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Sunday, November 22, 2015
Angelo's heart was racing when Amadeo finally broke their kiss and once again looked at him with those amazing sunlit coffee eyes. It was too good to be true. He pinched his thigh to be sure he was awake. He'd dreamed so many times of kissing Amadeo and woken with an ache that only an ice cold bath had been able to cure. He lost count of how many mornings he'd had to run to the bathroom fearing that his parents or one of his brothers would be in the kitchen and see the remaining evidence of the most recent dream.
"Really?" Angelo asked in a whisper, searching Amadeo's face for any sign of teasing or deceit, hoping for and at the same time fearing the answer. "Swear?"
Amadeo smiled and wiped away the last of Angelo's tears. "I swear," he said, pulling the other close and placing his cheek next to Angelo's. He placed a hand on the opposite cheek and pressed their faces gently together, enjoying the feel of Angelo's skin against his, the scent of his hair. "I've wanted you for my own since the first day I saw you," he murmured.
Angelo dropped his head to the curve of Amadeo's neck, fighting back tears. He hated it when he cried but he seemed to do a lot of it lately. "I was so scared. I've been alone for so long," he said breathlessly, "Carrying this... feeling... this secret and not being able to talk to anyone about it. Constantly afraid that someone would find out and... I'm afraid to even talk to my folks about it. They always say there's nothing I could ever do that would make them hate me but this... I don't know. Mom always said about Uncle Pat but... what if she doesn't feel the same about me? What if my folks do end up hating me? What if they kick me out? What if they disown me? My family means everything to me, Dae, even my bossy brothers."
Amadeo didn't have an immediate answer. He'd struggled with the same questions and concerns from the day he'd first discovered he was 'different' than his brothers and friends. He'd faced the same problem of having no one to talk to about it. Being one of the minority of Catholics in their predominantly Protestant little town he already knew the church's stand on homosexuality, so he knew that talking to Father Kelly or Father Ryan was out of the question. He also knew that his family loved him, but he'd been afraid to talk to any of them about it. Like Angelo, he worried that they'd reject him. He'd been tempted, on occasion, to try to talk to Milo about it, but the idea of his best friend turning his back on him was just as painful as the possibility of losing his family.
"We have each other," Amadeo reassured his friend, hugging him tightly, rubbing Angelo's back with one hand and petting his hair with the other. "I know we're not the only two who feel this way, and some day we might meet more, but for now we have each other and we can talk about anything. All right?"
Angelo nodded against Amadeo's neck. He felt as though a stone had been removed from inside his chest.
"Ange, tell me something... you were talking about your uncle. You said you worried you'd caught something from him. You worried you'd contracted this 'condition' from his letters and pictures? What do you know about him? Is, I mean, was he, like us? What made you think so?"
Angelo slid off of Amadeo's lap to sit once more on the stone ledge that was built along the walls and served as a bench. "Mom always had this look on her face when she talked about him, happy and sad at the same time, if you can imagine that," he said quietly. "I heard her and dad talking a few times about him after we'd get a letter or a call from him. One time she was talking to dad. She was upset, almost crying, about how gran and gramp Lombardi had kicked him out of the house when he was seventeen. She was saying, 'They just couldn't see how wonderful he was. How special, how sweet. But they just couldn't get past his...' then she saw me nearby and she changed the subject."
"He'd send pictures now and then. They were always of him somewhere on the farm. Sometimes there'd be another guy in the picture, sometimes there'd be four of them, all happy and smiling, leaning on each other, or on a rake or a hoe, holding up a prize winning vegetable or hog. I asked once who the other guys were. Mom pointed to each one, kinda joking and she said 'Angelo, this is Noel. Noel, I'd like you to meet my youngest son, Angelo.' And she did that all the way down the line. They all looked like really nice guys. I asked a couple of times if we could maybe someday meet them in person, but mom would get this odd look and say it was a small farmhouse and there was nowhere for Uncle Pat to fit all of us."
"Johnny asked her once where their wives and kids were. Mom got this look on her face, I can't describe it, and then she said they were just old, confirmed bachelors who spent so much time working the farm they'd never had time for anything else."
"The first time I heard about how Uncle Pat was, I was around twelve. Iggy was going to the local community college and still lived home. Luke, Johnny and Paul were older so they got to stay up later than I did on school nights. They were all in Iggy and Luke's room, talking." Angelo gave a little chuckle. "They thought they were being so quiet but all I had to do was stand on the bed and put my ear next to the air vent and I could hear every word they said. I learned a lot that way."
Amadeo smiled, remembering all the things he'd learned while listening to his older brothers and sisters without their knowledge.
"Well anyway, Luke was talking about a guy in his class who was... well he was... you know, like us, except he kinda acted like a girl according to Luke. Swishy, is how he described it. That's when Iggy spilled the beans about Uncle Pat and his friends. That was the first time I ever heard the word 'homosexual'. Luke said he didn't mind people like that, as long as they didn't go all strange like the guy in his school. He said that from what he could see, Uncle Pat and his friends might be queer but they weren't swishy and could pass for real men at a distance. He said that from what he heard, being homosexual was a sickness, and that there were hospitals that treated that kind of thing."
"So that's why you thought you might have caught it from your uncle?" Amadeo said thoughtfully.
