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Archive for February, 2010

Monday and Tuesday passed without further incident. The people at Manpower sent an assignment my way: a filing gig at the Royal Bank of Canada’s main Toronto headquarters. I’m pretty adept at filing, so I took it and on Monday morning, I began a four-day-long stint, filing banking documents.

I found the working environment to be quite welcoming, albeit the huge amount of documents was somewhat disconcerting… at first. I had about 15 boxes of files to work on. 15 pretty huge boxes, stuffed with at least four hundred documents. Thankfully, my physical strength made going after box after box a relative breeze. And there was a nice view of downtown Toronto to keep me company. And the building wasn’t too far from the waterfront.

I had to report to a guy named Levon Kardashian. And he made it quite clear on Monday, that he expected me to conduct myself in a professional, classy manner. And that he was not related to Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney.

I won’t bore you with the details of filing documents, but it does involve a lot of patience, nimbleness in the hands, and endurance. Fortunately, I’ve never sustained a paper cut. I can’t even stand the sight of blood. That’s why I never watch horror films.

My assignment was 3/4 done on Wednesday afternoon. I signed out for the day and headed down to GoodLife for my evening workout. You’re probably wondering, what do I do at the gym? What’s my normal routine?

When I was in competitive shape, I would refer to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s workout routine as published in the October 1991 edition of Muscle Mag. He followed one routine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and another on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I followed it verbatim for a while, and then I decreased it as time went on, compensating with other muscle-building exercises and cardio training.

Out of competition, I follow various workout routines on RealJock.com, a social networking website for fitness-minded gay men. I do strength training, muscle-building, and cardio exercises.

What are my best attributes? Of course, I have to begin with my chest. It’s my favorite part of the human body. I love it so much that I dare not ruin it with tattoos. It’s naturally smooth as well, so I don’t shave it… though I have slathered it with whipped cream. Evan loved it so much.

Of course, my butt is on the list. Like my chest, it’s smooth. Let me put it to you this way: if I had a swimmer’s build, I would be aerodynamically prepared. But here’s the surprising thing: my face is one of my best attributes. You don’t expect your face to be influenced by working out, but if you exercise your facial muscles, it may look silly, but it ultimately works. People think that all you need is some makeup to look good. If you can work your facial muscles, you can work the rest of your body.

When I was growing up and finding my way in the gay world, however, having a ripped body brought both good and bad things. On one hand, I got a lot of attention from guys. On the other hand, there was this assumption that I was only about building muscle and nothing else. And that I had a small dick. It hurt my feelings, that they thought like that. I did gain satisfaction from whipping it out and showing them that, on the contrary, I was packing heat and it was all real. I didn’t do it in public, though.

That Wednesday evening, I finished my routine and headed to the showers. Ten minutes later, I was in the middle of getting dressed, when I heard someone exclaim: “Graziano!”

It was a guy’s voice. I turned around, and a familiar face greeted me, though after almost ten years, he had changed significantly. It was Mykhaylo Karbanenko, one of the few people outside my grandparents who I could turn to growing up. The last time I saw him, he was a skinny bookworm with sandy blond hair and pasty white Ukrainian skin. Now, he was a HUNK. His proportions were virtually the same as me. And he was naked, save for a towel that was not quite able to conceal how hung he was.

“Mykhaylo!” I exclaimed, giving him a hug. “Hi.”

“Wow, you look great!” he said in his cute Ukrainian accent.

“You’ve changed from the last time I saw you.”

“Don’t we all? I’m going to take a shower. If you’re not doing anything, can we get something to eat and chat?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.” He whipped off his towel and headed for the shower. For the first time in years, I felt like, as the Americans say, “tapping that ass”.

LATER @ STARBUCKS

“You finally got the fuck out,” Mykhaylo said, between bites of a chocolate croissant. “I’m proud of you. How does it feel, breaking free?”

“It’s been hard,” I said, sipping my hot chocolate. “But… I’m getting there. So, what have you been up to?”

“I went to McGill, and then spent a few years in and around Europe. I moved back two years ago, and now I’m working with the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.”

“What did you do in Europe?”

“Porn.”

