"Don't weep in front of these strangers. Swallow it down. Don't weep in front of these strangers! Cry to heaven, cry to heaven, cry to heaven."
When I was sixteen, I had begun reading Anne Rice's books. And if I am honest I read a lot of them simply to fulfill a goth-kid Anne Rice obligation. I found Cry to Heaven where I found most of my books at the time; the Book Trader on South Street. A charming place, filthy and filled with dust, packed with poorly arranged books. Some stacked, some in places not easily found. The air, I remember, was thick with the odors of musty leather, unfinished wooden floors, the cats that were pampered. A scholarly smell. If you could get a glimpse of some library in the middle ages, some philosopher's book store. That was Book Trader. I mourned it's closing like I'd mourned a family member; but commerce does not notice tears. Life rolls on.
Cry To Heaven. I was sixteen, and I remember eagerly consuming the book within a week or two. I was still unaccustomed to reading anything longer than a magazine article. But I enjoyed the story immensely. A young man, Tonio Treschi, singing in the streets of Venice during the 1700's. He sings because he enjoys it, in a world where most sing because they have no choice, and it is his angelic voice which would pave the way for his own damnation. As the book progressed, I was enamored by the characters that Tonio meets. His teacher and lover, Guido. His friends, his enemies. And anyone who's ever read Rice knows her ability to conjure up any scene in your mind. I saw Venice sparkling like a diamond, with stagnant water running like wires. Streets of water, towering alleys made up of palizzos and Italian art. But I was sixteen. I ate all of those things up, finished the book, found it to my liking, and carefully arranged it next to my other Anne Rice books. I felt it was almost my obligation to read all of her work, at the time.
That was nine years ago, almost exactly nine years ago, as I had read the book in October. And the nine years from then and now were filled with so many things. Some of them I've written about here, some of them I did not. But, hey, what can you really say? What can anyone say about the life that they've lived? Memories.
Recently I scanned my bookshelf for something to read while on my morning commute. I was tired of the same songs on my MP3 player, and too lazy to rip more CD's. Besides, I figured, my mind could use a bit of stretching. I had just finished Pandora, and while I love that book; I've read it so many times. It's a wonderful book, my favorite book, but it is effortless to read now. I don't know, I suppose I wanted a challenge.
I began the book two weeks ago. Immedietely the old feelings returned. With each turn of the page, I was moreso drenched in this musical world of an eighteenth century Venice. I saw it so vividly in my mind, perhaps moreso than I did then. I was elated to be reintroduced to old friends as I continued reading. And two things happened. One was musical, and one was emotional. But, we continue. Here is a brief synopsis; if you've not read the book, this will not spoil it for you.
Tonio, as said above, is the youngest son of a highly placed Italian, the last heir to the Treschi bloodline in a city where bloodlines mean your existence. His mother, Marianna, drinks too much, wallowing in memories that frighten Tonio. He wanders the city, often alone, or he finds some dark corner of his monstrous house. And his greatest passion is music. He loves to listen to it, he loves to sing it. But he knows that he could never persue it, even though a part of him desires it, due to the responsabilities of being who he is; Marc Antonio Treschi. When Tonio's father dies, Tonio's older and exiled brother Carlo returns to Venice, seeking his entitled inheritance as the eldest Treschi. But Tonio's father had already bequeated everything to Tonio. And so Carlo did what any bitter, jealous man would do - He turned Tonio's passion for singing against him, by having him castrated and banished from Venice with Guido, a tutor and singing teacher who was in Venice at that time looking for singers. And from this point onward, Tonio splits into two people. The bright, music loving, living one - And the darker side, that will have revenge. and in the three years he's away from his home, he is tutored by Guido. His voice becomes something of a legend, with Guido writing arias and operas for only Tonios voice. He has many lovers, men and women, and through out the world he now lives in; he's tormented daily by what was done to him. He finds it cruelly ironic that such pain and cruelty has brought him such joy. And that's the foundation of the book, really. Of course, there's much more I'm not getting into, as I would not want to ruin the book. Some of the scenes are racy; many deal with sexuality and gender confusion; sex is everywhere; Italy comes to life.
