The scare with Angelo, who hated being fussed over sort of shook us all. Of course Al and Kathy, they were both a doctor and nurse, did an assessment, which Angelo barely tolerated as they checked his heart and pulse.
Al sighed more satisfied as he put his stethoscope away. “Well, it’s not his heart.”
Kathy rolled her eyes at her stubborn father. “Yes, Papa, that’s life, but pain is a signal that says something’s wrong. We’d feel better knowing what that pain is about.”
Melissa smiled taking her grandfather’s hand. “Come on, Grandpa. You only have three more grandchildren to see get married. But I don’t plan to marry for a good fifteen to twenty years.” She smiled.
“Fifteen to twenty…” Angelo repeated in disbelief. “Sweetie, if I make it to ninety-six. I’ll dance down the aisle.” He patted her hand.
Tony and I watched as the others were hovering around Angelo. When Kathy walked back to either go back to the table or something, Tony stopped her. “You’re sure it’s not his heart?”
She shook her head. “Not without a thorough work up. But I don’t think so.”
“If there’s a specialist or…” Tony began.
Kathy nodded patting her brother’s arm. “We’ve got it, Tony. You’ll be kept informed.”
Tony nodded. “If you need money…”
I was a little bothered by his comment. Because he had money, throwing it in the situation would cure his father? Kathy was a little irritated, too. You could see it, but she chose not to let on too much.
Kathy frowned. “We’ve got it.” She assured again. Then smiled. “We have access to the best medicines and doctors here in New York. It’ll be fine. But Papa’s right. He is old. We have to consider he will die soon.”
I saw Tony’s face take on a little shock. I took Tony’s hand. “Let’s get back to the table. We’ve got a flight to catch later.” Tony just looked at his father and then nodded to me.
Dinner was a bit more subdued, but resumed. The conversations weren’t as animated as before, but had returned to the usual hum.
Tony and I flew back to Charleston and prepared for the upcoming weeks. At work I noticed Alan talking more on his personal phone. I smiled when I saw his smile more because of Kent. And he quit asking about me and Tony. Now that he was having his own life more, he no longer had the need to live through mine.
Then it was that Saturday. Our ship was sailing on Sunday, but we were again staying in a hotel to make sure we were there on time. Tony wasn’t the problem, I was. I’m never late. I’m paranoid about it. I made sure we had what we needed. Obsessed about it. Passports, driver’s licenses, cards, luggage packed and tagged with the ship destination and our carry-ons to the hotel…I had a check list. Yeah, I was very paranoid. I’d never been on a cruise, but I’d be damned if we got there and forgot something. We couldn’t just go back, could we?
“Camera?” I asked.
Tony sighed tolerantly. “Yes.” He reached out and grabbed me. He hugged me. “Relax, honey. This is supposed to be fun. Don’t get worked up about it.”
I nodded. “And when we get there and don’t have the camera?”
He shook his head. “We get one there!” He assured kissing me.
I sighed. “I was always told to be sure about things. Like, before you close to lock a door, be sure the keys are in your hands. Getting locked out wasn’t an option. There will be times no one will be there to bail you out.”
Tony smiled kissing me again. “That’s a good rule. Unlike some of those others you come up with I question.”
“And which ones are they?” I asked smiling, but pushing him back.
He shrugged. “There were so many…I can’t remember them all off the top of my head!” He chuckled pulling me back in the hug, kissing me down my neck.
I laughed back because he knows it would get me started. Other than sniffing his pubes for his pheromones, this was the direct express. “We can’t do anything right now. We’ve got a cab coming!”
Tony shook his head. “Call it a warm up.”
“Unless you plan to renew our membership in the Mile High Club, stop.” I grinned, literally pushing him away. “Now, we agreed. This trip and the clothes were all we were doing for our anniversary.”
Then I saw Tony look a little guilty. I could read him like a book now.
“What did you do?”
He shrugged. “It’s nothing really. And I can’t tell you, it will ruin the surprise!” He argued with a smile.
“What did you do?” I asked again frowning. I could see he didn’t want to tell me. “And when do I get to surprise you?” I sighed. “You do nice things for me all the time, Tony. You’re very romantic. Not a week has gone by where I’m not given a rose in two years by you. I’m fine with that because I know you love me.” I shook my head. “But I don’t need all these surprises. They’re nice, but I might like to surprise you. I know it gives you pleasure to do it, so I enjoy it.”
