At the arse-end of August, on a day when the air was dead and the city felt like it would melt you into the sidewalk if you stood still long enough, Nino Paventi called in a half-day of personal time, stripped off his uniform and headed out to Ville-Marie.
He didn't know what he was looking for, walking down Saint Catherine Street into the Village. Maybe he just needed not to be on the job for a day. Maybe he felt like he owed it to himself to visit every once in a while. Maybe he just liked the scenery of the Village when the streets got this hot.
Or maybe, somewhere in the back of his mind where he registered his mother's weekly updates on the neighbourhood, he knew that Angelo Barberini still volunteered out this way. And maybe today, of all days, he needed to accidentally-on-purpose run into that familiar face.
He stood in line at Mondo Gelato for almost half an hour for pannacotta in a cone, and then ate it leaning against the plastic fence that surrounded the patio, waiting while trying to look like he was doing anything but. His eyes might have been drawn away a little too frequently by the bare-chested passers-by, but he still couldn't miss Angelo's peach and teal shirt if he tried. He gave him a wave and, after looking right by him at least twice, Angelo gave him a cautious wave back.
Well, Nino figured he deserved that.
"I'll buy you a gelato," he called out as Angelo crossed the street. "Any flavour you want."
"That sounds suspiciously like a bribe," said Angelo, but with a sort of half smile, uncertain but willing to give Nino the benefit of the doubt.
"I just want to talk, that's all," he said, and tried to rearrange his thoughts so that he could get them all out in the space of a gelato. At least Angelo wouldn't suck it down as fast as his sister.
"You can talk," said Angelo, as Nino found himself at the end of that long line again. "I'll listen."
They weren't anywhere close to being alone, but Nino hadn't specified that. Next time he decided he needed to unburden himself to an old lover, he would think it through a little better.
"I got the papers from Pina this morning," he said, without even working up to it. Angelo would just cut right through the small talk anyway. "You know. The papers."
"The newspapers?" said Angelo. "Well, that must be nice. I have to go get my own if I want them; Peter gets his at work."
"Divorce papers, Angelo," said Nino, sighing. "We're getting divorced."
"Oh?" said Angelo, sounding surprised and looking less so. "She get tired of all your camping trips?"
"Hey, it's a fair question," said Angelo. "I think if I was still with you and you were going away every weekend, I would get a little tired of it too."
"She didn't get tired of the camping trips," said Nino, then took a deep breath. "I got tired of telling her they were just camping trips. I told her everything."
"Everything?" said Angelo. His mouth was quirked up again, but Nino didn't think it was amused tolerance this time. It was maybe a little bit more like smug. "No wonder she left you."
"She didn't-- I thought you'd be more supportive."
"What do you want, Nino? Do you want me to throw you a parade? Sorry, but you just missed it. Better luck next year."
"I was there," said Nino quietly, and maybe telling Angelo that would help. There were a lot of things he should've told Angelo a long time ago. "Angelo, I told her everything."
"I don't even know what everything is," said Angelo, shuffling forward as the line moved. "You told her you were cheating on her."
"With men," added Angelo. "She already knew you were bisexual."
"Except that I'm not," said Nino. "And that's what I told her." He really should have saved that dramatic deep breath for this particular pronouncement. "I told her I don't want to be with her. I told her that I don't want to be with women at all."
Angelo nodded his head and they shuffled forwards again. Nino wasn't sure what he was expecting him to say, but it wasn't nothing. Angelo seldom had nothing to say about anything, particularly this.
"If only you'd figured that out three years ago," he said finally. "It would've saved us both a lot of trouble."
Nino hadn't come hoping they'd get back together, though; Angelo was just the only person who knew everything about his past, and who also knew where he'd be going from here. And even if Nino hadn't quite known what he was doing when he took the afternoon off, it was pretty clear now that he was here what he'd been hoping this little trip would lead to.
"Well, I did it now," he said, because there really was no going back.
"Does your mother know?"
"You think if my mother knew I'd even have time to tell you before your mother told you?
"Well, I have been out all day," said Angelo wryly. "I might've missed the call."
"No, my mother doesn't know," said Nino. "Pina took Rosa and moved back into her family home last week. I told Ma she was just visiting."
"And nobody's told her otherwise?" said Angelo. "You're a lucky man, Nino. Pina's good at many things, but keeping quiet is not one of them." They shuffled forward again, nearing the front of the line. "Is she letting you see Rosa?"
"She will," said Nino, because it wasn't like that. Pina was angry but Nino was still that child's father, and nothing he did was going to change that. "I'm just letting her cool down a little first."
He knew what Angelo was going to ask next before the words even started coming out of his mouth, because it was the kind of thing that Angelo always asked. At least he asked it - unlike when everyone else asked it - it with a half-ironic, half-self-deprecating smile. "So, are you seeing anybody?"
"I thought I might wait until I was actually divorced before doing that," said Nino. "You know, for appearances."
"Right, for appearances," said Angelo, stuffing his hands in his pockets as the finally reached the counter. Nino stepped back as he ordered, only stepped forward again to pay and then lead them away from the neverending line, which was already snaking out onto the sidewalk behind them. "So are you doing all right?"
"Yeah, sure," said Nino, leaning against that same fence again. "Of course I am."
"Your wife left you, taking your daughter with her, you're getting a divorce, and you came out of the closet," said Angelo. "There's no 'of course' about that."
"I'm fine," insisted Nino. "No, I'm better. It's better this way. I was tired of all of it and I'm glad people know now."
"You," said Angelo, "still need to talk to your mother."
Nino cringed. "Maybe you could do it for me," he said. "You've had practice."
"The kind of practice I've had, you don't want to try out on your mother," said Angelo. "You should come over for dinner, though. You can try it out on mine."
"You really think your mother'd let me into her house without beating me on the head?" said Nino. "Last time I checked she wasn't my biggest fan."
"Nah, she only does that to her own children," said Angelo, licking chocolate from the corner of his mouth. "You still have the same number?"
"I still have the same number," said Nino.
"I'll call you, then," said Angelo. "At least your mother already knows that you sleep with men, so you don't have to tell her that part. And you already gave her a grandchild."
"That's true," said Nino. "Maybe she'll be happy for me."
"You mean, maybe she'll be distracted enough by Rosa that she won't mind as much as before," said Angelo. "Just give her some time. She'll get there in the end."
Nino guessed she would. But whether she did or she didn't, that was the next step for him. It had to be. He'd started the journey in this direction, and there was no stopping it and there was no going back now.
"So I'm guessing you haven't been to the Village very often," said Angelo, polishing off his gelato and tossing the cup in the overflowing trash. "You want a friend to show you around."
"Is that what we are?" said Nino. "Are we friends?"
"We could be," said Angelo, "if you want to be. If you're ready to be friends with me again."
"I am," he said without having to think about it, and finally got a real smile out of Angelo. They slipped back out onto the street and headed deeper into the summer crowds.
It was a whole new world out there.