It was 1:00pm when I arrived at the town hall, which also happened to be the castle of the village and my accommodation. mayor Bassi, a middle-aged unfriendly looking man, came to welcome me and to introduce me to the city council member who was supposed to be my other boss. “Graziella is going to supervise your job for the next 10 months, any problem you might have, you can talk to her”. She was a nice woman, not very talkative but if one had shown her respect, she would have been very understanding and caring. I insisted on the fact that although I had a driving license, I was not used to driving a car, neither in the city nor (and especially) on the mountains. Nevertheless she grabbed an old agenda, she tore off a page and she started drawing something. “This is the river. That is the first bridge. Here you must turn on the right. There you have to turn on the left…” She kept on murmuring and drawing for at least 10 minutes, eventually she looked at me again and she said: “there you go!” I guess she had not even paid attention to what I had told her. I was assigned the task to deliver some boxes of medicine to 3 old ladies, whose houses had also been drawn on that page dated 31st-of-August-1997. “That’s the day when Lady Diana died!” I remembered. I was given a Fiat Panda, I placed the map on the right seat and I started the engine. It was 3pm when I left the castle, there were no people around and in the sky some not very promising greyish clouds were pushed closer by the wind. As I was driving over the bridge, I decided to stop for a few moments, to take a look at the map again and to admire the pure water flowing in the river. Suddenly some drops of rain started falling over my head so I went back into the car and I followed the road. As soon as I turned on the right, I realized that the road was not paved and its surface was getting muddy. As the road became very curvy and steep, I started having the feeling that the map was not right after all. Suddenly the car stopped, the rear wheels were stuck in the mud and I had no choice, but getting out in the rain and try to figure out what to do next. The weather did not seem to get any better and my clothes were soaking wet. I was between the rocky wall of the mountain and a steep slope, which did not make any U-turn possible. Furthermore I had always had a terrible phobia of heights and I had spent hours of psychotherapy sessions as a kid to get rid of my vertigo problems. It was the time to act. I went looking for the branch of a tree and placed it under the right rear wheel. After a few hysterical attempts, I finally managed to get the wheel out of the mud and to drive the car away from that nightmare. It was 6pm already and I still had not delivered the medicines. In fact I decided to give up, I was too nervous, furious against the world and shivering in my wet clothes. I drove all the way back to the castle, I handed the key over to Graziella and I said. “This is the last time I am driving here!”
I had two bedrooms: one was in the tower of the castle, the other one in the hospice of the village. The first one was my night heaven, the second my daily nightmare. On the evening of my first day in Curò, I was told to go to the hospice and to meet my soon-to-be ex-colleague Franchino. I knocked the door and he opened with a hilarious smile stamped on his face. There were three men in the living room. One was sitting on a wheelchair watching a turned-off television. The second one was walking around the room carrying his oxygen bottle on a 3-wheel trolley. The last was behind Franchino and he seemed very curious to get to know me: the new social service worker. I never learnt the real name of those old men: in fact each one of them had a nickname. The one on the wheelchair was “the Wolf”, because he had the habit to howl and he had some long hairs coming out from his ears. The man with the oxygen bottle was called “Little Tube”. The last one was “The Punk” because of his funny hair. The Punk came close to me and he gave me his hand. The poor man suffered from Parkinson’s disease and he was holding my hand tight and shaking it unstoppably up and down and towards him. As I noticed he was pulling my hand very close to the intimate parts of his body, Franchino gave me his first advice: “Never give him the hand: he’ll always try to make you jerking him off”. I took my hand back and I dropped the subject.
