Fiction

The Little Gods of Desire
by Robert Cataldo

To the little gods of desire, we address our prayers. We thank you for so many happy nights, when two weeks of loneliness and abstinence were more than we could bear. I thank you for my friends, to whom, in part, this book is dedicated: boys, whose names, I don’t recall, whose fates I’m not privy to tell, boys who had little more to offer each other but an unmade bed. Lives that don’t make it onto the front page, thank God, that don’t even make it into print (unless we pay for it). I don’t complain. Nights of longing and loneliness far richer, far more consoling than a gay, adolescent boy could have wished for. I apologize to all those I might have hurt—not many I hope—I might have disappointed, to all those I misread or misjudged (or judged all too closely), to all those, but for fate, a hopeful, kind word wasn’t said. So many, I’m afraid, (an army of lovers, as Whitman put it), we’ve lost to AIDS. It saddens me to look back upon all those I, too, might have lost. I try to recall here their beauty, their rushed innocence, or troubled destinies. We thank you for desire. When a T-shirt, a rough pair of jeans, an invitation remains as one of the most beautiful, unexpected moments of a young life. We thank you, dear prose, for helping us recall. (Dear boy, I don’t know from what shadows you emerged or to what shadows you returned. I see you still: handsome, devil-may-care, affectionate, all of twenty-six.) To all those I helped along the way: I’m still owed a denim jacket. I’m afraid you weren’t destined for a long and happy life. I waited night after night for some word from you. Summer came. I had to give up the apartment. Your sweater and Hush Puppies I kept for as long as I could. I ached for you, even if it were hopeless to hope. Colby, dear boy, I hope you’ve kept out of trouble. I fear not. I did what I could for you. I moved. I didn’t have any way to reach you (not that I had much more to give). I cover your memory with flowers, one for every year you lived. To all those who appeared and reappeared in this book, as a short novel, a long story, un raccontino (a short tale), forgive me for messing up the facts, changing names and dates, or brutally stating them. I tried to articulate something of your charm: your love of music, or antiques, an exquisite thoughtfulness (or all three). I’m sorry I couldn’t express anything more hopeful than our misgivings, a sometimes lofty but profoundly melancholy tone. Minor chords, for us poorly afflicted, are such satisfying notes. To my dear Francis, I’m very fortunate to end my saga with you. You’ve kept me from another year of chaos and disillusionment, twenty more pages of heartache, at least! You’ve kept me sane and whole. As you said so well one day, “My real life began with you.” Coming at the end of so much trial and confusion, poor decision-making, you represented both the joy and grace I so sorely missed. Thank you for furnishing me with happiness these forty years. In a book of love stories, you have been the sweetest, the most tenacious of all. So concludes this long, sad story with a happy ending. Finis.


Robert Cataldo is the author of four novels: All my life. Since I told you, Until Then, Nights at The Napoleon, and Autumn. A novelist and poet, his work has appeared in Bay Windows, Zone, a feminist journal for women and men, and the Arlington Literary Journal, among others. His poem “Ancient Find” was published in Gradiva, International Journal of Italian Poetry, 2014. A travel essay of his on visiting the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy’s flat in Alexandria, Egypt is featured in Thoughtful Dog. “The Little Gods of Desire” was named runner-up in A&U’s 2021 Christopher Hewitt Awards. Robert lives in Providence with his boyfriend (husband) of forty-four years.