Sunday, December 24, 2006

Giovanni's Room

The first person I ever knew who killed themselves was a friend of mine called Giovanni. It was way back in the Eighties when I was trying to be a professional tap dancer in Toronto. I ran the colour wheel at the Clinique counter in Eaton's by day and studied tap at the Toronto School of Tap by night.

Giovanni was a cobbler who lived across the hall from me in my building. He was basically straight but I've always been open minded that way. We had a brief liason which ended very soon after he re-tapped all my shoes but we'd stayed friends. We'd you know get together every couple of weeks for some coffee and cobbling.

Giovanni's problems began as so many people’s do, in France. He and his girlfriend Sophie were over there on a romantic holiday and one night in the city of Brest he ate a bad mussel and suffered minor brain damage. I'd warned him before he left not to eat the seafood but he thought I'd meant sailors. It was a Monday night and they'd ordered room service in their hotel room and and after it arrived he ate the treacherous bivalve and then after that, he ate the bad mussel. It was exactly eight o'clock which is significant because from that moment on he always thought it was Monday at eight o'clock. He was completely normal in every way except for that one thing.

Everything was fine for a while until Melrose Place came into the picture. Monday at eight o'clock. He loved that show. He just couldn't handle it when it ended at nine. And no one had VCR"S at the time. You were a slave to the TV schedule. It was primitive. Monday from Eight to Nine was great. The rest of the week he just kept asking why it wasn't on. Very annoying. I mean sometimes you just want your shoes sucked I mean fixed. We finally got one of the first VCR's and put Melrose Place on a constant loop which shut him up for a while but then one day it broke and he just lost it. He was never the same.

About a week before he died Melrose Place was cancelled. One night he called me and we had a long conversation about the show and what he was going to do now that it was over. He was very concerned for Heather Locklear. He didn't want her to do anything else after. He kept saying "I don't want her to sully it." So I told him if that had been the case before then Heather would have never done anything after Dynasty and we would never have had Amanda. That really got to him and he calmed down but then he suddenly said that he was going to kill himself and hung up. I had a bad feeling but I couldn't put my finger on it. Experts on suicide say that when someone is thinking of killing themselves they often send you signals thru odd behaviour such as singing in public or getting a perm. There was nothing like that but still,I was uneasy.

A couple of days later on a Friday he called again and said that he was going to do it that Monday night at eight o'clock. When I hung up I had that same bad feeling. I wanted to call back but I didn't want to be an alarmist. Besides it was Friday. I knew I had three days to figure out what to do. Then I remembered that it's always Monday at eight o'clock with him so I immediately called him back and his machine picked up. It was Giovanni saying, "I can't answer the phone right now because I'm not here. I mean I'm really not here. Don't bother leaving a message. Goodbye forever." Now I was really starting to get worried. I didn't know what to do. Finally I just opened the door and walked across the hall to his apartment. I opened the door and there he was. Sprawled on the floor between the bathroom and the hall with blood pouring from his mouth,an empty bag of shoe nails at his side and his hair all frizzed out in a hideous perm. It was awful.

I understand why he killed himself of course. I've felt like that but I would never kill myself. If I was ever feeling suicidal, I would find some other way to relieve the tension, some sort of displacement activity, like a hard game of tennis or shooting a horse. Better him than me.

After he died I found I couldn't tap any more. Every time I would slip my shoes on I would see Giovanni lying on the ground with that hideous perm and I'd have to stop. So I decided to go into modeling instead. It worked out very well. You may not realize it but I ‘m a huge star in the Phillipines. But truth be told, every once in a while when I see someone tapping their finger on a table or banging a metal garbage can lid rhythmically the old hunger comes back and my feet begin to move of their own accord.

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