Bello

by J. S. Kuiken

Alex had been drinking wine, enough that the lines of his wine glass had gone fuzzy. But that man across the piazza remained clear and resplendent. Broad shouldered and sharp featured, long legs spooling out over the cobblestones. In fact, he was becoming more vivid, until he shone like a flame against the ochre of the buildings. With langor, Alex imagined having that man in bed, and tracing his hands over those masculine contours. 

But then, that man didn’t know Alex was trans. 

Light drained from those fantasies and the wine glass had hard, cold lines. 

It was for the best. Alex was used to picking up men, back home in the U.S.. But those men knew he was trans. Picking up a man who didn’t know could just end in being killed. 

So Alex ate and drank. The daylight waned. Lights strung from balconies and umbrellas glowed, their butter color winking back from the cobblestones. A band set up in the middle of the piazza and began to play, and the early gloaming had an air of enchantment to it which made Alex relax. He sank down into his bones and flesh, feeling every centimeter of who he had been, who he had become, and who he was, right now, drinking wine, having dinner in Florence, and watching a handsome stranger.

Maybe it was possible to have sex with him. Sucking his cock didn’t require Alex to take his own clothes off. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to fuck a beautiful man in Italy. 

Another few gulps of wine and it was possible to approach said stranger and, very politely, very coyly, solicit him.

Alex paid his bill and began walking across the piazza. 

He knew he could do it. He’d seduced men before. He was striking enough that it made it easy, but it also helped that he was small. He appealed to the masculinity in other men, particularly the kind of masculinity that liked to feel hard, coarse, and large, especially with another man. There were few things more potent, Alex had learned, than dominating and subduing another man, or being dominated and subdued. Gay, straight, bisexual, something else, it didn’t matter. Only the sensation of bodies sliding together.

Halfway across the piazza, with the band blaring right in Alex’s ear, the long legged man stood up and began walking away.

“Fucking shit,” Alex said. 

Follow or not?

Follow, goddammit. A once in a lifetime opportunity beckoned, in the form of a truly magnificent ass clad in brown pants. 

The night was lavender now, the streets well lit and full of people. The city was alive with busy cafes and restaurants, the many languages of tourists; paintings and sculptures slumbering in locked museums; and cathedrals, great humming presences in the dark. Even the river sang with life, green and gold waters shimmering with the last rays of the sun, and first light of the moon.

Alex followed through those streets, tracking the man as the night turned from lavender to blue violet. At one point the man turned and their eyes met, and Alex thought he would simply keep walking. But he slowed, and stopped, waiting for Alex near a bridge full of light. 

“Ciao,” the man said. His voice reverberated through the air between them, and Alex shivered at the sound and sensation.

“Ciao,” Alex said. 

“Luca,” the man said, and then repeated it until Alex understood it was his name and he was introducing himself. 

Alex hesitated. Was this some Italian custom? Men back home did not give their names to one night stands. 

But what the hell.

“Alex,” he said. 

Luca said something in Italian, and Alex’s hope, like a golden bauble, dropped and ruptured all over the cobbles.

“I don’t speak Italian,” he said.

Luca cocked his head. 

“No?”

“No,” Alex said, packing rather a lot of misery into that word. 

Luca said something else, and then gestured. Come on, come on. 

Alex wondered if this man had the same intentions he did, and, if he did, just how badly this could go. Alex reminded himself he only had to suck the guy’s dick and it would be fine. 

Luca led them. The claustrophobia of the tourist thick parts of the city ebbed, until they were but two men walking up a roomy lane between buildings. Here the windows did not glow with goods, like leather shoes or watches which cost more than three months of Alex’s salary. Here the latticed windows glowed with people making dinner, washing dishes, talking to their children, watching the T.V.. 

Luca stopped in the middle of one building, and pointed upwards, to a pair of green shuttered windows. 

“Yours?” Alex asked, looking up.

Luca nodded.

“Sex?” he intoned. 

He said it again before Alex really understood what he meant.

“Oh, yes. Yes. I mean — sì. Sex. .”

