"You said that you were also other Italians... Who was the most recent?" Eugenio asked.
"Daniele, who is born in Modena in 1838 and who died in Liverpool in 1883. My mother is a middle class woman, my father an intellectual, a fervent Carbonaro, imprisoned in the risings of '31 and freed in '37. I am the second born, my brother Carlo is born in 1830, just before my father's imprisonment, and I am after his freeing. Just after my birth, my family decides to move to London, because in Modena my father is subject to a very strict and close watch by the police.
So, really, I grow up in London and live all my life in England. In London lives a substantial group of Italian exiles and there is even a school for their children, so I grow up a perfect bilingual. My father immediately joins the Chartists, an English movement for democratic social and political reform, asking for the universal suffrage, the secrecy of vote, and an indemnity for the elected members of Parliament, so that also those coming from lower classes could be elected and live caring full time for their Parliament's duties.
We live in the West End of London, the poorest area, full of immigrants that the flourishing industries draw in great number. In 1851 the First Universal Exposition is held in London, the exposition of the new techniques opened by Queen Victoria in Hide Park. I am thirteen, and I am hired in the pavilion of the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia thanks to my perfect bilinguism. I like that work and that lively and international ambience where all nations show the best of their industrial production. In the little free time, I systematically visit it.
So, I meet another boy, an Englishman working at the Expo like me. His name is Joseph and he is sixteen. A mutual instinctive liking begins. The first of us who has free time goes to the other's pavilion and if we both are free, we go around together. Our friendship lasts after the Expo. Joseph then proposes me to go to work with him at a publisher-bookseller in Oxford Circus, who is extending his activities and is looking for new personnel.
I am fourteen; I am eating lunch with Joseph in the shop's store, when my friend asks me if I like Dorothy, the owner's daughter. I answer that I found her too haughty. He then asks me if I wouldn't like to have sex with her, even just once. I say that I never thought about that. He insists, and asks me if I never fancied to do it with a girl. I answer no, I didn't yet think of such matters. He smiles and asks me if I never get hard ons. "Sure it happens", I answer quietly. "And what do you do, then?" he asks. Without shame, after all we are friends, and just three years apart, I answer that I beat off. He smiles and says that it is the same for him.
A few days later, while we are setting some books in a shelf, he tells me that he has a hard on and drives my hand to feel it. I touch it, smile, and ask him if he wants to beat off. He too smiles but says that unhappily it is not possible there, somebody could come and it will be more than just embarrassing. And he adds that he would not be ashamed of me, because we are real friends.
Our chats, little by little, become more intimate, more explicit. One evening he invites me for dinner to his home. We pass to warn my family. My mother objects that she is not happy thinking I would have to go back home alone, at night. So Joseph tells her that I can stop to sleep with him and that the following morning we can go to work together. My mother accepts then. We go, he introduces me to his parents, we have dinner, chat a little all together then it is time to hit the bed. Of course I will share the bed with my friend. We slip under the covers wearing just our long drawers. We talk a little then Joseph proposes me to beat each others' meat. I accept. We open the drawers and touch each other. I like feeling his hands on me, his hard thing throbbing in my hands. All happens quietly, agreeably, until we both reach the satisfaction. I think it all is over, and that we will go to sleep now, but instead he uncovers me, looks at me and whispers at me that he likes me a lot. His words please me, his caresses on my chest, belly, soft genitals, please me even more. He is arousing me again, then he asks me to caress him, and I willingly do it.
He sucks my nipples, it is great, so I reciprocate. I feel that what we are doing now is different from before. Before it was little more than a game between two horny adolescents, but now it's something more intimate, beautiful, intense... He turns so that he can lick my belly, then lowers, lowers, and starts to lick and suck the thing between my legs. I give a start for the pleasure and moan. He whispers at me to be careful or we can be heard. The awareness of that excites me even more. His straight, palpitating member is at a span from my face. I look at it with pleasure, caress it, then start to lightly kiss it, I try to lick it - it throbs, warm, strong. I like it. I try to make it slid between my lips and this time it is Joseph to give a start for the pleasure.
I suck him like he is doing to me, and that double feeling, between my legs and in my mouth, inebriates me. We caress each other all over our bodies, continuing, in a crescendo of good vibrations. And suddenly I cum, and to my great surprise, he drinks it all. And he too cums. He keeps my head pressed against his groin, and I too feel his taste, strange, unusual, but good... When we are done, we part and he turns again. I whisper to him that that way is lot better than just with hands... I ask him who taught him such a great thing... He tells me that it was three years before, one of his cousins who now is soldier in India.
