Yesterday the Finnish pop singer Robin Packalen was caught on picture kissing his producer, Finnish musician and actor Jimi Constantine in Rome. The now 19 years old star is having his first proper Europe Tour and has now crushed the hearts of millions of teenage girls. Robin is known to have dated girls previously and the sudden change of taste came as a shock to many. But how sudden is it? The question everyone wants answers to is how recent these developments are.
Jimi Constantine, 36, first worked with Robin all the way back in 2011, already then as his producer and musical mentor. As of now there is no information on whether he might have taken advantage of the teenager. We have not been able to reach Robin nor Constantine for a comment on the matter. Robin will perform in Mardrid tonight and it can be assumed Constantine will also be present.
"Not coming back. You'll see why. -R"
When he put his phone away Jimi was staring out the window with a blank look on his face, one hand gripping his knee so tight the knuckles turned white. Robin moved his hand over, placing it on top of Jimi's and Jimi let go, clasping Robin's hand. They sat like that, holding on to each other's hands tightly, for the rest of the short ride to the hotel.
They both knew there was no point in going to separate hotel rooms anymore without saying a word. Robin just pulled Jimi along to his room and they both curled up, arms around each other, still in shock from what had just transpired. It was obvious such a picture would go viral, there was no need to discuss it. The calm days of hiding were over and there was nothing they could do about it right now.
Robin was well aware he wasn't the one who would receive the hardest blow from this. Wherever that picture ended up it would be Jimi they would bring down. And Robin had known this all along. If he could choose he would have wanted to just come out, but the choice was never his and he understood that. Robin could take the basic gay hate he would get and he'd do anything he could to help Jimi through whatever was waiting for him in the morning.
"Tomorrow's gonna be hell", Jimi mumbled into Robin's skin, face hidden in the crook of his neck. Swallowing Robin tightened his arms around the older man and placed a kiss on his head.
"We'll deal with it."
"...is known to have dated girls previously and the sudden change of taste ca--"
Pete, their current second guitarist, was reading out loud from a magazine in his hand and stopped abruptly when he noticed them. As they entered the whole band's and staff's eyes were suddenly glued to them. Almost everyone was already there and the only one not staring at them was Samppa. Robin and Jimi looked at each other quickly, taking each other's hands.
Before Robin could continue Samppa had gotten up and gave them both a tight hug each. "At least the hiding is over", he said and smiled.
Pete's voice reached them again.
"So this is all true?"
"That depends on the contents, but yes I did kiss Robin."
Everyone's eyes were on Pete then, and Robin instantly squeezing Jimi's hand. He guessed it all started now. Right here in this room with his own band and staff.
"What exactly is disgusting about two people loving each other?" Samppa exclaimed before Robin had time to even consider what to say. Robin and Jimi looked at each other in surprise, both ready to explain how things were. And how long it had been going on.
"Well even if we ignore the whole gay business, is Jimi a pedophile now?"
"As you may have noticed Robin is in fact an adult."
"Now yes, but how long has this been going on??"
"Samppa-- it's fine…" Robin tried, feeling a bit awkward having Samppa defending him like this. And the whole room was staring at them. There was no point in fighting, he just wanted to tell everyone the truth.
"No it's not, this is none of his business. You listen to what they have to say or leave. Thank you."
If looks could kill Samppa would probably be dead, but Pete stayed quiet and Samppa suggested Robin and Jimi come further in and sit down like the others, which they did.
Robin tried to gather his thoughts for just a few seconds, he wanted to be the one to say this. He wanted to explain that he never really gave Jimi a choice, that none of this is Jimi's fault. That nothing's anyone's fault. That they're happy. But how do you express that in words?
In the end Jimi started first.
"We've been in a relationship since about one and a half year ago. Sorry for hiding it from you all."
He looked at Robin and they smiled at each other. Now that was said. In a weird way it felt like it was even more official now.
"And while you could say this started many years ago it didn't... I didn't.."
