Alessandro had his work out at one of the torture-machines in the Fitness room in the basement of the prison and tried to ignore the bitching. Pietro and Ivano - both sixteen and famous for their membership of a gang in Cortona - had found a new victim. Alessandro couldn't say he was happy that it wasn't himself, but over the months he had learnt to hide his feelings. The problem was that the spirit of the detention centre was false. The strongest had all the power to gather possessions and the strongest was not labelled necessarily by muscle power, but by the possession of the tiniest pea-brain possible. Alessandro had experienced that the tiniest brain could conjure the biggest perversions.

Alessandro took a breather at his rowing machine and looked over to Lauro, a seventeen year old, who shoplifted until the docs realized he suffered from kleptomania. He had to serve his punishment nonetheless. Yet again Pietro roaring made fun of Lauro's name. He was thinking it soooo gay. Lauro - pigeon-chested and slender - pulled his head down between his shoulders as he tried to ignore Pietro.

All this - the little rotten things, taking place behind the backs of the prison wardens - disgusted Alessandro. If there was to be a quarrel, then please make it an open quarrel, not these cowardly, little attacks aiming below the belt that were nothing more than to raise the weak self- confidence of the attackers. One could feel so big in making others small.

Alessandro's stomach clenched as he watched Pietro standing up in front of Lauro and dragging him from the running machine. Nervously Alessandro stared at the observation monitors and expected to see a guard entering the room at any moment. But nobody came when Pietro punched Lauro's stomach. Not hard, but hard enough for Lauro to double up. "What are you actually doing here, you little weakling? Klep-to, klep-to!" Pietro laughed his ass off and turned to Ivano who was giving him a thumbs up.

Alessandro bet he didn't even know how to spell kleptomaniac.

"Bet you piss in your bed each night and cry for Mamma."

Alessandro had had enough. He stepped off of his rowing machine and wiped his face with the towel hanging around his neck. "Stop it, Dandoli", he said.

Pietro - overweight and with hanging tits standing out under his sweaty shirt, turned slowly and looked Alessandro up and down. "Did you say something, fag?" He held his palm behind his ear. "I heard a feeble whisper."

Alessandro twisted his mouth. "I said stop it. Do you need a hearing aid?"

"The little fag can speak!" Pietro turned to Ivano who howled with laughter. The room emptied all of a sudden. None of the guys wanted to have trouble. Cowards, Alessandro thought scornfully and clenched his fists, ready for a fight. That moment the door opened and Mario entered the room. "Trouble?" he asked sharply.

Pietro showed his best baby-face, looking as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. "Not at all, boss. We've had a nice talk. Gondi wanted to show me the ... rowing machine."

Mario's eyes darted through the room. He saw Lauro, still standing stock-still and tense, rubbing his stomach. Ivano, the little ferret with eyes too close together, was sitting nonchalantly upon a chest. He noticed Sandro's clenched fists.

"No trouble here, kids. We are all here to learn something", he repeated the standard dogma of the director of the institution. But what was it exactly that they should learn, Alessandro couldn't tell. All he was learning here was that the strongest was right. Always. What were you supposed to learn here other than to perfect your criminal career? Therapy? Useless for the most. Except for Lauro maybe. Alessandro went to him and took his shoulder. "Come, let's have a shower."

Pietro and Ivano whistled. "Woohoo, a shower together!" Ivano jumped down from the chest and pranced with a limp wrist through the room. By the strap of his gym shirt Mario pulled him closer to his chest. "I said, no trouble, Dandoli", he hissed. "Your tobacco ration is cancelled for tomorrow."

Ivano grumbled, but gave in without a fight. Pietro clapped his hands and laughed at Ivano. Mario, briefly closing his eyes, said with calm voice: "Your ration as well, Zardi." Pietro pulled a face. Then a sly grin appeared upon his moon face as his little eyes darted agilely between Mario, Alessandro and Lauro. It was all too clear what he was thinking. Then he hurried to follow his buddy Ivano out.

"Everything all right, Lauro?" Mario asked. The boy was causing him trouble because he hardly spoke and if he didn't speak no one would be able to help him with his therapy.

"Sure", Lauro mumbled. His eyes, though, betrayed his words. Nonetheless he wouldn't allow someone to touch him, either inwardly nor physically. But Sandro obviously had found a way. Lauro stepped back as Mario stepped forward and Alessandro's hand slid from Lauro's shoulder. Both exchanged a look before Mario said. "You can call me any time, Lauro. Whenever you want to talk."

