Jan 11, 2014

Yesterday ---- Part I: We must buy condoms today

Not the Green Eyes, folks. Instead a visit of friends from Australia in early November 2013. This is Part I of a short story of three parts. Enjoy:

No, it wasn’t yesterday, it was three days ago that Josh and Jason arrived in Cannes. We had to pick them up at the train station---a semi-lit location with password-protected toilets tucked away under an ugly overpass that divides the town into two. The announcement screen goes dit-dit-duuh-dit (d#--g--g#--d#), the TGV noses into the station, I wonder briefly what would happen if I lose my balance and hit the tracks, but Josh and Jason pour out of the sliding train doors in front of us just in time.

Josh hasn’t changed at all since his last visit. Jason I never met before, but he gets chatty immediately, it feels like a conversation left dangling an hour ago.

I’m chatty myself since I’m excited---all day I had failed to find a pretext for buying condoms. Josh had been Chang’s lover back in Amsterdam at one point, and us, bored up here in the wilderness of the Esterel between Cannes and St. Raphael, had exchanged views on Josh’s reputation as a “sucker,” Chang not meaning a loser, but somebody being good at blow jobs. I had never had the pleasure, but Chang had also mentioned Jason’s dick, which was supposedly large. So we had been discussing the pair’s sex life which had apparently taken a turn towards “clubbing” and “play” in recent years. I had mentioned the condoms repeatedly during the last couple of days but Chang wouldn’t listen, and my last hope, a sex shop (“sexy” shop, in French) opposite to the train station was closed. So we are condom-less when walking the pair to our vintage SUV parked on the ugly overpass that divides Cannes into two. The vehicle elicits a brief remark from Josh (“you still have that ‘thing’?”).

The pair arrived on time at 3:03 PM in the afternoon, the sky is overcast and cold, they are a bit exhausted from a trip through Taipei, Amsterdam, Paris, and Dijon, Chang will cook for us at home. But this is the Cote d’Azur, so we drive up and down the foliage-swept Croisette and exchange views on the Palais des Festivals (recently re-done in defeatist white, previously painted in a dirty ochre supposedly meant to hide the Concrete Brutalism of John Foster’s original design). I point across the bay where the Esterel looms on the horizon, a pretty panorama on a good day when the rusty ridge glows in the afternoon sun. You can almost see our house from here, I point out, it’s on the hill next to the hill with the antenna, and miss the turn for the high street of Théoule sur mer, the last occasion to buy condoms.

The Esterel, seen from Cannes

We continue along the corniche d’Esterel which begins here and leads to St. Raphael. It’s the raison d’être of Théoule, the corniche, since the road started as a private project by Abel Ballif, then president of the touring club de France, back in 1903, who imported 65 families from Italy to do the job. They had to live somewhere and erected goo-colored dwellings for themselves that still define the town center. The little houses give Théoule an Italianate flavor, and people who move here complain about vendettas between entrenched clans that poison the atmosphere as if this were somewhere in Calabria.

We arrive at the house, pre-dust is descending. The salon is clogged by a tiny wooden stove meant to go into the dysfunctional fire place, but the artisan who was meant to do the job never showed up again. We sit down anyhow. No, we spend a few minutes in the kitchen where I suggest that the tea could accommodate a bit of cognac. Chang says “no” but I prevail and pour myself an extra shot when they turn their back to watch a cruise ship sailing past in slow motion; cruise ships always slow down here before going into the bay of Cannes. They look at us (the passengers) and we look at them, they think we are happy, we think they are happy (sounds moralistic, I know). Anyhow, I pour the extra shot while Josh and Jason admire the last cruise ship of the season.

The last cruise ship of the season

We move to the Designer’s-Guild-appointed living room paid for in better days. The conversation slows down a bit, I fetch bubbly from the fridge. Josh and Jason tell about Australia, how they found each other. Their paths crossed in Sidney, eyes meet, Josh counts till three and executes the “gay turn” (Josh’s words). Eyes meet again. Jason reverses direction, crosses the street (makes it easier to keep tabs on each other; you may know the trick from the last pages of The Catcher in the Rye, when Holden and his sister do the same after a fight). Josh turns right, Jason follows. Josh enters a Starbucks. Josh sits down, Jason asks whether the other chair is taken. I ask what they ordered. Jason had Mokka, Josh an Americano.

