A shadow fell beside him. Luca looked up into Alessandro's face. It was tinged by a smile. Wordlessly, he pulled Luca to his feet and dragged him along, crossing the path and passing the tombs until he entered a very old and tattered looking crypt. It was cool when he stopped in the middle the room. Small beams of sunlight painted a pattern upon his skin. His eyes reflected the spots.
Luca's breath through his mouth was laboured as he bent his head, closed his eyes and prayed to all saints he knew that this would never end.
It was more than he had ever imagined ... to be touched by a hand other than his own ... to be licked by another's mouth. The tongue felt like fire until all of his life seemed to flood into Alessandro's mouth, then overflowed it. The last remains being licked from the corner of his lips.
Lucas' member started to rise again. "Opificio", he squeezed out. "I start soon."
Alessandro whistled through his teeth. "You're good with stones and mosaics and intarsia?"
Luca nodded. He thought that Alessandro was good with his hands too.
Luca nodded again with gritted teeth. Alessandro groped his balls and stroked the length of his penis. Luca's hands embraced Alessandro's waist and tried to pull himself down; he needed a place to rest his shaking legs, but Alessandro held him upright. "Not here. Come to my place?"
Luca eyes grew wide. "To your palazzo? No way."
Alessandro's face became like stone. Now he looked much older than he was. "I do what I like", he said haughtily, then continued in a more conciliatory voice, "We have some weeks before I go to Pisa."
Alessandro pulled up Luca's zipper and patted the bulge. Luca didn't dare ask about Alessandro's state of excitement. Should he follow him and find out?
Sunlight flooded his feature, making his hair shiny red and inflaming his skin. He spread his arms outward and bent his head back. "Life is wonderful, Luca. Share it with me, won't you?"
Luca, confused by the outburst's vivid exuberance, didn't answer. "They call you the Prince of the Lilies," he said lowly.
Luca nodded. Prince of the Lilies. Alessandro di Ser Matteo di Gondi-Lucertola.
Life couldn't be easy when your name was lizard. Or was it?
"His name was Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone Guidi di Monte Cassai and he descended from an old family of carpenters: cabinet- and chests makers. Even as child, he had been bigger and stouter and stronger than other children - opposite to me. His younger brother called him deprecatingly, Masaccio: the big Thomas, the colossus.
He came into my workshop there in the town of San Giovanni Alt'ura in the fruitful ground of Tuscany. He came and I was lost. One look into his fiery, black eye and I was ablaze. Although the love between two men in the Republic of Tuscany was not scorned, the eye of the priest was omnipresent and the people easily influenced.
I could have been his father, but we both did not mind. He considered me as his mentor when I taught him to guide his paintbrush or to use the pencil filled with the red powder from the Arabian town of Sinope to transfer his cardboard to the bare walls.
He was sixteen when his wild and free-spirited mind desired to break free from the claustrophobic conditions of our village. It was Firenze that called him, the town where Maestro Giotto had worked as the true explorer of the old art, to paint a three-dimensional painting - height, width and length - and I knew it was just a matter of time when my Tommaso would exceed me.
I had to follow him wherever he would go."
Alessandro's hand lowered the worn book and pondered. He lay fully dressed upon his bed and devoted himself to his favourite business: the artists of Florence. He felt an odd affection to the wild inhabitants of his hometown and when anybody should think that the business of art was something for stay-at-homes and weak queers, he was badly mistaken. There was a whole conception of life to learn from them, and the inhabitants of Florence had enough self-confidence to demand only the best. Just like this town had produced the best of art, at least for two, short centuries.
It was easy to learn about the reason for that. Foreigners naturally thought that the sunny, free landscape had been the inspiration even though the best pieces of art had been made under the pressures of wars, self-serving dukes and power- hungry popes. In the end, it must have been the special Italian genes.
Alessandro felt his own genes were tired and fading. He was the last offspring of the Gondi-Lucertola's. He had no brother, nor sister anymore, and his mother wouldn't bear any new children with another man, now that his father had died of a heart attack. She was a belletrist, spending her time with piano playing, embroidering and painting the beauty of the Mugello's valley. At this moment she prepared for the move of the family to their villa in the Fiesole's hills, to flee the beginning stream of tourists and later the quenching heat that filled the valley of the Arno, bringing mosquitoes and malaria.
Alessandro's eyelashes fluttered. No, that belonged to another time. It wasn't Malaria anymore. It was the breath of the past that drove her out of town and the certainty that she was finally allowed to live her own life. Now that her husband had gone, she no longer cared about her son as she always had done. Now, her nights were filled with the bitter taste of absinth.
He was glad to be leaving in a month, discovering a new town, being on his own. And he would make sure that everybody knew who he was: the Lily's Prince, ready to conquer the boys and not the girls. Florence was so boring for that matter. He knew each gay man by name because each weekend he encountered the same people ... except for that Luca-boy who had appeared out of nowhere at the cimitero. Luca was young enough to be innocent and young enough not to be broken when he would leave because there would be others left behind for him.