“Then do it.” He shrugged. “It’s our money. That’s something you still haven’t quite gotten yet.” Tony nodded a concession. “And it’s not really for just you. It’s for us. I’ll tell you if you want me to, but I’d like it to be a surprise.”
I grinned wrapping my arms around him which he pulled me even closer. “Then that’s what it’ll be.” Kissing him gently. “I’ll be surprised. I love you, Tony.”
He smiled nuzzling my throat. “I know you do.”
Then we took a taxi to the airport and flew to Tampa. The sun was still up when we got there and checked into the hotel that right by the port. In fact, you could see the port from our window. But the ships would be arriving that night so there was only one to see right now. And it wasn’t ours.
The thing with being around someone as much as Tony and I were, there were no real secrets. I wasn’t perfect. I had issues, but so did he. The young man that escorted us to the room was in his twenties and he was….well…gay. He was happy to be escorting us, I mean, here were two men checking into a hotel room with one king sized bed when they weren’t sold out. We had to be gay and there for someone like he was. No gaydar needed to see that he was gay. I watched Tony’s reaction of some revulsion to the man. Now, as much as I claim not to have any real knowledge of psychology, I’d been to several therapists because of my sexuality a to deal with issues that came from my father’s attempt to program the gay out of me. Over the years I did learn a great deal on dealing with people. One of the things was, when confronting a person with something you don’t like, never say…like…you’re an asshole, or you’re stupid. Make a distinction. Say, you’re behaving like an asshole or what you did is stupid. Never accuse, that makes the other person defensive. When he had first said he didn’t like fags, I had a problem with his statement. I kept asking him why it bothered him, what were the criteria for calling anyone a name that clearly wasn’t meant to be nice. I even had him voice his objections to them out loud in front of his family. My hope was if he heard it aloud, he might see and hear the folly of what he’d said. His family had trouble seeing any distinction. Confrontation was always hard and I needed to be careful so he did not feel he was being attacked.
Tony nodded to the man that came up with our luggage, tipped him as the bellman left. But Tony’s face was not happy.
I sat on the bed. “Tony.” I began quietly. “We need to talk.”
Tony looked over curious. “We do?”
I nodded. “Yeah, we do.” I patted the bed beside me. Tony walked over and sat beside me. “What I’m going to say….” I said looking in his eyes. “…you know I love you.”
Tony nodded. “Of course.”
“And I’d never attack you, not physically, emotionally or verbally.”
Tony frowned. “You never have.”
“So, if I tell you. There are things I don’t get.” I began. I pointed to the door the bellman left from. “Help me understand. What is it that man did to bother you.”
Tony looked surprised. “Nothing.”
I nodded. “But he did. You’re whole body was rejecting the man. Why?”
Tony looked at the door. “I didn’t reject him.” Then he thought. “Okay, he’s a fag. That bothered me.”
He thought a minute or two and shook his head. “It just does. He’s so….girly.”
I shrugged. “That’s because he might be gay. But having not seen him have sex with anyone, that’s an assumption on my part. He was happy to have a gay couple as guests. You could see it!” I reasoned. “So what is it that makes him different than say….” I looked cautiously at Tony. “….Gilbert? You like him.”
Tony looked confused. “That’s different.”
I shook my head. “Why? Because you know him?” I asked. “But from what I’ve seen Gilbert is most definitely a fag!! These are observations I’ve made using what your criteria to make a fag! Even your family saw us as fags!”
“We are not like that guy!” Tony shouted. “We aren’t like Gilbert.”
“No?” I shouted back. “What’s the difference? Gilbert doesn’t need wings to fly he’s such a fairy!”
“That’s just Gilbert!” Tony shouted angry.
“And only different to you because you know him! You’re doing what my father did to me, what the priests, nuns and church did to you. They judged without knowing you! You’re doing the same!” I shouted back. “You don’t know that bellman or any or the others you call fags!” Then I shook my head. “Is it his behavior that bothers you?”
“How is how he behaves become a threat to you?” I shouted equally as loud. “Does having a dick dictate how a man acts?”
“Good, because if that were true you should hate Rev. Pat!” I shouted. “But you love her! Enough to have her be one of the two ministers that married us. I hate to break it to you, but Rev. Pat was born male!”