I froze, the hot chocolate still going through my throat. My epiglottis could have exploded, so I set the cup down. “Porn?” I replied.

Mykhaylo nodded proudly. “I did both hetero and gay porn for many companies. I think some of them aired on the Playboy Channel.”

“Hetero AND gay porn?” I couldn’t believe my ears.

“The funny thing is, they didn’t know that I was gay. I was straight-for-pay and gay-for-gay-for-pay. Could you believe that?”

Don’t get me wrong. I love porn. But I never expected Mykhaylo to be like that. I didn’t know him much growing up, but I had no idea that he had that hidden in him. But then, I never expected him to be a sex bomb, either. And to be a gay man in Europe doing straight porn and posing as a straight man doing gay porn. That’s talent you won’t find on Canadian Idol.

“Did you have some silly ass nom de guerre?” I asked.

“Fuck yeah,” Mykhaylo responded. “Basically they take Slavic and Hungarian dudes and give them Western names. I knew one guy named Csaba (spelled C-S-A-B-A), and his stage name was Johnny Hardrock.”

“How original,” I rolled my eyes.

“My stage name was Mickey Carp. What a dumb-ass name!” he laughed. “But the money was surprisingly good, and I didn’t feel guilty about it. But there was one thing on my mind all the time.”

“What?”

He touched my hand. It was a soft, firm touch. I slowly melted. “I never thought that you would make it out alive.” The tone changed from happy to serious.  “I always wondered about the guy who I rode the bus and subway with… whether or not his family would finally kill him. I’m proud of you, Graziano.”

I got choked up. I finished my hot chocolate, teary-eyed. I didn’t know what to say, so I dabbed my eyes with a napkin. Mykhaylo smiled. I noticed his hazel eyes. Evan had the same color eyes. So did my grandparents. I felt a strange sense of serenity at that moment.

“Are you doing anything Saturday night?” I asked.

Mykhaylo shook his head. “Are you inviting me over?”

“I guess I am.”

He nodded. “It’s a date.”

A date. I hadn’t been on a date in years. A real date, and not a mere booty call.

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You know what’s strange? Halloween. In fact, let’s be honest: a lot of holidays are strange. Not in and of themselves, but they become strange when you get older. Being a kid, you don’t know much about life. You don’t know much about holidays except fun times and delicious food. When I was a kid, I loved Halloween, and my grandparents were a huge part of it. They accompanied me and my siblings when we did our trick-or-treating, keeping us safe and overseeing what kind of goodies we got. They helped us choose costumes, and Nonna Maria Grazia, who moonlighted as a makeup artist, gave us refinement and class, even while looking absolutely ridiculous. My parents never cared for Halloween. My mother, as usual, was drunk off her ass by dusk, and my father’s own brand of trick-or-treating involved treating himself to women who turned tricks.

After I turned 18, the fun stopped. Halloween 1999 was the first time that I didn’t go out and hit up households for candy. I stopped wearing costumes, as well. The previous year, I had gone as Mark McGwire. I hadn’t yet bulked up to that big of a build, though I was getting there. I didn’t inject steroids in my ass, though. Give me a break. It was 1998 and the whole world was in love with Mark and Sammy Sosa. We knew not what we did. Anyway, since then, I have steered clear of Halloween costumes.

So, what do I usually do on Halloween? I sit in front of the television, eating Hershey’s Miniatures and watching Linus van Pelt in that fucking pumpkin patch. Evan, too, was not one for Halloween. Strangely enough, we had some of the hottest sex every Halloween.

Halloween, this time around, fell on a Saturday night. I expected to curl up in front of the television and watch more of that fucking Great Pumpkin bullshit, but Brian had other plans. A professor at Ryerson University, whom he was friends with, was hosting a party at her house in the neighbourhood of Bridle Path. I have to say, I didn’t even know where Bridle Path was. I didn’t even know such a place existed. But Brian was insistent that I go, even if parties weren’t my thing.

“It’ll do you some good, getting out there,” he said. “Think of it as an adventure.”

Bridle Path sounded like some exotic locale thousands of kilometres away. After some prodding, I agreed to tag along.

