April 12, 2017

Love Socially

On Javi Cuho & Andrea Jen’s Las horas perdidas (“The Lost Hours”)

Let’s get back a literary genre that here in spanishgayfiction.blogspot.com we just have a weakness for: the comic book. Here you have a yaoi-style collection (published in 2010) of four delightful stories—the index calls them hours—around one of our favorite topics. . .Do you feel it in your fingers?, do you feel it in your toes? Yes! It is L-O-V-E. [Sigh.]

After a short fragment from Federico García Lorca’s downbeat, evocative poem “Meditación bajo la lluvia” (“Meditation in the Rain”) we dive into “Balada para mi muerte” (“Ballad for My Death”), which is the perturbing name of the first story—Hour I. Here, we find ourselves in Germany in the early 1940s. Colton, a rough alcoholic SS officer wearing an eyepatch, is smitten with Geert, a captivating cross-dressed singer in a shitty clandestine cabaret. Colton has wife and children, but Geert falls on deaf ears: he is always willing to share his bed with this horny specimen—

Trouble in paradise: François, a member of the cabaret staff, is also in love with Geert. Like Taylor Swift in “Blank Space,” François gets drunk in jealousy, though his method to get rid of his rival is far away from the Pennsylvanian blonde’s swanky style. One night that Colton is sleeping with Geert in the cabaret, François reports the local to the authorities. The damaging devotee warns Geert and tries to persuade him to leave Colton and run away with him. Nonetheless, Geert stays with his stud when the police enter the stage on cue. What the ambiguous artist might have probably not expected was Colton’s response in this Catch 22 situation: the alpha male hands his wimpy victim over to the police. C’est la vie!

Geert gets sentenced to death because of his unnatural demeanor and, ironically enough, it will be Colton the officer to lead the firing squad. Geert says goodbye to the world by singing “Lili Marleen.”[1] This catchy, lovelorn tune was the song of the moment, and their song too. After the shooting, Colton is getting more monomaniacal by the minute, drinking alcohol while the song is unstoppably echoing in his mind. . .

Miracles happen when you believe—or rather when you are smashed—, and Geert appears in the shape of the perfect angel. His comeback from the beyond aims to declare the obvious thing: he was so passionately attached to Colton, morally superior to him (and the others), that leaves the one-eyed Aryan in the most wretched state in this vale of tears.

Geert was freedom in its purest form. Alas, he finally had to pay dearly for it in an envious, intolerant world. At the end of the story, Colton’s pathetic pursuit to his vanishing lover and his cruel dead end in a rain of feathers entail the icing on this pitiful cake.

Please, do not let this tale snow you over. The next story—Hour II: “Dos+1” (“Two+1”)—is a funny one. Meet Óscar and César in a placid Saturday night in today’s Barcelona. This hot couple is wearing their sexiest thongs in their apartment while waiting for their date. Yes, you have read it right! Following the advice that they heard on TV, a threesome may be a suggestive way to spice up their sexual life, and the chosen third one is a guy that they met on a dating website whose only picture is showing—his cute butt!

It must be said that they start off on the wrong foot: Óscar looks a bit hesitant at first. However, when César tries to phone the anonymous guest to cancel the date, Óscar flatly opposes. Then, César sets out a role-playing game in order to relax and get aroused in the meantime. It lies in imagining a situation in which Óscar is working in the office and welcomes an unexpected provocative visitor played by his frisky partner. His identity? César suggests Dani, the new boy in Óscar’s office that he is talking about lately. All of a sudden, his companion loses his temper: this boy has recently become a pain in Óscar’s ass. (He also does not seem to approve Dani’s drug abuse). Wrong choice, indeed. A quick change of strategy leads César to pull a big black dildo out of the couch cushion. Yet again, Óscar is not excited at all, and he is about to throw in the towel when the doorbell rings. . .

