I've been called a lot of things by my peers in the gay community. A young idealist, "juvenile," a young man in love with love. I've forgivingly and patiently put up with a lot of it, despite the fact that my attitude often tends to be as (if not more) reasoned and mature than those who provide such judgments. I recognize my faults. I am verbose for one, obsessive for another. But at least I'm a polite, respectful individual, reasonably well-balanced intellectually and emotionally. I live a good life, with adventures around the world each year. In 25 short years I've lived across the world, and experienced more of it than most well-traveled people do in a lifetime. After about 13 years of sexual maturity, I'm still a virgin (yes, I'm so virginal, I haven't even kissed/been kissed on the lips!). I've even had a few romantic adventures, albeit they tend to be mostly my own creations--unrequited courtly love: repressed, burning passion. Love--deep, innocent, and unreciprocated--but love nonetheless.
I've had infatuations and crushes, some over the matter of a month or two, some for as long as a few years. They can be intense: I have absolutely no feelings left for one guy from my infatuations, but I still wake up with his name on my breath from time to time. Despite my penchant for repressed emotion and my history of crushes, I've loved only once. It wasn't just a crush--it was physically and emotionally intense (described more in my previous post "Madness: the Five Senses of a Man"). My first love, how precious. Big sigh... From what I've already said about my kiss virginity, it's pretty easy to figure out that I didn't get to have any fun!
I talked about my first love in previous posts using the name Farid. He makes his first appearance in this blog starting in November 2009. Nearly a year and a half later, he's still in my life, but he's gone from the anonymous friend offering bits of wisdom to front page news as far as this blog is concerned.
As such, I like to think of my feelings for him as a pot of water placed on a stove burner on low heat. Something clicked in me (the stove turned on) the first time I saw him--a cutely short, older, handsome, well-proportioned bearded Arab guy--like a mini-Hercules without the bulging muscles. I will never forget how adorable I thought he was the first time I saw him standing in his doorway with a huge smile, beckoning me in. Or later that day, after a couple of hours of conversation, when we were heading out (him to a hair appointment, me to my bike). He wanted to change clothes, so he went into his room and came out in a sexy pair of jeans and a leather jacket. Wow! As we headed out, he gave me this sexy, satisfied look, gazing out with a sparkle in his eyes from underneath his brows, the faintest smile on his face. Then when we parted, he gave me a hug like no other I had had before in my life. I'm certainly no hug virgin, but never before had I felt so connected and fused to someone in my life than during that one hug. Part of me seems to have melted into Farid's arms.
The pot of water began to steam, but it was a long time yet, many months, before it came to a boil. I liked him--he was very personable. He always made time to talk to me, always enjoyed conversing with me, and exchanged on deeper subjects with me. He was, well, a perfectly charming gentleman, not to mention a concerned friend and a good listener. He would keep in touch with me, no matter where in the world I found myself, often on a daily basis. He told me once, "CT, it is such an honour to be your friend." He got me there--those are the words that I have always needed to hear, and in this case they were genuinely expressed. The first bubbles started forming at the bottom of the pot. With daily contact, with time, with me helping him on his business, vaction time together, as the months became a year, the water came to a full boil. It hissed and steamed; it frothed; it overflowed.
And then, at some point, Farid picked up the pot of boiling water, my churning but contained emotions toward him, and poured it all over me, leaving me pocked with the burns and the scars. Yet the pot is still too hot--if you were to put water back into it, even without placing it back on the stove, the water would still come quickly to a boil. A year and a half later, with very little to show for my first love except the disappointments, the pessimism, and the sadness, and after being implictly rejected and scorned time and time again, the hot excitability, the weakness, is still there.
Fortunately, the pot is hot, but it is empty. It was never really refilled with water (only he could do that), and the drops that were left have sizzled and evaporated. While there have been several notable, charmless, hurtful encounters that I could elaborate on, nothing probably highlights my current state of disgust more than what I will probably forever remember as the Night of the Musical Candlelit Bath.
I recently went off to Berlin and Paris, and I felt like I finally turned the page once I arrived there. After months of lingering depression, in part related to feelings of rejection from last November and December (more on that night in a later posting), I was no longer feeling sad and tortured. Back in the civilized world of art, culture, and science, I felt recharged, reenergized, and it was a good feeling. The burns were there, but they no longer hurt. I wasn't thinking as much about Farid anymore, but as had become tradition with us (and him still being, despite everything good and bad we have shared, a good friend whom I love), I wanted to bring him back a little something from my latest trip. I wrote him a message on a non-decorated, still-standing part of the Berlin Wall and sent a photo of it to him in an e-mail. I sent him postcards of the things I liked best from my trip. When I arrived back in Montréal, I went straight to his house before going home with a cornucopia of delicate pastries that I had purchased earlier that day in Paris. He was very surprised and happy to see me, I was my chipper, chatty self, and we had agreed to get together on Saturday (this last weekend) to talk in a more casual setting and catch up after almost two months of not seeing each other.
