Bucko & James, Bond Street, Boston, 1990
I stared at the answering machine, rubbing my eyes and blinking dumbly. Jean-Marc’s voice sounded like it came from the moon through the transatlantic crackle. I played the message a second, third and fourth time.
I started rattling off incoherent bits and pieces of the story, my fatigue and emotional state hardly made me the model of lucidity.
“Why,” James cut me off, “Do these things only seem to happen to you?”
“I am certain that I don’t know.”
“What are you going to do?”
I looked at James clock: 10:30 in Boston is 4:30 in Paris, too early to call.
“Right now, take a nice, hot, non-salty shower and go to bed. I’ve been up forever.”
“Ruben’s called twice…”
“Well, he can wait til tomorrow. I can’t even think right now.”
“Yeah,” I said, shaking my head and lumbering for the bathroom.
Around noon the next day I was on the phone with the operator, trying how to figure out how to dial France. The call went through and a strange humming ring I’d never heard before rang in the receiver. Six…seven…eight…no answer, no machine. Shit! Ten…eleven…
“Allo?” A frail, elderly female answered.
« Oui, bon jour. Jean-Marc Jarousse est la? »
« Bucko? »
« Oui »
There followed several sentences I could not understand. When I asked for a repetition, the voice got louder but spoke neither slower nor and more clearly. On the third attempt I understood that I should call back in about three hours. I thanked the voice and hung up, making a grimace. This was impossible.
By the time I got back from the laundromat, it was after 4:00, but I tried again.
“Allo?” Different voice, still not JM.
« Jean-Marc est la? »
Fumbling and shouting...then :
« Bucko ? » His voice sounded melodic.
“I tried to call earlier, but you weren’t at home.”
“I know, I was working. How was your flight?”
“OK…long. I got your message.”
“And I love you, too.” My heart was racing, mouth dry.
In English: “When you come to Pairisss?”
In French: “I have no idea. I told you, I am out of money.”
In English: “Maybe six monz?”
I laughed. “Your English is worse than my French, tres barbare.”
We both giggled. My heart was heavy and racing at the same time.
We spoke every day on the phone until he came to Boston in mid-July.
1 June, 1990
Mon cher Jean-Marc,
I hope that this letter finds you happy and in good health…
…It is difficult for me to jump back into my life and my job. I think of you all the time. I still dream in French. I have kept my watch on Spanish time so I always know your hour. You have stolen my heart and I will not resist.
Yesterday evening I had dinner with my “ex” Carlos, and we discussed all the things that have happened to me these last three months. When he and I were together he didn’t find me very brave. In fact, he was a bit shocked when I prepared for a three week trip to Spain and thought I would change my mind right up until the last minute. Now he is very proud of me and finds me courageous. He wants to meet you…
…I have thought much about your trip to the US. Would it be possible that you come to Boston instead of New York? If you are in accord, to can see my apartment, meet my friends…I can cook for you, and you for me. I assure you that there is much to do here. If you like, we can take the boat to Provincetown or take a train to New York for a few days. I hope that of first importance is that we spend time together and that the location be of second importance, but let us discuss all the possibilities…
…It is very difficult for me to write in French. I have just purchased a French dictionary for to help me. I have so much to say, but when I start to write, my head empties out. But I know that I make many mistakes, forgive me, please. I shall write again soon.
I adore you. I love you. I am hungry for you body, your arms, your face, your caresses-
Paris, 6 June ‘90
To hear your voice every day spins my heart around. Your accent and the way you speak are so charming that it is very difficult of me to sleep afterward. For me as well, the nights are short and agitated, punctuated by dreams as violent as they are unexpected. Is this love? Surely. In any case, I believe it is.
How I believe that you are pure and sincere when you speak to me of love, when you tell me that you miss me.
Your idea of coming here to live surprised and delighted me. To live with you in France (or elsewhere) would be formidable. In Paris I can help you. My apartment is big enough and comfortable for two. At any rate it is with a guy like you that I would like a durable relationship…
…I am trying to use simple words that you might comprehend all that I mean in my thoughts…
…Back to my job and my work-outs (weight lifting and swimming) allows me to put you out of my head- a bit- during the day. Not easy.
As it is not easy to forget your regard, your pale eyes and your smile. Even without a photo, I see your visage in my head, and it makes me melt. You have cracked my heart and it’s a terrible sensation!
It is many years since I have fallen in love, hopelessly in love. I had promised myself that I never would: too late!...
…I have made you a promise not to know another boy before we see each other in July. That will not be hard to keep…
…I will be arriving in Boston on 7/6 in the evening until 7/15 in the morning…
…When I reflect on our Sitges adventure, I find it all very strange and marvelous. Strange because I was supposed to go to Tunisia but overslept and missed a very early flight. Marvelous because I could not have imagined such strong feelings would come from such an accidental circumstance.
This evening I am picking up some photos that were taken just before my vacation- nude photos. I hope to send them today or tomorrow.
