BY JAN BRIGHT
Copyright is held by the author.
WE CANNOT determine our dreams. We sleep — they come. But images of places, of people are very much within our control. We can choose to let an image linger and take joy from it.
He comes to see me when he’s in town for a play or an opening, bringing always a good bottle of wine. I have a thimbleful; he fills his glass. It is a gift and is received as such. He shows no sign of having aged: a handsome man, a famous man, a beautiful man, a man admired by women and loved by so many men, a man who is indifferent to the many glances of recognition. He nods to the nurses and then leans over my aging body and holds me in his arms, gently as though I would break. This man is my husband.
You would judge and say that Giovanni and I are a cliché — a young gondolier in Venice and the middle-aged tourist. What was in it for him? What was in it for me? I brought home this man-child of 20, almost half my age, whose dream was to act, to create and to be free to live who he was.
We lived in my little flat on Queen Street, a place I bought to be among neighbours so unlike myself. People who freely and proudly wore the clothes and adornments of the 70s, people who walked like they knew where they were going — even if it was to nowhere.
My conservative parents would have shaken his hand and smiled in their waspish way and then rubbed their hands discreetly on their coat. My Gran would have called him a “Fancy-Boy.” But they were gone and I was here.
He brought home his friends, men from the theatre and they would drink wine and with the wine would come the banter, the singing and the laughter. At times, quite often, one of them would share his bed while I lay next door alone and undisturbed.
We lived like brother and sister, this is what he demands. This was what we had agreed upon: a passport for him, loyalty and friendship for me. I see him from time to time through a gap in the bathroom door, naked, wet, beautiful and I want him. I want this man whose name I have taken and whose body is denied me.
But now, many years later, feeble, aged, bedridden, I am the actor and the maker of images. I summon him and he comes to me when all is quiet, when the lights go off, when the nurses have left me for the night.
He hands me lightly into his gondola. I stroke him and kiss him. I bite him and lick the small wound. His body seems like velvet under my hand. I wind my body around and over him until we fit. He is quiet but smiling. He lies back willingly and receives my adulation at last.