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Absence of mourning

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Sometimes Sandro will see Paolo with Adriana, even now, after all these years, and he will ache inside, like he is still eighteen and in love with Paolo and unsure, insecure, jealous, out of his mind with the feelings that he can’t control, ready to murder anyone that Paolo even smiles at.

 

Of course he comes to his senses quickly, because he has spent the intervening years perfecting the art of sharing. And being calm.

 

Loving Paolo has taught him things about himself he didn’t believe could be true. For example, he has no pride where Paolo is concerned. In any other field of his fairly eventful life, he is the epitome of the irascible Italian male, touchy about his honour and homicidal at even a supposed affront (read long-nosed Swedes), but with Paolo he is stripped of any defense mechanism that he has ever learnt. Which, actually, is a fucking joke, considering his profession.

 

It is just that, he is surprised by how much he wants Paolo. This thing should have petered out years ago, and he thought it would, first when Paolo married Adriana, and then when Gabi came into his life, but it did not.

 

It is just that, it can be a normal day, they might be in training, and Paolo might be doing captainly things or just joking with Carlo while Sandro is on the other side of the field, being moody and gloomy and non-communicative. He will look up and the sunlight will make Paolo glow and Sandro will feel his heart stop for a moment because this feeling takes him by surprise, that he wants Paolo all the time, always, is greedy for him. He forgets it sometimes, mainly because he is used to it, this constant nagging ache like an invisible scar, so these moments blindside him and he has a truly awful time putting back his implacable mask on.

 

Like now. This huge party made huger by the fact that Berlusconi put in all the resources in his power to make the farewell to Milan’s greatest captain an affair to remember, and Sandro doesn’t even know 3 quarters of the people here, milling around and making smarmy speeches praising Paolo and his divine skills in the most clichéd rhetoric ever invented by man, while Paolo is being the kind, considerate humble sovereign he should be, proud of his service to the club and the fans and the nation, and relieved and a little sad to retire, and he will miss it, yes, and Sandro’s teeth ache at the fucking ridiculous hypocrisy of it all.

 

Gabi is still recovering from the complications of the birth of their second child and his father-in-law has taken away his precious daughter and grandchildren to Lake Como to relax and heal. He wishes Gabi was here. She would smoke her 10th cigarette (somehow health warnings never applied to her), and make fun of the way the chandeliers glint and reflect on Galliani’s head. Or the ridiculous way Pippo tries and fails in making Bobo stop manhandling him. Pippo’s cooler-than-thou persona is shattered by a drunken Bobo and a hysterical Simone, while the baby Alberto gapes at the spectacle. He would laugh with her and not be forced to hide behind the curtains, because everyone expects him to make speeches and toasts about how it felt to be one half of the greatest defensive pair in Milan’s history (this always makes Sandro feel like dying of embarrassment, please, no, not while Baresi is sitting right in front with his sardonic yet gentle smile), and the fucking ending of an era, and watch Paolo acknowledge his stuttering valedictions with the easy smile on his lips and the glittering irony in his eyes, his arms securely around his beloved wife’s shoulders, a wife who is allowed to share in his glories publicly, is allowed the kisses and the affections and the happiness.

 

So he hides behind the billowing curtains, in the shadows, not as drunk as he would like to be, watching Paolo and Adriana dance, close, familiar, beautiful together, and his hands clench so that the knuckles show white. He feels as if he has suffered a terrible injury again, one that has shattered some vital part of him, and wants to say,to someone, anyone, just to ease this acute grief:

 

Do you know how beautiful he is in the moonlight? I kissed him once, clumsy, afraid, and he kissed me back, his hands framing my face, sweetly, slowly, ‘til I didn’t know where he ended and I began, and I loved him more than anyone I have ever loved.

 

And now he is gone, already, and every place echoes with his absence.

 

I know I’ll survive this, this love, this loss. And yet, without this unnamed, unnameable tenderness, this difficult ordinary happiness, there is no comfort in the world.