It has become like an intoxication, whether the story about reincarnations was true or not, what the mysterious voice in the telephone told him fascinated Eugenio. So, as soon as he had a little free time, he was taking his cellular to hear some new stories.
"Hey, what will you narrate me this time?"
"Stop shouting at me, you are deafening me!" the voice answered.
"What's that, today you even got ears?"
"You never heard about witticisms?"
"Souls have also sense of humour?"
"Sure, at least I have it, and I think that other souls also must have one."
"But... tell me, we humans do communicate by speaking, writing and by other means, but what about you souls?"
"We can't, unless through the body with which we become one, and with another human being. But that's not directly. Apart form the special and partial communication for very short instants during sexual unions of two beings, as I yet told you."
"But can two souls stay in the same object, between one incarnation and the following one?"
"I don't know, possibly yes..."
"In this case you cannot communicate?"
"I don't know. Why do you have to ask me questions I don't know and that I can't answer?"
"All right, all right. Well, then, tell me who you were in the... twelfth century."
"Adelbert. I am born 1127 in Reims. My father is a tailor and he mainly makes clerical clothes and vestments. As a small boy, having a fine voice, I become one of the little choristers of the cathedral choir. I like music and singing. And I like the dress I have to wear when I sing. I am a nice boy, slender, and I have blond hair and green-hazelnut eyes.
Singing and clothing, from these boyhood years on, will always be my passion, beside men, of course, but this will come later. Until I'm thirteen I am in the choir, but then my voice changes, becomes strange, so I have to stop singing in the cathedral. But I like singing and I realize that my tone-deaf cockerel voice is suitable to sing the popular ballads and that people laugh and appreciate me. I like being the centre of attention. I learn to play the lute to accompany my songs and I learn more and more new songs. All of this is lot more fun than the Gregorian chant. At sixteen my voice finds a new balance, and my repertory now also contains love songs. In reality I still don't know love. But the love songs, those I certainly know. All day long I help my father making clothes, and during my free time I sew elegant and precious clothes for myself, someway personal in style, even if I just use clippings and scraps left over from the vestments we usually make, but anyway they are fine. In the evening, or on holiday, I sing. A nice life, after all. I grow up serenely, cheerfully...
When I'm seventeen Marvel comes to Reims. He is a troubadour, an itinerant minstrel. He wanders from Court to Court, earning his living with his songs. I meet him because he comes to see my father, asking him to sew him new clothes. I'm fascinated by him at once; he is beautiful, not tall but with a perfect body, a sad but sweet smile, his hair at shoulder-length, soft and bright like silk, eyes with an intense look. My father tells him that he has no time and moreover he doesn't make clothes of the kind the troubadour wants, so I ask my father if I can cut and sew it. My father says yes, if the troubadour accepts a boy to do it... Marvel accepts and I'm grateful to him. I ask him what dress he wants, and he asks me to see the clothes and to tell him the prices: he is going to decide after he saw them, and concerning the model, he will be inspired by the kind of cloth he chooses. While he is looking at the clothes, he compliments on the dress I wear. So I just show him the other clothes I made for myself: he seems struck and says I have talent. I am pleased. He chooses the cloth, explains the model to me. I take his measurements.
Then I ask him if he would let me hear his songs. He says yes and invites me to the inn where he lodges, the same evening. I go and, thinking I can possibly ask him to teach me something, I bring my lute with me. When he sees it, he asks me if I'm able to sing, and wants to hear me. Then, sitting near him under the inn pergola, I intone one of the songs I know. He listens to me attentively. Then he puts his hand on my leg in a friendly gesture and tells me that he liked that song very much. He asks me for another song. While I play and sing, his hand lightly caresses my leg, it is pleasurable. His hand shifts on my leg, upward, and I feel a heat spreading within me and I start to get aroused. He seems engrossed in the music, looks at me smiling and continues to lightly caress my thigh...
When I end, he pulls away his hand to clap his hands. I feel something like emptiness: his hand gave me a faint sense of pleasure that I now miss. Then, he takes his viola and starts to play and sing. I'm completely fascinated. When he stops, I ask him if he wants to teach it to me. He willingly accepts. While I'm learning, like to encourage me, he sometimes puts his hand back on my thigh and I like the feeling. Finally I thank him and go back home. The following evening I go again to meet him and we sing again. Again, his hand touches me from time to time, lightly, pleasurable, warm. He asks me if I'm tired, it is late... I say no. He caresses my cheek and tells me he likes me very much, and that he would like to have me as his pupil...
