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Archive for July, 2010

Britney woke me up on Monday morning. Her purring did, actually, and when I did wake up, she was on my chest. I picked her up and gave her a cuddle. She smelled of the lingonberry-scented pet shampoo I had used in her bath the previous night. I bathed her just after I came home from dinner with Mykhaylo’s family. They say that cats hate water. Not Britney; I have known her to meow longingly while watching the rain fall. Whenever I give her a bath, I feel like going to IKEA and having a plateful of Swedish meatballs and gravy… before I shop for pillows and things like that.

After ten minutes of cuddle time, I headed for the kitchenette. Brian had already gone to work at that point, and he had left me breakfast on the counter, wrapped in plastic wrap. It was a plate of pea-meal bacon (Canadian bacon for those outside of Canada), fried to a crispy yet soft consistency, with a side of softly scrambled eggs. Next to it was a glass of orange juice, squeezed with the pulp. Attached to the glass was a Post-It, which read:

Here’s a token of my appreciation.

I smiled. And then, it hit me: this was the first time since Evan died that someone had made me breakfast. I didn’t expect this from Brian, given that he claimed not to be that good of a cook. Anyway, Evan was the only person in my life who ever made me breakfast. I had to get my own most of my life; my mother was too hung-over to toast some Pop Tarts, and my father, when he wasn’t popping tarts’ cherries, he didn’t even bother staying in the kitchen to have a cup of coffee. Throughout our relationship, Evan made me breakfast at least once a week. One of the first meals that he cooked was, coincidentally, pea-meal bacon with softly scrambled eggs.

As I sat in the living room, watching Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa blab on and on, I ate the food. Brian did know how to cook, and know how to cook well. But I didn’t blame him for not cooking in his apartment, given his schedule and all. Britney rolled around on the carpet with her toy mouse, meowing happily.

Around eleven, I went back into my room and did some tidying up. As I organized my closet, I noticed a box of gay magazines in the corner. I recognized them as my own, but they hadn’t been touched in a while, not even back in Brampton. After I finished, I brought the box out and sorted through the contents: a pile of Fab, a pile of The Advocate, a pile of Instinct, and a pile of my favourite gay mag, Fugues. Why is it my favourite? Because it’s published out of Montreal and it’s in French. I used it over the years to improve my comprehension of la belle langue.

For thirty minutes, I leafed through every single magazine that was in the box. There were at least five years of back issues. As I perused through them, I began wondering what my relationship to the gay community was. I had gone to Pride events, I had donated the odd loonie to AIDS charities, and I had never denied my sexual orientation to anyone. But I still felt like I was a passive participant in the community. On top of that, I didn’t know any other gay Italian-Canadian men personally, other than my former training partner Christopher Calcaterra. Even when I was at university majoring in Italian studies and taking part in campus LGBT activities, the two didn’t intersect at all.

I put the magazines back and decided to go to Church and Wellesley. The weather that day was overcast and a bit nippy, but still good for a quick walk to Union Station. From there I took the subway up to Wellesley. A short walk later, I had arrived at 519 Church Street. I figured that the Community Centre would be a good place to start. I had been there before, but not as of late. I noticed that the old building was being renovated, and that there was a new wing to the building.

I walked in, and even though it was just the main lobby, a sense of awe swept around me. I just stood there for a few moments, taking it all in. And then:

“Can I help you?”

A brunette sat at the information desk. She was wearing an orange sweater and what appeared to be a “lesbian haircut”.

“Can I help you?” she repeated.

I walked to the desk. “Um…..”

“Is this your first time here?”

I couldn’t find the words. “Um….” was the only sound that come from my mouth.

“Okay. What’s your name?”

I sucked it up. “I’m Graziano, and… this is my first time here… and I…” I don’t know what was going on with me. I was so nervous.

“Are you high?”

“NO, I’M NOT HIGH!” I exploded.

The brunette looked at me funny. I let out a few deep breaths. “Sorry,” I said, steadying myself. “I’m Graziano, and I haven’t been here in a while, and I don’t know what exactly I’m looking for. And no, I’m not high.”

“Well, that wasn’t so bad, wasn’t it?” she said. She extended her hand. “I’m Deirdre.”

“Nice to meet you.” I shook her hand. She looked familiar. I remember that there was a Deirdre in my graduating class at Earl Haig. Deirdre Bannon. But I wasn’t sure.

“Hey, didn’t you go to Earl Haig Secondary?”

I nodded.

“I remember you! You were in a few of my classes. I remember you got into a fight with Mandy Manriquez.”

I chuckled. “Yeah. Whatever happened to her?”

“I heard she dropped out and is now a crack whore in Vancouver, but you didn’t hear that from me.” She produced a volunteer application and a list of resources. “So, what have you been up to in the past nine years?”