Luca gave Alex such a lazy smile that Alex wanted to pounce on him right in the street. It was maddening, that smile. Luca must have known because he chuckled as he led Alex through the foyer, up a flight of stairs, and then to his own door. He held the door open for Alex, and after some patient and persistent insistence, took Alex’s jacket and hung it on a peg near the door. Alex crossed his arms fretfully, feeling exposed. 

Luca said something and held up a bottle of wine. 

“N-n-no. No thanks. No, grazie.”

Luca seemed not to have heard, or understood. He poured two glasses, not overly generous, nor parsimonious. Alex eyed his glass and even though he’d seen the other man open and pour the wine, he remained suspicious. And did the other man think this was a date, or something of that nature? Because one night stands did not hold open doors, take coats, and pour wine. Decent wine, as well. A splendid white which just about quenched his palate. 

They sat in a pair of old leather easy chairs, drinking, watching the night deepen through the opened windows. Alex liked it; this silence and warmth between them. It wasn’t uncomfortable. The fact they didn’t know each other’s language wasn’t pertinent in that moment. They both knew another language, where speaking was in the gaze, in the mouth and the hands; where vowels and consonants were but the grab and grind of two bodies; where punctuation was a tremor of anticipation, and a leisurely wait while drinking wine. 

He was still mulling this over when Luca put his empty glass aside and stood. Alex saw him coming through the bowl of his glass, and then felt Luca’s hands on his thighs, warm and heavy. 

He parted Alex’s legs with such calm and assurance that Alex almost groaned. Luca’s hair was sand and silver over his eyes as he knelt, and his hands were big, strong, just the way Alex liked them, as he stroked between Alex’s thighs. 

Alex jolted, falling over the arm of the easy chair and shattering his wine glass. 

Luca made noises which seemed to express concern, so Alex said: “Yes, I’m okay. Grazie.”

He helped Luca pick up glass slivers from his wooden floor. Luca tried to mop up some of the wine. 

“Probably I should go,” Alex said. Any second, this could — would — go from just a silly story to something bad actually happening. Luca pawing at his crotch had reminded Alex of that. 

Luca said something.

“I’m going to go,” Alex said, pointing to the door. 

Luca looked at him with some unreadable expression, and then poured Alex another glass of wine. 

Don’t drop this one, he seemed to be saying. 

Fuck. 

Alex knocked back half of it, and aware that the other man was looking him up and down, decided to do what he came here to do: suck a guy off. One very delicious, lucky Italian. 

“Hey,” Alex said, putting his wine glass down and going to his knees. Luca jumped before Alex had a chance to even touch his zipper, flinging more wine on his floor and wall. 

“Shit,” Alex said. “Sorry, I scared you.”

They wiped up the wine and Alex tried to say he was sorry again. Luca said something that sounded anxious, and he shook his head. He made some kind of gesture that Alex eventually understood. Luca wanted to go down on him, but not the reverse. Alex shook his head and said he wanted to go down on Luca. The other man shook his head, and looked very forlorn as he did. 

“What? Why can’t I just suck you off?” Alex asked knowing he wouldn’t get an answer. He didn’t care. He should have just left. In fact, he should never have followed this man in the first place. He could at least be eating gelato and watching badly dubbed American movies at the hotel, instead of trying to negotiate sex with a stranger. 

Luca mumbled something and continued to look doleful.

Finally, Alex sighed. Luca wouldn’t understand him anyways.

“Look, I’m transgender. I can’t let you suck me off because what I have to suck is like the size of my thumb. I mean, I’m hot, my cock is hot, but you’ve probably never slept with a guy like me, so please just let me blow you and then we can both be happy.”

Luca cocked his head. 

“Transgender?” he said. 

“Yes, I am — what?” Alex said. 

His stomach clenched with fear.

“Transgender.”

Luca pointed at Alex. 

Alex didn’t move, didn’t breathe. 

“Transgender.”

Luca patted his chest. 

Alex frowned. 

“What?”

“Transgender,” Luca thumped his chest. 

“No.”

“Sì, sì,” he said. 

He rummaged through some boxes in a small closet, and came out with a few old photos. He pointed at the main figure in each: a tall, long-legged person, who could easily be mistaken for a girl. The person in the photos was younger, their jaw thinner and rounder, their shoulders slender, but there was no mistaking the lazy grin and the bottle brown eyes. 