A chattering sound rose up to the window of his room which sat under the roof. The design of the palazzo's roof, with the broad loggia of pillars that let the air in, also allowed the scent of wild rosemary from the hills to filter in even though the palazzo stood in the centre of town. The ‘Lizard-Tower', as it was known in Florence, was the remains of a large tower-house from the medieval ages. The windows were small and barred. On the outside, holes remained from forgotten staircases on the walls originally intended to allow entry to each floor separately. They were long gone now.
If he hadn't received this book from his grandfather, he would be as sunken into 'dolce far niente' as his parents have been. He didn't even bother to hide his passion for art in front of his buddies. They had laughed at him only one time. For them, everything was taken for granted; the beauty in stone, the precious gift Florence was living from, even if it meant a lot of unpleasantness during the summer. Actually, he had never spent the summer in the seething cauldron of this town. That wasn't his problem. He was young, and he radiated the innate beauty of an ancient fresco -- and he was rich, rich enough to be a loafer, a bum, frittering away the time with whoring, drinking and stupid chatter.
The deep bells of Giotto's campanile sounded. Alessandro jumped to his
feet. He would not miss the chance to meet Luca at the cimitero.
Luca jerked his hand from the stone and turned. There Alessandro stood, red-flaming hair, curls falling onto his bare neck, the white, long-sleeved shirt that was tucked into his jeans was unbuttoned allowing Luca to see his navel. Luca's heart surged. Nobody was as sexy as Alessandro, not even the naked, flawless stone.
Luca lifted his shoulders helplessly. Surely he had been to the church of Santa Maria Novella, but it was gloomy and there weren't any mosaics to admire, nor precious pietre dure works.
Alessandro shook his head, chiding as they set off towards the exit of the cemetery. "How was church?" he asked, looking at the boy walking at his side.
Luca thought about his father and saw him making the sign of the cross at Alessandro's words. "So, why do you want to go then?"
Alessandro stopped at the balustrade that overlooked the town. A breeze moved his hair as he lined up with the tourists that stood in awe with cameras in front of their eyes. "Because it's a long way from here to there." He pointed to the filigree line, jutting out of the flatness of the town, indicating the church's clock tower. "And we have a lot of time until we reach it", he whispered.
'Time for what?' Luca thought. 'To make small talk?' He was disappointed. He had prepared himself to be kissed and sucked again, but Alessandro was behaving like a tourist guide. Then he fell abruptly silent, joining the foreigner's silence. It was impossible to speak when Florence lay flooded in sunlight at their feet.
Luca felt a certain pride. He had never thought about what it was like to live in a living museum. He concerned himself with his own problems. Now, suddenly, he had a kindred spirit at his side and everything looked easy. He followed Alessandro as he sauntered down the long and steep staircase, crossing the Piazzale Michelangelo with the copy of a verdigris-David, and meeting women with buggies on their way to the Boboli-Gardens. They continued down the snake-like way until they reached the embankments of the river. On this Sunday afternoon, the streets were empty because it was the time when Florentines either met with their family exclusively or gathered in parks.
The yellow-washed building of Santo Spirito appeared and Luca remembered his father's words to Giano about not examining corpses as Michelangelo had. He had to grin. "I hope you're thinking about coming home with me, later?" he heard Alessandro say. "There's nobody around to disturb us. Madama Lucertola is busy with her preparations for the move to Fiesole."
Alessandro stood and gave him an attentive look. "Your brother's going to Pisa? What is he studying?"
Alessandro continued on in silence, his head bent as if he was counting the paving stones. A whistle from somewhere near made him look up. Luca saw a gathering of lads in jean jackets and leather trousers leaning against motorbikes. "So that's the reason you stood us up this afternoon, eh?" one of them shouted.
Luca looked away, wishing that the earth would swallow him. They were all older than him, and they had a somewhat threatening aura around them. But Alessandro remained calm. "Don't worry, Nino. You won't miss a thing", he said relaxed and winked.
Alessandro, ready to walk on, stopped again, turning his head to Luca in amazement. "I'm going with men? Who told you this?"
Luca laughed despite his fear. "Come on! What is it that you want from me then?"
First Alessandro looked as if he would hit him, then his face brightened and an outburst of heartfelt laughter filled the warm air. "You're something! You think that sex with girls and sex with boys is the same, yes?" He stepped closer. "Ever fucked a girl? No, you haven't, right?"
Luca shrugged. "I don't know." Silently, he feared that Giano wanted to leave his home just to live alone. He was a rebellious young man, always with an opposing word on his tongue, but knowing him as Luca did, Giano was gentle as a lamb and, Giano didn't care what his father said.