"Jimi never did anything to me when I was underage. ...you could say I tried forcing myself on him and... He ran away."
"Because you couldn't deal with a kid coming on to you?" Pete continued, voice still full of venom.
"Because I couldn't deal with having feelings for said kid."
There it was, right out in the open. Jimi admitted to having liked Robin already when he was still far too young. Now all that was left was for the others to judge him, to call him names and be generally disgusted by him. Not everyone could take it as well as their friends had and he was prepared for that. This just came a lot more suddenly than he had expected, but this little gang was nothing compared to what the rest of the world would be like
Everyone just stayed quiet, most of them looking away by now. Samppa was still looking weirdly protective and it made Jimi feel warm inside. It was amazing how much of a good friend that boy was.
"I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm not", said Tiina suddenly. Tiina was something of Robin's personal assistant or body guard. That's what she'd started as back when he was thirteen, but over the years the tasks had shifted from time to time but she'd always stayed a steady part of his team. Someone Robin had always known he could rely on, even if he'd never told her his personal secrets.
But now he had no idea what she was saying.
"Something I overheard several years ago."
"Oh", Jimi said, probably understanding what she was saying. Robin didn't.
"I figured it our pretty fast after that, to be honest. Great for you two, now let's get to work?"
"…But that was… That was… so you've known..."
"All along? Yes. Now, hop hop we've got a few hundred kilometers to travel today."
Robin just stared with his mouth open, turning to Jimi with a questioning look. He must have looked very silly because Jimi smiled and smacked his head playfully.
Everyone did as she said though, and Pete didn't have any more comments to share.
They were both nervous, of course they were. Even without seeing much actual proof they knew people must have heard. Social media had only been growing over the last few years and facebook had reached three billion users already. Nothing stayed unknown. But really, how would people knowing about them affect Robin's live? People were there to hear him sing.
Then Jimi got on stage like always.
The shouts and boos started in the first rows, girls that had waited for hours to get in. Girls of which some had probably flewn all the way from Finland, to see their beloved Robin all over Europe. People quickly caught on and it spread throughout the whole venue and Jimi stood there like a deer caught in the head lights. For a moment he wasn't sure what to do at all.
After staring at the audience in disbelief for a what felt like way longer than it actually was he dealt with it by trying to calm them down. He knew this wasn't what they were here for.
"Come on guys, you should cheer for Robin!"
The booing continued and the first rows were pointing at him. He could make out a few words here and there in the shouts, and it was clear what Robin's fangirls thought of him.
"You want him to sing right? Everyone shout Robin!", he tried again but it was becoming clear they weren't listening to him. "Fine fine, I'll leave", he muttered and turned walk off the stage, thoughts whirling in his head.
Suddenly Robin was there right in front of him, pulling him into his arms and hugging him tight. He felt himself almost collapsing into Robin's arms, not even realising how much what was going on hurt.
"They don't matter, Jimi."
Jimi nodded into Robin's shoulder and Robin pulled back, instead grabbing his hand and holding it tight. Then he turned to the suddenly quiet audience From the corner of his eye he could see Tiina hurrying up the stairs to the stage, possibly to cancel the live. Which was all fine with him, he didn't feel like singing for these people. But he had a few things to say.
"I thought you were better than that. This is my choice and it's none of your business--"
Tiina's voice interrupted him.
"Anyone who feels like shouting one more word may remove themselves from the venue right now. We will postpone this concert with an hour or two, deepest apologies to anyone not involved. Now's your chance to leave."
With a nod to her he pulled Jimi by the hand and they made their way backstage. It seemed like things could be worse than they had ever imagined. At least for Jimi.
However it was all an illusion of course. No angry headlines reached you when you were hidden in a hotelroom, huddled close together, pretending the outside world didn't exist. Their phones were turned off and while they were sure some of the staff followed the news, no one said anything.
The tour final in Hartwall Areena at home came and went and then reality hit.
