The Tour of Italy
I'll never forget that day. It was January fourth, and I was celebrating my seventieth birthday. My husband, Matthew, had just presented me with my birthday gift. It looked like a simple birthday card, and I was so excited, I had trouble opening it. Part of my problem was that I was looking all around the living room for some sort of gift-wrapped package, and I didn't see anything. My curiosity was growing rapidly.
Finally, I stopped trying to open the card neatly, and I tore it open. It was an ordinary birthday card which read, "To My Husband." I opened the card to find a short note inside.
To my beloved husband and best friend, Jamie:
It was exactly 49 years ago today that you walked into that gay bar in The Village. I don't even remember the name of it. You took the stool next to mine, and asked the bartender for a rye and ginger ale. Does anybody still drink that?
He asked for ID, and you proudly produced your driver's license, proclaiming loudly enough for everyone around us to hear, "I'm here to celebrate my twenty-first birthday."
When your drink came, I told you that it was on me, my birthday present to you. You smiled, and let me pay for it. We started to talk, and as far as I was concerned we were alone in that noisy room. We talked all night about everything and nothing.
When they kicked us out of the joint, you came home with me, and we made love. We haven't stopped making love to each other for nearly half a century. I loved you then. I love you now, and I will love you forever.
In the top drawer of my dresser, you will find my birthday gift to you. It's a little more than a cocktail this year. You'll see a little packet in there, which I hope will make you very happy.
With all my love, Matt.
"Can I open it now?" I asked.
Not waiting for an answer, I ran to our bedroom, and opened the top drawer of Matt's dresser. I retrieved the small packet and ran back to the living room. Matt was waiting for me, grinning from ear to ear.
I opened up the packet, and found an E Mail confirming a four week bus tour of Italy, complete with all our flight information, beginning in New York, flying to Palermo, and bussing from thereon. Our trip was to begin almost five months later on the first Saturday in June. A beautiful color pamphlet described the trip. Our itinerary took up three whole pages, and the brochure had beautiful colored photos of most of the places we would be visiting, from Sicily in the south, to the Italian Alps in the north. A separate E Mail confirmed that Matt had paid for trip cancellation insurance.
I was overwhelmed. I grabbed Matt in a bear hug, and started to cry. I was too emotional to talk. His body was warm and comforting on this cold winter day.
"I've always known that this trip was on your bucket list," he said. "We'll be in Milan long enough for you to visit your grandparents' home town in the Milan suburbs." I started to cry again.
"Now let's get dressed," Matt commanded. "The trip may have to wait five more months, but tonight's dinner reservation waits for no man."
We celebrated my birthday with a wonderful (very expensive) dinner in a five star restaurant. When we got home, we had a nightcap, and made love. We fell asleep in each other's arms, content in our love, and the wonderful day we had just experienced.
I woke up in the morning, but Matt did not. Sometime during the night, Matt suffered a massive heart attack, and left me all alone in the world for the first time since we met.
I was grateful for one thing at least. I was retired, and had no work responsibilities. I would not have been able to function in a work environment. I was like a zombie. Sometimes I would not get out of bed all day. Other times, I would not shower for days. I simply forgot about it. My friends were great. They all tried to get me back to earth, but my space ship would not return from the stratosphere.
Finally, I realized that I had to get myself together. I had so many financial responsibilities that needed taking care of, and I had to face them at last. With the help of my lawyer and accountant, I got all our joint assets transferred into my name. Neither of us had any family, at least no family that we were in touch with. Both of us had been disowned by strict European, catholic families, when we came out. We were so out of touch with both families, I didn't know how to inform them of Matt's death. I didn't think they would care much anyway.
I established a new routine for a single man, and little by little I resumed a passable, but lonely life. I had friends to dinner, and they had me over. I went to the theater, opera and ballet occasionally, usually alone. I kept myself, and my apartment, reasonably hygienic. There was only one thing that I still held unresolved, and that was the trip to Italy.
I thought of asking my friend Alfred if he would like to accompany me. The trip was paid for so it would not be a burden, but Alfie was pushing eighty, and didn't think he could tolerate the strenuous amount of walking the trip required. There was no one else I wanted to ask.
