Only words...
Climbing Whiteface - part 1

The Road to Aetna


A six year road map was defined in five days.

I think it was the next day I told him I loved him. We were sharing a seat on the way to Medina maybe two or three seats away from Scary Boss and a few others and we had already shut out the rest of the world. My time line is hazy because I am fairly certain that confession was made before anything other than a bit of a makeover had occurred. I think there were four nights. I could be wrong but it doesn't really matter all that much. Stuff escalated as stuff does sometimes in rapidly expanding cycles.

At Medina we wandered off on a tour of old churches with inexplicable hieroglyphics, chanting monks and a study of light and dark in long narrow alleys. I think by then we knew how we looked, knew it wasn't a good idea but since we were already isolating ourselves from the rest of the world we thought the rest of the world couldn't see. Like small children who cover their eyes and say 'you can't see me!' because I can't see you. Even though I know you're there.

David Gray sang this years love had better last and Norah Jones, well she sang come away with me. In retrospect I am thinking that Del Amitri's Be My Downfall was playing way back there in the distance like a current pushing a rudderless boat. We must have ripped out that rudder and thrown the oars overboard pretty quick. The soundtrack of that first year was so powerful that neither of us are able to listen to a lot of what we heard or played or gave to each other.

The first night in my room I made him leave. I don't know what we were doing exactly or what we were talking about but I made him go to his own room and told him to make a choice away from me in the light of day because I didn't want anybody waking up in the morning and trying to chew an emotional arm off. The kiss at the door was a shock; not what I expected at all. He might have initiated it but it was stiff and forced, not like he didn't want to but like he couldn't remember how to. I put my hand on his chest, smiled and  pushed him into the hall shutting the door quietly. In my mind I opened the door again and he was still standing there. I don't know if that memory is real. I do know we spent the night apart.

The second night in my room was one big screaming red flag. However we were and whatever we were doing and wherever we went that evening I do recall sitting at the bar in a very solid bubble. So solid that David's best friend sat to our left at the bar and later, despite the conversation that occurred between he and David said it was as if there wasn't anyone else in the room.

Later we sat with the group and I went up to bed. We agreed to meet on the eighth floor. I have no idea why the eighth floor. Maybe because it wasn't his floor or my floor and our brains were addled. He was going to come 15 minutes later. He didn't. I sat there for an hour. Somebody used his phone to call home and held it hostage for an hour. In retrospect I'm not sure that's what really happened. When he finally arrived maybe he didn't expect me to be there. We talked on the stairwell for awhile then we went to my room.

Nobody's underwear ever came off. I'm not sure he took his t-shirt off. He said, there are things we can do and things I cannot do and I'm thinking, buddy, you've already crossed that line and you're fooling yourself but ok, I can work with this and also I don't really believe you. I should have. Each consecutive night got worse. The nights built off the days and came crashing down around our ears. Or my ears. He turned himself off abruptly. I laid in the dark next to him wondering what had happened and not sure what to do, if anything. Each day the intensity grew and each night the moat got wider. I started swimming.

At some point he told me he saw his rabbi's face when he looked down at me in the dark. Years later he told me it was something else. I used to tell myself that I'd be happy with just his arms around me. Sometimes I still feel that way. It isn't true and it never was.

Every day the intensity built. Every night the fall off the castle wall was higher and the ground harder. I told him it felt like the wind was whistling through a hole in my middle and I didn't know what to do with that. He held me and I laid there trying to figure out how this could be so damn hollow. I wrote a story that explained everything. I used to think it was David writing the story but I don't think that anymore.

We weren't getting a lot of sleep and we weren't eating much at all. I drank a lot of water and shed enough pounds to make a difference. We ran on adrenaline and raging hormones. The night before everyone was scheduled to leave I don't recall if we got 45 minutes or one hour and 45 minutes of sleep before the alarm went off at 4:30 AM. We weren't leaving. We arrived a day late and were leaving a day late. We'd booked a trip to Sicily. He really did not want to get up. I leaned over him and said, 'do it for me.' And he did.

On the high speed ferry he slept for awhile and then cried over his mother and allowed comfort. Later he revealed a level of parental bitterness that had to have been eating him for years. Or excused something maybe.

We went up Mt Aetna and back down. We climbed the thousand year old stone steps up Messina. We sat on the back of the tour bus as physically close to each other as possible. We listened to the tour guide say wing-ed and repeated that over and over for years. We stood outside a church and he said, 'lets kiss, we're standing outside a church' which seemed like an extreme juxtaposition of very funny and touching.

We had dinner late at the end of the most intimate day in my life. I don't recall being that jazzed up on happy juice ever. We went to bed in his room. I don't remember why. He was gone so fast I fell before I even knew I'd lost my balance. I landed on the rocks shattering a good chunk of emotional psyche. He was GONE. And I do mean GONE. I tried to take off the t-shirt I was wearing and he stopped me in my tracks. That was one of the most miserable and desperate nights of my life. When I picked myself up in the morning I should have run like hell. Instead, in the cab on the way to the airport and then later while waiting at a small cafe he apologized profusely. No excuse, no reason good enough to behave that way, so incredibly sorry, such an awful thing to do to me. And the first time I heard the words 'never again'.

The trip home was intense and wonderful. Getting out of the car in my driveway was like having to learn to breathe air again. Fast. Walking into my house and blinking in the intensity of sudden strong light we all felt the wall that never came down again. I felt drugged.

This is important. Total nudity never happened. Penetration never happened. Therefore no lines were crossed. That made him feel better. It made me feel like hell with one foot on either side of the Grand Canyon wondering how long my legs were going to hold out. I always wanted to go back to Malta. I always wanted to understand why.