After some encouraging remarks from a new friend who understands Farid's cultural and religious outlook and could more readily interpet his behaviour, I decided to give the whole possibility of an affective relationship with Farid one last chance. Some personal time together, that's what we needed. There are quite a few aspects of our different personalities which seem to really compliment each other. We also have very similar values (his values match mine more than another other gay man I've ever met), and he, although nearly 20 years older than me, is just as much the hopeless romantic as I am (yet with the maturity that characterizes most of my friends, who are in their 40s). So hey, the feelings are already there, the pot is still hot. I'm attracted to him, I love him, so I figured I'd give him the chance to pour some water back into the pot last Saturday.
Instead of pouring water into the pot, he put the pot in the freezer. I've never been treated with such a lack of charm or considerateness in my life. I came over, and he was doing the housework and continued during much of my visit. I knew this would be a likely eventuality and arrived late in the afternoon (when I had been invited to come over since 10 am) for this reason. There was another time recently when he invited me over to watch him do the housework, when I had told him that I some little gifts to give him from the United States. I just didn't bother to show up at all. I had never neglected him like that before, and that clearly drove him crazy. All of a sudden I was getting worried messages on my answering machine from a guy who has always been too passive and apathetic to call. A little bit of water back in the pot there, but I went to Berlin for a week, and it must have turned to steam and re-evaporated. So last saturday, he was doing the housework in my presence. I even helped him make his bed when the sheets were dry. Ok, while charmless and somewhat obnoxious, I could turn it to my advantage. At least we were doing something together, not sitting, but standing, moving, and the conversation was intense, directed, personal, and between us.
Then, after about two and a half hours together, his roommate (the owner of the condo where they live) of many years came in. The social dynamic changed fundamentally and completely. Pietro (nearly 60 years old) is also Farid's ex. Farid and Pietro have a long history together, and have been entirely platonic (aka, sexless) in their relationship for about four years. At the same time, they have a certain level of mutual dependence and live like an old bickering couple. Pietro is "real family" to Farid, for lack of a better description (and believe me, there isn't one). In turn, Pietro depends on Farid to have an audience and a sense of self-importance--someone who will attend to him and look up to him. They are, for all intents and purposes, married, virtually always together, fundamentally united, but without romance and sex. Over the course of my friendship with Farid, I've gotten to know Pietro quite well, and we're also on friendly terms (and I am his client). Pietro had made it known to Farid that he finds me attractive, and Farid has told me that in the past. Although I remained jovial with Pietro, I was always careful never to reciprocate such an interest and remained unresponsive or negative on the subject if it ever came up in conversation between Farid and myself.
Pietro invited me to stay for dinner. This had happened in the past, where they had invited me to stay over for a meal, and it was perfectly fun and charming at that time. But this time was starkly different. Farid began bickering with Pietro about their earlier plans to eat out, but Pietro quashed them and said that he had changed his mind and that this would be cheaper. I chipped in and said that I couldn't impose myself in that way, and that I was tired and was just going home to have something light before calling it a day. Well, they insisted that I stay, so I did. But not long later, Farid, charmlessly, showed both Pietro and I a rash that he was developing on his stomach, a stomach that had flabbed out quite a bit since I described it in the previous post "Madness: Five Senses of a Man" (not that I couldn't still find reason to be charmed by it, lol, in spite of its increasing girth). He said that he was, consequently, going to go take a bath while Pietro prepared a succulent dinner of langoustines.
Ok, while it is totally rude to go take a bath, even for medical reasons, while you have invited guests to stay over (the rash had developed the day before and was not new by the time we saw it), I figured he'd be as fast as possible about it. In and out. He wasn't. Instead, much to Pietro and my surprise and annoyance, he took his computer into the bathroom. Pietro exclaimed in consternation, "Farid, why are you taking the computer with you?" Apparently to play music. Pietro then started boastfully elaborating to me about how Farid started this quaint little tradition from imitating him and his musical baths, and how relaxing it was to take a hot bath while listening to music. Farid ignored us and disappeared into the bathroom, listening to Quranic chants, while Pietro continued fixing dinner. The whole scenario was almost too ridiculous for words, and you could tell Pietro didn't know what to do with me at first (he gave me treats to go feed their cats). But eventually the awkwardness eased as we started a fluid conversation, and it was honestly fun talking to him.