Angelo shrugged, an embarrassed expression on his face. "I guess. I couldn't figure out how else I'd gotten it. But I was afraid to talk to anyone about it. I was afraid of going to the hospital. I mean, how exactly do they treat that kind of thing? Is it painful? How long does it take? Would I be normal afterward? What if they couldn't cure me, is there a place they send people like us, like a leper colony, if we can't be cured? You know, like that episode of the Twilight Zone where people we would consider to be beautiful were considered hideous? So I figured, since I couldn't talk to anyone about it, I'd just try to be as normal as possible, and maybe when I got old enough I could hitch hike here and join Uncle Pat on the farm. But then he died before I got the chance."
"Then I got worried again last week, when Luke and Rosalia came for a visit for a couple of days to see the house and farm," Angelo said. "We were all sitting down in the living room looking at some photo albums. We came across some pictures of Uncle Pat and the others. Mom was kind of hedging around like she always did when she talked about them. It was Rosalia who came right out and called the lot of em fags. She said for everybody to just get over it and call a spade a spade, or a queer a queer."
"Mom got really upset, telling Rose not to use words like that and Rose said, in this really slimy sounding tone. 'Lukie always says you say you loved your brother. He says you get upset about how horribly and unfairly your parents treated him, but in my opinion, what it comes down to is you're too embarrassed to admit, to yourself or your kids, that your brother and his friends were a bunch of homo's who were living in sin and going to hell.' "
"Luke looked like he was going to get sick and kept trying to get her to shush up. He was trying to grab their jackets and drag her out of the house but she pulled her arm free and got this really ugly look on her face... she was smiling but it was... it was like her face was twisted up like in a fun house mirror... and she kept saying horrible things about Uncle Pat and his friends, all self-righteous and haughty. I looked at her and all of a sudden all I could see was that horrid red lipstick she wears. Her lips always looked so smooth before but all of a sudden I could see how wrinkled they were, how wide her mouth was, how thin her lips were, how she'd been globing on the lipstick past where they actually ended to make them look fuller. It was like watching a cartoon."
"Then mom... wow, 'Deo you hadda see her. Rosalia now, she's taller and's gotta outweigh mom by at least a hundred pounds. Mom gets up and advances toward Rosalia like a lion after a gazelle. She gets right up in her face... well, as much as you can with a six inch difference in height, and she says, 'You hypocritical hussy! You strumpet! You floozy! You smug, conceited trollop! You pompous, deceitful harlot!'" Angelo imitated, an expression of glee on his features as he repeated his mother's words.
'Deo's eyebrows shot up in surprise. Mrs. Di Marco was so sweet tempered and gentle, he had a hard time believing she would know words like that, let alone use them.
"So, Rosalia, she gets all het up and starts sputtering, 'Well I never...' and mamma goes, "'From what I heard about you there's not much you never tried, you tramp! For someone like you to stand in judgement of decent, kind, hardworking folks goes way past pots and kettles. The only difference between you and a common prostitute is that you found my son to pay for you on a daily basis instead of having to stand on the street corners and take your luck that way!'"
Then she turned to Luke and said, “'And you need to stop thinking with your pecker, open your eyes, and use your head! Then you'd see what a low life, gold digging, piece of trash she is!' Then she gets up, grabs her coat and starts out the door. We all ran after her and asked her where she was going, she was so upset and we were worried about her. Her face was red as a beet. She said 'I'm going for a walk, and I want that' she said, pointing to Rosalia, 'Out of my house by the time I get back. Oh,' she says looking back at dad, 'Make sure you count the silver.' "
"So Rosalia packed her stuff ranting the whole time about how it was a constitutional right to speak and she hadn't been aware that the farm was in a country that didn't allow it. I almost died laughing when I heard Luke tell her to shut up and finish packing. She kinda gave this huff and said, 'Well, if that's the way you feel about it, I won't say another word. Ever!' and then Luke mutters 'Promise?'"
Amadeo nearly laughed but suppressed it. "So, what's going to happen with Luke and Rosalia?" he asked.
"Hopefully mom got through to him and he'll kick her sorry butt to the curb on trash day," Angelo said with a smile.
Amadeo sobered and looked seriously at his friend, "Ange, your mom sounds open minded. I mean, if your uncle was really like us and she defended him all the time, wouldn't you be able to at least talk to her about it?"
Angelo sighed. "I thought about that. But I'm still afraid. What if it's different because he was her brother and not her own son? And it's like that b... uh... nasty piece of work said. If mom wasn't embarrassed by him, she'd have been more open about it. Johnny and Paul didn't say much of anything, neither did dad, so I don't know how they feel about it. Sure as hell Rosalia didn't approve of it, and if Luke stays with her after this I'm pretty sure that'd mean he feels the same way."
Amadeo thought for a moment, then he looked at his friend. "I don't believe your mother was embarrassed about her brother. From what you've said, it sounds to me like she was protective of him. We both know that feeling the way we do isn't socially acceptable, even now, so it had to have been even worse thirty or forty years ago. Even then it wasn't something that could be spoken about to just anyone."
"Right!" Angelo agreed, "But he obviously went to gran and gramp, hoping they'd understand and love him no matter what, and they threw him out! He was their son, their first born, and they rejected him. From what I heard, only mom and her two sisters stayed in contact with Uncle Pat afterward. His two brothers haven't spoken to him since. 'Deo, what if my family kicks me out? Where will I go? What if my brothers refuse to speak to me ever again? What if..."
Reference to The Twilight Zone episode: "The Eye of the Beholder" originally broadcast as "A Private World of Darkness" on Nov. 11, 1960
No copyright infringement intended
No copyright infringement intended