Chapter 29: “OH, THEY GONNA HAVE GAY SEX!”

MONDAY, 30TH NOVEMBER, 2009

Still recovering from the events of the weekend, I kicked off the week with a visit to Toronto General Hospital. Last time, I was in a hospital bed, recovering from an attempted suicide, as Joseph, Nadine, and the rest of the Buonfiglio Armada formally kicked me out of their lives. This time, I had a physical.

I won’t bore you with the details of the physical, but it felt good to get one as opposed to getting my stomach pumped. My primary care physician, Dr. Matthew Salvosa, apologized for not seeing me when I was last hospitalized. He had a family emergency that had since been resolved. Dr. Salvosa’s heart is a lot bigger than his short Filipino body gives him credit for. I was excited to see him, and during the physical, I filled him on what had been going on in my life. He was relieved to see me out of danger.

Upon leaving the hospital, I ran into Jessica Lightbourne, the nurse who had been a major help to me less than two months earlier. She was excited to see me, though she was just beginning her shift and was in a rush, so I gave her the verbal Cliff Notes version of my recent travails. Afterwards, I took the subway up to Downsview, and from there I took the shuttle to York University. I wanted to surprise Mykhaylo. It was his 28th birthday.

I had never been to York University before. Of course, I had lived in and around Toronto all my life and had never been to a lot of places. When I got off the shuttle, I was immediately impressed and awed by what I saw: sleek, modern buildings at every turn; thousands of students going about their business, and a few cute guys, though not as cute as those at the University of Toronto.

Mykhaylo greeted me at Central Square with a big kiss that felt so warm and good against the cold afternoon. Hell, I wouldn’t have minded taking off my clothes and doing it right then and there.

“Happy birthday,” I said, handing him his present, which was in a small bag.

“Thanks.” He opened the bag, and took out Time, Love, and Tenderness by Michael Bolton. His eyes lit up. “You have got to be fucking kidding me!” he exclaimed. “How in the world did you get this? This has been out of print for years!”

Why has it been out of print? It’s because of the “Love is a Wonderful Thing” lawsuit. The Isley Brothers sued Michael Bolton because they claimed that his hit song infringed on a song that they did in 1964. In 2000, they finally were awarded $5 million USD. And why do I know this? Because Mykhaylo is one of the biggest Michael Bolton fans on earth, and not in an ironic way. He told me years ago that “Love is a Wonderful Thing” was playing on the PA system at Lester B. Pearson International Airport just as the Karbanenko family cleared customs and was allowed to legally enter Canada. Mykhaylo heard that song, the first Western pop song that he ever heard, and was hooked from the beginning.

In his apartment, he has posters of Michael Bolton (yes, even with that ugly ass mullet) all over the place. Mykhaylo said that Michael’s one of the few Russian people that he trusts (he was born Michael Bolotin). Growing up in the Soviet Union, Mykhaylo resisted all attempts to Russify him and his family, and even after moving to Canada, he was not having it. He once got into a fight at school after someone called him a “fucking Russkie”. To which he replied, “I’M A FUCKING UKRAINIAN, BITCH!” But that’s another story.

Anyway, he had all of Michael Bolton’s material on his iPod, and all of Michael’s physical albums too, bar one: Time, Love, and Tenderness. He had been trying to get his hands on a copy for years and especially in the years since moving back to Canada. Interestingly enough, I had found the album at an independent record store and got it dirt cheap: 99 cents. The look on Mykhaylo’s face: priceless.

He hugged me and kissed my face all over. “Dyakuyu, dyakuyu, dyakuyu, grazie, grazie, grazie, thank you, thank you, thank you!” he exclaimed. If he were a dog, his tail would be wagging like you wouldn’t believe.

“Anytime, Mykhaylo,” I said. “I thought that I’d give it to you before you went off to work later.”

“Oh, I don’t have work today,” he replied. “My boss gave me the day off.”

“So, what do you want to do in the meantime?”

Mykhaylo thought for a moment, and then asked me, “You want to go to Earl Haig?”