They crossed the bridge of Santa Trinità, then passed the marble head of the God Mars with his erased face. It had lain in the river after the bombardment of Hitler's troops when they were destroying the bridges. Luca knew that it was the explicit wish of the German Führer that Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge that shouldn't be destroyed because even he thought it beautiful.
Rowing boats and canoes swam upon the Arno, reminding him of his time at Oxford, but Alessandro didn't stop to reflect and dream. Soon they had vanished in the maze of narrow streets, passing churches and Palazzi.
Luca felt a little pain. "And do you often go to gay meeting points?"
Now Luca seemed to know why Alessandro wanted to leave the town. He needed something new. "What about me?" he asked quietly.
Luca moaned inwardly. Was he really that meek and thought himself so insignificant as to just follow this braggart like a puppy, ready to get his daily good pummelling and then to lick his hands afterwards? "You're nasty." The angry retort escaped him. "I sacrifice my time for you and you have nothing better to do than to laugh at me."
Alessandro went on with long steps. Luca watched him from behind, focusing
on the gentle movement of his jeans-clad butt and the swaying of his hips.
Alessandro walked on confidently, knowing that Luca would follow him.
And, he did, but he didn't know why.
Alessandro gave him an amused look over his shoulder. "But I want to become a tourist guide."
Luca was surprised. He hadn't thought that Alessandro had wishes for any profession at all.
Alessandro didn't answer, but pulled him to the left side of the chapel where a large fresco covered the wall. Almost solemnly, he said, "The Trinity of Masaccio. He painted it in 1425. It took one hundred years after Master Giotto's death to produce another hero like him. Masaccio studied his frescoes and quickly learned how to continue his work. Even more, he was the man, in the then modern times, who remembered the perspective painting."
Alessandro nodded. "It's called linear-perspective. Masaccio was the first to realize Brunelleschi's invention for architecture in a painting." He pulled Luca to a dark-red spot amidst the marble floor. "Stay put and study it." Luca did so and suddenly the fresco gained depth and three-dimensional view. The arch curved over the Godfather with his supporting hands above the outstretched arms of his son hanging on the cross. "Amazing."
Luca saw that the fresco was painted with a strange red colour like dried blood, a blue-green and the colours of brownish earth. "Looks somewhat wretched." He shuddered. "Those dead eyes..."
Luca remembered Vasari as being the biographer of all-important Renaissance-artists and a personal friend of Michelangelo. He was sure that if Michelangelo had seen this disfigurement he wouldn't have been his friend anymore.
Luca shrugged. "He probably dug up the corpses at a cemetery." He read the inscription: "I was what you are now; what I am now, you will be."
A questioning look covered Luca's expression. Alessandro continued.
Luca followed him through the long, echoing hall. Florentines sat on benches praying silently with folded hands. Footsore tourists, tired from walking on the pavement and sated and confused from all the impressions, joined them. Luca was confused as well. He hadn't expected that Alessandro could have such a widespread knowledge of Florence's history where art was concerned. His steps echoed on the patterned marble ground. Luca felt oddly oppressed, but he couldn't quite explain why. His father said that the walls of churches and houses absorbed the spirits of people who lived and worked and prayed there. So, what if the spirit of the fiery Dominican monks who'd fought heresy, pride and gluttony still remained here? He knew he wouldn't want to visit this church alone.
Alessandro had stopped in front of the large altar-chapel. Next to it was another, smaller one. "That's ours", Alessandro stated. Polychrome marble and porphyry decoration covered the walls, and the sarcophagi were modelled as benches on the sidewalls. "The most precious thing is this crucifix made by Brunelleschi, the Master of the Cupola. It is the first depiction of Christ without a loincloth. Our family made a great effort to see that he placed it in our chapel. Money I assume." He grinned slyly.
Luca stepped away and pretended to study the frescoes at the altar-chapel. He didn't want to meet any more relatives or so-called friends of Alessandro today. He'd had enough. He certainly didn't belong to this class and they made him feel it. He tried to eavesdrop though he couldn't understand a word of the harsh and quickly whispered words of uncle and nephew. When Alessandro tapped his shoulder, he jumped.
At first Luca was confused, for the brother of Alessandro's father was the mayor. Obviously, Alessandro had more than one uncle.
Again Luca wondered about, but marvelled at Alessandro's indifference. Perhaps it was just a mask. It could not be easy to be the bad boy for everyone. He didn't ask why his uncle hated him, but followed him out into the sun-flooded piazza with the obelisk in the middle of it.
Luca had no answer. He knew he still wanted to be alone with him, to feel his decadent kisses. Then he saw Alessandro looking at his watch. "Listen, I have things to do. Let's meet next Sunday, alright?"
Without waiting for an answer, he walked away, crossing the piazza and then vanished down one of the streets leading to the centre of the town.