Then, after about 30 minutes into his musical bath, Farid emerged nude (although behind the door so I couldn't see him) and interrupted our conversation. In such a circumstance, nude at the bathroom door (while a guest is there) calling out to his roommate, you might think that he was dying of an asthma attack and in need of his inhaler. But, in fact, he was instead calling out for Pietro to bring him the lighter. Pietro explained to me that he wanted it to light candles in the bathroom, and jumped up and raced over to bring the lighter. Farid was totally nude in front of Pietro, you could tell, and Pietro surveyed the interior of the bathroom (with Farid in it, but lacking any personal interest in his regard) before shutting the door. Just earlier that day, Farid had said that Pietro is often nude in front of him, and he in front of Pietro, and that there is no passion or interest remaining between them. I don't know if Ahmed was trying to demonstrate that personally, or testing Pietro (who was more interested in returning to me). You would have thought that Farid, given my presence and the fact that the bath had already been going on for quite some time at that point, could have lived without candlelight on this one occasion. But apparently not. I started snickering.
Farid had thus returned to his now candlelit musical bath, where he remained for about 40 more minutes. In the mean time, Pietro and I sat down to dinner, ate slowly, and enjoyed our conversation. We talked about many things, although I probably divulged a bit too much about my sexuality after he learned that I was a virgin, then started asking about how I managed that. That led to him saying that he was like me, that he could survive fine by himself for long periods of time, but every several months or so he needs some "carnal contact," and apparently one such carnal tryst had occurred just the previous evening. I tried to change the subject by asking him if he was enjoying my Parisian pastries. He said, "yes, they're great! Just yesterday evening, before my "fuck" arrived, Farid was eating the chocolate cake in the little box, and I ran over to him and said 'Give me a bite, Farid, I need some energy for my fuck tonight!'" I changed the subject back to the where I got the pastries, and how it is my favourite salon du thé in Paris.
As we were finishing dinner, Farid reemerged from his long, hot, relaxing, absolutely absurd, musical candlelit bath, in an undershirt and his boxers. I thanked Pietro profusely for dinner and told Farid that I was going home. However, to my surprise, Farid absolutely insisted that I stay to sit down and watch TV with them. Being weak with Farid, I of course obliged to stay. Farid at that point heated some leftover Shepherd's Pie in the microwave for his own dinner, claiming that he didn't like what Pietro had fixed that night and wanted something different.
We were talking together, although Farid seemed distracted and tired. Pietro, when he learned where I had recently moved, mentioned casually that I now live near a sauna (gay hookup place), but I tried to neutralize that conversation by turning it into a discussion of Turkish hamams. We were watching Quebec singers on TV, and Pietro was singing along at various points. Eventually, Farid excused himself, he said that he was now really tired after his bath and needed some sleep. Farid lifted his boxer leg up to his crotch to show me his rash, as if to excuse himself with such a demonstration, then he jumped up despite Pietro's protestations to stay, at least through the end of that song. I jumped up myself at that moment and said, "Farid, I'm going home..." And he said, "No, stay! Discuss!" Then he disappeared promptly into his bedroom (door open and lights off), not to be seen for the rest of the evening.
So I stayed, as Pietro did seem to be very excited about that particular song. As a guest who had just been entertained for dinner, I figured I should at least provide Pietro some after-dinner company. We had a fun, casual, light-hearted, sexually-neutral conversation, actually, and I stayed for about another hour. It was the best conversation of the night. Then I started making noises about going home, and Pietro wanted to show me something before I went. He then changed the channel to a gay porn station, a three-way oral sex between young men with unnaturally large penises. I couldn't have been more turned off, but instead of reacting negatively, I just laughed and said, "Pietro, that's nothing I haven't seen a million times before." In the proceeding conversation, I looked at it and back toward him as if entirely unphased by it, as if we were still watching the singers. I was entirely stoic, entirely asexual. Any discussion of sexuality was at that point ingenuous but clinical.