He asks me if I would like to play the viola. I say yes, so he makes an appointment for the following evening, promising me he will teach me. It is not easy, my fingers seem awkward... I'm getting discouraged. So, he makes me stand up, comes behind me and takes my hands, to teach me to hold the viola properly, he guides me. It is almost like an embrace, I feel the warmth of his body against my back - it is a splendid sensation.
Instinctively I lean against him and feel his arousal. And then he whispers to me that it's me who has this effect on him, that he likes me. I feel troubled, it is the first time someone tells me such things. Now it's him to push against me, to hold me tight, and his tongue lightly brushes my earlobe. I am really embarrassed, but quiver with pleasure. I feel my braguette swelling. But he leaves me alone, sits again and resumes his lesson. The day after he comes to the shop to have his first fitting. He pulls off his clothes and I look at him in awe. He wears my basted cloth.
While I touch him to mark the points which I have to take in to make it really close fitting, I feel him lightly quivering and I notice he is getting aroused. He sees the direction of my eyes and smiles. And he repeats that it's me who has this effect on him... Even if I jerked off since four years, I didn't yet have any sexual intercourse of any kind. I never got aroused by anybody. But now I'm getting aroused. He undresses again and puts his own clothes back on. He smiles at me conspiratorially while he rearranges his erection constraining it in his clothes.
This evening I'm again at his place. Now, the hand that he lies on my thigh has a completely different meaning for me, and I immediately get a hard on. He moves his hand lightly, going up a little, I desire him to go up more... But it doesn't happen: we bid farewell as usual. But that night, for the first time, I jerk off with an image in my mind: Marvel.
When it is time for the second fitting, I'm fully conscious of my desire for him, and it is difficult for me not to touch him on purpose. He, again, gets a hard on. And as a result, I also get aroused. I'm kneeling in front of him, I'm checking where I have to remake the sewing to avoid antiaesthetic creases, going up from his ankles to his thighs, and I become aware that I have to touch him right there, on his swelling. I try not to let myself go, to only touch lightly, but I feel it throbbing. He puts his hand on mine and pushes them hard against his basket. I blush, I tremble. He crouches in front of me, takes my face between his hands, looks me in the eye and slowly approaches his face to mine. He brushes my lips with his lips, he lightly touches them with the tip of his tongue and I close my eyes and quiver.
He whispers to me that this evening he will not wait for me under the pergola, but upstairs, in his room. I go, my lute in my hands, almost as an excuse towards myself, but I perfectly know that it will be of no use, this evening. He welcomes me, takes the instrument from my hands and puts it near his viola on the table, then he drives me towards his bed and makes me sit on its edge, then he sits near me. He takes me in his arms and I let myself go against his chest. He caresses my face and tells me that he likes me very much, that he is happy to have me there, with him. I'm in emotion. He caresses me, at first in a light way, but then with more and more intimacy. I'm aroused. My breath becomes heavy. He kisses me on my lips and it is not the light kiss of the afternoon anymore. He makes me lie on my back on the bed. I clutch at him. He conquers me... It is no use giggling, Eugenio, I'm not saying this in a physical sense, I mean that he fascinates me. That I feel strongly attracted to him, that I feel like having discovered paradise. I'm saying that I fall in love with him, that suddenly my whole life seems different to me, so beautiful, luminous being near him.
Therefore I wonder, if he will leave, will my life become once again grey? Before I never felt my life being grey, but now... I would like to never finish his clothes to make him remain longer in Reims. All day long I can just think about him. After supper I run to his inn, to be with him.
He comes for the last fitting. This time we openly caress each other, the fitting takes more time than ever, the dress is perfect, fits him nicely, he is happy and kisses me. He tells me that he waits for me this evening, our last evening. When I go to his place, I am tense. We make love, but after that, I burst out crying. He is surprised, he embraces me, he cuddles me and asks me why I'm crying. And I tell him that I don't want to lose him, I don't want to part from him. He caresses me and asks me, then, why I don't go away with him; he will turn me into a skilled troubadour... I look at him, amazed, happy. I immediately accept. He will leave town the following morning at dawn. I tell him that I'm going to my home now, I will bundle out my few belongings and will come back to him, so the following morning we will leave together.