Lauro nodded absentmindedly and rushed out of the room.

"What was the quarrel about?" Mario asked as soon as they were alone.

"The usual things", Alessandro said in a cool voice. "I'm despised for being a fag, Lauro's despised for being a weakling. And for his name."

Mario sensed the hurt, although Alessandro's voice was indifferent. He stepped to him and took Alessandro's shoulders. Automatically Alessandro draw back and threw a nervous glance to the monitors. Mario set him free and beckoned him to follow. Outside Mario said with a low voice "It's the same situation that brought you to jail, Sandro. You must not be provoked by that stuff again."

Alessandro stood at the foot of the stairs. "So I should put up with this shit? They don't understand any other language than to punch their mouths. I've learnt to know them, believe me. "

"Maybe. But that's no solution. We can't solve everything with violence. Use your brain. You complained the power is with the strongest. That's not true." Mario started climbing up the stairs. "Tomorrow in our therapy group we can talk about it."

Alessandro stood and stared. First into nothing, than at Mario's arse, walking in front of his nose. He repressed his urge to be comforted in a foreign bed, by a foreign man. Sometimes it was all right. But most of the time Alessandro was glad if he could figure out his pain for himself. No need to show weakness like Lauro.


The circle of young men, having gathered in the discussion room, was manageable. Mario had seen to it that only the guys attended who had something to say to each other outside this session as well. Normally Alessandro didn't belong with them, because he was too much of a loner. But today, Mario wanted Alessandro to listen and, if necessary, to encourage others.

He crossed his legs and watched them one after the other, sitting in a circle. He smiled.

"There's nothing more perfect than a circle. It's without start or end. Endless, so to say. Therefore all wise statesmen, kings and emperors preferred this as their assembly form. The most famous is probably King Arthur and his round table. And since we are here as equal righted humans, everyone can speak and tell his opinion without being afraid."

Again he watched the faces in the round. "An incident yesterday made me change the topic for today." He gave a brief glance to Lauro who blushed and had his head bent down to his chest. "Our topic for today will be: The right is with the strongest."

Alessandro moaned inwardly. What was this crap about. In the imagination of the do gooders and therapists that the world might appear as a doll's house, that they can paint and trim with their enthusiasm. Where they could shove the puppets wherever they wanted them , but in reality it didn't work that way. Mario was one of those people, believing in the good of all humans. Alessandro didn't do that anymore.

"I'd say, the proverb is right", he said aloud, and earned a sinister stare from Mario.

"And why do you think so?"

"Because the strongest have the power. And who has all power has the right."

"To do anything?" Mario completed the sentence.


Mario leaned forward. "Interesting. And who do you think is responsible for that?"

Alessandro shrugged.

"It's the law's fault", a boy chimed in. "the economy, what do I know? My father says, government is just a puppet on the strings of the economy. In the last but one century workers worked their butts off like slaves and nobody helped them. The rich are getting even richer, no matter which government rules."

"This means, the government hasn't the power but those who give us work and bread?" Mario asked.

"Therefore the trade unions exist", somebody said dryly.

Mario's eyes lit up. "That's the point, Benno. What's the task for the trade unions?"

"To gather the workers and fight for their rights."

"Right. So.... you here complained that the power is with the strongest. Each of you has already had experiences with the dark side of this institution here. Guys you are glad not to meet outside you are now forced to live with. You say you can't hinder that they annoy you. But you can. You just have to stay together."

Someone suppressed a laugh.

"Yesterday when Lauro was attacked by Pietro and Ivano you all left the room, except Alessandro. What was the reason? You didn't want to get into trouble. And therefore you left one of yours alone." Again Mario's translucent, amber eyes wandered over the faces. No one could look him in the eyes. Except Alessandro, of course.

"What makes you think that Lauro is one of us?" one said.

Mario raised his brows. "He isn't? You all belong to the grey mass who hide because you want to be left alone. But that's not the meaning of this institution. You all have more or less quite a record, starting by repeated theft to manslaughter. It makes no sense to balance the deeds out against one against each other and to elect those who have done the most, as leader."

"But that's how the world outside is working." Alessandro pierced Mario's eyes. Both measured each other with looks. Apparently Sandro didn't want to help him today, Mario thought sadly. Or he didn't understand the meaning.

"Nonsense", Mario said. "It must not work this way, do you see?"

Alessandro thought Mario had no sense of reality. Or it had got lost behind these walls. Besides, I would have to be their leader then, he continued. And heaven may protect us from a violent, perverted gay as leader.

