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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Portugal, 1991

Almodovar - not the movie director - is a town in the south known for little except one dubious statistic: at the time of my visit it enjoyed the highest suicide rate in the land. It sits and shudders on an Alentejo plain, a haphazard blur of stucco, grey in the winter, infernal in the blistering summer.
My first boyfriend here came from Almodovar,though I met him New Year's Eve in a hole-in-the-wall bar in Lisbon. His name was Vitor and at the time I thought the world had to be a puzzle, so he fit magnificently.
Since he still lived with his mother and beady-eyed grandmother, when I visited his home town Vitor put me in a hostel. There he could visit me in the dead of night, climbing out the bedroom window and creeping along the deserted streets. Then, to avoid suspicion, he would return home before sunrise.
The last morning, a Sunday, I am beginning to stir, once again alone in my room. I hear a key click and turn in the lock. I know it is the owner. One thing you develop early on is your sixth sense, an intuitive, cannibalistic understanding of what men want from you. He bundles inside, and he is ashen, nervy. He comes over to the bed and starts to paw me. I softly push him away. He pulls off his clothes, in a fever, revealing his lumpen, pallid body beneath. He moves to the end of the bed, and masturbates himself. I watch, anchored there, till he comes. His expression is one of unresolved desires. When he's done, he dresses again, and leaves, barely a word spoken.
Years pass and Vitor is long-gone from my life, when one day we bump into each other again in Lisbon. "Oh," he says, "The owner of the hostel where you stayed passed away. it was last year." He dropped dead, all of a sudden. Natural causes. I nod. I remember, but I was a different person then, just a boy still. I had grown, whereas in Almodovar they distill. I was happy at least, to hear that one fat, gay man in Almodovar didn't commit suicide, like so many of them.

Abridged from my forthcoming selection of short stories and memoir. Comments welcome.

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