Now. When I began reading this book again, I knew vaguely from reading it the first time what a castrato was. A castrato is a boy who has his testicles removed before puberty, so that his voice always remains in the higher, more feminine notes. Their voices were apparently so beautiful that they are, in many ways, considered the backbone of the Italian opera scene of that era. And it had started because women were not permitted to take the stage; and so, and some of you may know this, men were dressed as women and made to perform their roles. When it was discovered that castrated boys had voices like angelic women, it became something of a fad. Their voices would, for the most part, remain as if they had never hit puberty; they would not deepen. If a castrated man's voice did deepen after puberty; he became one of two things. A musical teacher, or a suicide note. And with the castration comes also feminity. The changes in their appearence is equally as notable as the lack of change in their voices; they looked like men, but with an elegance and a grace of form of femininity. They were the ultimate in androgeny; the church sanctioned illusion of a perfected feminity.
And so, I began looking up this music. This Italian opera music that sounded so compelling as the book I was reading. I found that only one castrato was ever recorded, and listening to his voice was eerie. But that was not enough; I suddenly had to hear this music. All I had known of Italian opera, any opera really, was a scene from the movie Philadelphia. I'd always considered it stuck up, something far and away not to my liking. I could never get into it. But as I began listening to it, I began to feel something.
My boyfriend was awesome with this, because not only is he Italian(mmm), but he also has an interest in some opera music. And so I asked for some recommendations, seeing as I knew as much about opera as I do about fixing a car. He sent me several recommendations, also including some wonderful classical music. Some of it was from the baroque period, but he said that he wasn't too much into that period due to it's ornamentation. Too much going on at once, basically. And so I listened to this songs. I listened to Andrea Scholl's 'Flow My Tears;' I listened to all of the songs I could find from the movie Farinelli, which blended two opera voices together to create the illusion of a castrato; I listened to several different versions of 'Nessun Dorma;' Pachelbel's 'Canon;' Phillipe Jaroussky; Vivaldi. I've always liked classical music, so I listened to a bit of Mozart; Beethoven; Tchaikovsky. Both of them were entirely different forms of music, but their compliment of eachother is undeniable. I realized that I enjoyed opera. And now, knowing the music the book was talking about, I read on.
But as I read reading it, something changed. It didn't feel like a common story anymore; it didn't have the same jubilance that it started out with. I found that I had related to Tonio, and to many of the other characters. And when these characters began getting torn apart, a change settled. Tonio and Guido's love for eachother, for example. When I began reading about them, I was reminded of my own love, and smiled and felt rapturous when they made love, when they passionately discussed music. Even when Guido struck Tonio for Tonio's indignation; I felt love. But, and I say this with the utmost of sincerity and desire to not sound like an emotional wreck. As this book continued, I began to almost hate it as much as I loved it. I did not hate it because it was a bad book, or a boring book. I hated it because suddenly my own pain began to surface inside of me.
My own anxieties about life, and love, and dreams began to bubble around me. Fear. And most acutely of all, loneliness. As these characters found love and sex, I would be drawn so into the moment of it that when I closed the book and realized I was sitting alone; it stung me. I had never been one to feel my loneliness so acutely. Quite frankly, I've often gotten along better alone. I could do what I want, watch what I want, do drugs, smoke a lot, not bathe for a while. I could fart in bed.
But this loneliness, suddenly came upon me like these suddenly colder days. I began longing for arms around me, longing to be touched so much that it actually hurt inside. This longing, it was like a pain. And coinciding with it, was the most exquisite reality of it all; how much I loved Manuel. Because this loneliness would not be remedied by just anyone. Not just anyone's arms could go around me; no, they had to be his arms. His voice caressing me. I guess you could say that I began to pine for him.
As the book wore on, so many terrible things came about. But also wonderful things. Ah, when Tonio described a man, and what it was like to be with that man, I felt my own heart race and my own loins burn. Normally I'd pass it off as, you know, like reading porn. But because I have this loving desire embedded into my heart; I began craving Manuel's touch more strongly than any man, any drug, anything. Suddenly November, the month we are to meet, felt like an eternity away. I looked at the calander, I glanced at the sky and how the days were changing. And I did not want to tell him any of this, because I did not want him to think at all that he was causing me any sort of anxiety or pain. I did not want him to feel my loneliness like his responsibility to rectify. And I know he is just as lonely without me as I am without him.