I shall write again soon.
[English] Please, don’t forget me. I love you.
Paris, 11 June, ‘90
This morning when I checked my mail I found your letter. What a happy surprise!
I read it on the Metro on my way to work. I was very excited. I reread that adorable letter several times in my office. The expressions that you use are savory and my heart gets very big when I read your words of love.
It is true that I still have a hard time understanding what has happened to me and why I please you. Je ne suis pas beau. You say that I am –almost- perfect. You do not really know me. I have a rather difficult character. But for the last several years I am less farouche, more open with people. My zodiac sign corresponds perfectly with my temperament. I am a Taurus.
I feel that your future is with me, in France. I can help you find work. But also, you must learn more French at a school here in Paris. Do not worry about money, I earn enough. You can live without problem…I am sure that we can live in harmony.
I hope that you will not regret leaving your country. We can go back next year, why not? You can see your family and all your friends. I think that it is important to keep the ties to the past. Je voudrais to build something with you.
In three years I can collect on a bond and we will have about $25,000. That is enough to start something new, maybe a business? I have many dreams. It is not too late. And if you are with me I shall have the strength and will to execute my projects. I want that you be as proud of me as I am of you.
I am trying a new life, a new beginning. It’s very courageous, and I believe that you are a man full of inner strength. I think that is why I am in love with you.
Bien sur, tu es tres beau.
But you are even more beautiful on the inside. Of that I am convinced. I shall try to raise myself to your level. One more month and I shall be in your arms…
…Such a change in my life this year! Last year was a year difficult and sad for me. Last November, I was very sick. Now I am of better health and morale. I was very depressed and thought, sometimes, of death. C’est une époque revolue.
We Europeans are fascinated by the United States. Not me. When I was twenty, I was a communist and much opposed to Yankee imperialism. [English] Now it’s different for me. I like American boy…
I am sorry this letter is so long, and with little English.
Don’t loose my photo.
[French] I love you more every day. A bientot, mon amour-
Paris, 18 June ‘90
Our telephone conversations are truly a savory moment. It’s not your difficulty in speaking French, but the sound of your voice and the sensations it imparts. It is with greatest difficulty that I sleep afterward.
To come to France, to change your life and to live with a garcon like me are of huge import in your life, especially when you cannot gauge the consequences: Decisions made after only three days of amorous relations and our phone calls. No matter. I am sure that we shall live very happily together and that you will make me very proud.
I hope that you become (almost) French but that you keep those things about you that I adore so…It’s true that it is most strange for me as well. When I think of that lovely month of May, I would never have guessed the changes in store for me.
After my terrible time at the end of last year I was convinced that I must live in the present, day by day, without making goals are having hope. Today it’s totally different.
I don’t want to think of the duration of our relationship, but I shall do all that it be as long as possible. I want to make a long path with you…Only the future will judge.
I never wanted a long term relationship with a boy. Now, it’s funny, I am ready to attempt (and succeed) not just a new experience, but a genuine union with a singular and special man just the same. It is often very difficult for two guys to put into practice. For me, fidelity is the most important thing, whether it is a sexual relationship or just a friendship.
[NB language change] J’aime beaucoup faire l’amour with someone. But it isn’t the most important in my life. Important c’est de reuissir.
[French] And we shall succeed together. I am easy to compromise…You will see…I shall explain more when I am in Boston and shall show you what you mean to me when I use expressions like “Tu me fait fondre” or “Tu me fait craquer”.
I await you letters with impatience, just as I sit up for your calls every night, the signal of the phone as if you are knocking on my door.
I have never written such things to a guy before…With my “ex”, Bernard, We had some tender moments but rather distant rapports. He wasn’t sentimental or given to displays of affection. I myself do not like to make a spectacle in the street or before people who are strangers to me…I love you for who you are and not what we represent, not that I am ashamed…
…I am gay but also human, and I wish that one respect me as I respect all my compatriots, man or woman…
I am enclosing some post cards of Paris, as you did of Boston. The Place de la Nation, where we shall live, you and me, is very old…but very beautiful. I hope you will like it.
I hope not to cry when I see you the 16th July at the airport. I know how hard my heart will beat. How it is still far away, that instant.
I see you in my head all day. As I write this letter, you are before my eyes. It’s a fantastic impression.
Paris, 1 July ‘90
Two more weeks and it will no longer be necessary to write you or speak long distance. You will be near me.
Yet, I love these moments where I let my imagination run free and I let speak such words as come from my heart…
…I am afraid that certain phrases that you hear on the phone are not understood in their exact sense. We shall need to discuss many things and I have much to explain.
It’s crazy right now. I cannot think clearly and function only in thinking when we will see each other again. In stealing my heart you have also stolen my thinking and a bit of my personality. It a sensation exciting and at times frightening. I have lived for numerous years alone and you have effectively stolen my solitude as well.
