SLAP! A Love Story
The poetry in writing is the illusion it creates.
(© 2019 by the author)
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
As told by David Goodall
I’m not exactly sure when I realized I had fallen in love with my best friend, Antonio Piero Padovano … Tony. He’s Italian through and through, speaks five languages fluently, and if good looks could kill, I would have been dead a long time ago. I won’t begin to mention his education. Let’s just say he outclasses me. I think he realized early on that I’m a product of the American education system and took pity on me. Well, maybe he didn’t but that’s the feeling of inadequacy I get when he’s around. But for some reason, he likes me and makes me feel needed in his life which is probably my imagination … I’m a writer with an overactive imagination which is great for writing but can get me into a lot of trouble in the real world. And I have a history to prove it.
That being said, Tony is probably just being polite as most well education Europeans tend to be. He really is too good to be true which made it even more painful when I realized I had fallen hook, line, and sinker in love with him. It didn't just hit me one fine day, it crept up on me on its hands and knees until I woke one morning and realized I was up to my eyeballs in that four letter word. By then it was too late. I was awash in one of nature's most powerful emotions and I didn't like it.
As far as I can recall, we had been friends for ten plus years. It was during that phase of my life which was strewn with fits of ‘finding myself’ by running all over the world in search of an elusive something of which I’m still not quite sure.
Like the Holy Grail, what I was really looking for was right in front of me all the time. Unfortunately, he was a straight-shooting hound-dog, chasing after some of the most beautiful women I had ever seen . . . and getting them . . . at least for a while. And then he was on to someone else.
My feelings for him were so misplaced, I knew I could never ever say anything to him about how I felt. It would be a certain death blow to our friendship which I had come to value more than I realized, until recently.
It’s a horrible thing to love someone from afar, knowing you’ll never be able to touch them in an intimate way. I found myself measuring everything I said to him, even how I looked at him – for fear of letting the proverbial cat out of the bag. Did he know? Did he suspect? Hopefully not. He probably would have laughed if I had been honest with him. That, I was not prepared to experience.
We had a large circle of mutual friends. Actually, they were his friends. I just came along with him which suddenly frightened me … was I an afterthought … a footnote … did they suspect? My discomfort grew to the point where I finally concluded I was miserable and needed to do something about it.
I write for a living so I was not beholden to any one place to live. Ending my friendship with Tony seemed the kindest thing to do … for me. I was too much of a coward as well as too insecure to do it in person. How would I have approached something like that? What would I say? "I don't want to know you anymore because I'm head over heels in love with you." That or anything close to it was not going to work. So, I decided to leave Chicago and move to San Francisco. That was as far away from Tony as I could go without leaving the country. My determination to leave grew as the months piled one upon another, but how to tell him I was moving . . . what excuse would I use? If I did use a made-up excuse, he’d probably ask some awkward questions I didn’t want to answer, and I wasn’t about to lie to him. Disappearing seemed juvenile and melodramatic but I had no choice if I wanted to avoid revealing my feelings for him.
I contacted a realtor friend, Mary Belle Johnston, and gave her the details of putting my row-house on the market which she was, of course, happy to do. Surprisingly enough the house sold before it hit the market because of her pit-bull sales approach in selling property. I swear to God she could sell snow to an Eskimo if she thought she could make a buck. But, she was exactly what I needed at the moment. Besides, three-bedroom, two and a half baths, and well-kept Victorian row houses were in demand. I met the young couple who were interested in making the purchase, gave them a history of maintenance during my ownership and the deal was made. I agreed to be out in thirty days. Suddenly, the impact of what I was doing hit me and I began to wonder if it was the right thing to do.
I had begun to pack and sort out things I wanted to get rid of when Tony showed up at my front door unannounced. He saw me through the cut glass window in the door so I couldn’t very well pretend I wasn’t there. I grabbed my coat off the hallway hook and opened the front door.
“Hi, I was just on my way out.”