"Stick together and fight against those who oppress you", he heard Mario say with a hint of fever in his voice. He would be a good agitator, Alessandro thought. He could imagine Mario standing in front of a wide crowd, shouting into a megaphone and calling the workers to fight against the capitalists.

"And how to do that without violence?" one asked.

"You don't need violence when the other is lost for arguments."

Alessandro shouted inwardly with laughter. This couldn't be true. "How's that?" he said aloud. "When one is lost for arguments then there will be peace? But, Mario! That's crap! If we are lost for arguments and words, then the war starts. Don't you understand? It works this way all over the world, in a village or in a metropolis, at home or in the big wide world. You can't improve the people."

"I can. Here and now. In our small circle the future starts. Even a journey of 1.000 miles starts with the first step."

"Wise words. And what do you recommend us to do now?"

Mario leaned his forearms upon his knees. "Stick together and take responsibility for each other. You aren't here to be hurt by your fellow prisoners, but to learn something for yourself. During your stay here you should use it to ponder who you are and what you want in your life. Dandoli and Zardi can only hurt you as long as every single one of you is alone. As soon as you are together, you are strong."

Alessandro followed Mario's gestures. He was right of course. But still: the world followed different rules. Mario started from false assumptions, namely that there would be no resistance. But resistance challenged resistance. Dandoli and Zardi and all their mindless and mediocre buddies wouldn't give up. The problem was much deeper. It wasn't about a show strength. From Luca he had learnt that weakness could be a strength too and that sometimes taking a detour was the shorter way.


He stared at Elmo's body. Water pattered from the shower head upon the body standing beneath, wriggling his arse aggravatingly. Alessandro knew that this was only for his benefit. Lads, standing beside him under the next shower pushed each other and giggled, waiting for Alessandro's reaction. Would he get a hard on or not?

Elmo whistled to himself, turned and presented his cock, that was rock hard because Elmo had clutched the root of it. Alessandro had hardly seen a similar, exciting length before.

Exciting? One look into Elmo's stupid, lecherous face, and he knew that he would never be turned on, the length could be as extraordinarily as it wanted. Elmo rubbed his palm up and down, until the veins appeared and the piece of flesh between his fingers went dark red like a well- hung piece of beef.

"What do you think about this, Gondi?" he shouted now, waving with his cock. "Is it good enough for a suck?"

The laughter echoed from the tiled walls. Alessandro saw that Lauro had turned off the shower and hurried to the exit. Others followed. So much for Mario's attempts at conversion. But he saw Benno was still standing and watching. He had forgotten to rinse off the soap that covered his body.

"What do I think about that?" Alessandro said calmly, turning off the water and wiping the water from his body. "I've seen better." A malicious grin graced his lips as he turned and walked slowly out of the shower.

"What do you mean, you've seen better?" Elmo dropped his cock that still stood proudly over his navel and nodded with each step he made as he rushed past Alessandro, poking his hot meat into Alessandro's back. "I bet you've never had such a fat cock up your arse", he hissed.

Quick as lightning Alessandro turned and groped for Elmo's cock. He clutched it painfully hard and tugged Elmo with it close to his chest. "You nasty piece of a ratfink. Go and fuck one of your buddies, but leave me alone."

Elmo laughed high pitched in anger and fear. He stepped backward and bumped into Benno who stood behind him with folded arms. "Go to the girls and show off with that."

Elmo, suddenly unsure, slid around Benno and snatched up his clothes.

"Thanks, buddy", Alessandro said. Benno nodded.

* * * * *


I received your collection of dried and pressed flowers. They are so lovely. We haven't got any flowers here, just vegetables and potatoes. Mind you, the cauliflower and the zucchini are big this year, Mario says. He doesn't know that I gathered some of the cow's manure and fertilised the earth with that. That's the way Fran does it. I have decorated my room with your flowers.

Leoni wrote me a letter. She will stay at Fiesole over the summer. I guess, meanwhile she's got used to the baby and probably won't give him up. Anastasia is besotted by little Matteo. I will clear it up with her when I'm out of this damn place here. I'm sure she will be very disappointed, but what difference will it make to her?

How are you doing? Please tell me about the progress of your work. I treasure the blue lizard and carry it wherever I go.

Everything's fine here, except I suffer from emptiness and boredom. When are you coming?



Alessandro heard the closing of the iron doors. One after the other they were shut closed and locked twice - so the nightly ritual went. At least they were greeted with a 'good night' when it was Guiseppe, the night guard. The heavy bunch of keys clattered from afar.