Between us there is now more than simple friendship, there is complicity. At times he invites me again to stay at his home, and I too start to invite him, and as we always sleep alone and together on these occasions, we make love again in that pleasurable way. We continue like that for three years, that is until he succeeds to enter in the Royal Navy, his dream for ages, and so we part.
For almost one year I don't have any sex. I am waiting for Joseph who is now fighting in Crimea. Meanwhile I am eighteen and I am now a shop assistant in the main bookshop. A university student comes often to check the new books, his name is Edward and he is twenty years old. When he discovers that I am Italian, he starts to speak Italian with me. Little by little we become friends. He is a great admirer of Italian Renaissance. From time to time he buys 'a prints book'on Italian fine arts.
A beautiful book 'in sexto' with prints of the Belvedere's Apollo, of the Laocoon and other nudes has just been issued. As soon as Edward comes, I show it to him. He looks at it, finds it very beautiful, lingers on the reproduction of the Apollo and tells me that his dreams are to go to Rome to see the originals. His fingers seem to caress the Apollo image. For the first time I think that I would like his fingers to caress my body that way... Edward seems more beautiful to me than ever, and I am aroused.
Our eyes meet. He continues to thumb through the book, and opens the section with the prints showing the paintings of the Sistine Chapel..."
"Ah, the Sistine Chapel again?" Eugenio interrupted.
"Michelangelo's nudes are beautiful, even in the black and white print reproductions. He stops on the page with a detail of the "Expulsion from Eden" and says to me: "Look how beautiful he depicted Adam and how Eve looks like an old witch!" I smile and say that in my opinion the male body is more fascinating than the female one. He looks at me slightly surprised, but he nods and adds: "Especially that of you Italians is beautiful..." then he asks me with a cunning smile: "But, yours is really so small?" and he points at that of Adam.
I answer him that it is not so, and that at least mine is way more developed... The play of our glances becomes slyer, he tells me that he doesn't believe me, so I answer him that I'm ready to prove it. He asks me, with an air of pulling my leg: "Here? Now?" I answer him: "No, elsewhere." He then asks me if I would like to pose for him. "Naked?" I ask him. "Sure, naked." he answers. "Why not." I say.
All seems just a joke between young people, he buys the book, thanks me and goes away. But a few days later he comes again, a little before closing time, and asks me, in Italian, if I really feel like going to his room to pose. I immediately confirm. So he waits for closing time, then I follow him. He lives in a small room on the last floor of a house in Soho. He pulls out a sketch-book, a pencil, sits on a stool and tells me that he is ready - if I want to undress...
I undress in front of him and his eyes don't lose sight of me for an instant, so that little by little I am aroused and when I am naked, I have an half erection. He makes me take up my pose, and starts to draw. Then he comes near me to correct my position. His hands on my naked skin excites me again, and now I have a full erection. He notices it, smiles and says that it is true that mine is bigger than in Michelangelo's drawings... and caresses it. I quiver and he holds it tight, kneading it... I pull him to me and now it's my turn to finger between his legs and feel his erection. I start to undress him, and he lets me do.
I undress him, push him towards the near bed, he lies down and I go on him, he embraces me. We kiss, brushing our bodies one against the other and giving at last free vent to our mutual desire. We are terribly aroused. I like Edward, he is incredibly hot in bed, he loses that shyness usually characterizing him, he reacts with passion to my caresses, to my kisses. And then he begs me to penetrate him...
I tell him that I would like to, but that I've never done it. He then guides me in himself. Just to feel the desire with which he offers himself to me excites me even more, and finally I start to sink inside him. My member slips inside him like a hand in its glove, it is a splendid sensation. I take him with real enthusiasm, he gives himself to me with as much enthusiasm... It is a passionate ride, fantastic. I like how he replies to each of my pushes, with joyfully participation. And when at last we cum, and then we relax, languidly embraced, he asks me if I want to become his boyfriend. I answer yes, without the slightest hesitation, and he caresses me, happily.
When we leave the bed, I go to see what he was drawing. He giggles, lightly blushing, and tells me that he is not able to draw - it was just a pretext to take me there, to see me naked. I embrace him telling him that I prefer that way than the opposite, him wanting to really draw me but not to make love with me... He again blushes, but he is happy.
Edward is really a delicious lover, full of kindness, attention, care towards me. Little by little I become aware I am falling in love with him. It must show, because my brother asks me if I got a girlfriend. I deny, but he doesn't believe me. But I cannot for sure tell him that I got a boyfriend! My family would never accept such a thing.
The problem arises after about two years. Edward insists that I go to live with him. But how could I justify such a thing to my family? They have the mentality that a son leaves his parents' house only the day he marries. Also my older brother, who is still bachelor, lives at home. For Edward it is easy, since his family lives in Liverpool and he studies in London. I try to make him understand, to make him reason, I ask him to be patient, if he loves me...
