Σάββατο, 29 Δεκεμβρίου 2012

“The History of Sexuality”

(The short story "The History of Sexuality" was one of the 14 best short stories of the competition Sea of Words (IEMed) http://www.iemed.org/dossiers-en/dossiers-iemed/cultures-mediterranies/sea-of-words-2012/winners )



He took a deep breath and started to read:
“.. The ancient Greeks believed that desire itself addressed anything that was desirable, be it a boy or girl…” *
He raised his head, looked at him and added, “We all adore beauty, Papa… It makes sense doesn’t it? We like something when it satisfies our senses.”
 He cleared his throat and continued overbearingly:
“…We should consider how and in what form the pleasure enjoyed between men was problematic… In short, given that it was a widespread practice and the laws in no way condemned it and its attraction was commonly recognized, why was it the object of a special and especially intense moral preoccupation? So much so that it was invested with values, imperatives, demands…”*
“Hello Giorgos,” interrupted his sister Anna, entering the room. “What are you reading to Papa?”
“Hi Papa,” Anna said addressing her father and taking his hand, but Papa didn’t move as he was comatose. It had been a week since Giorgos had returned from his studies with Oliver, a fellow student, but father had suffered a sudden stroke after his son’s homecoming and had been clinically dead at the general hospital for three days now.
“You didn’t tell me what you’re reading to Papa,” Anna repeated, not having had an answer to her question.
The History of Sexuality by Foucault,” Giorgos replied a bit timidly.
“The one that analyses homosexuality?” Anna queried in surprise.
“Yes.”
“Are you kidding? You’re reading Foucault to Papa?”
“Yes, sure, why not? The Doctor said to talk to him. It’s good for him,” Giorgos protested.
“The Doctor said to talk to him, not to bombard him with ideas which he can’t accept. You’re spending all this time with Papa to give him sex education?”
“I’m telling him what he should already know.”
Their father, Mr. Yannis, belonged to a generation of Cypriots which, after the Turkish invasion of 1974, had made their fortune through hard work in construction. He had built a successful business taking on important projects. A heavyset old fashioned man, he often said mockingly: “We’re full up with the mentally disturbed who fuck little boys,” of course referring to the increase in numbers of gay people in current Cypriot society.
Giorgos and Anna were Mr. Yannis’s only children, beloved by their father, but especially Giorgos, Mr. Yannis’s only son.
“You’re telling him that you’re gay, now that he can’t hear you?” Anna solicited belligerently.
“The Doctor said that he can hear and understand everything.”
“Yes, but he can’t react.”

“Exactly! That why it’s an opportunity for him to understand and digest the fact that I’m queer. A poufter!” Giorgos repeated, spitefully lowering his face to his father’s ear to be sure that he would hear.
“Come on, stop that!” Anna implored, slapping him lightly on the shoulder. “Think what you are saying to Father!”
“It’s the truth! There are some things which must be said.”

Giorgos had felt a need to explore his sexual identity since he was fifteen. For him, things were not as obvious as his father had said; “a woman, a family, a home” was somehow not the ultimate purpose in life. For him it was something more than a matter of one plus one equals two. At twenty years of age, after having served in the army as required by the Republic of Cyprus, he had left to study law in London. There in that great Western metropolis, he discovered his real self. London had taught him the most important lesson of his life, that being different is an asset, not some defect or disadvantage as believed in the provincial city where he grew up. In London, he had understood that we are all equal, all different and that every person is unique. Giorgos had thereby discovered in this diverse city of millions, where no one judged someone else by their appearance or behaviour, that each person has their own truth and not some truth imposed by society. He was “liberated” in London, he often said. The only problem was that his family was not liberated at all with anything that did not fit in with the morals and beliefs of their small city, especially his father who thought of homosexuality as a disease of the mind.
“And now is the time to tell him, when he’s in a coma,” Anna reprimanded again.
“How could I tell him? You know how he thinks!”
“And you have to tell him now that he’s a vegetable.”
“You know what I think? I think that I’m the reason that Papa is in this state.”
“What do you mean?” Anna asked anxiously.
“The day he had his stroke was the last day that Oliver was in Cyprus.”
“I don’t believe that,” Anna intervened again. “Did he see you? Didn’t we agree that you wouldn’t do anything in Cyprus?”
Anna was the only person who knew the whole truth about her brother Giorgos. No one else knew that Giorgos was a homosexual, nor did anyone know that Oliver, who was a guest in their home during the days before the stroke, was not simply Giorgos’s fellow student, but his lover and roommate during the past two years in London.
“We didn’t do anything except for once, when I think Papa saw us,” Giorgos continued. “It was the last night before Oliver left and as we got ready to leave for the bar, Oliver and I kissed in the car. After a quarter of an hour, Mama called and said that Father had had a stroke. We found Papa at the living room window which looks out onto the street; it’s the only place in the house where one can see the cars in the street.”
Anna didn’t answer, remaining pensive, sadly looking at Father and added after a few moments of silence: “They’re right to say that the body reacts in the way it does to prevent us from going crazy. Perhaps poor Father preferred to die rather than to learn such a thing about his only son.”
“Yes, but he’s not dead, he’s in a coma,” Giorgos added emphatically, “everything happens for a reason! Didn’t you tell me that? Whatever happens to us happens for a reason. I’m convinced that this happened for him to be able to adjust to the idea that his son is gay.”
“So that’s why you’ve been lecturing him on sexuality for the past two days?”
“Yes, because if I hide this and cause such problems for myself and those around me… isn’t it better to tell the truth?”
“Anyway, we’ll talk later; Mama is coming now!” Anna interrupted.
“I’ll tell her also,” Giorgos said.
At that moment, their mother entered the room holding a plastic bag of biscuits from the pastry shop.
“What will you tell me also, Giorgos?” she asked, startling both of them.
Giorgos and Anna froze and no one answered. Their mother Mrs. Loukia, a veteran housewife whose greatest pleasures were TV soap operas and reality show endings had an imploring stare which left one no choice but to confess the entire truth.
“I’m gay Mother,” Giorgos said abruptly.
“You’re what?” she asked while trying to put the biscuits on the bedside table next to Papa.
“Gay.”
“Indeed,” she said indifferently, continuing her effort to place the biscuits on the side table.
“Mama,” Anna intervened, “did you hear what Giorgos just told you?”
Mother turned and looked, undisturbed, without having understood what was happening.
“Mother, I’m gay,” Giorgos repeated. “Oliver, who was staying at our house, is my boyfriend.”
Mrs. Loukia stopped and looked at them dumbly, as if she couldn’t grasp or understand the concept.
“He’s a homosexual, Mother, you know, a gay-boy,” Anna added categorically.
Then, as if someone had thrown a bucket of water in her face, she said vehemently, “What? Shush, don’t let your father hear you! Quiet. Whatever you want to say to me, you can tell me at home.”

*Excerpts from The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, “The Use of Pleasure”, Rappas Publications (Greek version)

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