It was April 25th 1974 when everything changed.
My heart was beating so fast I just wanted to tell Claudio what I had, but I needed to try and play it remotely cool. We were standing outside my school; we met every morning to catch up before he went to work.
“My Dad just got back from being at a press junket.” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“He was in England for his journalism. He had a meeting.”
“Ah, I understand.”
“And he got me this.” I reached into my bag and pulled out my prize.
“Fordahce.” He exclaimed in Portuguese when he saw the name on the record. Then in English: “T. Rex! What is this?”
I practically glowed in satisfaction, I got to present him a new thing, again, something that only we would see for at least a couple of months.
“You cannot go to school.” He said slowly and deliberately. He had a tendency to do that. Even though his English was good, he was not confident in it. We had been talking for almost a year and it was still clear that he had to think about what the words he was saying before he said them. “And I cannot go to work.”
“Really?” I smiled.
“Of course not.” He gave me a sly look back.
“Come on. We should go put that record on.” He said, grabbing my arm. “We can go to my home.”
His touch was electric and I managed to contain a shiver. I didn’t say anything and let him take me to his car. He ran over to the driver’s seat and got in and then opened the door for me, I slid in protecting the record with all my will. He grinned at me as I got comfortable.
I was so in love with him.
We had first met when he came over with his father to help build an extension on our small cottage. His dad, ‘Pie’, was a retired electrician who was also able to build extensions. Claudio was there to do much of the heavy lifting. Pie and my father bonded over Lagoa red wine. I was immediately attracted to Claudio because of his olive skin and taut muscles that he exposed as he lifted bricks and shovelled concrete. I used to hover over him and once I realised he understood English I started making sarcastic comments about what he was doing. He hardly said anything to me but occasionally he would look at me and grin with that crooked-tooth smile and I could feel myself shake internally.
I had been fascinated by his teeth, his left, most forefront tooth slightly curled over his right. I found them irresistible, I had not been able to figure it out at first but it was that quirkiness that tied the rest of his face together. He had dangerously long hair, curly and black that fell just past his ears, they were complemented by his deep brown eyes that I felt like I was getting lost in whenever he stared straight at me.
I will say that he wasn’t my first crush.
My father worked for a newspaper but did a lot of side work for music magazines, he came back from one of his trips with a ton of records, the first one that grabbed my attention was this pretty man with long curly hair, sharp jaw line, and piercing eyes. His name was Marc Bolan and he was part of a band called T. Rex.
I looked at the liner notes inside and there was this breath-taking picture of him sitting with his legs wide open, his crotch in full view. I immediately closed it in case I got caught staring. I walked away from it, slightly ashamed of what I had seen. A week later I came back and stared at that picture and started to realise that things were changing for me. I guess I had always known it but it took those legs to be open wide for me to fully comprehend what was going on. “Children of the Revolution” became my anthem, like the revolution wasn’t an overt one but one that was awakening inside me, silly I know but I got wrapped up in it. “Get it On” was this fantastically goofy song that I was obsessed with because of Bolan’s voice and cheeky manner. It felt like he was singing to me and the jokes he made were ours.
I was listening to that very album and writing in my journal when Claudio came in and startled me.
“This album is very good,” He said, walking up to my seat. He stopped and laughed at how surprised I looked.
“You like T. Rex?” He asked.
“Marc Bolan is amazing.” I managed.
“His voice is good.” Claudio nodded. “I like his…”
Claudio struggled to figure out the word and waving his hands and then concluded with:
That moment sealed the deal, we became friends and, once Pie was finished on the work, we carried on hanging out. Most of the time he would come over to mine and we would listen to all the ‘democratic’ records that my dad would bring back from his travels. Regardless of whether it was Hendrix, Bowie, Morrison I just loved being able to be that close to him. T. Rex had caused that moment and so having this album was so important.
We drove back to Claudio’s house, a tiny square building with running water in the kitchen but nowhere else. The place always had a strong odour of coffee but his room smelled of him, intensely.
You could barely get into the room as the door bumped up against his single bed. His nightstand with his record player (a gift from my father when he had found out about Claudio’s love of music) was pushed up right next to it. The window overlooking their cistern, was tiny and he tended to keep the wooden shutters closed. This gave the already small room an extra layer of claustrophobia.
When we got in and sat down, it dawned on me that this was the first time we had been in his house alone.
I handed him the album and he placed it down, reverently, on the turntable.
“Have you played this before?” He asked.
“No.” I said. “I wanted to wait.”
He placed the needle onto the outer groove and we waited.
The first song started up and we looked at each other and started grinning. This feeling of being able to share something like this for the first time and knowing that this was the first time that this sound had been heard in Portugal was intoxicating.
By the time the second song was playing we were on our feet, in the limited space that we had, bopping along to the album. I couldn’t help noticing the way he gyrated, letting himself go to the funky guitar. I tried to imitate him but felt self-conscious. He had no idea what he was doing to me and trying to mimic him felt dumb and awkward.
We were really into it when the fifth track came on and it blew my mind.