Back home, I tell my parents what I decided: I want to become a troubadour. Therefore I will leave with Marvel. My mother cries, my father tries to dissuade me, but I take my best clothes, my lute and I'm ready to join him. Then my father gives me some coins. I embrace my parents and go back to Marvel, to the inn. I sleep near him...
The following morning at dawn we are already on the road. I feel so light-hearted and happy! We chat, he merrily tells me a thousand of things, I listen to him enchanted, fascinated. Even the road seems wonderful to me, not only because it is late spring, but mainly because I'm walking at his side. He tells me that we will ask for hospitality in the castle of Châlons sur Marne, where we will perform our songs. I tell him that I'm not so skilled yet, but he insists, telling me that my rustic songs could also be interesting for the castle people.
The Lord of Châlons welcomes us: he already knows Marvel and he wants to listen to the new songs in his repertory. Fortunately we are lodged in the same room. We remain at the castle for one week and I'm enchanted: it is the first time I've entered a castle, I'm able to observe it's life so close. The only one thing that annoys me are the glances of some pages and knights toward Marvel. I'm not worried about the women's glances, because I know that he doesn't care for them. But he sleeps every night with me, so, naively, I'm reassured. He buys me a nice viola and I'm happy.
Naively, I say, because when we stop at Troyes' castle, I discover that in reality he doesn't need to wait for the night to go making love with one of the knights. By chance, in fact, I catch their conversation and the knight makes a date with him, saying 'as always, in the same room'. I feel betrayed, I feel like crying, but all day long I say nothing. When we are in our room, at night, he approaches me to make love, but I push him away. I don't make a jealousy scene, I don't grudge him that, I am just sulky. And he explains to me that this is a troubadour's life: 'Why do you think we are so appreciated, so in demand? Because of our songs, of course, but also for this: because we are ready and available to go in bed with whom asks us! And you too have to learn this rapidly, if you want to be a troubadour!'
I'm shaken. I feel twice betrayed. But Marvel knows how to take me and little by little he makes me get over it. But it is not anymore like before, a dream has been shattered. I follow him from castle to castle, until we reach Tournus' castle. We are together since six months. He tells me that we have to find a castle where they will allow us to spend at least the coldest months. Winter is the most difficult season. I have to decide to play my part also. In other words, to go to bed with whom asks me. It had yet happened that somebody tried to bring me in his bed, but until now I succeeded in clearing out skilfully. So, at Tournus, I have my first experience with another man. He is the Count superintendent, a married man, about forty years old, stout, I don't like him. But possibly right because of that I finally accepted.
A kind of... I don't know how to define it... desperation, perhaps. If I have to do something I don't like doing, it is all the same to do it with somebody I don't like... Marvel is now astounded for my indiscriminate yes: he tells me that I'm not presumed to always say yes, and that between an 'always yes' and an 'always no' there is a middle way... But I don't listen to him and, in the same way I have sex with others, I now have sex with him. Without passion, quite like a kind of unpleasant duty to which one has to submit.
In spring, after crossing Lyon, he decides to go towards Lausanne, and I decide to part company with him and to continue instead towards the Savoy. Unlike I hoped, I expected, he doesn't insist to remain together, he let me go my way without the faintest protest: this is the last disappointment he gives to me. My viola and my lute at my shoulders, two suitcases in my hands, I take my way..."
"Suitcases? In the 12th century already exist suitcases?"
"I said so, but really they are two wide bags of strong hemp, that rather can resemble to the gym sacks that today's sports men use, a kind of wide saddlebag, but made for travellers on foot, where I keep my clothes.
Passing from village to village, I stop in the square and I start playing, just to pass my time. People stop, appreciate, and somebody starts to give me an egg, a fruit, even some coins. Marvel never wanted to sing for the common people, he said he was not a ballad singer. I, on the contrary, think that, even if I'm not at a castle, I can earn something that way. In another village, the innkeeper offers me free board and lodging if I sing for his guests, and that gives me a new idea. Anyway, I also show up at the castles and often I'm admitted. Here, I sometimes receive as a gift, beside the money, some old clothes of the nobles, which I, always having scissors, needles and thread with me, adapt. And now, when I understand that I have aroused somebody's desire, I only accept if I like him.