We go on, some way or another, for another year, where for me the only really beautiful moments between Edward and me are when we make love. Besides these moments, Edward becomes more and more difficult, insistent, sometimes he accuses me to not really love him, to have sex with him just when it suits me... He says that from his part, just to live with me, he would be ready to go against his family, but I on the contrary...
On Christmas 1859 he takes me to Liverpool, to his parents home. And during the Christmas meal, almost as if to prove what he told me, he announces to his family that I am his lover. He didn't tell me his intentions before, and I feel terribly ill at ease. An incredible sense of ice lowers on the table. His father, after a while, asks him since when he had "such preferences". He answers that it is since ever, his first time was when he was thirteen. It seems quite like I don't exist, they talk among themselves. His father asks him with whom he did it the first time. Edward answers that it is irrelevant, that what really is important to him is his relationship with me. Suddenly I exist again, I feel the eyes of everybody on me. His mother asks him how he could dare to give them such news at the Christmas meal, spoiling everything. His older brother defends him, and also his elder sister, even if in a softer, more nuanced way. I don't know were to turn, what to do, what to say.
I would like to go back to London, I feel deeply ill at ease. At a certain point his father, after a long silence, says that now we have to end the Christmas meal, and then we will resume the matter with calm. I have to force myself to be able to continue to eat. Edward seems calm.
After lunch, the father decides that "we men" have to go to the lounge to clarify the problem. I am more and more embarrassed. We move. The father first interrogates Edward, almost as if he wants to make sure it is not just a transient caprice. At the end, facing the certainty shown by his son, he doesn't do a moral speech as I expected from him, but one about social appearance. Provided that it is not known, he says in substance, if his son is "that way", there is nothing to do... As long as he doesn't tell it around, as long as he doesn't show himself in inconvenient ways, as long as it doesn't cause a scandal... what he does in bed with me is just our business, he concludes. He just reminds us that for the sexual intercourse between two men, the law is really stern, it previews imprisonment.
Edward is triumphant, he looks at me almost as if he wanted to say: didn't I tell you? The fact is that he doesn't know my family, I object when we are alone. Especially my father certainly wouldn't react that way... I am sure that, for the sake of preventing me from having a relationship with a man, he would be ready to report me to the police, to see me in jail...
Back in London, things between us get worse. Edward is not persuaded that my family would be so ill inclined to accept our relationship. So, after some rather animated discussions, Edward tells me not to show up at his place anymore, until I'm ready to go to live with him, facing my family...
I am distressed, because I really love him and like him very much, but really I don't feel like facing my father. We don't meet any more. I hope he will change his mind, he will come to look for me, but it doesn't happen. He doesn't come to the book shop anymore either. Little by little I resign myself.
1861 comes and the king of Piedmont is proclaimed king of Italy. My father decides to go back to Italy to contribute to the formation of the new, united nation. He wants all off us to go back with him, but both my brother Carlo, who meanwhile has married but lives still with us, and I prefer to remain in England and in the end my father accepts. My brother moves with his wife in the room of my parents and I remain in my room. After a short time I see the opportunity to live at last alone and, with the pretext to leave them their intimacy, I move in a small flat in another part of the city.
I didn't forget Edward, so I go to look for him. But at his place there is another man, with whom he lives now, so I can just withdraw in good order, disappointed. I feel lonely in my apartment in Camden Street, I want, I need a lover. I start to look around, I know that there are places where people like me meet, so I start to visit them regularly. I have various adventures, but nothing serious, nothing lasting, nothing important. People who just need to give vent to a night's desire, without any involvement.
I am twenty-five when I meet Kenneth, a twenty-two year old boy from Ireland. He comes to our bookshop quite often with a nice girl, it must be his girlfriend. I am sorry, I ask myself why such handsome boys have to "waste" themselves with girls. I really like Kenneth very much, but thinking he is 'girls hunt reserve', I don't even try, I content myself admiring and dreaming of him.
Once Kenneth comes alone and, as always, he addresses me to have an advice on a good novel. I advice him the last reprint of Walter Scott and ask him why his fiancée didn't come. He looks at me slightly amazed, then tells me that the girl accompanying him usually is not his girlfriend, but his younger sister. Then he adds: "I don't have a girlfriend, and neither the intention to get one - I like my freedom too much..."