He was holding what looked like a bakery box in his hand, “Sorry, I should have called. Here, let me set this inside.” He pushed his way past. “Cannoli with chocolate … dribbles.” He glanced into the living room as he placed the box on the hall table, stopped, and turned abruptly. “What’s going on?”
“The packing boxes.”
“Just some spring house cleaning.’
“David, it’s the middle of August. What are you talking about? It looks like you're packing. What’s going on?”
“I just felt like it.”
“You’re such a liar. Mary Belle called me.”
My heart sank into my shoes. I had forgotten to mention that she should keep the sale under her hat. “Did she?”
“Yes, she did. Now, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
“I got a good offer and decided to let it go.”
“But you love this house.”
“Yeah, well, I changed my mind.”
“Where are you going? How can I help?”
“I don’t know, and no, you don’t need to bother.”
“You don’t know, and I don’t need to bother? Che cazzo stai facendo?”
Whenever clipped Italian words flew out of his mouth, I knew he wasn’t pleased and I was probably in trouble. I’m glad I didn’t understand what he said. “I’m putting everything into storage.”
“And, I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Are you nuts? This isn’t like you.”
“Isn’t like me? How the hell would you know what's like me?” I bit my tongue after I said it.
He stared at me a few seconds, ran down the front stairs, got in his car and drove away. He was obviously pissed which was probably best.
The movers were due in the morning; I’d be out by mid-afternoon and out of his reach to articulate me into a corner which he was so good at doing and likely to do whenever he felt like it. He could be very dominating at times, but I kind of liked it. I felt safe with him for some reason.
Before I left, I made sure the head driver of the moving company understood that he was not allowed to tell anyone where they were moving my things. He gave me a knowing smile and agreed.
And so I put an end to an affair that never happened and also to a friendship, such as it was. I was probably guilty of being too dramatic but I did feel a sense of relief when I finally boarded the plane.
I had been receiving the San Francisco Chronicle for several weeks, so I had a good idea of available rentals. I did not want to buy until I was sure I wanted to stay.
I found a furnished apartment on Nob Hill, settled in, and began to acclimate myself to this beautiful City by the Bay. The most fun for a newcomer was riding the cable cars which seemed to go everywhere. One Sunday morning about three weeks after I arrived, I took a cable car down to the Embarcadero for a little sight-seeing. I was on my way to Boudin’s bakery for some of their delicious sourdough bread when I spotted him. I quickly turned around and walked in the opposite direction, but it was too late.
I was going to ignore him but decided it was no use; I stopped and waited. Tony ran up and breathlessly stopped with the most satisfied expression on his face. I said nothing.
"You forgot to cancel your subscription to the Chronicle. Now, would you like to tell me what the hell are you doing here?”
“I live here.”
“Why?” I was about to explode.
“To get away from you.”
“Why, for heaven’s sake? What did I do?”
I decided it was no use trying to explain. I probably would have burst into tears before I got it all out. "Nothing, Tony. Not a single solitary thing. I have to go." I turned away from him and began walking toward Boudin's. Then I heard words from the girl who had been waiting for him. “Come on, Tony. What do you want with a fag like that?”
I almost broke into a run as my gut wrapped up into a knot. 'Yeah, Tony, what do you want with a fag like me.' I wanted to look back but didn’t dare. I couldn’t bear to see the expression on his face. And I wouldn't have been able to see him clearly through the tears flooding my eyes.
I made my purchase at Boudin's and caught a cab back to my apartment. Now, what was I going to do? I had no intentions of going back to Chicago. As I turned out the lights and climbed into bed, I decided I was not going to run any further. San Francisco was now my home and it was going to stay that way, goddammit. Besides, Tony was probably gone or on his way with that girlfriend of his. I did have to laugh to myself when Tony mentioned I had forgotten to stop the Chronicle subscription. I could just see him coming up to the front door of the row house and seeing it on the stoop.