My bedroom in the hospice was very spooky. It was a rather simple room with some old piece of furniture, some black-and-white old family portraits hanging at the wall and a window facing a steep slope. The bed sheets were marked with a large cross, freshly painted with red ink. Franchino told me that the old man who used to sleep there, had died a couple of weeks before, so that I was the lucky new tenant of that bed-sit. There were times when I was supposed to sleep there, but I always managed to sneak out and spend the night in the castle. I would have never been able to sleep on someone’s deathbed. Franchino’s permanence in Curò was coming to an end. In fact he still had just over one week to complete his 10-month social service duty. Before leaving, he made sure I had learnt some basic points to survive during my long stay there. I was told that if I wanted to go home at least two weekends per month, I needed to make sure that Mayor Bassi liked me. The best way to make him happy was to be always ready to help him and to avoid damaging the only car of the town hall that was still intact: the Panda. Franchino told me also that he had to dig the grave of the man who had died in my bed a couple weeks before. “If you make them unhappy, they’ll make you dig the graves too!” He added. When Franchino left to go back to his Venetian hometown, I started feeling lonely and lost in that tiny village on the Alps.
My tasks were various. Twice a week I had to axe some woods for Mrs Lombardi, a very demanding lady who was never too keen to thank me for my efforts. On a Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays afternoon I had to go with Romano for a walk. He had the “Down Syndrome” and suffered from severe articulation dysfunctions. Sporadically I had to take a few old ladies to the cemetery, to visit the graves of their beloved, who had left them behind for a hopefully more intriguing afterlife, than the life they had in the village. Those ladies were always very kind to me and they used to give me 10000-lire tips. Eventually Graziella noticed that I needed to get some friends of my own age, as the people I was spending my time with, were normally over 80. She came to me and she told me that she would have closed one eye and let me go out on that Saturday night with Tamara and Pamela. The two local girls wanted to drive to Bergamo, to go clubbing. Both of them used to work for the local post office and for this reason, trusted by the Mayor and Graziella. This trust brought the latter to extend my curfew from 11:30pm to 8am if I had spent my time with the two innocent-looking girls. It was about 11:00pm and I was waiting in front of the castle for Pamela and Tamara. As in Curò one could not get any signal from the “Telecom Italia Mobile” transmitters, I decided to take my mobile phone with me, so that I would have been able to receive all the undelivered text messages that had been sent to me in the two previous weeks. The moon was shining bright and the village was dead silent, a spooky silence interrupted only by a loud dog’s howling. Finally the car arrived in the Piazza Roma. Tamara and Pamela were inside the car and another girl named Carla was at the wheel. As soon as we left Curò Tamara took out some tiny bottles of highly alcoholic drinks from her bag. They started drinking and hysterically laughing and they gave me a bottle too. I could not believe my eyes: those girls were not innocent at all. Pamela had some joints and she gave one to each one of us. It was fun at first, but then I felt that what we were doing was not particularly safe. In fact Carla was driving stoned and drunk at a pretty high speed on a rather curvy public road. From time to time, when the space allowed, Carla pulled the parking break and make the car spinning around like a whirligig. Eventually we reached Bergamo and we stopped over to eat one of those delicious “Piadina al Prosciutto Crudo e Formaggio”. Once there Tamara and Pamela kissed each other intensively and wet. This was my first encounter with the gay hidden society of the small village on the Alps. We smoked some other grass and I started getting the same uncomfortable feeling I had experienced a few months before in Spain. When I realized that I was feeling sick and my paranoia started to dominate my brain. “I will get expelled from the Social Service department. They’ll take me to prison”. The night was long and scary, when we arrived at the castle again I was dead tired and I went straight to bed. Once again I had survived my bad experience and for the first time I realised that my brain could not accept the intake of any drugs anymore.
Curò was a village full of eccentric people trying to hide their most intimate malicious secrets. I had always been considered the guy from Milan, the city of fashion and the Londoner, a status that gave the locals the trust to reveal some of their secrets to me. In fact at their eyes I looked discreet enough and even better I did not know anyone so well, with whom I could have shared their indiscretions. Soon Tamara and Pamela did not have any issue kissing each other when I was around and the other women of the town decided to disclose their most intimate homosexual experiences to me.
