It was late Sunday evening. I had just finished a double shift--sixteen hours straight--in the trauma center at the hospital, and I was beyond tired as I dragged my weary body through the door. "Dani, where are you?" I called as I closed the door of our Back Bay apartment in Boston and locked it behind me.
"I'm right where I always am, waiting for my prince to come home," he said from the doorway to the bedroom.
I turned in the direction of his voice just in time to see him look me up and down carefully. "Rough one?" he asked.
"No more than usual--just another sixteen hours of dealing with the worst that humanity can inflict upon one another. I cannot for the life of me imagine why any doctor would willingly work in a trauma center. I need a drink."
"Really? Is that all? I can recall a time when you found other things more important at the end of the day."
He was naked except for a pair of white boxer briefs, which looked even whiter against his olive skin. They were obviously new, as they still clung to his body in all the right places; the one thing I dislike about boxer briefs is the fact that after a few trips through the laundry they begin to sag in all the wrong places. Then he turned around in the doorway, raised his arms to the doorframe on each side, and flexed his gluteus maximus muscles. We are both fairly short men, five-six, if you must know, and we are both very trim, the principal difference between us being his broad shoulders and impossibly narrow hips, the latter of which always incite me to lust.
"God, you drive me crazy when you do that."
"That's why I do it."
Before he could say anything else, I rushed him from behind, grabbed him by the waist, and kept going. The momentum of my attack carried us into the bedroom, and we landed on the bed. Which of course is what he had envisioned happening when he posed, oh, so carefully and seductively in the doorway. Later, as we reclined side by side on the bed, propped up on a stack of pillows, wine glasses in hand, I took a long look at him.
"Danilo Rosati," I said, "how in the world did I ever meet, fall in love with, and settle down with someone as gorgeous as you?"
"Pure dumb luck, Marco d'Argenzio, and it's a two-way street as you very well know. I was but a babe of eighteen when you found me and took advantage of my youth and inexperience."
"Youth and inexperience, my ass. I was only twenty, and you had twice as many notches on the headboard of your bed as I did."
"Yeah, I guess I was a bit of a pop tart back then. But that, my love, was then, and this is now. Here we are, ten years later, still fucking like bunny rabbits--every chance we get."
"I'll be a full-fledged doctor in just a few short weeks. Then I'll show you all the attention you deserve."
"Speaking of full-fledged, when do you meet with your committee?"
"Do you foresee any problems?"
"I don't think so, and my adviser tends to agree."
"That's great. Twenty-eight years old and a second doctorate almost under your belt. I'll have to buy you a bigger hat."
"Seriously, Dani, have you given any thought as to what comes next?"
"Both of us will need to seek permanent and gainful employment by the end of summer."
"True, but it's only late spring at the moment."
"Newly minted doctors with your credentials and lab rats with mine don't grow on trees. We'll find someplace to settle down; there's no doubt in my mind."
"I suppose so, but meanwhile I've had a brainstorm."
"Let's spend a month or two in Italy before we settle down."
"Can we afford it?"
"Absolutely--haven't you looked at our savings account lately?"
"Babe, although I realize both of our names are on the account, you and I both know all of that money came from you."
"Yeah, my father has done well by me, paying for my education and living expenses, and I've been a faithful steward of his money."
"You've been considerably more than a faithful steward, kiddo--you have the ability to squeeze every nickel until it begs for mercy. You worked all the way through four years of college and three years of med school, even though you didn't have to, and most of that went into savings. Not to mention the fact that you only use a fraction of your living allowance and save the rest. I, on the other hand, have had to work my ass off to get myself educated, and I'm still up to my neck in student loans."
"Having a 'pity me' moment, are we?"
"Just stating the facts as I see them."
"Dani, we're getting off track with this discussion. Do you want to spend a month or two in Italy or not?"
"You know I do. I've always wanted to visit the place that my family came from."
"That's right. All four of your grandparents came from the same village, didn't they?"
"I think it was more like a wide place in the road, but yes they did."
"My friend Joel has been based in Rome for two or three years. He and his wife can be our tour guides while we're there."
"That's your roomie from prep school, right?"
"Yep. We were thrown together by the luck of the draw, and were best friends by the end of the first term."
"Are you planning on seeing your father while we're there?"
"That will be a bit strange, won't it? I mean, meeting your father in the flesh for only the second time in your life."
"True. He sent me a first-class ticket to Italy as a graduation present when I finished prep school, and I spent a couple of weeks with him. He really wanted me to spend the entire summer, but I had already enrolled in a full load of summer courses and was too stubborn to change my plans. All I really remember from that trip is an old castle in the northernmost part of the Italian peninsula, and a bunch of people who wanted nothing more than to please the son of their master. I think I must have met a zillion relatives, but I don't remember a single name or face."
"Remind me why he hasn't come to see you."
"He refuses to fly overseas, except in the direst of emergencies. The last time he was in this country was when he rescued my mother from that abusive bastard her father had forced her to marry after he learned that she was pregnant, and that was a few months before I came along."
"Too bad she wouldn't divorce the guy."