Oh, well. It's over and I can move on with my life. Or so I thought until my phone rang the next afternoon and I saw Tony's number on the caller ID. I had planned on getting a new phone and new number but kept putting it off. There was no point in answering his call or returning the message he left. I went to the phone company immediately and made the change, notifying everyone that my new number was not to be given out to anyone.
It was with some sense of relief, I engaged a realtor to find a permanent residence. A few weeks passed quickly with the excitement of looking at available properties. There were a few possibilities but I was in no hurry. And, besides, I had begun writing again so my days and nights were fully occupied. I occasionally thought of Tony and hoped he was back in Chicago living the life he loved and perhaps had forgotten about me. I certainly hadn't forgotten about him but he was now firmly lodged in the archives of my mind and would stay there. Unfortunately, for me, he had a different agenda I was not privy to until I came down the hill from the Fairmont Hotel one afternoon and spotted him sitting on the stoop of my apartment building. I could have avoided him and gone up the back way but decided I may as well face him and get it over with.
He stood up as I approached. "What are you doing here? How did you find me?"
"We need to talk."
"No, we do not need to talk. I want you out of my life. Please go away and leave me alone. And I'm not kidding." He stood in my way to entering the building. "Please get out of my way." He didn't move so, I hauled off and slapped him so hard across the face it almost knocked him over. He staggered to one side. "I'm sorry, Tony, but you had that coming." And then he surprised the hell out of me.
"I know, and I’m sorry, too."
"Letting you go."
"What the fuck are you talking about?" I was really pissed and he knew it.
He backed up a step. "I didn't realize how you felt about me until it was too late."
"You mean how a faggot like me felt about a macho shit-head like you?"
He said nothing. He just nodded and looked down as a few tears ran down his cheeks.
"I suppose this little display you're putting on is supposed to make me feel sorry for you?"
He shook his head slightly. "No, it's not."
"Then what are you doing here and what do you want?"
"He looked up at me and, with chin trembling slightly, he said something I never thought I would hear in a thousand years from him. He simply whispered, "Marry me, David."
"What?" I lost it and slapped him across the face again only harder this time. "You sorry son-of-a-bitch. How dare you. Do you have any idea of the pain I suffered loving you all these years while you were fucking anything you could get your hands on? Do you?" I stepped forward and was about to slug him again but stopped when he didn't flinch. He just looked at me and was prepared to take the blow. I burst into tears. "I can't do this anymore, Tony. Get away from me and never come back. I want some peace in what's left of my life." I turned and walked up the stairs to the apartment house door.
"I'm not going, David."
Without looking at him, I said, "Then, you better come in. We're drawing a crowd" I saw any number of people in the reflection of the door window, standing across the street watching the display we had just put on. I opened the door and waited for Tony to enter before I released it.
Neither one of us got a wink of sleep. I did most of the talking and crying. Tony joined in a few times which surprised me. I didn't think he knew how to cry, but I was wrong.
As the twilight of a new day illuminated our lives, Tony once again asked, "Will you marry me, David?"
I just let out a sigh and said, "Yes, I will marry you."
We had been sitting on opposite ends of the living room floor. When I finally agreed to marry him, he crawled across the room and pulled me into an embrace which had me bawling like a baby. He held and rocked me slowly, and kept whispering, "I love you, David. I love you, my friend."
It's been almost twenty years since that fateful day and I'm happy to report each of us has lived up to the promises we made to each other that night. We've given everything we were capable of giving with no thought of a return. An impossible task you say? Perhaps difficult but not impossible.
Tony once mentioned the time when I slapped his face so hard it made him cry. He admits, it was then he fully realized how much I cared for him and hoped that by taking each blow without shielding himself he was telling me how much he cared for me. I hadn't thought about it that way, but he was right. I never had occasion to slug him again, thankfully. We've been able to express our caring for one another in many other ways which has been much more fun, and helpful in reinforcing our commitment to one another.
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