Easy life, troubled love
At the beginning of the eighties, the party had moved from Paris to Madrid. After Franco died, the Transition allowed the recovery of the individual rights and the transgression of the taboos imposed by the Franquista regime was fertile ground for the birth of the Movida Madrileña, a hedonistic countercultural movement characterized by the constant surging of musical bands, the common use of recreational drugs and the smell of freedom perceived on the streets. The nights inside the discos were endless and the pasotas that popularized the cheli danced at the doors of the bars in Atocha and Lavapies at the rhythm of Mecano, Alaska and Nacha Pop; while the pijos, elitists as usual, celebrated indoors. The movement was so successful that it quickly expanded to other cities like Barcelona, Bilbao and Vigo. On a social level, the Welfare State was established and the per capita income doubled, converting Spain into one of the biggest worldwide destinations for immigrants.
Unfortunately, the endless parties only exist in the movies: the rampant drunkenness and the sensation of liberation, similar to that of a prisoner leaving jail, as well as the irresponsible indifference of the «I pass», triggered a massive hangover. Before the end of 1992, year of the quincentenary of the arrival of the Spaniards to America, in which the Olympic Games and the Expo of Sevilla were successfully organized, the country entered again into crisis. The privatization of state-owned companies and the labor reforms destined to stop the unemployment helped the recovery and, before turning the millennia, when the aurelios replaced the duros, Spain shook off from the tumble and was riding high again, at least until the next crisis — which did not take too long to arrive. By 2011, a new economic crisis that started three years before got worse and the discouragement was paramount: after the deafening burst of the housing bubble, the employment rate levels reached a point not seen since the beginning of the nineties, and the poverty was alarming. After heaven, hell broke. As it usually happens in times of depression, the Spaniards blamed the immigrants for their disgrace, especially the Latinos, who arrived in herds during the bonanza in search of better opportunities.
It can be argued that the pendular economy of Spain, the sinuous curve that it draws in the graphics and the subsequent mood that it induces in its habitants, shows brief peaks of exaltation and excessive expenditure between periods of depression, turning the country, to express it in psychiatric terms, into bipolar.
Peter arrived to the Spanish capital in mid-2006 for a very different reason: he wanted to fulfill his dream to get married with his boyfriend Philip and, unlike what was happening in his home country Peru, where the gays were thrashed, assaulted and even victimized; a law permitting the gay marriage was passed in Spain the year before. After an ostentatious ceremony performed in strict private in a rural property near Toledo, the newlyweds spent a season in the Greek islands enjoying the food and the sea, and then moved into a luxurious condo in Paseo de la Habana. Sadly, the marriage ended four years later due to an infidelity, the couple was in the middle of a divorce process and Peter decided to remain in Madrid until the documents were ready, after which he would go to Florida to meet up with his mother. For him, money was never an issue. Thanks to a generous heritage he received from a maiden aunt when he was eighteen years old, Peter had the chance to travel the world and acquired refined taste. He liked art, antiques and especially good food, although he remained in shape thanks to a strict regime of morning exercises. His 6.2 feet, his big green eyes and some premature gray hair that decorated his black mane, made him look distinguished and, despite having forty years old, attracted gazes and provoked sighs from school girls as he walked around downtown.
Since Peter was unaware of what was happening in his native Lima and seldom read newspapers, he learned about the suicide of John through the social network, causing him a great impression. Incredulous at the beginning, he did a research on Internet and cleared up his doubts: John Lee Kellogg, forty-one years old, ended his life throwing himself from the rooftop of a building. Peter met him in a bar when he was nineteen years old, shortly after receiving his heritage. They became instant friends and went out almost every night in search for girls and fun. At that time, even though he already knew his true sexual orientation, Peter remained in the closet and did not dare to confess it to anyone, afraid of the stigma and the rejection of a society so prudish and so prone to preserve appearances like the limeña. John, so loved and later so hated, was the first to know his secret: a winter afternoon, drinking coffee, tired of faking and with tears of relief streaming down his cheeks, Peter opened his heart just when he was thinking about opening his veins. «Your manhood does not depend on your sexual orientation», replied John with precocious clairvoyance. John, the old good John, saved his life and encouraged him to assume his truth with bravery. Peter remembered well that, after the coffee, they visited together a psychologist friend of both and the latter, lackadaisical, bigoted, a real asshole, thought they were a couple and shooed them in a bad manner, arguing that he did not want to lose any time in faggy shit.
A couple of years later John was having financial problems due to the bankruptcy of the construction company of his father, and Peter took him into the huge house he shared in San Isidro with Scott, his then boyfriend. Although at the beginning Peter kept the manners and did not dare to show his affections in the presence of his friend, a few weeks later they got used to the cohabitation and since then, at least for a while, everything went fine. During labor days, after breakfast, John took a bus that left him right in front of the college where he was studying architecture thanks to a grant; whilst Peter, a typical Nini, rushed back to bed, turned on the TV, slept until noon, stood up for lunch, and returned to his bedroom to read Vogue magazine and the like. At nights, before John got back from college, Peter dreamed about the idea of studying interior design to become partner of his friend as soon as they graduate. During the weekends, they went to the countryside house of Scott, a property of beautiful gardens away from the noise of the city that he inherited from his grandparents and maintained in excellent conditions thanks to his well rewarded job as an economist in a multinational hedge fund firm, or they all went for lunch to a restaurant accompanied by friends of the couple. The parents of John, despite being just divorced, maintained a friendly relationship and talked frequently to catch on the news about their only son, whom they met only in special occasions. They heard malicious comments that John was living in the house of people with questionable reputation and that he was seen many times having lunch with a group of wild faggots.