I called the insurance company, and they said that I could recover the cost of both our trips. The policy covered the deceased, and his traveling companion, if any. For a couple of weeks, I toyed with the idea of cancelling me out as well as Matt. I meditated on it for hours, and came to the conclusion that Matt wanted me to have this gift, and I decided not to disappoint him, if indeed he was monitoring me from heaven, or wherever.
I requested a refund of his half of the trip only. Then I called the tour company. I had to make a choice. I could keep all the double room accommodations, but they would assign me a roommate, or I could convert to single accommodations, but there would be an additional fee. I slept on that, and decided to go for the additional fee. I wasn't in the mood for an unknown roommate, and I was getting used to being single.
The day finally arrived, and Alfie drove me to the airport. The checking-in process wasn't any worse than for a domestic flight. I wouldn't officially meet my fellow passengers until I arrived in Italy, but judging by the complimentary travel bags, which had been gifted to us by the tour company, I was able to identify some of them scattered around the waiting area. They all seemed to be straight couples.
I had arrived very early. It's in my nature not to have to rush. About forty-five minutes before boarding, a single gentlemen arrived and took a seat across the aisle from me. He appeared to be in his early seventies. He settled in, looked around, spotted my travel bag, and smiled at me. I was staring right at him, and could not avoid smiling back at him. I thought that I might be meeting my first fellow traveler.
"Hello," he said. "Are you about to go on a tour of Italy with Superior Travel?"
"Why, yes," I answered, as if I were very surprised that he knew. "Are you?"
"Yes," he answered, and he seemed to be relieved.
He scooted over to the seat next to me, which was not occupied. He extended his hand, and said, "I'm Rocco Valentine. I just flew in from Milwaukee. It seems like I've been traveling for hours already. I'm bushed, but I can never fall asleep on a plane."
"I'm James Costello. Call me Jamie. Everybody else does. I live in New York, so I got a good night's sleep." I laughed for some reason. I never figured out why.
"Please call me Rocky," he laughed also. "Everybody does," he repeated my statement.
"Are you traveling alone? I don't see any Mrs. Costello around."
"Yes, I am. Are you alone also?" I asked.
Rocky smiled and nodded. Somehow that small exchange between us broke the ice, and we started to chat amicably. I believed that at that moment, Rocky and I would be great traveling companions, that is, unless he turned out to be homophobic. I had no intention of bluntly outing myself, but I was sure it would somehow emerge in conversation. It always had, and it always will, I reckon.
"I wasn't supposed to be alone," he said, and he looked down at the floor. "I was supposed to do this trip with my wife. She retired early this year, and we wanted to fulfill a promise I made her years ago. She was born in Milan, and she wanted to return at least one more time."
He hesitated, got himself together and continued. "She went shopping with a girlfriend a couple of months ago, and they were killed in a terrible accident. A drunk teenager ran a red light." At this point, he couldn't speak any more, so I picked up the conversation.
"That's incredible," I said. "I have a similar story. I have always wanted to visit my grandparents' home town outside of Milan. My husband booked the trip without my knowledge. It was a seventieth birthday present."
Rocky interrupted me. "Your husband? Are you gay?" he asked.
"Yes," I answered simply. I decided not to ask him how he felt about that, and I continued my story. "On the very night, he gave me my birthday gift, he died in his sleep. He had a massive heart attack. I agonized for weeks about going on the trip alone, and I finally decided to do it, because Matt would have wanted me to."
Rocky laughed sardonically. "I went through the same agonizing process that you did," he said, "and I came to the same conclusion. So here I am, and before we even get started, I meet you, with a similar story. I think it's fate that we met. I believe that we are going to have a great four weeks. I sure hope you feel the same way."
I thought for a moment, and I did feel the same way. Obviously Rocky didn't give a shit that I was gay, and I didn't give a shit that he was straight. We had become friends even before we boarded the plane. I never did have to ask him how he felt about my sexual orientation. It was obvious, he didn't think about it at all. I smiled at him, "Yes friend. I feel the same way."
We were seated several rows apart, but whenever we could, we both got up, and visited at the rear of the plane. The flight was fully booked, and there were no empty seats, or I'm sure we would have managed to sit together. Our conversation was getting more personal.
"Did they offer you a roommate before you decided to go solo?" I asked. I was really curious.
"Yes," he answered, "but I wasn't ready for strange company. Now I feel differently. If I knew it would have been you and me, I would have saved the extra money."