It was not only the local girls to give some colour to my life in the countryside. I happened to get lots of excitement from the older inhabitants as well. Once I found the Punk covered in blood and lying on the floor. I kept on shouting for five minutes and when he woke up, he said: “Why am I here?” This was a question that still remains unanswered. The pick of the third week was the attempted suicide of Mrs Mariuccia. She tried to jump from her balcony facing a steep slope and as one of the maids rescued her before the jump, Mariuccia beated her up with her pine stick. The maid was taken to the hospital to take care of her broken right arm and some bruises all over the body.
One grey rainy day I took the Panda and went to pick up some ladies to take them to the graves of their loved ones. On my way back to the castle some workers had placed some temporary barriers so that very little space was left for me to turn the car and follow the road up to the castle. I slowed down and I went up very carefully, turning gradually the wheel towards left. Suddenly I heard the voice of one of the workers: “Stop! Stoooooop, basta!!!’’ It was too late. The Panda was too close to the wall that limited the left side of the road and the boom followed. I managed to screech the whole left side of the car and the rear left lamp bursted in tens of pieces. In that moment I knew the Mayor would have made my life impossible, unless I could repay in some way the damage I provoked.
When “the Wolf” died I was very sad. In fact except for his howling and that he did not like to be taken out of bed and put onto the wheelchair, he was the one of the three men who gave me the least of the troubles. I also started thinking time had come for me to dig the grave. Luckily the mayor decided to use my intellectual skills and to let some other guy doing the heavy work. It was the beginning of the summer and the local elections were getting close. My boss made it clear, he wanted to win and to keep his seat, or better his throne. On a lucky day mayor Bassi came to talk to me and gave me a few days off to go to visit my family in Milan. I did not have to wonder too long about what the catch was. Every evening at around 11:30pm, when the summer night was dark and there were no indiscreet people wandering in the streets, the mayor would come and knock at my door and ask me to follow him. We had to walk down the wooden stairs that led to his office in the medieval castle and the lights were always off to keep nosey eyes away.
The first day, he turned the PC on and he showed me the file. It was a hundred-page long pre-electoral program that had to be corrected and stylistically improved. That was my secret job. I had given up my ideals to be able to have a more bearable life in that remote place. The deal was not limited to editing, the mayor asked me to advise the older people I had to pay visit to, on where they had to put their cross on the electoral sheets. That was a part of the deal that I broke, I still had to keep some dignity!
It was the first week of June when my lawyer called me from Milan and gave me a tip to get rid of my social duties in Curò. Mr. Spreafico called me on the mainline of the town hall as my mobile phone did not get any signal and we had a very interesting conversation on the new privacy law. Basically I came to know that if I had disclosed my homosexuality to the military hospital in Milan I would have been able to skip my service and they would have not been able to keep record of it. I did not like the principle of being considered different for my sexual preferences but I did like the outcome. So once again I gave up my ideals and morals to spare a few months of cutting woods and writing the mayor political programs. I moved back to Milan in August but I still had to wait until the 9th of September 1999 to find out if I was released by my social tasks.
MILAN, ITALY August 1999 – June 2000
There I was: back home again. Due to the military hospital restrictions, I could neither move back to London nor I could look for a job, but I could enjoy my free time and I started going out in the scene. Lars, a Danish guy, gift of an intensive week of chatting in the cyber World, was the guy who took me first to the “After Line”, one of the most popular gay bars in Milan. That night I managed to meet one of my former middle school classmate, who also happened to be gay, to get drunk and to develop a stupid crash on Lars. Lars, who was interested in older guys, introduced me to his handsome friend Renzo, who the week later became my boyfriend.