The problems started with the scenes of jealousy of Scott, that grew in frequency and intensity over the weeks and that were almost always accompanied with outbursts of rage. Incapable to comprehend the unspoken complicity of his boyfriend with that carpetbagger that ate his food and slept under his roof, he blew up for any reason and converted the precarious situation in true hell. His feelings, however, were not baseless: little by little, almost imperceptibly, the love of Peter for John was growing.
Shortly after, Scott designed a plan to get rid of the intruder and executed it to perfection. A Friday morning, knowing the financial troubles of John, he placed a hundred dollars bill under the desk used by John when he was reading a book from the superb library of the house, which gathered volumes of famous writers and large-format books of architecture and modern art. That night, after dinner, John went to the desk, chose a couple of fiction novels and found the bill when he pulled the chair. He rejoiced in his luck, thanked the Providence and slipped the unasked gift in the right pocket of his pants without doubts or remorse. The following day, Saturday, he left the house before nine and spent almost all the money in groceries and some materials he needed for his classes of urban design. At noon, when he came back to the house with the plastic bags in his arms, Scott was waiting for him at the door.
— Where did you get the money to buy all that? — Scott asked venomously with his hands inside the front pockets of his pants.
— I found it — replied John, frightened.
— A few days ago I lost a hundred dollars bill — said Scott with malice — Did you find it?
Although at the beginning he thought about denying it, John reconsidered after concluding that the truth would put an end to any discussion.
— To be honest, I found the bill under the desk and took it — he said.
— So you turned out to be a miserable thief.
— I’m sorry. I did not know the bill was yours.
— Leave this house immediately, fucking thief! You have an hour to gather your things and get the hell out of here.
Upon entering the house, John saw Peter with his face distorted waiting at the foot of the staircase that led to the second floor, but did not say anything. He accompanied John to the bedroom and remained there following the instructions of Scott: they wanted to make sure that John would not take anything that did not belong to him. John was sad, astonished, and packed his things in a methodical way. First the clothes, then the books, his architecture materials at last. Less than one hour later, John left the house carrying three bags and stopped a taxi, but he did not know where to go. After some seconds of uncertainty, he decided to go to the little apartment where his father was living since the divorce, half an hour away, in the district of Surco. John bargained the tariff with the taxi driver, got into the car and left. When he reached destination, John paid the agreed amount with the few coins he had left form the shopping he made that morning, and after that he was penniless again. The doorman of the building told him that his father was out, so John sat on the cold floor covered with red tiles, aside from the apartment’s door, and covered his face with both hands asking himself when would end that streak of bad luck that followed him for so long. At the end of the afternoon his dad showed up and looked surprised to see his son surrounded by bags, but did not say anything; simply opened the door, put one of the bags on his shoulder and gave way. They were received with the barks, jumps and tail wagging made by the little dog of undetermined breed that the father had picked up from the street a few days before, a display of happiness that both desperately needed. Without a word or a gesture, father and son put the bags on the sofa where John would sleep that night, prepared a meal, and stretched out a plastic tablecloth on the little chest of drawers that also worked as dining table. During dinner, the father talked:
— What happened? — he asked.
Overcoming the embarrassment he was feeling, John told his version in detail. After dinner, the old man caressed the head of his son, went to his bedroom, sat on the bed, and turned on the TV. John deposited the leftovers in the dog’s plate, washed the dishes and placed them in the drainer; went to the bathroom, brushed his teeth, said good night to his father, and lied down on the sofa. He remained awake until well into the night, thinking about what happened just a few hours earlier. What hurt him the most was that he felt he disappointed the friend who gave him shelter.
A week later, at mid-morning, John found Peter waiting for him at the door of the faculty. At the beginning of the semester, John shared his class schedule with him, so the encounter was not a coincidence. They shook hands and Peter suggested a visit to a nearby bar so they can have a beer and talk. They boarded Peter’s car, arrived to the place and as soon as they sat on a table, it was Peter who started the conversation.
— I left the house yesterday and already rented an apartment in Miraflores. To be honest, my relationship with Scott was coming to an end and what happened with you hastened the result.
— I’m sorry, Peter. It was not my intention to create any trouble and cannot thank you enough for your generosity.
— If you needed money, you should have asked me — Peter whispered.
— I know. Thank you. I feel horrible. I’m living in my dad’s apartment and there is not enough space for both, so I have to move again soon.
Peter rested his elbows on the table and got closer to John to avoid other people from listening what he was about to say.
— I want you to move in with me. I miss you and I love you — said Peter with trembling voice, rolling his green eyes that looked even more beautiful under the light coming from the bar counter.
John listened quietly to each word his friend muttered and felt overwhelmed with the unexpected confession. A thousand thoughts ran through his mind in a tenth of a second. At last he answered:
— We are friends, Peter, and I am also very fond of you, but I do not share your feelings. I like girls.
Peter lowered his eyes, disappointed and saddened, looked away so his friend, his love, could not notice his watery eyes, and said: «In that case, this conversation is over». He rose from the seat with dignity despite his wounded pride, approached to the bar counter, paid the bill and left the place without looking back. John was shocked. After a few minutes he collected himself, waved goodbye to the barman, and took a bus back to college.
Almost ten years later John bumped into Peter in a street of Miraflores. He pretended not to recognize his friend and walked him past. It was the last time they saw each other.