"Yeah, but she was too staunchly Roman Catholic for that. A permanent separation was as far as she would go."
"Yeah, the church has a lot to answer for."
"Well, to be honest, it wasn't just the church. As I understand it, she was already well on her way to being more than a little batty at the time."
"That's not a nice thing to say about your mother."
"Why? It's the absolute truth. As someone once said, she spends most of her time in the arms of Jesus and/or Morpheus. To put it in simpler terms, she dealt with a bad situation by creating and withdrawing into her own reality, and she's spent the rest of her life drifting in and out of it because she feels safe there."
"That's so sad."
"True, but I've had thirty years to get used to the situation. I'll give my father credit where it's due, though. He supported us--from afar--all those years, and he paid for my very expensive education without a whimper. I'll contact him when we have a tentative itinerary worked out."
"By the way, can we spend Monday together, just the two of us? I've already cleared my schedule for the entire day."
"Sure, what's up?"
"For one thing, you go back to work Tuesday; for another thing, I have to defend my dissertation on Tuesday; and finally, the minute that momentous event is over, I have a huge project to begin."
"What huge project?"
"You're familiar with my DNA database?"
"How could I not be? For the last three years you've been testing every blood sample taken in the hospital for DNA and doing God only knows what with the results--and don't tell me what, because I surely wouldn't understand it."
"Yeah, and I've got a huge database built up."
"So, someone was cleaning out the oldest and deepest compartment of a cooler in the morgue last week, and they found a stash of more than a thousand vials of blood."
"Really? Blood from where?"
"That's the best part. Someone had a pilot project going back in the fifties--nobody seems to know why--and they collected and saved a small vial of blood from everyone that came through the emergency room for a period of six months or more. Dr. Cauthen was going to have the vials destroyed, but I talked her into letting me test them first."
"That's going to keep you busy for a few days."
"I plan on doing at least a hundred tests a day for the next week or ten days. In any case, I have to finish the work by the time the term ends, because my access to the lab and equipment ends then."
"And I'll be working nights during that period. We'll just be ships passing in the night."
"Yeah, but don't forget Italy."
"True, I'll have you all to myself for most of the summer. That's worth waiting for."
We slept later than usual Monday morning and spent the rest of the morning in bed until we were finally driven into the kitchen by hunger. After a very late lunch, we showered, dressed, and went for a long, leisurely walk that lasted all afternoon--we decided to take the Freedom Trail from beginning to end and back again, winding up in the Public Garden. From the Public Garden, we walked over to Newbury Street and stopped by a favorite cafe to have a light supper at an outdoor table. By the time we got back to the apartment, it was dark. As was our custom, we went into our little den/office (formerly a spare bedroom) to check our respective e-mail accounts. I skimmed through a number of messages until I found one that caught my attention.
"Well, well," I said. "Someone has been reading my mind."
"Remember our conversation about Italy?"
"My father has just issued an invitation for us to spend some time--as much of the summer as we would like--with him before, as he puts it, we begin our life's work."
"When do we leave?"
"As soon as we work out a schedule. He wants a list of the places we wish to see and says he'll be more than happy to add a few suggestions of his own. I guess we'd better fill out those passport applications--I need to renew mine, and you don't have one."
"Yeah. Can we afford to spend the entire summer?"
"Babe, we had this conversation yesterday. Oops, I forgot to mention that he wants to pay for everything."
"No shit. Come read it yourself. He seems to think we've earned it."
Our desks were side by side, which allowed Dani to roll his chair over beside my chair. He scanned the e-mail quickly, then scrolled back to the top and read it more carefully.
"Hot damn," he said, "Italy, here we come."
"Yeah. We need to make a list of spots to see, and you need to get the name of the village your family came from."
"As to the former, Rome, Pisa, Florence, Venice, Tuscany. As to the latter, it's a tiny little place near Spoleto. I'm not sure it even has a name, so put Spoleto on the list for now."
"That would be my list, as well, with the addition of Milan and the place my mother came from, Conti, which is in the Veneto region of northeast Italy."
"What are you waiting for? Compose a gracious message of acceptance and send it."
"I'll take care of that as soon as we sit down with a calendar and settle on the dates."
"Are you really gonna let him pay for everything?"
"Oh puh-leeze--after all these years, you know me better than that. My reply will be along the lines of, 'Thanks for your generous offer. We gratefully accept the plane tickets and the offer to stay with you, but we'll pay for the rest of the trip ourselves', or words to that effect."
"Works for me."
"I'll send a quick, brief acceptance now, and promise to have an itinerary available in a few days."
"I hear the bed calling, don't you?"
"Now that you mention it."
I sent the e-mail, shut down my laptop, and headed to the bedroom, where Dani was waiting for me. I shed my clothes and crawled under the sheets into his open arms.
I had an early shift the next morning, so I was out of the apartment before Dani was even out of bed. As I bent over to kiss him good-bye, I asked, "Remind me again, what time do you meet with your committee?"
"I don't get off until three, so I can't be there to hold your hand."
"Thanks for the thought, but I don't think that would be allowed."
"Probably not. Good luck."