As Renzo still lived with his family, he used to take me around the city with his car. He was totally in love with me, but soon I felt out that the feeling wasn’t reciprocal and our relationship did not last a month. At the end of October I was released from my social duties and I decided it was the time to look for a job. In fact, I had promised my parents that I would spend a few months in Milan before returning to London. The job offer came pretty fast and soon I became a part-time call centre agent for a private television company in the city. The people in the office were very friendly and the environment was kind of fun, however not only the money was crap, but also I missed the spice in my life. It was time to act, I thought. In a matter of a few days I managed to find two ways to get some extra cash and have fun as well. At that time, my mobile phone provider had one of those tricky offers, namely: free top-ups. As my telephone bills were a big burden for my finances, getting free credit for my outbound calls, would have spared me quite some money. The way the whole thing worked was pretty easy: for every one-hour of incoming phone calls, my phone would have been credited of 7000 Liras. The only problem was, the incoming volume of my calls was just too low and I had to find the way to push it up. "Why don't I publish my mobile phone number in a gay thread?" I thought. The silly side of me, the urge of money and my bad conscience, won over the good proposals of me being a nice guy. So I wrote an advert including my contact number, I scanned my pictures, I posted them onto the Internet and I waited for responses. Well, I did not have to wait that long, as the advert appeared on line my phone started ringing and it kept on ringing for quite some time every day after 7pm. Naples, Palermo, Rome and Bologna, were the cities from where most of the guys called. Within a few days I became a professional in the erotic line business. I still recall that day when I was on the tram and I had to tell a guy who had called me that it was neither the place nor the time to dirty-talk with him… “No, I can’t give you a blow job right now, I am on the tram! People are looking…”
On a very lucky evening, a private message popped up onto my busy computer screen. Berardo, a 60-something professional photographer, proposed me to pose before him for 200,000 liras per hour. Considering that my wage was about 1,000,000 liras per month, I did not waste too much time to think about it and I accepted his appetising proposal. His studio was just a few meters away from the Sforza Castle, onto which he had a great view from his terrace. The property had two floors, some ten rooms, a winter garden and a creepy spiral staircase, whose rusty metal was likely once fully painted in a greenish tint. When the artist asked me to follow him on that curving spooky stairs, I was quite reticent, however I took some courage and I managed to reach the upper floor with him.
The room was antique decorated, cream-coloured wallpaper and a red carved sofa covered with silk cushions, gave a pretty warm look to the spacious room. He asked me to take off my clothes and to sit. As agreed I would have posed in my underwear, in fact, I did not feel very comfortable in letting someone taking picture of my body totally naked. Berardo guided me through my first day of posing, he asked me to smile, to alternate positions, or to smoke a cigarette and within two hours, he took hundreds of black and white pictures and some colour ones. At the end of the photographic session he gave me a 400,000-Lira cheque and I left. I went there other three or four times, until one day he asked me if I felt like posing totally naked. Since my mind had not changed, I told him I would have not done that and our “contract” ended. I had managed to feel special and to earn quite some money at the same time. My mother, who was informed, was quite upset about the whole story and she kept on telling me that I had be cautious with this kind of things. “You never know, one day you might find your pictures on a porn magazine” she warned me.
In November I met Adriana for the first time. She was the best friend of Valeria, a former class friend of mine. Adriana studied at the University of Milan, she was really friendly and we got along quite well straight away. We started going out with our common friends and getting to know each other more and more. She was attractive, she had long black hair, a very sweet smile and we both liked going to the Alcatraz Disco club on a Friday. Through her I got to know Fabrizio, a 25-year-old 2-meter tall guy from Monza who soon became my boyfriend. I fell in love with him pretty quickly and we had always a great time in his car, at least until the police caught us in underwear and we had to find alternative locations for our dates.
Just before Christmas my mother found out about my homosexuality. One night she read a kind of diary of my personal experiences that I used to keep. At first she was upset, but a few days later she became very understanding. During one of her room inspections, she was pleased to find out I had condoms and she decided she wanted to meet my boyfriend. When I spoke to Fabrizio about that, he freaked out and we broke up. From that time I started having a very special friendship with my mum and I was not nervous about her questions anymore. The new millennium came and Adriana moved to New Haven in the United States. Before she left, she invited me to go there for the summer and to spend some time with her.