Alessandro, lying on his stomach, folding the written letter, didn't turn when his door was shut and locked. For a brief moment he thought he couldn't breath anymore. He feebly answered Guiseppe's wish, then he rested his head upon his forearms.

It was July and the cell was sticky. He could only tilt the window slats; in front of it there were grates. Almost eight months he'd been here now. To be exact: seven months and thirteen days. That made it all in all about two hundred and fifty days. That made it all in all... definitely too many minutes. Slowly he rolled to his side and was confronted with Luca's face on his drawing. The wide, dark eyes, so bright and soulful. The sensitive mouth that let escape a pearly laughter if Luca wanted to. And during their time together he often wanted to. And therefore Alessandro would do the hell and not tell Luca what really was going on here. That everything repeated itself. That again he was confronted with homophobic behaviour that made him feel so helpless. Helpless and angry. He couldn't control himself. Sometimes. He felt the same boiling hate he had felt that night in October when he had challenged Raniero Riefoli and his gang of stupid, drunken bastards.

Now he was dead and Alessandro still didn't know what to think. Talking about it with Mario and the group was useless to a certain extent because Alessandro didn't know himself what to feel. He should be aghast about himself. He was a murderer no matter if society called it manslaughter resulting in death, or an accident resulting in death or self-defence. It really didn't change the fact that a human was dead because of his deeds. Because he had taken a stone and crashed it on a human skull. How could he ever forget the sound?

And yet Luca's love was there as ever. Unchangeable and steady. Neither Franco nor Claudio, Tristano nor Rosso; not even Vito had mentioned the incident again. They were all acting as if Alessandro was at a summer camp and would come back as if nothing had happened. But that was just self-deception. Alessandro knew very well that he was changing his personality and that he would return to Luca as stranger.

Alessandro's eyes stroked Luca's face. For Luca's birthday he had given him a hand-made shirt, one of his first tailor's pieces. It didn't look that bad and it fit more or less. Alessandro gave a brief snort. Last year he had given him the precious lapis lazuli and this year... his hand searched under his pillow and produced the deep-blue lizard. He sat it upon his palm and watched it. The green serpentine-eyes seemed vivid and the stone shimmered with a silky surface. He wondered how long Luca had needed to polish it. Clutching the figure in his palm, he turned onto his back, turned off the light and closed his eyes. It was useless to ponder about his boyfriend. It just gave him nightmares. He'd rather think about the incident under the shower. It was nothing new for Alessandro that the guys were daring him. Apparently they thought for him - the fag - the daily shower must be a nightmare to see the naked guys and never been allowed to lay hands on them. Pah. They weren't not as half as alluring as they thought they were. And the rest were cowards, considering Mario's words of sticking together against the flock of bastards. Mario should know that the hierarchy within a prison is important to survive. No matter if this was a youth custody or an ordinary jail.

Benno was the only one Mario's words had fallen on fertile ground. Alessandro's lashes fluttered. Benno - the big baby with the rosy skin and the bald head - looked like a hooligan but he wasn't as half as threatening as he looked like. He had repeatedly dealt in drugs and his last sentence had lead to this imprisonment.

Alessandro's thoughts went on to Lauro, the kleptomaniac. Nobody had heard him ever talk about his past, his family or his friends. Mario said Lauro's lawyer had pleaded for absence of criminal liability because of a psychological disturbance, but the psychiatric report had explained Lauro was absolutely sane. Motives for kleptomania are different and very controversial. Mario said they argue about the term compulsion or addiction. And some say kleptomania is a substitution for suppressed wishes. Considering that Lauro had stolen things he didn't need, like a golden lighter, expensive cosmetics or a cashmere scarf, they assumed, Lauro did it just for the sake of doing it.

Perhaps he got a hard-on when he put something furtively into his pockets, Alessandro thought half-grinning before he drifted off.

* * *

Alessandro was happy about the new clothes, Uncle Arrigo had sent, and the parcel from Luca with the extraordinarily yummy smelling soap. It was a rather large block that he had cut into small slices and it was smelling deliciously of caramel and honey. Alessandro had learnt to think as a prisoner and to value all the little things available naturally in the world outside.


Here are some paper clippings I hope you will receive. It's about the expedition to San Clemente, Rome. You remember the institute had sent out a group of scientists and archaelogists to examine the cemetery to possibly find the grave of Masaccio. Well, they weren't allowed to open all of the graves because of the sanctity of the corpses , but they were digging every other centimeter. Most likely there wasn't a single distinguishable bone left from Masaccio when he was buried in wet ground and earth. But read for yourself :-)"

Hastily Alessandro unfolded a sheet of a newspaper that had passed the censor.