"I feel the same way, but there might be other single men on the trip. We may not have roomed together after all. I guess we'll find out."
"Tell me about your husband," he asked suddenly. "Until I retired when my wife did, I used to run a regional theater group in Milwaukee, so I have known, and loved, many gay men, but I never met any who were married."
Now what the fuck did he mean by "loved?" Was he giving me a signal? I didn't think so, but I had plenty of time to find out. I would not have minded sleeping with Rocky at all. He was a true example of an Italian stallion. He was about six feet tall, brown eyes, graying black hair, slightly prominent Italian nose, square chin, and a muscular body. His jeans were a little tight on him, and I reckoned he was well endowed. I hoped I would get a chance to find out on the trip; if not in bed, then in a men's rest room. I remember thinking at that moment that I was getting horny for a male companion. It was the first time since Matt's death. Even though I was happy at the thought, I felt a wee bit guilty.
I told him all about Matt, how we met, how we had made a very happy life together, our decision to marry when it became legal in New York, and amidst many tears, I described our last night together on my birthday. I reached into my wallet, and pulled out a folded letter. It was the note that Matt had written, and placed in my birthday card. I showed it to Rocky. Standing in the rear of the plane, I was sobbing loudly.
Rocky shocked me by wrapping his arms around me, and hugging me tightly. There wasn't a doubt in my mind, when he pushed into me, and I felt his package. I knew we were beginning some sort of liaison. He was as hard as a rock, and I knew that I would have sex with him before the end of the trip. The thought of it frightened me. The only man I had ever been with in my entire life was Matt. I managed to get myself together, pushed away from him, and asked him to tell me about his wife.
"We met in Drama Club at The University of Wisconsin," he began. Our mutual love of theater brought us together. We slept together on our third date, and we became an item on campus. I don't remember ever asking Rose to marry me. It just happened. In our early years, I was a banker, and Rose was an executive secretary. We tried to have children, but regretfully, we never did. We found out that I have very lazy swimmers. We had just begun to talk about adopting, or spending big bucks on in-vitro fertilization, when we decided to start a theater group, and pursue our early dreams. We couldn't afford to give up two incomes, so Rose continued to work, and I busied myself full time with the theater. We were as happy as any other married couple, I suppose. We were looking forward to Rose's retirement, and this trip, when she was killed."
Rocky stopped talking, but I looked at his face. It was clear to me that he wanted to say more, but he was deciding whether he should or not. In the uncomfortable silence that followed, I asked point blank if he wanted to tell me anything else.
"Yes," he smiled at me, and his smile reminded me of Mona Lisa. "But not here, and not now."
"I hope it will be soon," I smiled right back at him. "Somehow I feel that we can tell each other anything without judgement."
"I agree with you," he said. Just then the seat belt sign went on, and we returned to our seats.
The trip was going to be long and arduous, and I was grateful, that I was in good health. It occurred to me that Matt didn't know he had a bad heart. He might well have died on the trip. If he had to die, I was glad he did it at home.
From Palermo, our stopovers were: Naples and Pompeii, Rome, Florence, an afternoon in Pisa, Genoa, Turin, Milan, Como, Verona, Venice, Padua, Bologna, and back to Rome for the return flight to JFK. We had one, two or three nights at each location. We also made quickie stops for lunch, and limited sight-seeing at smaller cities located along our route.
Our tour included breakfast and dinner at whatever hotel we were at, but lunch was on us. Rocky and I soon learned a little trick. Every breakfast buffet, in every hotel we stayed in, contained tasty fresh rolls and an assortment of cheeses. Before boarding the bus for sight-seeing, we threw a couple of rolls, and some cheeses, into our tote bags. While the rest of our traveling companions scurried to find a restaurant, we bought a bottle of wine, found a bench, and had a lunch of cheese sandwiches and wine. It was delicious, and after a while, quite boring.
In fact, by the time we reached Florence, Rocky and I decided to splurge on a dinner out. There were thirty of us in our group, and our companions were wonderful people from all over the USA and Canada. Still we agreed that we wanted an evening out by ourselves. I actually promoted the idea. Rocky had never told me what was on his mind. I felt that once we were alone, he would open up to me. I got more than I bargained for.