That evening, I finally realized what Bridle Path was all about. It’s the most exclusive neighbourhood in the whole of Toronto, if not the whole of Canada. The richest bitches in town all have homes there. It’s tucked away in a vast swath of greenery and has virtually no sidewalks.

We took Brian’s car, a Ford Focus, and drove to Colleen dos Santos’ mansion. Colleen was Brian’s friend at Ryerson, and she taught economics. How appropriate. I’ve never been to Ryerson. I’ve passed by that place many times in my days, and I don’t know shit about it still. All I know of that place is that Natalie Glebova, Miss Universe 2005, attended university there. And that I was lucky enough to get into University of Toronto. I doubt that I could have survived Ryerson.

We pulled into Professor dos Santos’ driveway, which was bigger than the length of Brian’s apartment. It was also packed. Apparently, Halloween was a big fucking deal in these parts. We got inside… and it was NOT a Halloween party. At least, not the one that I thought. It was a subtle Halloween fete. Sure, there were bowls of candy around, and the rest of the partygoers were in autumn colours, but bobbing for apples was not the order of the night.

Jazz, cocktails, and an elegant buffet dominated this shindig. I later found out that this was officially not a Halloween party. Professor dos Santos, a blonde with a thick Portuguese accent (even though she was half-Irish), had been throwing parties on the last Sunday in October for the past ten years, ever since her children finally left home. Hitherto, Halloween had been a joyous family fest. Now, it was a simple excuse to cope with the empty-nest syndrome. It was also an excuse for professors to relax after midterms were done.

I ended up having a good time. Granted, I wasn’t much for listening to Brian and his friends discuss the minutiae of university teaching, but the buffet was great. Certainly better than the buffet at Ashley Buonfiglio’s party weeks earlier. The stuffed mushrooms were fantastic. I think that they had some apple-chicken sausage and shaved parmesan inside. And I like jazz. You look at me, and you think that I’m into hip-hop or techno. The truth is, while I enjoy a variety of music, I can’t stand current hip-hop and techno hurts my ears. Which is why I don’t enjoy going to gay clubs much. Jazz is a lot more calming, though for the life of me, I can’t tell the difference between Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. I’m probably going to get shot for that.

It was the best Halloween that I had ever spent since I was a kid.

On Sunday morning, I drove out to Prospect Cemetery near Corso Italia. It was All Saints Day, wherein we honour the departed. Well, technically, that’s the 2nd of November: All Souls Day. But still. Every year, I go out and visit my grandparents’ graves. Each time, I always bring four bouquets, each with a favorite flower. In Nonno Raimondo’s case, tulips. Nonna Maria Grazia, lilies. Nonno Pietro, roses. And Nonna Annunziata loved daisies, so I always got that. There was no deep psychological reason for those flower choices; my grandparents liked said flowers.

Since they died, I was the only family member to go there. It always struck me as strange that the rest of the family didn’t bother showing up, even on my grandparents’ birthdays and stuff.

I walked the green path toward their graves. They had adjoining plots. When I arrived, I kneeled and placed the flowers on the appropriate graves.

Buon giorno, nonni”, I said. “Come state? Bene? … Va bene. Come va il cielo? Avete visto Elvis? Michael Jackson? Farrah Fawcett? Come sta Dio? … Sono partito da casa. Abito ancora con il professor Gutensohn. Lo ricordate? E un brav’uomo. Mi sento migliore. Mi mancate. Questi anni senza voi… senza giustizia. I vostri assasini stanno ancora in fuga. Anche se abbia evadato, non penso che evadero mai. Mi piace Brian… il professor Gutensohn… ma ho ancora paura. Ho paura che qualcuno vada uccidermi.”

(Translation: Good morning, grandparents. How are you? Fine? … Okay. How’s heaven? Have you seen Elvis? Michael Jackson? Farrah Fawcett? How’s God? … I left home. I’m now living with Professor Gutensohn. Do you remember him? He’s a great guy. I feel better. I miss you. These years without you… without justice. Your killers are still on the run. Even though I’ve escaped, I don’t think I’ll ever escape. I like Brian… Professor Gutensohn… but I’m still scared. I’m scared that someone’s going to kill me.)