Marc Bolan had always been sexual but there was something about the lines:
“Ready the Flight thrust/Did you crunch your aircraft?”
“It ain’t nothin’, no it would be lost/If I could mould my hands with the/ Space Boss”
Claudio was even closer to me now; right in my face, grinning like a crazy person.
I wanted to mould my hands with his, I wanted him to, I wasn’t even really sure what after that.
Claudio stopped the record and brushed past me. I sat down on the bed, sweating slightly in the early morning heat.
He came back with two glasses of something.
“Wine, we should have wine.” He smiled.
“Okay.” I said. “Can we play that last track again?”
We drank and I absorbed the song. He went and got us another drink and I insisted on playing the song again. I was getting drunk fast. We got up and danced to the song again and I felt looser and better. Claudio was now bouncing on his bed singing along with it. We had another drink and it got a little hazy. We played the song again and by that point I jumped up on the bed with him and we were singing to each other, our noses practically touching. There was a part of me that just kept telling me to lean forward and kiss him, to hell with everything else, but I held back every time the urge happened.
Claudio got us more drinks and we played the song again. Claudio was a master at recognising the dip where each tune started and was able to go back to the exact beginning of the song.
We danced for a bit longer but ended up collapsing, drunk on to his bed and lying next to each other in the cramped space. I relished being shoulder to shoulder with him. Conscious of my whirling head I glanced over at him to see how he was coping. He was staring right back at me.
“What would you do in this moment?” He asked, shuffling closer to me.
“I… I don’t know.” I said, I felt like the air had been removed from the room. He was only inches from my face, from my lips.
“I know you, that you were looking at me.” He said huskily, deliberately. “I have always known.”
Then his lips were on mine, I could feel his stubble spiking against my upper lip. My lips parted and he stuck his tongue inside my mouth. My brain couldn’t really react properly there were just all these explosions of sensations and I just wanted more.
We wrapped our arms around each other on that scummy bed and let the song keep playing. We didn’t stop until it had ended and was about to roll into the next.
“Can we listen to that again?” I asked.
He put it back to the beginning, got back onto the bed with me and wrapped his arms around me. Feeling giddy I started singing the lyrics to him:
“Are you the Space Boss?” I asked before we made out. “Will you see me any cost?”
“Of course.” He kissed me again.
We must have listened to the song a thousand times. I was euphoric, no concerns for the consequences, I was his and he was mine.
At around 7PM I got ready to leave.
Claudio offered to drive me home but I dismissed it, I wanted to relish this entire day with a long walk home. It was going to take me at least 45 minutes but I didn’t care the world was perfect.
“Is your dad going to be home?” Claudio asked.
“Yeah.” I replied finishing up my glass of wine.
“Say hello.” He said. “Maybe be nice.”
“I am always nice.” I replied.
He gave me a funny look.
“Nahdah. Nothing.” He said, still with a funny look on his face. “You are different with him.”
I laughed and waved him off.
I wandered through the woods, trying to stop beaming, Claudio liked me as much as I liked him, no complications, just love.
I got back to my house and knew that something was wrong. All the lights were on and my father was shouting somewhere in there.
I checked my hair and how drunk I felt, blew into my palm and sniffed it. Nothing too obvious. I straightened myself up and walked in.
I found my dad in our ‘atrium’ on the phone. I didn’t catch what he was saying at first but it became clear that he wasn’t angry, he was elated.
“Let me tell you Bob, this is the biggest story you’ll read this year.” He yelled. “An almost bloodless coup.”
He saw me coming in and gestured me towards the kitchen and what he was cooking while extending the phone cord to its limit. I looked at it and turned my nose up. It was Cod and it stank but I tried not to let it ruin my mood.
Regardless of my feelings, I served myself a portion and cut a slice of bread so that I could soak up the oil afterward. I went into the dining room and started to eat. Finally, my father came to talk to me.
“Hey, how’s it going?” He asked, also holding a plate of the food he had cooked.
“Pretty good.” I smiled. Pretty fucking amazing was the actual truth.
“How was the album?” He asked, “Did the people at school freak out?”
I immediately felt guilty.
“How was your day? You were shouting a lot.” I said, changing the topic.
“Oh man, I can’t believe that they let you come back without an announcement.” He enthused.
“Portugal is a fucking democracy now!” My father shouted, as he stuffed some food in his mouth, “The military rolled in and said ‘fuck you’, it is a monumental thing.”
“No shit.” I smiled.
“No shit.” He grinned. “Do you know how it started?”
“A Disc Jockey played a song on the radio to tell everyone it was time.” He gesticulated with his fork. “A fucking song changed everything, this country is going to be democracy. I knew something was up with Salazar dead. The story will be interesting for at least a couple of months and after that...”
“After that?” I asked, my heart had started beating faster.
“We get to head home, and do something new.” He laughed. “David, I know you have been sick of this place for some time, I really appreciate you sticking it out.”
I recall thinking ‘a song fucking changed my life and the last thing I want to do is leave here’.