Our tour guide, was a good looking young man, who was planning his wedding. All the ladies on the bus fell in love with him, and they were offering him all kinds of advice. When he showed them his fiancée's picture, they gushed with delight. She was as pretty as he was handsome. We asked him to recommend a good restaurant in town, and Rocky added, "A nice quiet one, if possible."
Antonio recommended a charming little place just off the Piazza della Croce. We took a cab, which got us there in no time, and I figured we had hit on an honest driver. What I didn't know at the time, was that the cab drivers, who were called by the hotel, had to be scrupulously honest. One complaint by a guest, and they would not be called again. The hotel, in turn, could not afford bad reviews from the tour companies.
We were seated in a quiet corner at Rocky's request. We both spoke some Italian, and the waiter was pleased with us. We ordered a bottle of red wine, and we told our waiter we would order dinner after we had a glass or two. He smiled and did not disturb us until we called him.
We toasted each other, and took our first sip of wine. "To our friendship," Rocky said, holding up his glass. I held my glass up also, smiled at him, and said, "Yes, to us. Salut."
"I need to tell you something," Rocky said.
"Yes," I answered. "I sensed it. I've been waiting patiently for you to tell me what's on your mind."
Rocky took a deep breath, and began his narrative. "As my marriage went on, Rose and I made love less and less frequently. Eventually it stopped altogether, and neither of us seemed to care. One day I got an anonymous letter from one of her co-workers informing me that she was having an affair with her boss. Strangely enough I didn't give a damn. By this time we both had our work, and we were living separate lives. I began to think of ourselves as 'married singles.'
"As you can imagine, among my actors and crew, there were many gay men. They all had day jobs. For them the troupe was a part time hobby. One or the other often came on to me, but I was too naïve to know it. One evening, one of my lighting technicians asked me to have a late dinner with him after rehearsal. At dinner he asked me point blank to go to bed with him.
"To say that I was shocked is an understatement, but I was curious, and horny as hell. I agreed to do it, and that night, he introduced me to gay sex. I'm not proud of it, but in the succeeding years, I slept with many members of the group. Early on, I came to realize that the sex Rose and I had, was shit compared to the passion these men aroused in me. No wonder she was having an affair, and probably having sex as good as I was having. I never loved any of these men. I wondered if it would be even better with someone I loved."
He stopped talking, and there was utter silence. I realized that he was waiting for me to say something, so I croaked something that sounded like, "Why did you feel you had to tell me all this?"
"Good God, Jamie, how naïve can you be? I'm crazy in love with you, and I want the opportunity to show you just how much." Rocky grabbed my hand and held it tight.
"I admit that I'm lonely and horny. I need for someone, for you, to hold me tight, and hug the breath out of me, but I don't know if I'm ready to make love all the way," I hedged.
Rocky smiled at me, and my heart melted. "That's all I ask of you, for now," he stated. "Let's just sleep together tonight, and hold each other. We don't have to do anything else. It'll break the ice, and maybe we can go all the way in the future."
"Yes," I answered. "I'd like that very much."
Again we were silent, not knowing what to say to one another, so we called the waiter over and ordered dinner. It was delicious, and we were glad we made the decision to give up the pre-set hotel meal for a change. When the bill came, the waiter pointed out that the bottle of wine was on the house. "I do that for all lovers who come in here," he said.
Rocky and I turned ten shades of red. How in the world did he know? We didn't know ourselves yet. Rocky confided in me that it was a good omen, but I was still very reticent about everything Rocky was proposing.
We entered Rocky's hotel room, and stood there, not knowing what to do. Finally we turned to each other and Rocky placed his lips on mine. As I realized how much I needed to love and be loved, I held back my tears. I kissed Rocky back. We put our arms around one another, and our lips parted. Now our tongues were touching like two feathers in the wind.
Rocky pulled us as close together as he could, and I whispered in his ear, "I think you're hard." I reached down and put my palm over his bulging crotch. My suspicions were confirmed. When he felt my hand on his cock, he did the same to me, and I knew that we were going to do more than fondle after all. In fact, I wanted so badly to suck his cock, I started to fumble with his zipper.
"Let me help you," he offered. Rocky pulled away from me, and stripped so fast, he was a blur. There he stood, in all his glory, a good seven inches of uncut cock probing into the air space in front of him, waiting for me, calling for me, begging for me.