Then, to test him, I throw a sentence: "A girl today and another the next day..." He says no, to date a girl means to let her put a slipknot around your neck, she just has to pull and you find yourself married... I ask him if he lives with his parents. He says no, they are just four siblings and they live together, his older brother, his older sister, him and his younger sister. His parents still live in Ireland. His two sisters work as nurses, his brother as teacher in a boarding school and he is bookkeeper of a forwarding agency.
Little by little we become friends, I start to hope that Kenneth likes me. On Sundays we go together to see the horses races, or we walk in a park, taking our food with us and making picnics on the grass. He is likeable, full of curiosity for everything, and has a smile I like very much. I feel I desire him more and more. I would like to be able to create the conditions to make him understand...
One day he tells me he envies me because I live alone - he too would like to have my freedom. I answer that instead I would like not to be alone... for example, I would like to share my home with a friend... He looks at me and asks: "Not with a girl?" I answer: "No, I too prefer not to be tied by a woman... a friend, one like you, for instance. I think I would feel very good with you." He doesn't answer, it seems rather he is avoiding my eyes and I think he understood what I wanted to tell him with that sentence, and he doesn't like that.
But his attitude towards me doesn't change. So, one Sunday, I invite him to come to see where I live. He accepts, we go upstairs. He tells me that he likes my place, and admires some prints of male nudes I hanged on my living room. He asks me if I am fond of classical art... I answer him that I liked these prints. He says they are beautiful, then suddenly asks me if in my opinion it is true that Greeks had sex between men.
I tell him I believe it is true. He then says, thoughtfully: "Who knows how it could be, doing it with a man?" then, with candour he tells me that he doesn't even know how it could be with a girl... I look at him almost unbelieving and ask him how it comes that at 22 he still is a virgin. This word makes him smile: "I would never have defined myself such," he says, "but it is true, I am still a virgin." Then he explains to me: "Women don't attract me at all..." "And... men?" I ask him almost in a whisper. He looks at me, sees my encouraging smile and says: "Yes, sometimes, some men..."
I put my hand on his arm and, finally, I tell him that I feel very attracted to him. He blushes, but murmurs he is flattered. Then, blushing again, he asks me if I never had a "story" with a man. I tell him yes, and he seems quite astounded, but he asks me how it is, if it is beautiful... I tell him that it can be really beautiful and, with a deep emotion, I ask him if he would like to try it with me. He acts coy, embarrassed, and tells me that he never thought about it, that he doesn't know...
We change the subject and the tension loosens, he becomes again cheerful like before. We go out to have a walk, then bid goodbye, making an appointment for the following Sunday. Now I desire him strongly and ask myself what I can do to persuade him. The thought that he has never made love makes him even more desirable in my eyes. The following Sunday I invite him again to come at my place, but he says he prefers to go for a walk.
I don't bring up the subject again, we continue to meet, to spend our time together. It is a Summer afternoon, we are seated under a tree, near the Serpentine. Kenneth says he would like to be on the seaside, on a beach, in swimsuit, to dive in the water... I like the idea, I could, for the first time, see him half naked... I propose to go to the seaside the following Sunday together. He accepts at once. I go to buy myself a nice swimsuit of thin jersey in big horizontal stripes of rust and green, as is the fashion. I try it at home and see with pleasure that it underlines pleasantly what I have between my legs, and I feel really sexy. Would Kenneth also feel that way?
The following Sunday we take the omnibus and go to the beach. When we are in our swimsuits, I have soon to lie on my belly to hide the too conspicuous erection that I get looking at Kenneth's body. He is aware of my way of looking at him and smiles, slightly embarrassed. Then he proposes me to go diving and he runs in the water. I run after him. Some time we swim, some time we just soak, and I continue to look at him with growing desire. We go back to the beach and stretch to dry under the sun. Kenneth looks at me, then murmurs that he feels good staying with me...
I look at him and my heart starts to drum, more than for the words, for the tone he said them and the intense way he is looking at me. I answer that each minute I spend near him is a joy to me. He stretches out his hand and puts it on my arm, in a kind of caress, saying nothing. I then say that I like feeling his hand on my skin, and he tightens his hold a little and says that it's a pity there are other people. What his words clearly imply, excites me.
I propose him to go back to London, to go to my place to conclude the day. He accepts with evident pleasure. All along the travel we just look at each other, in silence. He comes up to my flat and now we are strangely awkward, both of us. Finally I put my hand on his arm and pull him gently to me. I embrace him, he squeezes against me and I feel he is trembling. I caress his cheek, lightly kiss his lips. He emits a light sigh. I kiss him with more vigour, I caress all over his body, he abandons himself in my arms closing his eyes.
I take him in my bedroom and start to undress him. He shudders and trembles, excited, returns greedily my kisses, caresses my body while I undress, docile, lets me push him on my bed, and when I lie on him, he embraces me tightly. Full of desire, I whisper to him that I want him. He simply says yes, but I read my same desire in his eyes.