My mouth dropped. “That is the least sexy thing ever.”

“It wasn’t meant to be sexy, Graz. I haven’t been there in years. What about you?”

Inside, I was about to explode. I too hadn’t been to Earl Haig Secondary in years. Even though Claire’s office was nearby, I had avoided being in that neighbourhood while visiting her. I just didn’t want to be in that area, ever.

Mykhaylo saw the look on my face. I shook my head. “I haven’t been there in a while, either.”

“Well, let’s walk down memory lane together, okay?”

I didn’t want to, but if Mykhaylo was man enough to go back to Earl Haig, then it wouldn’t have hurt for me to give it a go. I nodded. “Okay.”

We walked to the nearby Arboretum Parking Garage and got into his car, and soon we were off. Earl Haig was only twenty minutes away. As Mykhaylo drove along, he gleefully sang along to the Michael Bolton CD now playing in his car stereo. Now, what do I think of Michael Bolton? I hate his mullet. But other than that, he’s a great (if somewhat over-the-top) singer and comes across as a nice guy. And there are worse people in the world than Michael Bolton. Justin Timberlake for one, but that’s just me. I lost whatever respect I had for him when he ended Janet Jackson’s career at the 2004 Super Bowl.

When we arrived outside the campus on 100 Princess Avenue, it was only 2:30PM. School wouldn’t let out for an hour. “Aren’t we supposed to notify the school if we drop by?” I asked.

“Don’t worry. I called ahead and scheduled a visit.” Mykhaylo seemed excited to visit his alma mater. I was barely able to contain my disappointment.

We got out of the car, and immediately, all the memories came flooding back. The fights that I got into, the many times that my teachers turned their backs on me and/or made me look stupid, the hours that I spent trying to do my schoolwork to no avail. My knees began to shake. I held onto the shotgun door for support. Mykhaylo took me gently by the hand, and as I breathed in and out, we walked into the school for the first time in almost ten years.

Not much had changed, other than a few cosmetic and technological upgrades. When Mykhaylo and I first went to Earl Haig, the school was undergoing a makeover. Some of the original building had been torn down to make room for a new one, which opened in September 1997, at the beginning of the school year. We had just entered Grade 10.

“Come on, Graz,” Mykhaylo said. We walked toward the administration office, which was quietly bustling along. The secretary was not that much older than us, and her Indian hair had been braided rather elaborately. “Can I help you?” she asked us.

Mykhaylo did the honors as I looked around the office. “I’m Mykhaylo Karbanenko, Class of 2000. And this is Graziano Buonfiglio, also Class of 2000. We’re just visiting.”

The door to the principal’s office opened at that moment, and out stepped Ms. Genevieve Montfort, who had been the principal since I first came to Earl Haig. She was short with a fierce blonde lesbian haircut, which she had always sported as far back as I could remember. “Mykhaylo!” she exclaimed cheerfully. The two of them hugged warmly. I watched, and it really saddened me because none of my teachers ever did that or anything close within reason to me. Ms. Montfort didn’t even like me at all, and I went out of my way to be nice to her and to everyone else.

“Oh, it’s so good to see you,” she said to Mykhaylo. And then, she turned to me and asked, “Who the hell are you?”

Fierce blonde lesbian haircut or not, I wanted to kick her ass at that moment, but I steeled myself. “I’m Graziano Buonfiglio,” I replied.

Oh,” she said, rather condescendingly. “You caused so much hell here, I’m surprised they even let you back in.”

“Ms. Montfort–” Mykhaylo interjected, but Ms. Montfort held up her finger, interrupting him. She then walked up to me and said, “Get the fuck out of my school. If I ever catch you on these premises again, I’m calling OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) on your ass.”

I looked at Mykhaylo, expecting him to defend my honour. But he just said, “Just wait outside. I won’t be long.”