More to the point; Manuel is working his ass off to come here. It's not the easiest thing in the world to come across the world. It requires much more than driving passion; it requires money, and time, and in our case a visa. It requires many things, and he is doing everything that he can do to procure those things so that he can come here. I did not want him to feel that I did not appreciate the gravity of it all; that if did not come here -rightnow- I'd fall to pieces. He will come when he can come. And I know that very well, so the pain and loneliness that this book stirred within me, I tried to keep it to myself. I did not want him to feel any sort of responsibility; any sort of despair. But I told him anyway. Because I love him, and because I respect what he has to say. Especially in matters of the heart. And it all went over fine. He understood, we spoke on it, and no love was lost - Indeed, it was stoked stronger and hotter.
I was incensed suddenly. I had to finish this book. I had to get it over with, and yet I never wanted it to end. I did not feel like it was my life I was reading, mind you, but it definitely made my life that much more clearer. Clarity can be a terrifying thing; like the kind of clarity that comes after a drunken night. Not all of it was bad, mind you. For example, much good came from this clarity. I began noting things differently. Describing things around me in my mind as if it were a novel. Savoring things, I guess you could say. And as you could surmise from above, savoring not only the physical aspects of my reality, but also the intangible, intellectual, and emotional aspects of me being.
I realized months ago, and I've mentioned it here I believe, that Manuel's love for me has done something I never thought possible. I can dream again, I am passionate again. Well, no, I was always passionate; but now I can express it and believe in it again. My mind has changed as my heart has both healed and opened up; and with that clarity comes a perspective on emotions and life that both horrifies me and excites me.
On Sunday, my partial denture broke. And that's something I would normally panic about; throw a fit, tear at my hair like a bitch. But Manuel kept me from doing so. His love in my mind and in my heart rose up and beat against that insecurity and fear. My hands may have been shaking, but I superglued and rectified my broken denture without a single tear shed. When something goes sour at work, immedietely - naturally and seemingly unconsciously - I think of him. When I laugh, say a joke to a coworker or a friend, I think of him. But Sunday was the jumping off point to a greater reality that stretched over the course of this week; how much I really loved this man, and how much I felt he loved me.
It is common knowledge to many of you that I fall in love quickly. It happened with Jim, it happened with James. I met other men on and off who filled a brief void, stirred some emotions, but then the pot grew stagnant. It always grew stagnant. The love would become tiresome before it ever graduated into something more. I never allowed them into the deepest areas of my heart. I thought I did, I wanted to let them in - But something inside of me stopped it. Something like a brick wall, just would not let it happen. They were all good men in their own ways, they all had something to give. But I could not take it, and I could not give them anything more. It stopped. It stayed the same.
But Manuel...Ah, how can I explain it. My love for Manuel consumes me. I panic sometimes because he's not here, but that's a very small and worthy price to pay for the future. There is not a day that goes by that he enters into my mind 23 hours out of 24. And, without any action on my part, those deepest things in my soul began to pour out. I was not thinking about it as it happened; like I was sharing some treasured memory. I was simply talking to him; on the phone or online. So comfortable am I with him that my heart suddenly found itself bared wide open. And over the course of this past week...Well, that love reached that aforementioned wall - And it broke through it with all the force of a breeze on a quiet street.
I was at work when it happened. Manuel and I were sending messages back and forth via Myspace, and I suddenly wanted to try and look again if I could find his original messages to me from almost a year ago. Now, when I had looked before, Myspace would not allow me to view messages from people who's profiles no longer existed. But on Tuesday, as I went backwards through time, Myspace let me see it all.
I found letters from Jim, from Nicole, from James. I found them from crushes that I'd forgotten about; friends that vanished off the face of the earth. And there, staring me in the face, was a letter from a deleted profile dated January, of 2008. It was his letter, and my heart leapt. And I reread that one and all of them; painfully remembering when I had neglected to respond to them, not believing in them completely, being scared of their power. I remembered when I saw them, fresh and unread in my Inbox, that feeling of confusion, terror, infatuation, and hope.
The January, 2008 letter was hoping I felt better soon, as apparently at the time I had put that I was sick on one of my blog entries. Who are you? Why do you care if I'm sick? I was all indignation and defense; and I asked him who he was. He forwarded me the first letter he'd ever written to me in March of 2006, the one that praised my intellegence, the one that quoted Plato, the one that I remembered on that Monday morning as making me smile. He included my reply to that letter, and thus we began to correspond back and forth.