In the wink of an eye, Óscar hides in the bathroom while César opens the door. In César’s view, the website boy happens to be a delicious blond guy in scarce tight clothes. For Óscar, he turns to be the most unpredicted dread. When César goes for Óscar into his hiding place, the latter confesses that the guy is the so called Dani!! What can they do? Óscar does not want to have sex with a coworker, but Dani is sooooo sexy tonight. Once again, César has an idea: he persuades Dani to get his eyes blindfolded as a game. This way, Dani cannot recognize Óscar—though his voice sounds familiar to him—and the three of them can therefore have a great time smoothly.

Dani starts the party by displaying his XL dick. Bad move: Óscar and César argue about who is going to be the first one to ride it. Dani is getting bored. He stands up. . .and falls abruptly on the table. What happens?, ask Óscar and César in their most petrified mode. A doctor from the emergency room will give them the answer: Dani has had an overdose (too many exciting pills for one night), but he is out of danger now. And this visit to the hospital brings an end to the sassy experiment.

You might be thinking that César and Óscar have already learnt the lesson, but right this moment Óscar recalls another tip from TV: fetishism. And the charming bearded doctor is in a stunningly white medical uniform. . .  

We leave all this vaudeville behind and get into Hour III. “La promesa” (“The Promise”) is probably the most beautiful story of the collection. Barcelona, December 25, 1970. At dawn, two long-haired gorgeous men have to say goodbye after spending all night long making love in a room of the inn “Flor de Loto” (“Lotus Flower”). The blond one is sorry about the nuisance of waiting for next year to meet his better half again. But a promise is a promise. . .

Time flies and we are now in 2010. In a retirement home the old folks are enjoying a Christmas Eve party while the new nurse, Héctor, is anxiously checking his cell phone every so often. His boss Gloria tells him off, but there is an explanation for this behavior: Héctor’s inflexible boyfriend Luis is giving him an ultimatum.

By the end of the night almost all the presents have been given. There is still one waiting under the tree, and the label reads: “Jaime.” Who is this Jaime? The young blond man that we met in that hotel room forty years ago, who has turned into a sulky, lonely resident. It will not be long before Héctor and Jaime become friends. Jaime tells him about the dark-haired, blue-eyed enigmatic man, Esteban, and how they became lovers when they were young and met every summer holidays. . .until they grew up.

Some time later they come across on one Christmas Eve. They are adults now, but the feeling is still the same. They promise to meet every Christmas Eve, and they will for the next 30 years. The first scene that we have mentioned above was the last time they met; in 1971 Esteban did not swing by the inn. No explanation. Due to the fact that they had to be cautious (Esteban had wife and children, and Spain in the early 1970s was not the most suitable place to come out—Well, I guess no place was good in those days), Jaime had no data about Esteban: no address, no phone number. But Jaime’s unyielding will compelled him to book in the inn every Christmas Eve and wait for Esteban in the same old room. It was useless; Esteban dropped in never.

Tonight Jaime is particularly uneasy. This will be the first time that he does not make his appearance in the inn: the doctor does not allow him to leave the institution. Never mind. Héctor, touched by his words, will help Jaime leave the place secretly and go to his yearned locus amoenus.

When they arrive, things are definitely different. “La Flor de Loto” closed down months ago and there is a show girls club instead. A helpless Jaime, angry with himself, is resolved to surrender and drops in the snow the only picture of Esteban that he has been keeping all these years. And this is the key moment when Fate lends one of Its mighty hands. Just when Jaime and Héctor are about to leave the place, an odd bearded cross-dressed prostitute who picked up the wrinkled picture identifies Esteban as the man who was there not long ago. The prostitute also tells them that he suggested him the train station inn to spend the night.

As quirky as it sounds, Jaime recovers his young years’ strength and runs like the devil towards the station. Héctor can’t hardly follow him! There, Jaime looks everywhere and yells Esteban ceaselessly. Of course, such behavior attracts the security guards’ attention, and when they are taking him out, a man calls Jaime. Our desperate friend instantly recognizes him as Esteban. However, the guy looks too young to be his missing lover. So weird—There is an explanation after all: this is not Esteban but his son Ígor. He promised his father before he died to find Jaime and give him a letter. OK, but why was Esteban absent since 1971? Sadly, he suffered an accident which left him disabled. My goodness!

