noticed.' All I could do was blush and agree.
"I'm going to hold you. Not going to let you drown this time. It's all right Nicky, don't be embarrassed. Please don't be embarrassed, or shy. Please."
We were waist deep. Cold water hadn't dampened my ardour. Ganymede radiated confidence and I was swimming even with my feet on the seabed. "I... Oh heck." My eyes looked down at the surface of the sea, down through the surface, down past my erect shame to the sand on the sea floor at my feet. "I... "
"What?" I felt miserable. I hadn't known what I was going to say, not exactly. I think I'd been going to make a fool of myself.
"We're on holiday. We may never meet again, not here and not back home. I need you to know this. I am, Nicky."
Perplexed. "You are?" That made no sense. Of course he was.
"A poof, Nicky. I hate that word. Demeaning. Not much keen on 'gay' either. I'm not into girls. And at this very moment I am into you. You, Nicky. And I think you may be into me, hope you may be, hope you are... "
Realisation. An odd place to realise, and a very odd situation. "I came to look for you, Ganymede."
"Ganymede? I like that. Zeus turned into an eagle and carried him off to serve wine and stuff. And lots of stuff, I should think. I hope he turned back into a man first." He was laughing. And there, waist deep in the Atlantic Ocean, there on the southern coast of the wild beaches of Lanzarote he turned to face me. "Do you dare to kiss me? Be my eagle? My Zeus?"
He didn't wait for an answer. He kissed me, full on the lips, holding me close, body to body, in full view of everyone there, not twenty yards from my parents. He pulled me to him and kissed me. Ganymede kissed me. Me!
My head span, and we sank down into the warm water at the edge of the sea, at the edge of life itself, and he and the sea washed over me. Ganymede and Zeus.
Time had no meaning.
The sun was hot, the water lapped and surged at us, and we kissed as if we'd invented kissing. I wanted him so much, needed him so badly, didn't know what I needed or wanted, knew that here was both not the place and the only place, and brought my hands to clasp his swimwear, to lower it, to be his, in public, there at the edge of the sea.
My eyes tight closed, I held him. I caressed him, and drifted into bliss.
And opened them slowly, gently, luxuriously to see white walls and soft bedding, and smell the familiar scents of our apartment in the village that is not yet a resort and I hope never will be, on the not so big, not so little island I the Adriatic where I live, we live, and where we love.
"Are you awake, baby?" Jeremy asked me.
"Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I just had the most peculiar dream. Wonderful."
"I was on holiday. I nearly drowned. I met Ganymede." And I told him, there in our bed, after he and I had made love all afternoon, turning our clean, crisp white sheets into a nightmare mess of rumpled bedding. I looked at him as I told him. So much older than me, and sometimes wiser, sometimes a kid. Handsome, gentle, and old enough to be my own dad, and yet a little boy all at the same time.
"I love you, Jeremy. My Zeus."
"Silly Ganymede. You met yourself."
"Yeah. I know." I wriggled closer to him
"You have the sweetest dreams, darling." He was stroking my hair out of my eyes. "I worry, you know."
"What about?" I knew what Jeremy worried about. He'd told me when we met.
"You, Peter. Your happiness, your welfare, my getting old and leaving you alone, your needing young company, your own age, maybe a young lover."
But I was happy, had been happy since we met all those years ago, and loved him with every fibre of my being. "If it makes you happy, you can watch while I have a young lover. It could even be a girl. But I want you." I winked at him.
"Hard to believe, a gorgeous twenty year old, and a wrinkly like me."
"Believe it." And I took Zeus into my arms and took him to heaven again. I loved the little sounds he made, and the warmth of his love and passion. Mine, as long as he would allow it. I hoped, knew, it would be for ever. He had no need to become an eagle to sweep me off my feet.
|German English Phrasebook|
"Is he breathing by himself?"
"Deck ihn zu, ihm wird kalt"
"Cover him up, he'll get cold"
"Er kann Dich hören. Er versteht Dich aber nicht.
"He can hear you. He can't understand you."
"Irgend jemand aus England hier?"
"Anyone English here?"
"Kannst Du mich hören?"
"Can you hear me?"
"Oh verdammt, er hat sich übergeben"
"Oh shit, he's thrown up"
"Oh, er ist Engländer. Wer spricht Englisch
"Oh, he's English. Who speaks English?"
"Ruhig. Atme ganz ruhig."
"Gently. Breathe gently."
"Spricht irgendjemand hier Englisch?"
"Anyone speaking English here?"
"Verstehst Du mich
"Can you understand me?"
"Wie heißt Du"
"What's your name?"
"Wisch sein Gesicht ab"
"Wipe his face"
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