So, I arrive at Chambery castle. While I'm waiting at the gate to know if my hospitality request will be accepted, I see a slender man's figure on a small balcony up on the top, who gives me an impression of elegance and sadness: he is still, looks far away... I ask a soldier who is he: he is the youngest son of the Count, the soldier says, and everyday he stays there for a long time. I tell him that he seems sad to me, and the soldier answers that the boy suffers from melancholy. I am admitted. The superintendent examines me, he wants to hear some of my repertory, he tells me the wage, not high but I accept. He assigns me a small room and tells me to prepare for dinner this evening.
You have to know that one of the things I've learned from Marvel is the adaptation of songs: if, for example, the original song is about two towers of a castle, they can become one or four or whatsoever, according to the castle where you are. If the coat of arms of the lord you sing about, is in the original song red with a golden lion, it can become green with a silver sword, if that is the coat of arms of the Lord hosting you. And if the maid the song is about has blond plaits, they can become black if the lady of the manor is that way. The audience is more interested and pleased that way. Changes can sometimes be extemporaneous, if you are skilled enough, but they are often carefully prepared in advance...
In the evening, admitted at the Count's table, I'm introduced and welcomed with evident pleasure: there are the Count, the Countess, his eldest son with his wife, and the other children, the second is a boy, the third is a girl, and the youngest; then the superintendent with his wife and some knights and dames. We eat, then I start to sing. The youngest son, Philibert, listens absorbed, but I can't see him smile even once. He is a nineteen year old youth, pale, with a gentle but deeply sad air, beautiful. I feel incredibly attracted towards him. Besides my court and love songs, also my popular song, sometimes a little licentious, have success and amuse the noble audience. But Philibert doesn't laugh. When I go back to my room, I can only think about this young man. A song comes to my mind, "The maid at the window". I think about modifying it, so that, except for the title, I can sing about her without any feminine or masculine terms and to change the knight going to meet her, in a troubadour: a message that I hope the young Philibert will be able to catch..."
"But then, also the others can catch it, can't they?" Eugenio objected.
"Not necessarily. The skill is in making subtle allusions, so that the interpretations can be various. This evening, in the hall of the Count, I sing. I announce the title "La Pucelle à la Fenestre" and start to sing.
'There, near the great tower, at the window the gentle soul awaits, day after day, who knows what...' And when the unknown knight arrives, whose name is Amour, that is 'love', I instead sing about the troubadour whose name is Belami, that is 'nice friend'. And when in the original she lets her small handkerchief fall by the window, I change it in a glove. And I look at Philibert who, as usually absorbed in listening, doesn't seem to understand that I'm singing for him. The following day, while I walk in the castle court, I see him again at his small balcony.
Then, I stop below and start to sing again the song 'La Pucelle à la Fenestre'. In the evening I sing to my audience other songs. But the day after, I wait until Philibert again comes out on his small balcony, and again I sing "La Pucelle". And this time, to my delight, from the balcony falls a gold embroidered glove. I take it and slip it inside my jerkin, I look up to the balcony, but it is empty. But the signal is clear. I go back inside the castle and go upstairs, my heart is in my mouth, to the young man's room. I knock at the door. His voice tells me to enter. I bow, and hand him his glove. He thanks me, saying it did slip from his hands and, taking it, our hands brush. He then asks me if that song was for him.
I say yes. He thanks me and, for the first time, a ghost of a smile seems to light up his expression. I tell him that he is really beautiful when he smiles and he lightly blushes. But smiles again. I caress his hand on impulse and he grasps my hand and squeezes it lightly. I take his hand to my lips and breath a kiss on it. Philibert looks me straight in the eye and I, in a whisper filled with emotion, repeat to him that he is so beautiful...