But, no matter how much he desires me and wants to give himself to me, it is his first time, he is not used to it, and it is too painful for him. So I desist. We caress, we conclude in that way. He asks me to forgive him, he is really sorry... I tell him it is not important, I am happy just to hold him in my arms, caress, kiss him.
The next time he comes at my place, he shows me a small glass jar. He explains to me that it is a lubricant and anaesthetic ointment his sisters use in hospital. He invites me to use it because, he says, he wants me in him. I am moved, I take him in my bed and, after arousing him, try again. He encourages me. He doesn't want me to stop even when he lightly winces with pain and is not able to hide it. I slowly slip inside him, and finally he is mine. I stay still, his breath is deep, he is trying to relax. He smiles at me and whispers "Now... fuck me, please..." and never that word seemed so beautiful, so sweet to me.
It is so wonderful making love with him! It is a dream to move inside his so hot and so tight love channel. He looks at me with a radiant smile, his eyes lost in mine. Suddenly he cums against my belly and this makes me reach my orgasm at once, deeply inside him. I then slip out and embrace him. He tells me he is happy. I tell him that I am sorry to hurt him, but he serenely says that he will get used soon, and that anyway he likes receiving me inside him too much to not continue. He caresses me sweetly and asks if I am happy with him... I tell him that I adore him, and it is true. I bend down to kiss him and he curls up against me.
So, Kenneth becomes my lover. To be with him is so beautiful, and not just to make love. I tell him I would like us to live together, and he promises me he will do all he can, that he too desires it. He just asks me to give him some time to set everything at home with his brother and sisters... I now understand what Edward did feel when he insisted we had to live together. And I am happy that Kenneth doesn't rise all the difficulties I rose then...
He moves in at my place just a few months later, at the beginning of December. I feel like dreaming, we fit together so good. Sometimes I wake up at night, and feeling him near me fills me with pleasure. I normally end my work before him, so I go to fetch him to go home together. It is so good knowing he is waiting for me, seeing him lighten up with a great smile as soon as he sees me.
At Christmas my brother wants me to go to his place for lunch, and Kenneth's siblings want him to go to their place, but we don't want to be separated that very day. So I tell my brother I will go to his place for lunch, but with a friend, and Kenneth tells his siblings he will come for dinner, with a friend... At lunch I introduce Kenneth to my brother and sister in law, telling them that he lives at my place, with me. This also remembers me of that Christmas with Edward. Just, I don't tell Carlo that Kenneth is my lover. I don't know if my brother guesses it or not, but he doesn't ask questions and nothing happens. At mid afternoon we go to the home of Kenneth's siblings. He also tells them that I am the friend with whom he lives now. Kenneth's brother looks at me nodding and I'm almost sure he did understand, but he also says nothing.
Kenneth's brother and sisters marry, and we both are invited to their marriages. My brother has children, and we both are invited to their baptisms... it's evident that our families accepted us as an inseparable couple. I recall Edward's father words: "As long as you don't cause a scandal, do what you want..." Yes, our society is that way... hypocritical.
In 1872 the bookshop where I still work, opens a branch in Liverpool and the owner decides to make me the manager. I then propose Kenneth to leave his work and come to work with me in Liverpool as accountant in the new bookshop. He immediately accepts. We look for an apartment in that town and move.
Here I meet Edward again, who now lives with a new lover, a railroad engineer, a taciturn but likeable type. We become friends, we meet often. At first George, the engineer, is somewhat jealous of me, knowing that I was Edward's lover, but then, seeing how much Kenneth and I are united and in love, he overcomes his jealousy and he also starts to open up with us.
Kenneth and I are happy, no clouds dim our splendid relationship. Until I fall ill in 1883. I stay in bed for about three months, then it seems I recover and on the contrary, suddenly I get worse and in three days I die, assisted by my sweet Kenneth..."
"You were still young..."
"I was just forty-five."
"Right. And... you don't know what happened to Kenneth."
"Of course not. I cannot know that."
"Wouldn't you like?"
"Bah, it is just not possible."
"Don't you miss some of your lovers?"
"No. As a soul I see everything with some detachment. I don't have attachment for things, for people."
"I don't like it. This means that also love dies with death."
"No, I love all of them. Simply, it is not possible to make alive again what has ended."
"Who do you love more, of your various lovers?"
"It doesn't exist a more or less. I love them, that's all."
"It is not easy to understand... But now I have to leave you. I am already a little late. Hear you tomorrow." Eugenio said, bid goodbye and closed his cellular.