I do so hope to keep some quiet moment of reflection for myself, reading or working by myself even if you are with me. And I think that it is the same for you. It is necessary for each of us to keep a bit of independence vis-à-vis the other, even if my fondest wish is to live together as completely as possible without melting one into the other.
In thinking of nothing but you, I am neglecting my friends…My two former lovers, both named Bernard, (both of foreign origin, one from Spain, the other from Italy) reproach me for the time I’ve spent otherwise occupied these last weeks…
…To the base of my being I hope that our relationship can always stay as it is right now, solid and sincere., and that the only “clouds” that we encounter concern normal and everyday problems…
…Many of your former loves have left you. Your letter [now lost] is sad for that, as well as your miserable childhood. I shall never leave you. It is you who will leave me if one day you find another garcon who pleases you. That day would be the most horrible of my existence.
Forgive me to write of such things. I am unhappy without you and when I get melancholy I write depressing words which surpass, perhaps, those which I would want to say. I hope that I am not too puerile in my ramblings.
It’s banal, but I love you, you know. And I think of how to prove it to you (but do you really need proofs?) more than is necessary, and to never deceive you.
I’m sorry this ran so long. I know that the translation is a challenge for you.
[English] Try, you can do it.
By early July, my entire life had changed. James’ health was very fragile, so he moved back home rather than try and find another roommate downtown. I took him out to a marvelous dinner at The Saint Cloud, and after the second bottle of wine we got rather sloppy and emotional. James had been my confident and co-conspirator during our two years sharing the tiny apartment on Bond Street, and I was going to miss him terribly.
It was a time of letting so many things go, saying good-bye to my charmed life as a ghettofag in the South End. Many thought that I had finally gone completely insane, and if it weren’t for those nightly phone calls with Jean-Marc and his wonderful letters, I would have doubted that my sanity myself.
One encounter of especial import happened at about this time. I was out at a suit and martini bar with some friends when I got a tap on my shoulder. Turning around, I saw Dan F***.
I met Dan in the late winter of 1989 at a leather bar near North Station named 119 Merrimac. He was an adorable little Irish satyr, very aggressive and ridiculously sexy. He was out with a drinking buddy and walked right up to me and started flirting. By the end of our first beer his friend had left and we were in the shadows, groping and facesucking. I undressed him in the cab on the way back to the South End, and we both hopped out bareassed in the cold air, hardons bobbing as we ran up the stoop and into his spectacular parlor-level duplex in Concord Square.
We spent the next forty-eight hours completely naked in endless cavorts from couch to bed to Jacuzzi, curling up for naps before beginning all over again. Dan cooked little gourmet snacks and popped some very fine vintage wines, served standing in his kitchen or seated at his lavish antique dining table, feet propped on each other’s laps. My poor tits were at least as sore as his tight pink puckerhole.
We had exchanged numbers, but Dan always had excuses to put me off.
About two weeks later I ran into his drinking buddy at Fritz, a casual happy hour bar around the corner from my house. He was initially evasive to my questions, then introduced me to a very tall Rupert Everett type, English and hopelessly handsome in a $1200 suit, sitting on one of the banquettes. I quickly caught on that the Englishman was Dan’s lover. I flushed and excused myself to the men’s room, quickly followed by the drinking buddy.
I was told to forget all about Dan. The lover was wealthy and tolerated Dan’s trysts as he was frequently out of the country, but that Dan owed everything to the Englishman and wouldn’t give it up for anyone. Besides, Dan also had a wife and daughter in Florida. The drinking buddy was very kind, but quite firm, telling me to just let everything pass. I washed my face and left, waving good-bye on my way out and flashing a broad angry grin.
I swiveled my stool around to see Dan standing there with a strange look on his face.
“A little bird tells me you’re moving.”
“Does that little bird speak French?”
Dan flushed. “Tell me it’s not true.”
I lit a Parlaiment and stared Dan squarely in the eyes. “I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks.”
“For how long?”
“Forever. I’ve found the most incredible man and he wants me to move there to live with him.”
“How long have you known him?”
“Not long,” I sipped my martini, feeling the ginburn. “Long enough to know this will never happen to me again.”
“You can’t leave.” He stuffed his hands into the trousers of his custom-made suit.
“Oh really?” I was amused now. “What exactly are you suggesting? Does your lover think that I should stay, or should I ask your wife?”
“You don’t know anything about my situation.”
“And you,” I wrapped my arms around his neck, folding my hands, “My beautiful man know nothing of mine. I am in love.”
He put his hand against my chest, finding a nipple and tweaking it under my suit jacket. “You are making a big mistake, you know.”
“Actually, Dan,” I said, pulling my arms away, “It’s my life to fuck up, and this is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Put away that long face and wish me well.”
“You don’t even speak French!”
“Darling, I can do more than you ever dreamed. Now have a drink and meet my friends.”
He stomped out in a trail of cigarette smoke, knocking over a table on the way.
To be continued...