OK, summer’s here, and it’s Gay Pride day, and now the Supreme Court says everyone (well, 30% of everyone) can marry the person of their gender preference. What better time to pick up a sweet gay travel romance for some summer beach reading? Now you can get my novel The Traveler’s Companion in e-book or paperback.
And to prove that it’s perfect beach reading, here’s a beach scene set in Venice:
When Lint and Ricka and Klaus have gone off to the nude beach, I feel a tiny regret at not having gone along, not least because my cowardice has left me just here, lying between Philip and Antonio who are as glistening and uncommunicative as fish at a market stall. I take out my book and start to read but can’t concentrate. I glance again at my companions. Philip may or may not be sleeping, but he has achieved in repose the stillness and symmetry of the effigy on a Medieval sepulcher. Antonio must be asleep. His lips move, and every now and then a murmur escapes them. My eyes travel down his chest, lightly dusted with dark hair, along his narrow waist, to the tiny black swimsuit. He moves suddenly, and I glance away. But he has only shifted in his sleep.
I get up, walk down to the water, and wade in. The water is warm, with a lingering odor of the canals. A hundred tourists and Italian holidaymakers splash around me. I wade out past the crowd and begin to swim until I am rather far out. Around me the sea is a glittering disk with the sky domed above it and, at its rim, a crescent of sand dotted with colored moving forms. I float on my back and let the sun bake my face. Then with slow strokes I make my way back to shore. As I stand up and wade through the crowd, I hear my name called.
I look around. Off to my left, Francesco stands at the edge of the water. I wave and wade towards him.
“How are you?” he calls.
“Fine, and you?” I shout back.
I have the disconcerting sensation that, like the hero of a children’s story who steps magically into a picture book or a painting, I have walked into a Vogue Uomo spread. If Francesco was beautiful in the lovely setting of his garden, he is stunning here, set against the sea and sand, with the breeze sifting through his honey-colored hair. He seems taller than I remembered, or perhaps it’s just that, in his snugly fitting bathing suit, there seems so much more of him and all of it perfectly shaped and tanned. The rest of us, duller and plainer and all too recognizably human, fade into background detail. I fold my arms across my chest and squint up at him, finding my skinny, pale form reflected in his sunglasses.
He smiles. “A beautiful day.”
“Yes,” I agree. “Are you going swimming?”
He casts a finical glance at the water. “The water is dirty here,” he says making me feel all at once coated in grime. “There are nicer beaches to swim.”
I wonder if he means Lint and Ricka’s beach, then have a quick image of Francesco striding naked down the beach with everyone gazing in hushed appreciation as if royalty were passing.
“Thanks for dinner the other night,” I tell him. “It was really great. Do you cook a lot?”
“Yes,” he seems pleased that I’ve asked. “I like to cook very much. I would like to open a restaurant some day.”
“New York. I love New York. I must convince Adam. He does not want to return to America.”
“Well, it’s a big country,” I say, wondering what I could mean by such a pointless remark.
“Yes,” he agrees. “I love it. You liked to meet Adam?” he goes on.
“Very much. He’s very nice.”
“He is very intelligent. He talks all the time.” He laughs and flutters his fingers against his thumb to indicate constant talking. “Sometimes I just let him talk. He likes to talk. I let him.”
It strikes me as a pity that Adam should have a lover who doesn’t like to hear him talk and wants to go to New York when Adam wants to stay in Italy. But, I tell myself cynically, his other charms must more than compensate.
I’m searching for my next trivial remark when I look up to see Antonio coming down the beach. I start to wave, but he stops and seems to hesitate. Francesco follows my gaze and calls out, “Ciao! Come stai?”
Antonio, reluctantly it seems, moves towards us. He nods briefly at Francesco. “Come stai?” They talk in Italian for a few minutes, Francesco smiling pleasantly and Antonio appearing to give brief, unwilling answers. Finally Francesco, with a smile at me, moves off. “We see you soon?” he calls as he moves away.
“I hope so.” I watch his tanned, well-shaped back disappear into the crowd, then turn to Antonio who, I’m surprised to notice, is looking remarkably discomposed. Even with the dark glasses he’s having trouble meeting my eyes, and he may be blushing.
“How do you know Francesco?” I ask.
“I see him, you know, in the city.”
“Do you know him well?”
“No, not at all.”
“I guess that’s a coincidence, that we both know him.”
He shrugs. “Venice is not a large place. You know him well?” he asks.
“I just met him the other night. He’s a friend of—he lives with this guy—a friend of my sister’s.”
“And you like him?”
“He seems very nice.”
“Yes, he is very nice.” He hits the words with a mocking lilt, as if he’s only mimicking my accent again. With his eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, any other meaning is impossible to guess. “We must wake Philip,” he says. “He will burn.”