“I’ve attempted suicide, my grandparents were murdered, my boyfriend was murdered, and I’ve only just escaped from my parents’ house in Brampton. I’ve also taken up bodybuilding and for a few years I was a stripper for horny bachelorettes.”

Deirdre’s eyes grew. “You’ve led an interesting life,” she said. “I think you’ll find something here at the Centre that you’ll like.”

“Thanks. Your last name is Bannon, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Now I remember you. Thanks.” I sat on a nearby chair and filled out the application. The application suggested that I attach a resume. Fortunately, I had a few copies in my backpack. I always have some whenever I go out, just in the odd chance that a job opportunity might come my way. Thankfully, I had updated my resume the week before. After I filled out the entire volunteer application, I handed the whole thing to Deirdre.

“We have a new volunteer session coming up next week,” she said. “I hope to see you then.”

I nodded. “Thanks, Deirdre. Have a good one.”

I walked out of the Centre feeling a bit better. I walked around Cawthra Square for a few minutes, and then I sat on a bench. I had a sopressata and provolone panino that was burning in my backpack, so I took it out and ate it. It was delicious. As I sat there, panino in my hand, I took in the scenery. I was the only one in the park, save for a few birds. The leaves were falling, and random piles of dead foliage dotted the park. I hadn’t been to Cawthra Square in years, and I regretted not coming to the park often enough. The park was a gentle oasis in a bustling neighbourhood.

“Graziano?”

I looked to my right. It was a familiar face:  Christopher Calcaterra, my former training partner. We met in 2002 at a bodybuilding convention in Toronto, and we became fast friends. He was an Italian version of porn stars Pierre Fitch and Brent Everett, only much beefier. Although, I never saw his dick. Anyway, he attended Ryerson at the time. We trained together and competed against each other in amateur events. I had a better winning record than he did.

After I stopped competing, we simply lost touch. I never heard from him again… until now. Christopher was just as buff and handsome as he was five years earlier. He had pouty lips and jet-black hair, contrasting with his alabaster skin. He had a cute German Shepherd with him.

“Christopher!” I exclaimed. We hugged. “Come stai?”

“I’m great, thanks,” he said. “This is my dog, Fluffy.”

Fluffy was an unusual name for a German Shepherd. “May I?” I asked.

Christopher nodded, and I petted the dog. While I am a cat person, I do love dogs as well. Fluffy was very gentle.

“What have you been up to?” I asked Christopher.

“I got married. I made an honest man out of Pablo.”

He showed me his platinum wedding band. Pablo Galvan was Christopher’s boyfriend. They had been together since secondary school. I met him once: a broad-shouldered Filipino guy who played Canadian football. He was a nice guy.

“How is Pablo?”

“He’s now an assistant coach at Earl Haig. We got married a few months ago.”

Tanti auguri. What about you?”

“Can we sit down? My feet are killing me.”

We sat down on my bench. Fluffy climbed onto Christopher’s lap.

“Is she heavy?” I asked.

“Not really. I’m aiming for my pro card. In the meantime, I work at the GNC at Eaton Centre, and I model.”

“High fashion or commercial?” I joked.

Christopher laughed. “I’m too big for high fashion, and I don’t see myself as a Cover Girl. No, I do fitness modeling and nude photos.”

“Nude?” I was surprised.

“It’s tasteful. You ever heard of Tom Bianchi? Last summer, I was in Palm Springs, and he took some pictures for his latest coffee table book. You should see his work. It’s great.”

I nodded. I had never heard of Tom Bianchi, though.

“What are you up to? Have you fled the dungeon?”

I knew what he meant: my parents. “They kicked me out the day after my birthday. I lived in a shelter for a few weeks, and then I moved in with Brian.”

“Your creative writing professor?”

“Yeah. He gave me and Britney a home, and I thank him for that. I’m seeing a psychiatrist, I’m working out more, and I’m job-hunting.”

“You’re not broke, are you?”

I shook my head. “I’ve saved enough money over the years for a situation like this. But I still don’t have a steady job.”

“You know, with your face and body, you could be a fitness model. Hell, I’ve seen your dick before. You could get into porn and make fast money!”

I chuckled. Christopher pulled out a card from his wallet, and handed it to me. “In the meantime, why don’t you give this guy a call? He’s a great photographer. You’re a handsome guy, Graziano. You shouldn’t be ashamed of it.”

He gave me a friendly kiss on the cheek, and I smiled. “Thanks,” I replied.

“I’ll call you sometime. Your number is the same, right?”

“Yeah.”

Ci vediamo. Come on, Fluffy!” Christopher and Fluffy headed toward the interior reaches of the park. I looked at the card, which belonged to a photographer, sure enough. I started to think that it may not be such a bad idea.

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You will be glad to know that I intend on working on the latest chapter this week. I am also planning a poetry blog for launch this week as well. And finally, I will post regular audio commentary starting this week. Stay tuned!

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