Fan mail had turned into hate mail, their facebook pages were swamped with posts and in the streets people pointed and stared. Everyone knew. Suddenly articles from five to six years ago were quoted, supposedly proving that Jimi was a pedophile.
"The duo have been enjoying each others close company and gotten to know each other intimately." Wrote MTV3 already in 2012. The fact that this line had been in an article about Jimi's role in Robin's success only made things worse.
To anyone interested enough, Jimi was now guilty of forcing himself upon a child. Whatever Robin said didn't matter.
A couple of days after the tour ended Robin finally decided to turn on his phone for long enough to call his parents. He was so thankful that he had told them almost a year ago already. Just the thought of them finding out this way made him want to throw up.
"About time you called, you have no idea how worried we've been!"
"Sorry mum, it... was just easier to sort of disappear."
"I understand, but this isn't going anywhere."
Robin sighed into the phone.
"I know... Well to be honest we've been trying not to read anything."
"A police called and asked if we wanted to start an investigation about when you were younger."
"W-what??" he looked over at Jimi on the Sofa, who looked up confused.
"Your dad told him to 'piss off and leave the boys alone'."
"Seriously...?", Robin laughed.
"We've also been asked for interviews 27 times now. Time to stop hiding and do something about this, dear."
"...I, I know. I mean, well... Sorry about that."
"Don't worry. Just take care. Both of you. And give Jimi a hug from me."
When Robin had closed the call he walked over and gave Jimi the hug he'd promised. Tried to hold him as tightly as he imagined his mother would. Jimi hugged back, giving his neck a kiss.
"This is from mum."
Jimi stopped the kissing.
He leaned his head on Robin's shoulder and started laughing. And so they laughed together for the first time since that photo was taken.
Inside their door waited a pile of post and his phone answerer was filled with messages. He hadn't logged into facebook or twitter for over two weeks. Wasn't coming out supposed to be the end of their hiding one day? Wasn't that what Robin had dreamed about? To be able to hold Jimi's hand in front of all the people in the streets. To be able to kiss him in whatever street corner he wanted.
He wasn't about to give up on that.
Because it hurt. No headline had ever hurt like this before. Who cared if someone had seen him naked fifteen years ago, who cares if they considered him a drunk ten years ago, he had been one after all. But maybe that was it. Maybe it was because all the others had been true, then maybe these were too. Maybe they were right and he was a messed up pedophile who'd manipulated Robin into this? He'd thought so himself once, hadn't he?
If everyone else thought so too, maybe he'd been right?
But it was never anything else than Robin. Robin the person. Not his age, not his body, it was Robin. It still was. Robin made him smile and feel all warm inside. Robin made him laugh for the first time in almost three weeks. Robin was the one holding him tightly every night.
Why was it so hard to tell the world that?
The arms around him loosened and he looked up as Robin got up from the bed. Robin just started getting dressed without a word and Jimi pulled his pillow into his arms instead, inhaling the scent of Robin's shampoo from it as he watched him. He was beautiful.
"Going somewhere?", he mumbled as Robin spent longer than usual fixing his hair.
"I've got an interview. Feels like I've got a lot to say and I want to look good saying it."
Jimi sat up.
"Y-- but, you, it's--"
Robin cut him off with a quick kiss.
"Shut up and let me do what I can."
Jimi stared after him as he left the bedroom, not moving until the front door slammed close behind him.
He really had to stop letting Robin be the more mature one. Kicking himself mentally he decided Robin was right. It was time to stop hiding. He could do it. He had to.
Robin Packalen, who will turn twenty this year, is outgoing and positive as I talk with him. But you can sense a lot of bitterness behind his words, getting mixed up with the determination I can see in his eyes. Is this the result of how the world has taken his choice of life partner? Maybe.
"From the end of 2012 onwards I didn't see Jimi for four years. And still, when after those four years I finally got a chance to see him it was all I could think about. I hoped that my age wouldn't be in the way anymore and well, that Jimi hadn't forgotten about me. He hadn't."