I heard some steps close in behind me. And then:

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?!”

I recognized that booming yet shrill voice. And the smell of cheap cologne. And booze. I turned around, and there stood the last people on Earth that I wanted to see: my father, my mother, and Charlotte.

You know what? From here on in, I’m just going to stop referring to my parents like that. It’s no longer “my father” and “my mother”. I hadn’t addressed them as “Dad” and “Mom” for years. For the rest of the story, it’s simply Joseph and Nadine.

Joseph, Nadine, and Charlotte stood in front of me, steel-faced and steel-eyed in their Sunday best. Which was still not good enough, in my humble opinion, since they looked like shit. Nadine had a pungent scent that could wake up the dead. Her hair was mussed and, well, she could have a spree at Loblaw’s with the bags under her eyes. Charlotte looked every inch the whore that I knew her to be. Her cleavage, though decked in demure gear, was omnipresent. And Joseph was still the fat, greasy, sleaze-bucket of yore.

“I thought you were dead,” Charlotte said, not an iota of care in that statement.

“You look… decent,” Joseph begrudgingly muttered. That was the nicest thing that he had ever said to me. Of course, I could tell that it was a back-handed compliment.

“I’m sorry, but this is a family only event,” Nadine snapped.

“BITCH, I AM FAMILY!” The words flew out of my mouth like Lindsey Vonn out of the start gate. I had never called Nadine a bitch in my life. I certainly thought it, but never said it. “These are MY grandparents. You may have disowned me, but they didn’t. Ergo, I have a right to be here.”

As usual, Nadine didn’t say a thing. Then her open left palm swung toward my face. I grabbed her wrist and she relented, a horrified look on her face. I had never committed an act of violence against her or Joseph or even Charlotte for that matter. Not for lack of trying.

“Don’t you dare hit her!” Joseph roared.

I took one second to think about it, and then I slapped him. Hard. Do you remember when Cher slapped Nicolas Cage in that scene from Moonstruck? He told her that he loved her, and then she slapped him. The clincher was the second one. “Snap out of it!” she yelled. Take that slap and multiply it tenfold, and that’s what happened here.

Joseph stumbled back a bit. I felt powerful for the first time in my life. I’m normally not a violent person. But I felt a strange release, almost orgasmic.

He regained his footing, and swiftly yanked me by the collar and dragged me to a nearby open grave. He had a Sea-Bond grip, let me tell you. No matter how I struggled, he refused to give. I knew that he wanted to kill me then and there. He finally dropped me at the foot of the grave. The veins were popping on his forehead, his whole head was a tomato. I quickly stood up and faced him.

“You think you’re so smart and witty and interesting, don’t you?” Joseph growled. “Who do you think you’re messing with? If you faced off against me in court, I would eat you alive.”

Stoically, I thought about that question for one second. And that’s when I saw his fist come toward me. And then… I ducked and slipped away, running across the cemetery. Three pairs of feet came after me with surprising speed. I didn’t know that they could run that fast. I take that back. They were adept at running from the truth, so I was not surprised that they could run.

I managed to drop them near a statue of the Virgin Mary and made my way to the parking lot. I jumped into my car and peeled out of there. In my rear view mirror, I could see them jump into their cars.

For lack of a better thing to say, it was a glorified drag race throughout the streets of Toronto. I kept the speed close to the limit, but not once did I go over it and not once did I let up. My heart pounded hard. I could hear it. I think it took all of twenty minutes before I finally got a clear getaway. They didn’t know where I lived, or where my usual hang-outs were. And the slap aside, I doubt that they even cared.

I arrived back at Brian’s apartment before noon. When I got in, I immediately rushed to my room. I closed the door, and slid down against it, letting out a loud, orgasmic sound.

Brian knocked on my door. “Is anything wrong?”

As Britney crawled from under the bed and snuggled in my lap, I nodded, a wry smile on my face. “Not at the moment.”

“Okay. I’m just going to fix a salad for lunch.”

“Sure.”

I had stood up to the Buonfiglio axis of evil. And I loved it.

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