He barely smiles, caresses my face, gently pulls me to him. I take him in my arms, I keep him tight, I lightly kiss him on his lips. He quivers, and reciprocates my kiss, but in an intimate way. Then, in a low voice, he repeats the song's words: 'did you know me, troubadour?' 'No,' I answer with the song words, 'but my heart knew you and guided me to you.' 'What is your name?' 'My name is Love' I answer right with the words of the song. Then he kisses me again and asks me, changing at this point the words of the song, if I want to be his lover. My body that adheres to his body answers him, and I let him feel my desire and savour his desire. We caress, we kiss and slowly we lower on the fur carpet. Our bodies search each other, our hands slip under the clothes and soon we are both grasped by the whirl of passion. But as I try to go beyond our embrace, feeling prey of a strong desire, he gently stops me and says:
'Not yet, give me some time to believe that all this is true.' We stand up again, setting our clothes back in order. He makes me sit near the window. I ask him why he appears every day at the balcony, why he is so sad. He tells me that, when he was fifteen years old, he knew love for the first and only time, in the person of a young vassal of his father, but that the youth had to go to war, and never came back: he was killed. And from that day on, he fell ill of melancholy. I tell him that life continues, and that I would do anything to make the smile return on his beautiful face.
It is him who, the very night, when I'm just back in my room and start to undress, knocks at my door. I open, just my underpants on me. He enters, locks the door, comes near me and caresses my bare chest. The candle flare reflects in his eyes and I feel lost in his look. I pull him close to me, I caress him, kiss him. I start to undress him, I gently push him on my bed, I climb on him and start to kiss him all over his body. He quivers, lightly moans, closing his eyes. We are finally naked and I gaze at him full of desire. But he, again, even if he is aroused at least like me, stops me, gently holds me against him and sadly whispers: 'You also will leave...' I kiss him and tell him that I'm falling in love with him. 'But you will also go...' he repeats. I tell him that, if there is a way, any way, I willingly stop here for him. He caresses me, and asks me to swear it. I swear. He kisses me, but then gets out of my bed and dresses again. I beg him to stay. He shakes his head no and leaves my room. And I feel completely lost for him...
The following day I hear the Countess say that she considers sending Philibert to Rome on pilgrimage, hoping that her son can recover there.
Then, on the spot, I invent that I too had the intention to go to Rome and offer myself to be part of her son's convoy. The Countess seems to favourably consider my offer: she says that perhaps my songs can contribute to give him serenity, and offers me a pay for all the period I will accompany him... it is set. Shortly before supper, Philibert stops me in a corridor and asks me if it is true that I will accompany him to Rome. Yes, I confirm him. He seems happy. He whispers to me he will wait for me, that night.
During supper the Count talks about the pilgrimage and about who will escort his son: eight knights, two prelates, six servants... The Countess tells that I too will be on the convoy. The Count asks me if I really want to, and my yes includes me in the convoy. The departure is decided: the time to prepare everything, to send some messengers to ask the lords of the lands we will cross for authorization for passage and hospitality, and to wait for the answers to fix the itinerary.
This night, I go upstairs to Philibert's room. He is waiting for me. He asks me if I really love him. Full of emotion, I answer him that I want to belong to him, forever. He caresses me, we embrace, we kiss and when, intertwined on his bed, our bodies search for each other, he let's go all hesitations and finally we unite. Ah, it is so splendid! And for the first time I see him smiling with happiness. Afterwards, while we are dressing again, he says to me with a serious expression: 'Don't betray me, don't disappoint me, or I will kill myself'. I then take his dagger which is on a cabinet, I unsheathe it, kiss it and give it to him, telling him that I belong to him and that, if I ever will disappoint him one day, he has to kill me with it. He too kisses the blade and sheathes it again. We both know that this gesture has the value of an oath. In the period that precedes our departure, during the day, each time we meet we have deep and conspiratorial glances for each other. And during the night we have hours of intense and tender love that make me feel the happiest man in the world.
During the day Philibert has still his sad expression, but in our times of intimacy he more and more often smiles and this fills me with joy.
We leave. We climb up the Moria valley, we pass the Alps and notwithstanding it is full summer, the nights are cold, but not for us who sleep together.
I wonder if the others of the convoy know what ties us... We go down the valley, towards Turin, a small town still enclosed in the square of ancient Roman walls, then we go down to Pavia. Along the itinerary, open protected by the knights, I always ride at Philibert's side, and he seems the more serene the more we proceed towards the south. Then come the two prelates, followed by servants with the luggage. Everywhere we are received with courtesy, and I repay the hospitality with my songs. And always the valet's small bed is put at the foot of Philibert's bed, for me. I always ruffle my bed's sheets, to give the impression, but in reality I always spend the night in Philibert's bed and every night we make love. I feel, I deeply love him, and he also lets me feel his love that seems to strengthen day after day.