And suddenly, many things began to combine. Sunday's reliance and remedy of his love; the beautiful and compelling story he'd written to me that touched my heart so deeply; finding all of these letters, copying and pasting them into MSWord, and printing them out; recent hour long philosophical and deep conversations peppered with I Love You's; songs we'd sent to eachother. It all suddenly rushed into me as I was writing him a letter; and as I came to the second paragraph I had remembered the dream that I had that night.
In the dream, he was on his way to meet me. I was in my house, in my room, in my underwear no less. I scrambled to get dressed, putting on a ring he'd given me(in the dream), and waited for his arrival. I remembered the feeling that was inside of my chest in this dream, this longing, this strong and forceful desire, the excitement. I remembered! It was like Christmas and Easter, the night before. It was an excitement that, at any moment, he'd be in my arms. But then the worst thing happened; I woke up before we met. And I woke up near to tears.
Somehow I had forgotten, maybe blocked out, this dream all morning until I was writing him this letter. That wall inside of my heart, I felt it like I had reached my hand out. I could feel my love for this man pulsating within my chest; it had no where to go; I began to cry, at my desk, at work. They were not tears of sadness, really...They were the only way my emotions could let themselves out, I suppose. And as I cried, as I sent the letter and ran to find somewhere to be alone before people started asking me that terrible question of 'what's wrong,' that wall crashed to pieces. My heart was suddenly exposed. It felt like when you take your hands out of your pockets on a cold day; that unfamiliar but familiar rush of cold air, numbing you but touching every nerve. I stood rigid in the handicapped bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror. What was I seeing? Nothing around me mad sense. My heart was so brutally exposed, so open, so without any walls. I went straight home afterwork, staring out at the people and the cars on the bus and I could feel, positively -feel- the tears waiting for their moment. And when I finally went into my room, put my bag down, set my jacket down; I collapsed in my back bedroom sobbing on the floor. Steve would have called this 'flopping like a fish,' but fuck him. I was sobbing hard, loud, the tears not stopping. I tried to get up, couldn't. I sat up, used the chair for leverage, stood and looked at my room around me. Oh, god. What is this place? Who did this, these pictures and colors? What is that? I felt I was going to lose my mind then and there. All I knew was my heart, I could fell it like a sore muscle that's finally being used. My chest burned, anxiety and fear raced around me. My heart was unprotected, the walls collapsed, the foundations come undone. I felt it! I felt it growing, becoming something outside of me, consuming me, surrounding me. Not only my love for this man, but my love for everything. My love for color, and passion, music and art, thinking. Old, battered memories of Steve rushed back and evaporated; apparently one of the bricks in this wall, I later reasoned. The unbroken, still innocent boy that I was stared at me from some long ago street with 'Cry to Heaven' in his hand, and we met. I took him into myself, and his fear was something unknowable and unspeakable. He was there, all this time, my old self, my passions and obsessions around his wrist like jewelry. My heart felt like it would explode with this immense freedom.
"His heart swelled three sizes that day."
I was in a state. "Call Manuel," - "You can't, fool, he's in Costa Rica." Panic! This went on for a few more moments, dragging itself around me like a lost puppy. And then that clarity I mentioned above swept back into me. An exhilaration of senses. I was sitting on my bed; I wanted coffee; needed a cigarette. I did not want to call anyone to make me feel better, because quite suddenly for the most part, I was fine. And with that clarity I knew that. I was fine, better than fine. I looked around me, my heart still beating, my eyes tired. But there was suddenly this feeling of strength that I had never felt before. My heart, at first terrified to be so exposed and out in the open, began to adjust to this strange new world - It hungered for the protection of that wall, and when it realized that it wasn't going to return; it just...calmed down. I glanced to my bag, and suddenly grabbed 'Cry to Heaven.' Only a few pages left.
I finished it, breathing deeply. This book that I'd read when I was sixteen years old had barely touched me then; but now it was a catalyst for the complete opening of my heart to not only Manuel, but to the world around me.
I won't lie to you, this is still all scary and strange, my heart so bare like this, my soul so exposed like this. My emotions feel stronger and more keen; acute is the best word. When I laugh now, I can feel it like I was stoned again. When I read something, I can feel myself absorbing it. And when I think of him, my Immanuel, every emotion under this sun becomes electric. And last night, when the Phillies won the World Series and the city was elevated into a state of chaotic jubilee; I leaned outside of my window and, to the winds that blew South, stated my love for my city, Philadelphia. And then, more emotionally, my voice tinged, I stated my love for my Immanuel.
And that was my own Cry to Heaven.