“But she’s…” he began looking surprised at that, then it clicked what I said. “What!? She is not!!”
“She has an Adam’s Apple, Tony!” I clarified loud. “That collar hides a lot. Whether she still has the dick or had it removed, and having not looked up her skirts to check her plumbing I’m telling you she had or still has a dick! She was born male!!!”
Tony was stunned, but couldn’t deny it. Then he was about to get up, but I grabbed his arm and held him back. “Why are we shouting?? I’m not mad and you shouldn’t be!”
“I’m Italian!!!” Tony screamed back the explanation I knew.
I took a deep breath then said softly. “Baby, what I love about our relationship is that we can be honest with each other. We can be perfectly, bluntly honest. If I do something, or act like a fucking asshole I’d want you to tell me. You love me enough to do that. Understood? Or did you lie when you said you’d love me till the end of time?”
Tony was looking very upset. Whether it was because we had a loud discussion or what I told him upset him because it was true. “You know I didn’t lie. I’ll love you forever.” He said softly.
I grinned, pulled him close and then leaned toward him kissing him. “I didn’t lie either. You are the most important human being ever to me to have been created or will be created. But, Tony, I should tell you….just now. you acted like a fucking asshole.”
Tony’s face was again shocked, but then he smiled. “You really think so?”
I nodded with a chuckle. “Oh, yeah. But you heard me, I didn’t call you a fucking asshole, I said you were acting like one. Got it? Understand the difference?”
He nodded with a smile. “I don’t know why it bothers me so much.” He said softly.
I put my arms around him as I pulled us back on the bed. “Sure you do. You were taught by your father how a man behaves. It is so engrained in you, anything outside of those parameters, you don’t like.” I reasoned. “You’re not alone. I’m just as bad.”
Tony shook his head. “When?”
I chuckled. “I admit I don’t like pushy people.” I had an example ready. “There was one instance when….and you weren’t there because you don’t like buffets, this is BT, Before Tony….I was at a buffet and waiting for a man to finish getting something I wanted. I don’t even remember what it was, but there were several people behind me waiting, too. When this Asian lady must burst in line, grabbed the tongs I was reaching for and proceeded to get what she wanted.”
Tony’s eyebrows rose. “What’d you do?”
“I took the tongs out of her hand and pointed to the end of the line. I told her to wait her turn like everyone else.”
“But that was the right thing to do.” Tony reasoned.
I nodded. “It was. But I began to resent people that were Asian, because of that one woman.” I agreed. “Here, in the United States I was right, but later I wondered, what made her that way? It wasn’t because she was Asian, but because she may not have known what she’d done was wrong. Then I thought, she must have had a life where if you didn’t grab what you needed or wanted others might get it first. I don’t know what upbringing she had. She must have had to be pushy, to feed herself or family. I was not liking her because she was Asian? I don’t know what country she was from, but my reaction was wrong. And I vowed not to do it again.”
“But if you don’t do something, how will it change?”
I shook my head. “It wasn’t that she broke in line. I disliked her because she was Asian and assumed all were the same. So, I found someone Asian and made friends with him.” I chuckled. “He turned out to be a very nice guy.” I pushed him back on the bed and leaned on my elbow. “I challenge you. The next time you see a group of who you consider fags, you go up and make friends with them. Get to know them. You may even like them, like Gilbert.”
Tony chuckled. “And if I find out they are assholes?”
I shrugged. “But then you know they’re assholes because you know they’re assholes, not assuming they are because you assume they are. Not judging them based on no knowledge at all. Like that guy in New York that called you a WOP.”
Tony frowned. “You know what that is?”
I nodded. “Without Papers. It was a slang used on immigrants in New York to demean a group of people based on no knowledge. Many Italian immigrants were victims of that word I know they find very offensive. I don’t really understand the insult, but I know it.” Then I kissed him. “I know things about me bother you.”
Tony smiled. “Not really.”
I straddled him. “Nonsense. You hate that I don’t have the fashion sense you do and prefer jeans to something by Georgio or something. You hate that I plan things too much, like when we packed to come here today.”
“Well…kind of.” Tony nodded. “It was overkill.” Then he shrugged. “I don’t care about the jeans.”
“But we have everything, because you earned it.” I justified. “I’ve been watching you. I no longer see that you’re trying to impress your parents though…or the family.”