I wanted to strip also, but I wanted that cock more. I fell to my knees, wrapped my fist around his manhood, and tentatively licked his slit. It was the only cock I had ever taken into my mouth other than Matt's. It tasted differently, as did his pre-cum, but it was not unpleasant. I took more of him into me, and began swathing it all over in earnest. My other hand caressed his balls, and my middle finger ran up and down his man vagina. I was beginning to become frenzied, and I heard Rocky say, "Easy, love, we have all night."
I must have been hurting him. I stood up, took him by the hand and bade him lie down on the bed. He lay prone on his back, and I stripped at last. I stood there and let his eyes soak me up. My cock was uncut also, and ever so slightly longer and fatter than his. The main difference was that my pubic hair was completely shaved off. Matt liked it that way, and after he died, I just continued doing what I had done for all the years we were together.
Rocky noticed, because he said, "I'll shave for you, darling."
Toward the end of Matt's life, we did not always fuck each other. Sometimes our cocks just didn't get hard enough. That night I was as hard as I used to get at twenty. "Please," I said, "can I fuck you?"
"Damn right. I prayed for this to happen, and you'll find a tube of Vaseline on the bathroom counter. I don't have any rubbers, but it's been years since I have been with a man, and you told me you were monogamous."
I ran for the lube, and on my way back, I started to lubricate my cock. Then I put a glob up Rocky's ass, and started reaming him. I was becoming agitated, but I tried to control myself. He had raised his legs, and spread his ass. I tried to enter him as slowly as I could. He did not complain of any pain, so I guess I did a good job. When I was all the way in, I didn't move. I leaned over him, and began to kiss him. As our kisses got more and more passionate, I started to stroke in and out. It was an almost involuntary action.
My orgasm was upon me before I realized what was happening. I shot way up Rocky's ass, and amidst cries of joy, I said to him, "I'm so sorry. I wanted it to last much longer, but it has been so long."
I was still imbedded in his ass, and he reached up and wiped away my tears. He smiled, and said, "I have a request. As much as I would like to fuck you, would you get me off this time in your mouth?" He looked a little sheepish, and I felt I had to reassure him.
"Nothing would give me more pleasure. Just let me recover a little longer."
I pulled out of him, and started to kiss his nipples. Little by little, I moved down to his cock. He had way too much pubic hair, and I was glad he promised to shave. I had barely started licking his balls and his shaft, when he screamed that he was cumming. He came faster than I did. We had to laugh at how quickly two old men reached nirvana, and we were sure that we would slow down in the future.
The future! I hardly dared think about it.
We hardly paid attention to the tour director for the rest of the trip. All we would think about was making love. Except in Milan of course. We hired a taxi to take us to an address where Rocky's wife, Rose, had been born. The building was a fourplex, and we didn't know which apartment had been her home. Rocky took pictures of the building, and the taxi driver then took us to the small town of my ancestry. I had no address, but we drove around while I soaked up the flavor of my roots.
We had sex every night for the rest of the trip, and sometimes during the day. By the third night of our union, neither of us could cum. Two men in their seventies needed some recovery days. It didn't bother either of us. We snuggled and fondled and gave each other much pleasure.
As the trip neared its conclusion, I become very despondent. Rocky noticed, and asked me what the problem was. I thought about it for a long while before answering him. I wanted to get my words just right.
"I love you," I said. Rocky smiled. "I never thought I would love again or make love again, and then there you were."
"That's hardly a problem," Rocky answered. "I love you too."
"But we live half a continent away."
"So how can we be together?"
"Simple. I've decided to move to New York, if you'll have me."
"Of course, I'll have you, but how can you do that?
"It's so easy. I'm retired. I am no longer associated with the theater group. All my old friends in Milwaukee are straight, and I can't relate to them anymore. I want to be with you in a gay environment. My pension, social security, and my wife's, will be more than sufficient for me to share expenses with you. What do you say old man? Will you accept my proposal?"
I was so stunned, I couldn't answer.
"Will it help you make a decision, if I tell you that I am madly in love with you?" he asked, or rather, pleaded.
I still couldn't speak, so I wrapped Rocky up in my arms, and kissed him in such a way that he knew immediately that my answer was a resounding YES.