Then Pietro offered very earnestly, "I could show you that if you want." I said no, elaborating that I was already too spent, sexually speaking, and not really in the mood. He was surprised that I wasn't turned on, and I said, "as I said earlier, I use my imagination to get off, films don't do it for me , the brain is a very powerful tool." He thought maybe I wasn't interested because I wasn't watching it with the right person, and I said no, I was jetlagged (having been back in Canada for only 48 hours at that point), tired, and thus not really in the mood. He changed the channel, and I talked to him for about 5-10 more minutes amicably about neutral subjects, to lessen the awkwardness of the situation. He then mentioned, "well, I'm kinda turned on now that I saw a bit of that porno" grabbing very briefly into his pants (but, to my great relief, taking nothing out). I responded, "well, I'm really tired, why don't I leave now so that you can take care of that" and then made my final move to exit.
He accompanied me to the door, wrapped me up tenderly in my scarf, put my coat on, and gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me good night. I returned his kiss on his cheek with another one, and told him to say bye to the "sleeping Farid" for me. We both rolled our eyes, and I made my exit.
An interesting evening indeed. I could analyze it time and time again in many different ways--the musical candlelit bath, the nude appearance before Pietro, the showing of the rash (to both me and Pietro), the late evening nap. I was insulted, so horribly insulted, it wasn't even funny (even if the story is somewhat). Never had I been so rudely disregarded by a friend before in my life than by Farid that evening. The entire evening was so bizarre!
I thought for a while that perhaps Farid and Pietro had planned this, and that Farid was using my blaringly-obvious affections toward him as a way to keep me there so that Pietro could make his move on me. But several variables work against this hypothesis--the fact the Farid knew that I would not be interested in Pietro (as I had demonstrated before) and would not succumb to anyone's sexual advances outside the context of a previously-established relationship. If Farid knows anything about me, it's that. Furthermore, according to the open invitation, I could have arrived as early as 5 hours earlier, in which case I wouldn't have still been there when Pietro came home from work for dinner. Furthermore, the bickering about dinner that night, Pietro's reactions of surprise to Farid's behaviour, and the awkwardness when he disappeared into the musical bath, couldn't have been faked. Indeed, if giving Pietro space and time to seduce me (or abhorr me with porn) was indeed the goal of that evening, then surely Farid wouldn't have emerged from the bath to interrupt us and ask for a lighter.
I don't think it was a concerted effort on their part to disgust me, to repel me from their lives, to see how far I could go, to seduce me, or to test me. Neither one of them is that deliberate or that organized. What I do think, however, is that both of them felt comfortable enough with me to introduce me to their unadulterated, domestic reality, musical candlelit baths and all. I saw both of them as they are, as if I wasn't there, without any façade--totally self-centered and dysfunctional. Neither one cared enough to bother to provide a polite, respectable environment appropriate for a guest--they just slacked off and carried on with their evening as they would have without me. This is especially true for Farid, who most certainly was continuing his usual routine with the musical bath and the late evening nap. Then Pietro made his sexual advance, which I declined in the most neutral and respectful way I could think of at that particular moment. I had probably overshared earlier in the evening, which had contributed to the sense of comfort and permissivity in which Pietro felt ok showing me the porn. All in all, that evening was a smack in the face if there ever was one, and a huge letdown considering the polite society and civility of Europe, where I was just coming from.
It was then that I realized--Chez Farid + Pietro is not all that complicated and doesn't really require an exhaustive analysis. It's a prototype that people have been discussing for millennia in churches and synagogues, and recorded in fewer words than in this posting. Using an important moral theme discussed two articles ago in this blog, their condo is the modern-day version of Sodom and Gommorah. A land of utter disrespect (and sexual permissiveness and depravity) toward guests. Like in the Bible story, I saw Farid's sin of inhospitality as being far graver than Pietro's sexual inappropriateness. I say, let the trumpets sound!
I'm weak with Farid, so I will probably look back on Sodom, like Lot's wife, as the walls crumble. But if I were as smart and strong as I like to say I am, I won't--to avoid morphing into a pile of useless, mushy salt as a consequence. So, as for the scalding-hot pot (my heart) I introduced at the beginning of this article, let's keep it in the freezer for the time being. That's where it belongs until it cools to room temperature again!
I ran into Farid on the bus this last Tuesday (a few days after the musical candlelit bath incident), and while he was tired and distant after a long day of work, he sat next to me and we chatted amicably. He seemed surprised that I was learning Italian and going to Italy soon. He told me about passing a test for a government job. I asked him about his rash in the bus full of people, if it was feeling better. Just everyday friendly conversation. Then I came to my stop, wished him a good evening, reached around to push his head toward me and landed a big fat juicy kiss in his beautiful beard. Hey, my new attitude: just because I fell for the wrong guy doesn't mean I can't have a little bit of fun, while I'm waiting for the pot to cool :)