We are guest of the Luni's Sire, and the noble seems strongly attracted to me. I try to resist to his close court and I warn Philibert, asking him to leave that castle soon. He understands, accepts, and takes his leave of Luni's Sire. We resume our way, but after less than half a day of journey, we are attacked by a group of outlaws. Everything is clear to me as I realize that their aim is me - in fact they capture me and run away. So I'm brought back to the Luni's Sire who, at my refusal to bend to his desire, shuts me in the castle dungeon.
But Philibert also understood the truth. He wants to free me by all means, but his knights make him understand that they certainly have not enough power to make themselves heard. I'm chained in the castle dungeon, but I don't intend to bend to the Sire's requests. Philibert has not forgot me. Being guest in a nearby monastery, he tells the Abbot about my kidnapping and about the Luni's Sire's sexual greed for me and asks him for help to free me. The Abbot says that he knows about the 'vice' of the noble man, but that he doesn't know how to put a remedy to the situation. Philibert then asks him to lend him some monk habits: they will disguise and make them think that they are monks on pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Saint James of Compostella, and they will ask for hospitality in the castle.
The Abbot, to save them from speaking with their strong French accent, sends with them also three real monks. They are received in the castle. Before leaving the following morning, with the excuse to comfort the prisoners, they persuade the chief of the guards to let them go inside the dungeon. Philibert succeeds in freeing me from my chains and gives me a habit to wear, while he puts a bundle on my pallet feigning my shape, and we go out. They don't realize that now there is one more monk, and we reach, safe and sound, the monastery. Philibert gives back the habits to the monks, we mount our horses and gallop towards the south, hoping we can leave Luni's land before the Sire realizes my escape.
We reach Lucca - we are safe now. Philibert is happy. We continue our journey and pass through Siena, then Viterbo and at last we are in Rome. After visiting all the basilicas and having paid homage to the Holy Father, we resume our way back home, to the north, but in Siena we deviate to Florence and Bologna and we resume the 'Via Francigena' in Piacenza.
Philibert is completely transformed: he is cheerful, happy. His love for me, my love for him have brought about the miracle, even if the prelates, of course, say that the merit is to the Pope's blessing. We are back to Chambery in mid autumn. The Count and the Countess at once notice the transformation of their son and are happy. When Philibert asks them to allow me to remain at the castle, they immediately accept his request without raising any difficulty. Three years later, the Count decides to entrust to his youngest son one of the castles he conquered in the Transalpine land where he is widening his possessions, so we move there. Philibert invests me to knighthood. I have to choose my standard. I choose it with a white glove in a sky blue field. The bishop of Pignerol blesses my standard, my spear and sword, and I'm invested to knighthood."
"And they lived happily ever after..." Eugenio commented with a smile.
"Yes, you can say that. At least until 1164, the year when an aisle of the castle where Philibert and I live collapses and we both die. While we are making love..."
"A wonderful death..." Eugenio said.
"Bah... not fast enough not to see terror in my Philibert's eyes while we clutch at each other. Death is often a dramatic experience, especially when it is violent. Sometimes it can also be a sweet experience, for..."
"But, what is the reason of all your subsequent reincarnations? What is the reason of life, reincarnations or not?"
"The reason? Who knows it? I started to exist in my first incarnation and my... self-consciousness was empty. I started to think after my first parting. Reason? There must be one. I think it is my enrichment, my completion perhaps. But if it will happen, how it will happen, I'm not able to tell you."
"But, you souls are indestructible?"
"Sure, we are not substance, not force, not energy... I'm not subjected to the laws of physics."
"Yes you are, as you are attired by metals and by fertilized cells. Is it not a physical law that attracts you?"
"I say attraction because I have to use human concepts, but it is not a force, a field of forces... It happens. How? There are still many things I don't know, I don't understand, even if I know and understand much more of any life I lived, and each time a little more."
"Yes, all right... your tales are more interesting than those discussions."
"It's you who starts them. Don't complain, after."
"Ok, ok. What do you narrate me, now?"
"I can tell you about the time I was a Frenchman, in the times of the French Revolution..."
"But have you never been somebody famous?"