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Alex said. 

Luca smiled, his younger self the abstract image of the man he would become. The handsome, gorgeous man. 

“Transgender?” Alex said. 

Luca nodded. 

“Transgender,” Alex tapped his own chest.

“Sì?”

“Sì.”

Luca began laughing first, baritone deep, and then Alex, chortling with both relief and disbelief. 

Then something really peculiar happened. Alex, still laughing, kissed Luca on the corner of his mouth. Do not kiss one night stands a voice in his head reprimanded. But Alex kissed Luca again, on the lips, and Luca responded in kind. Soft kisses. Frightened kisses, the both of them trembling in one another’s arms, because nothing like this had happened before, and not just with a one night stand. Alex opened his mouth and Luca did the same, drinking one another as their hands and arms wound round each other like vines. 

Alex was kissing and nipping the other man’s neck when Luca murmured. He pointed to a doorway and began stepping towards it. Alex knew once he crossed that threshold, he would come back different. Not wedding-day different, or the birth of a child different, but different. A quiet difference, which would make it all the more shattering, because only Alex and one other person in the world would know.

Alex let himself be guided into the bedroom. Luca turned on a lamp on the nightstand and the room was lit by a warm amber light. Alex’s feet scuffed across downy rugs, and through a small window he could see Il Duomo’s shadow with a backdrop of stars. Luca sat on the edge of his bed, and he looked at Alex as if to say what do you want to do now? It wasn’t expectant so much as curious. 

Alex began with his shirt. There was a lightness as the buttons came undone, as the fabric whispered over his shoulders and to the floor. It was an easy thing, to wriggle out of his pants and his underwear. He’d never felt so sure, so comfortable being naked with another person. He was free to be truly seen.

And Luca looked. His gaze swept up his slender, muscular legs, over his groin and navel. He gazed a long time at the scars on Alex’s chest, before mapping the contours of his shoulders and arms. He nodded to himself and then looked at Alex’s face, smiling. 

Alex helped Luca out of his clothes because he could and because the other man let him. Luca was ticklish and every touch made him huff, but aside from that they were both very quiet. It felt sacred, this undressing: first Luca’s pants and underwear, and then his shirt. Alex asked if he should unzip the binder and Luca hesitated before nodding.

“We don’t have to,” Alex said, drawing his fingers away from the zipper. 

Luca grumbled and unzipped the binder himself, shrugging it off. He seemed embarrassed. He had the physique of a perfect man, the kind which might rival sculptures: slender waist and strong, broad shoulders, lean and a little muscular. Just stunning. And he had his breasts. Something about Luca’s embarrassment, that he should feel embarrassed when he was so powerfully male, breasts and all, moved Alex. He kissed Luca as if to say: you are handsome

They crept into bed, beneath the sheets. They drew each other closer, until Alex rested his head on Luca’s chest. He ran his fingers through the other man’s thick chest hair, and listened to his breathing. Luca stroked Alex’s hair, and kissed the top of his head, all the while murmuring in Italian. Alex smiled. The night was dark and starry still, but soon enough it would drain away. Night’s rich, deep colors, which saturated the senses, would be gone, and only daylight’s wan, thin colors left. This moment would be lost. Pale as daylight, and a memory. 

Alex let himself think of other possible futures: of staying in Florence instead of returning to the U. S.. Of learning Luca’s language. Of becoming old men together, strolling down the night streets of Florence. Of kisses that would still be sweet after years. A whole lifetime of seeing and being seen. 

But it was a flicker and then gone. A lovely flicker, though. 

For now, and for always, there was just this: two men lying together, waiting for the dawn, and loving one another as they were. They had sex before the sun rose, and then they cleaned up and had some breakfast. They laughed and smiled the whole time. Luca walked Alex back to his hotel, and, while the bells of the city chimed and the doves flew out of the eaves, they kissed their goodbyes. Luca leaned in and whispered you are the most beautiful man I have ever met. But all Alex understood, and would remember, was the word bello.

Originally published in Foglifter: Volume 5 Issue 2, 2020.

© 2011 – 2022 J. S. Kuiken