I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! “FUCK YOU BOTH!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, and stormed out of the school, my boots making the most pounding noise that you could imagine. I walked back to Mykhaylo’s car, and I sat next to it in the freezing cold for almost an hour. I was beyond incensed. Not only had Ms. Montfort made me feel like shit, but my boyfriend had let the BITCH do it to my face!

As 3:30PM rolled around, the classes of 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 emptied out of the building. Mykhaylo, too, walked out. For the first time in our decade-plus relationship, I didn’t want to look at him. That didn’t stop him from putting his hand on my shoulder.

“Graz–”

“FUCK YOU!” I screamed.

“What the hell is going on?”

“You let Ms. Montfort pull that shit! I did nothing to that woman, and she treated me like I was NOTHING! How DARE you!”

“Look, Graz–”

“NO, YOU LOOK!” I retorted. “WHAT YOU DID WAS BEYOND OUT OF LINE!”

“GRAZIANO, STOP IT!” Mykhaylo screamed at me. I could see tears forming in his eyes. “Stop it,” he softly said. He took out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes clear. We just looked at each other for a few moments, and then he said, “Can we discuss this in the car?”

I nodded. I wasn’t going to let the next generation of kids watch two grown gay men have a lovers’ quarrel in the parking lot of a secondary school. And so, we went back into the warmth of Mykhaylo’s car.

“I’m sorry, Graz,” Mykhaylo said. “Really, I’m sorry.”

I stared out the window. “She’s a monster, Mykhaylo,” I replied. “Everyone in that school was a monster. And there still are monsters there.”

“What are you talking about?”

“When she greeted you, it was warm and hugs and kisses. She didn’t greet me. She kicked me out, and I didn’t say one word to that bitch.”

I turned back toward Mykhaylo. “It was bad enough that there were monsters at home. Did I deserve to have monsters at school, too?”

Mykhaylo shook his head. “No.”

“You had a much better experience than I did. You were popular, you were on the honor roll every year, you translated for other Ukrainian students… everyone loved you.”

Mykhaylo sighed. “And should I apologize for that?”

“I never asked you to apologize. I never counted on anyone, not even you, to be my saviour at Earl Haig. I couldn’t even count on myself.”

There was dead silence for a few moments, and then Mykhaylo said, “If it makes you feel any better, I did try to make things better for you.”

“What do you mean?” I sat up in my chair.

“It broke my heart over and over to see you cry, to see you get beat up, to see you as the butt of many jokes. You would not believe how many times I complained on your behalf to teachers. There wasn’t a week that went by, that I didn’t tell someone about your problems. But I could only do so much, and the teachers did nothing.”

“You told?”

Mykhaylo nodded. “Seeing you so miserable, it made me so miserable. Every night, when I went to bed, I prayed to God that He or She would deliver you from your nightmares. Every morning, when I woke up, I did the same thing. Every year, when school would start up, I prayed that we would share at least one class together, so that you could have some support. As much as I wanted myself to succeed, I wanted you to succeed as well.”

He took my hand. “I am so sorry that I didn’t defend you today. I am so sorry that I didn’t defend you enough all those years ago.” And then, he kissed my hand. “I promise to defend you from here on out, no matter what.”

I smiled. “Thank you.” And then, I hugged him and kissed him on the lips. “Ya tebe kokhayu.”

Ti amo,” he replied. “Now, today is my birthday, and I’m hungry. I want to fuck you so badly.”

“OH, THEY GONNA HAVE GAY SEX!” I heard a girl’s voice from outside.

“Who said that?”

I looked around, and I saw plenty of kids surrounding the car. They had been watching us all this time! I rolled down the window. “Show’s over, kids. You want to see two gay people doing it, go on the Internet,” I said.

They slowly dispersed, disappointed. “Awww, I wanted to see them have sex!” I heard another girl say. I rolled the window back up, and said, “I think we should head to your place. We can fuck and then go to Jack Astor’s. My treat.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Hey, Mykhaylo?”

“Yeah?”

Z dnem narodzhennya (Happy birthday).”

Grazie,” he replied. And then, we drove off the parking lot and headed south.

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