He tells me about going to Berlin, to the premiere of Iron Sky 2, about trying to catch Jimi's eyes across the dinner hall and about small written messages. As he speaks all the bitterness I could catch earlier disappears and his voice is overflowing with affection and warmth. It is clear how much he cares about the older man.
One year and a half has already passed since that premiere however, and I am interested in how they have kept their relationship secret for so long. Robin tells me it was surprisingly easy. That until it all came out he respected the Finnish press because they let people live their lives in peace. Now he's not so sure. I ask him about his parents.
"They got angry of course. At first they wanted to go to the police. It felt like they weren't listening to a word I was saying. But they came around. At first mum and then a bit later dad. They've known for almost a year now"
I can only imagine how it must have felt. Robin is a strong young man, ready to shoulder a lot of pain for what he wants and loves. Finally I can't help but ask what made him fall for Jimi despite the age gap.
"As I said I never saw that, I only saw an amazing man who made me laugh like no other. Someone who'd throw pizza back when I threw it at him in the tour bus. Many people would say all I saw was a big brother figure, but I saw beautiful eyes and a beautiful smile. I saw how passionate and serious he can be about things and I saw someone who could strip off all the different roles and pressures that were put on me already then. And I still see all that and so much more. He makes me very happy."
With those words I thanked Robin Packalen for his time and as the polite young man he is, he thanked me back.
"Samppa, would you stop quoting that crap?" he said as he tried grabbing the magazine from Samppa's hand. Samppa effectively dodged all his tries.
"This is way too quality to stop, Mr. Determined young man."
Another groan escaped his lips and he hid his face in his hands. "Jimi please save me" he mumbled, but Jimi just laughed.
"You walked yourself into this one, twat."
"Well I'm sorry, I just--"
Jimi reached over and pulled him close, Robin's head ending up against Jimi's chest, his hand in Robin's hair.
"I know. Thank you." He felt a kiss on his head.
"It seems to work, actually. I saw headlines all over when I walked here." Samppa pointed out. "'Robin talks out about his love for Jimi' and what else. Soon they'll want a domestic photo reportage with the both of you."
Robin and Jimi both made gagging sounds but it felt good. They'd never know if this could've helped earlier or if it was because of the wait, but people seemed to love the interview with Robin. Of course this wouldn't work on everyone, but it was a start. A good one.
Though Robin would probably be haunted by parts of that article forever.
They were still very quiet about things, keeping public displays of affection to the minimum. Home still felt like the safest place for anything more than clasping hands now and then. Why play with fire?
As summer arrived Robin would hold one large live in Hartwall Areena again, before starting to work on new material. The tickets sold out in five minutes and if anything it was clear that his choice of love hadn't stopped people from wanting to see him.
Robin had an idea.
As the songs passed he started getting nervous. He hadn't been nervous on stage for years and just that in itself was a bit exciting. Every now and then he stole glances at Jimi, and the man had kept his eyes on Robin the whole concert. Just as always. Before long it was time.
"So, I've uh, I've got a little surprise today. Next up is a song that you haven't heard live for many years. It's a song that someone very special wrote for me seven years ago. I thought it was perfect back then, that it was exactly how I felt, and it still is."
He dared to throw a glance down at Jimi who was staring at him with his mouth slightly open.
"So, this is... pretty much how I've felt all along. And especially since things came out. This is Ei tarvii esittää (No need to act).
I always do what others expect me to
Play a role I don't fit into
Suddenly I need you, one two,
Or I'll just go back and forth
You teach me, dear,
My walls are already breaking
When it's just the two of us
You make everything else disappear
I don't have to play the role they gave me
When it's just the two of us
You help me to forget
I don't have to play the role they gave me
It's not easy to be what you want to be
When people's eyes judge and pressure
That 13 000 people were watching didn't matter.
When it's just the two of us
You make everything else disappear