“Then who am I trying to impress? I can’t impress you very easily. I quit trying.”
I nodded. “I’m glad you realize that now. But I am impressed, by your love of me. But admit, there’s a part of you that can’t be satisfied. When will you have enough money? Does having a new outfit make you better? There’s a part of you that makes you think it will.”
“And that bothers you?” Tony frowned.
I shook my head. “Not at all. I just know that’s you and let it go. There are things about you that isn’t always attractive. Just like I’m sure there is about me that doesn’t attract you.”
Tony smiled. “What is it about me that is not attractive?”
“You’re human. A biological being who burps, farts and even had the need once in a while to pick his nose.”
Tony groaned in horror. “You saw that!?”
I chuckled. “You were discreet, but yes.” I rubbed my nose on his. “You’re human, and I know sometimes that little boogers wouldn’t come out if you don’t pick them out. At least you don’t wipe them on the sofa or chair, then we’d had words.” I smiled. “God gave us fingers and one reason is to dig them out if necessary.” I shrugged. “I also know I have a lot rules you find tedious.”
Tony chuckled. “You certainly do.”
“And you don’t?” I asked. “You have a lot rules, too, like not serving anything on paper plates or drinks in bottles or cans.”
“That’s Mama’s teaching.” Tony chuckled.
I nodded. “I know.” Then I waved at our hotel room. “And this. I was surprised. It’s just a hotel room. It’s a nice hotel, but not a suite.” I grinned at him. “But we couldn’t just have a cabin on ship, could we? No. We had to have the biggest suite…stateroom.”
“we planned in advance.” Tony nodded. “We’re on another honeymoon.”
“I get that.” I said. “And when we were decorating the condo. What did I say?”
Tony grinned nodding. “You didn’t care how I had it decorated as long as you had your easy chair, a TV and some place to put your Dr. Pepper.” Then he smiled. “Oh, make sure we had Dr. Pepper on hand and no paisley and no lace doylies things.”
I kissed him again. “Those were my only requests. I’m a simple guy, Baby. A guy that adores this one Italian. The fact that you want to do these for us is fine. I’ll wear those fancy duds and behave correctly…for you. But I do it because I love you.” I slid down so we were closer. “If we don’t talk about things. We’re going to have problems in the future. And we have a long, long time to be together. I don’t want a miserable life or afterlife.” I kissed him deeper. “You know I still love you, right?”
Tony grinned. “I do. You know I still love you, right?”
“I do.” I answered. “Personally, I no longer think our worlds as collided. In fact, I think that’s why we get along so well. We’re too dissimilar.”
Tony nodded. “I agree.”
I began unbuttoning his shirt. “We’ll have a grand trip, Tony. But let’s start things here.” I grinned running my hands over his hairy chest. “You know how much I love that hairy chest you have.” I said lowering my face to nip a nipple.
“I do.” Tony grinned. “And other hairy places.”
We did have a good night.
The next afternoon, it was time to board our ship. I had seen the many ships that had arrived during the night before while we slept. I’d seen the Oosterdam in pictures, but I’d never been on a cruise ship before, so to me it was huge!
We were taken by the hotel to the port terminal where our luggage was unloaded as we stopped. Our luggage was tagged and would be in the room….excuse me, stateroom….later. I was just amazed at the amount of people there. There were like a thousand men here! Agents directed us to a line where we came to a woman sat like a bank teller.
“Can I have your names, please?” The woman smiled. “And I’ll need your driver’s licenses and passports.”
Tony nodded. “Sure, Anthony Delveccio and my husband Mitch McKenzie.” He brought me forward, as I had the passports and my license.
The woman typed and looked at her screen. She checked our passports and identification then looked at us. Then typed again. “Everything is fine.” She held two purple cards out. They were like most hotels now, having key cards as keys. “Don’t lose these. Anything you buy onboard even on shore in port you can use these. You’ll be on deck seven. Rotterdam. Suite 7046. Have a great cruise!”
“Thanks.” Tony took the card with his name on it and handed me mine. The name Oosterdam written across it and 7046 in big numbers. Elite Class.
“Elite? You mean the cruise?” I asked Tony, but saw the cards for the others. They were other colors, yellow and orange. We had the only purple ones I could see.
“No.” Tony shook his head. “It’s like…the ultimate first class onboard.” He grinned. “I told you. We’re on our honeymoon!”