"... It had been the final day of the expedition when the inside of the Santa Catherina- chapel was examined once more. By the recent renovation - though yet five years ago - two tondi with angel's heads had been found behind the altar that had hidden them for probably six hundred years. Both of the frescoes couldn't be assigned to either Masaccio nor Masolino. Since the diary of Masolino da Panicale had told us, Masacio's younger brother Giovanni had been with them for help (and entertainment) it is considered that it was him who drew the frescoes.

Expedition leader Professore Vicente Befano examined the wall and decided to have it x-rayed which showed a cavity holding a longish, let's say parcel. Befano saved the frescoes and decided to open the wall to discover a mummified corpse. Attached to the corpse was a leather bag with paint-stones, a collection of brushes and crumbled paper. According to Befano the scientists believe, that Masolino and Giovanni returned to give Masaccio a decent grave. And what could be easier as to lay him to rest in the chapel of his works..."

"And may angels guide you to thee rest..." Alessandro whispered. Wow. So the story had found an end. He looked at the small photo that was attached. It showed the Santa Catherina-chapel and the torn wall behind the low altar. An even smaller photo was attached of the mummified corpse. Surely the opening in the wall had been almost airtight to preserve Masaccio's bones and belongings. Poor lad. The article didn't say what they would now do with his remains.

"Isn't it exciting??" he continued Luca's letter. "Do you think Masaccio will now receive a real grave with a tombstone and all?

I passed the theory of my driving test yesterday. Now it's about actually driving. I'm pretty nervous and you aren't here to help me. Thanks again for the money you've provided for this. I would never have been able to pay for the driving lessons. Well, now of course, everyone is waiting for me to play the chauffeur for them ;-) I guess, next time I'll bring Rosso with me, if that's all right with you. Rosso, by the way, has fallen in love with Tris' ex-girlfriend Carolina. They date occasionally but still there's nothing serioius since the little crumbs are always with him. Dani will have his first year at school and little Seppe attends the kindergarten. It will be a relief for Rosso.

Summer is hot and long and lonely without you. The Opificio is closed and I'm not sure what to do. I was walking up to Fiesole to visit Anastasia and the baby. I've taken some photos with my old camera, but I need to develop them. Little Matteo is growing more each time I see him. Anastasia says he's getting his first tooth. Unfortunately he doesn't look like you (or shall I say, fortuntely for me?). Is Claudio still worrying that he is the father? Well, he should do a paternity test then. I could bring him some hairs of Matteo. But such a test is very expensive and I doubt Claudio has enough money for that.

Leoni is fine. She looks much better and has gained much weight. You could tell she's going to be fat ;-) Well, coompared to her former skinny being, she is. It must be Anastasia's care. Meanwhile she's much too lazy to leave Fiesole. Either she will move with the baby to Uncle Arrigo's family or she'll stay at the Villa with Anastasia and Fran. Her mother came lately to see her grandchild. A pretty unpleasant person, dolled up to no end.

Tristano had told me on the quiet, that he has allowed Vito to have sex with him, er, I mean, well, you know what I mean. It was the first time after the rape. I think this means Tris is really in love. Or more than that. His sister Isolde will return from America soon and so Tris is either to move in with Vito or to return to his home. I'm curious what he will decide. And when he will finally tell his parents about Vito! For the moment they are on holiday in Jesolo to visit Franco. They asked me to go with them, but I didn't want to be the fifth wheel on the carriage.

Giano has quit his idea of becoming a surgeon. He can't stand to see open torsos. Tino wants to become a children's doc and offered the idea that they get a joint practice later. Heavens. Love birds and plans and happiness all around.

I have attached some watercolours I made while I strolled through the meadows. I hope you like them.

More with the next letter. I miss you.


Tears shot into Alessandro's eyes when he saw Luca's deliberately colourful paintings. Luca mustn't be so unhappy. Alessandro sensed the melancholy between his cheerful sentences. It would be better if he found someone else he could rely on; who was there for him and fulfilled his longing to be loved and cared for. Alessandro couldn't give him what he wanted. Not now and probably not even in the future. He couldn't quite tell why, but he had a certain feeling, a feeling of change, struggle, mistrust and loneliness that would never leave him, no matter if he was released from prison or not.

Inverno 6