Gino and I have been seeing each other secretly. We hung out a lot and I was happy just being friends. I had no intention of getting into a relationship, but he was persistent about getting closer. He says that he loves me; he’s the first guy I’ve ever said that back to. Quite honestly, his matter of fact, “Ti Amo” felt less like an affectionate declaration of emotion than it did a challenge statement, basically throwing down a gauntlet that I had no choice but to answer to, even though I was far from being prepared or sure in my response. I haven’t seen Paul since we spent the day together in St. Thomas. I had no interest in anyone else, even though neither of us made any commitments, and there had certainly been no mention of love, or any feelings at all for that matter, other than missing each other’s company.

One evening, when we were still just friends and hanging out in the lounge having a few drinks, Gino told me that he had talked to Thomas at the beginning of the season and asked questions about the staff on board last year, and that Thomas actually told him about our relationship, and described me as f**kable. I find it hard to believe that he would have told anyone, and yet Gino knew. Was I being offered up like some kind of hand-me-down no longer needed?  I don’t understand why Gino would even tell me such a thing, even if he were drunk. I brushed it off and didn’t acknowledge the relationship in case Gino was just guessing. I never mentioned it again, but that word, that attribute, that label: f**kable plays over in my head like a bad song you hear late at night that gets stuck like a broken record while you try to sleep, worming into your dreams, and still lingering when you wake up. It’s only by playing a new song that you can get it out of your brain. I think I ended up with Gino to hear a new tune.

We spend a lot of time together, and it is usually awesome. He is so much fun most of the time. Sometimes I play my guitar while he plays conga drums, but we mostly listen to and sing along with tapes, especially Al Jerreau, Santana, Gino Vanelli, Earth Wind and Fire, Chick Corea, Steely Dan, and some others. I say it is usually awesome because he’s fine as long as he only drinks beer. When he drinks hard stuff, he is a different person. He’s cynical, cold, paranoid, and can be really mean to me. It’s not like he is physical or anything, it’s more like he doesn’t give a sh*t how I feel about anything or what he says. “Mangia merda” is a favorite insult I wish I never learned.

When he drinks anything other than beer, we get in an argument, and the next day he says how sorry he is and that he didn’t mean any of it and that he loves me. And I forgive him, and he promises it isn’t going to happen anymore. I must be stupid to believe him. It feels like he sets me up to say or do something that he can blame me for later. That happens even when he is sober. I care about him, but I don’t know if this is going to work out. I was a lot happier last year.

We do have so many great times, like the day in Cozumel we rented a convertible and drove all over the island to isolated beaches and found a little zoo in the middle of nowhere with alligators and other odd animals. And the day we shopped at a vintage clothing store in New Orleans; I bought an antique silk blouse and a beautiful white petticoat style puffy skirt, and Gino bought an old boy scout shirt and a white suit jacket, the kind a 1950’s nightclub band guy might wear. He looks so cute in the shirt with the troop number patch, and the jacket is really stylish. Those are the good times, and there are a lot of them. I just don’t know how to make him be happy and normal all the time. I never know what to expect and try my best to not say or do things to piss him off, but I don’t really think it has anything to do with me when he acts that way.

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