They ask about us. I’m on my late-afternoon bike ride along the Amstel River when an oriental guy, also on a bike, turns onto the dike from the right. I slow down a bit, then turn into the Amstel Park entrance which is not far and guarded by the statue of a famous Dutch painter. I break and put one foot on the ground. The oriental breaks and puts one foot on the ground. “What’s your name,” I open the conversation under Rembrandt’s stony gaze. “Ray,” he answers. “What’s your real name,” I ask. He procrastinates a bit, then says “Chang.”

Paul Cadmus, Finistère (1953)

It’s past six o’ clock, Chang’s getting hungry and moves us back to the kitchen. He’ll cook filled cabbage, a recipe from my mother. The cabbage provides a pretext for the first bottle of red wine. Josh & Jason brought two expensive bottles, we need to taste them both.

The cabbage is a bit undercooked and my sauce isn’t saucy enough (it’s usually me who does the sauces, gravy from the pan added to a roux). Josh & Jason don’t seem to mind. We had dinner parties with Marc & Paul, the other gays in the village, Marc (a black guy from Martinique) sitting next to me and rubbing his thigh against mine (it never came to anything, Marc & Paul broke up and moved away). So Jason is seated to my left, but there are several inches between Jason’s and my thighs, and I fail to remember how I managed to cozy up to Marc in the first place. We chat along, desert is served, a rosé bottle is opened. I had a rough week with the banking liaison who asks when I plan to resume servicing our mortgage, so I drink faster to stay awake.

Jason tells good stories, Josh says. This one is disgusting, Jason warns, whether we mind. No, we don’t. Jason tells about the time he worked at this sauna and checks on “the room.” Room is apparently shop-talk for the row of cubicles where the patrons relax, and the room needs to be checked at least once per hour and he steps onto something slimy on the ground. He ignites his torch and discovers a molehill of grapes, grapes strangely bruised. Turns out, some guy had the grapes inserted bottom-wise and another guy sucking them out, grape by grape. I forget to ask how Jason found out. The bottle is empty again. I get up to fetch another one and discover that my sense of balance is gone. I fall back onto the chair. This is the moment, I will fall off the chair inside two minutes or crawl to bed now. I excuse myself and stagger away. Regrets are shared.

You drink too much and wake up too early. You really feel like shit and can’t go back to sleep. I stagger upstairs (“Aspirin, Aspirin”), and recover behind my desk (a slow process). You can see Corsica on a good winter day, like today, shortly before sunrise. I take pictures.

Corsica, seen from the house

The sun comes up and Chang emerges. He’s coyly smiling. “You know what,” he says, “We had sex. They sucked my dick.” I tell him to relax and get a cup of coffee. He’s teasing me, I know. He returns from the kitchen but reiterates: they sucked his dick.

I answer emails and study the disappointing page view statistics of my blog. There really was something unusual to Chang’s smile. He’s now busy behind his new laptop-tablet parked among a graveyard of bottles on the dinner table (cadavre is French argot for empty bottle). “You’re making this up,” I say to him. This is the moment I decide to write this up.

“No,” he replies. “Jason got up and made the move. Zipped my zipper. I got up, both of them get on their knees and suck my cock, Jason from the left, Josh from the right, deliciously.” He grins; “deliciously” is his favorite adverb.
“At the same time?” I ask.
“At the same time.”
“It’s unfair,” I say.
“You drank too much and went to bed,” he says.
“I talk about condoms and you turn me down and now this,” I say.
“Yes,” he says and his grin broadens, “it wasn’t my fault.”
“It’s unfair,” I repeat.
“Life isn’t fair,” he answers. He’s deadpan in a way that he isn’t when he is lying.
“No semen stains on the floor,” I say.
“Josh finished me off.”
“We must buy condoms today,” I say.

Go here for the next part.

Michael's first novel is out now, the GREEN EYES, and it is available on Amazon under this link:

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