Now that Jaime has solved all the mysteries around his soulmate, he has nothing to do in Barcelona and that gloomy institution. He is determined to buy a little house on the beach and live there for the rest of his life. This was their dream. Jaime talks Héctor into becoming his personal nurse. Héctor’s continuation in the nursing home is rather unlikely regarding his demeanor tonight, and Luis has just broken up by text, so. . .what would you do if you were in Héctor’s shoes? A bright Christmas sunrise seems to smile at the two of them.

Now the clock strikes Hour IV, and we reach the last story: “La solución final” (“The Final Solution”). Four friends (Miguel, Julián, Pablo and Rafa) are spending an evening on the beach. It seems a joyful event at first glance. Actually, they have met to commit suicide. Why? According to their speeches, they are not particularly happy with their own lives. The four of them have different physical imperfections which have made them socially rejected anyhow. They feel so bitter that even call one another by the cruel nicknames that people use for them. The plan is to drink all at once a poisonous potion provided by Rafa, who is a chemist, at the end of the day. However, Miguel is so itchy and disgusted that swallows it all of a sudden. Then, his friends are compelled to drink after him. As this is their last night alive, they are determined to have fun drinking vodka and swimming naked in the sea.

At daybreak we find the four bodies lying on the sand beach. All dead? Not yet, as they start to wake up. . .Not all of them: Julián does not open his eyes. Miguel starts panicking, and when Julián finally wakes up Miguel inevitably confesses his caring love for his friend. Besides, Pablo receives a phone call announcing that he has got a part. At last! Pablo was working as an accountant, but his real dream was becoming a professional actor. Still, he had always been turned down because of his obesity.

Things run smoothly this new morning. Does anyone remember the potion? The four pass out and fall on the sand right away. This is the end? No way! A little playful boy with angel wings wakes Julián up with the help of his water gun. Confused, Julián wonders whether he is in heaven now.

Rafa stands alone by the seashore. Julián asks him for an explanation. At the last minute Rafa saw things clearly, and the potion that he handed them was not poison. Rafa understood that they had one another after all, and their friendship was too important so as to kill themselves. Life is hard, but not so much with the love of your friends. And they happily hug one another and get into the sea on this shiny brand-new day: their new birthday.

We find a leitmotif in Las horas perdidas: Society plays an influential role in the four stories. Colton relied heavily on a political regime in which he took part and, after realizing it is making him unhappy, finally wanted to escape; Óscar and César decide to improve their sexual life by following a trend; Jaime and Esteban had to live their love story apart from society, and others’ opinions have conditioned the four friends so much that they have lived miserably so far. If there is a key message that the author Javi Cuho (Barcelona, 1981) seems to teach us, it is that the only way to Happyland is by releasing yourself from social impositions and trying to follow your own drives, beliefs and feelings. Look at that!

As this is a comic book, the touchy, sentimental texts by Cuho are wonderfully illustrated by Andrea Jen. Her sensibility, sense of humor and attention to detail are really praiseworthy. We would like to highlight her character design in some examples:
o   The sweet delicacy of Geert
o   César with his saucy leather belt necklace
o   The (extremely) romantic charm of Esteban, and
o   Jaime as an old-but-still-sexy man

Also her polished style gets Super Deformed sometimes, providing a really wisecracking atmosphere that reaches its peak in “Dos+1,” when depicting César and Óscar’s never-ending, almost schizophrenic changes of mind. Doubtlessly, Jen’s contribution to this comic makes the read a priceless experience.

[1] One of the most famous songs of the 20th century, and a total hymn for the World War II soldiers. Lale Andersen was the first lady to record it, but a huge amount of varied singers has made their versions since then (Connie Francis, Amanda Lear, Spanish singer Marta Sánchez, and a long et cetera), though we can firmly state that the most mesmerizing one was superb Marlene Dietrich’s.

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