“You paid more.”
Tony nodded. “I paid more.”
Looking around I didn’t see a female face as a potential passenger.
“Tony, why are there no female passengers?” I asked. “Lesbians need a vacation, too.”
Tony put his arm around me as usual. “There might be a few, but lesbians tend to go on their own cruises.” Tony explained. Then he chuckled. “Louise and Kathy took a gay cruise once.”
I was surprised. “Why?”
“Think about it.” Tony said smiling. “Two straight women who want to have a vacation and not be hit on. Where would be safer for two women that don’t want some guy fawning over them than a ship full of gay men?”
I nodded smiled. “That’s pretty clever.”
“They had fun!”
We boarded the ship in the side. It was huge in the distance, it was even bigger right up on it! Gigantic! The sleek black hull was polished and shiny.
Like the church in Manhattan all these guys looked like they came off a runway! Handsome, but older. From early thirties to their sixties. Well dressed in clothes Tony knew they would be. Tony was right, they weren’t twinks. There was the occasional young man with an older man and you knew the young guy had a thing for Daddies. And once we handed our keys to a man to check us onboard, he put our key in one at a time in a slot where I heard a “bing” and he nodded to us. “Welcome aboard the Oosterdam.”
“Thanks.” I said taking the key back.
When we entered the ship, like I said, I had seen pictures, but nothing prepared me for the splendor of the ship! It was just so….I don’t know. Big!!! The décor was ornate and white! A lot of white. Polished floors and this atrium that had elevators going up the side. It just dripped luxury to me. I was fine being a simple country boy, and I was unashamed to just stand there and stare. It put almost all hotels to shame. It was far, far better.
I heard Tony chuckling. “I take it, we done good.” He hugged me.
I patted him on the chest. “Yea, Tony. We done real good.” I said almost reverently in awe. “What do we do now?”
“Whatever we like.” Tony shrugged. “But I’ve been on a few and I never leave port without viewing our departure from the top deck. We can check in our suite, or get something to drink.” He kissed me. “We’re on our second honeymoon!!” He hugged me excitedly.
A couple was passing, where one of them stopped. “Well, congratulations!” The passing man patted my arm. “I know it will be a wonderful two weeks.”
I laughed. “I believe you’re right.” I put my arms around Tony tighter. “We’ll make sure it is.” I kissed him gently. It was great that he and I could do that. Not that we didn’t in public before, but here!? It was not only okay, but it was expected!
“Got the camera?” Tony asked me. “You’ll need it.” He took my hand and headed to the elevator. “Let’s go see!”
We rode up to the top deck. Well, not the top deck, but where we could look over the side and see the entire port, the sky above, the gulf beyond and Tampa. Up here I realized we were up like in a sky scraper, we towered over the port. Only this sky scraper was going to be moving soon. And I didn’t really drink, right? Well, this young man came by with several drinks on a tray and offered us one each. It was a fruity sort of ice thing with an umbrella. An umbrella!! I’d seen them, but never had one. So of course I took one. The air was warm, there was this music being broadcast as hundreds of men and their husbands, partners, husbands stood to watch and strolled. It didn’t take long before we heard the blast of the ship’s horn. Who hasn’t see that TV show “The Love Boat?” Well, the Pacific Princess would be a dingy next to this ship! But I always wanted to be one of those people on deck waving as we left port. Now I was!
“Here we go!” Tony said as I saw us begin to move slowly. “Happy Anniversary. I love you.”
“Happy Anniversary. I love you, too.”
“I’m not a perfect man, Mitch, you know that.” Tony confessed. “But if you’re by my side, you’ll make sure I’m a better man. Or you’ll kick me in the ass when I’m not.” He chuckled.
“That’s what a partner in life does.” I smiled. “And I can count on you to keep me dressed and use the right utensil. I never want to embarrass you, Tony.”
Tony smiled. “I’ve never been embarrassed by you, Honey.”
“Good.” Then I looked horrified at what he’d said before. “I’d never kick you in the ass, Tony. It’s far too pretty for me to bruise it.”
Tony chuckled as he saw a deck person come by with glasses of champagne. He took two. Giving me one. He held his up to mine. “Here’s to another happy year together.”
I smiled clinking our glasses together. “I’ll drink to that.” Entwining our arms, we drank to another happy, spectacular year.