Review: An Infatuation by Joe Cosentino

With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future. 

Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.
                                                          Thomas P. Murphy  


It's a funny thing; it heals, it flies, it can be wasted or treasured. It's too short - or too long -, it's of the moment and the past and the future. But what can time do to infatuation? That one perfect first love? This is what Harold, and his husband, Stuart, wonder when Harold's ten year reunion comes round.

High School, being a teenager, developing from childhood to adulthood and all the emotions and fears and uncertainty that comes with it can be both the best and worst time of a person's life. Whilst it is true that the start of the journey is just there, any route still able to be taken, it is also true that being different - and fear of being different - can hinder, cripple, the choices a person makes. 

When a person has to hide who they are, for fear of ridicule, of violence. Of being an outsider, friendless, alone. Of abandonment. When a person has to hide because of these - and many more - factors, then ultimately the routes that seem so wide open are suddenly diminishing. Choices are becoming fewer, decisions harder, options minimising. Life becomes a compromise. And not a compromise through choice, but a forced compromise. Even in the land of hope and plenty.

As we wander back with Harold through his memories, it is easy to see him as the victim. The weak one. The one who is different, who is bullied, who is (in the eyes of his peers, and they are so important at the time) lesser. Mario on the other hand, has it all. He is popular, good-looking, a jock. His family have money. He is well known and well liked. The boy at the top of his game. So basically, they are two opposites: nerd and jock, popular and not, strong and weak.

And ain't that the truth? Though as we follow Harold's story, it becomes obvious that those black and white lines are actually much further from defined than one would first think. And this is because Joe Cosentino is a very clever writer. He takes the stereotype (I admit to using that word hesitantly) and shows more. I've said before that this author is very observational, and he really is. He takes a character, makes them  almost cartoon like, then cleverly dissects away to reveal the real them. And all with a brilliant touch of humour.

And make no mistake, this author is very, very witty. With the timing of the actor he is, his humour shines through, again and again. Hah - time again. The perfect time to wit. (It's my review, I can make a noun a verb if I want. Even if it does make me think of owls, which are in no way part of this review).

As well as Harold, his loving and understanding husband, Stuart, and Mario, there is one other character I want to mention. Mr Ringwood. I had extreme feelings about Mr Ringwood. At first glance I despised him. Though understanding, he didn't have enough backbone to do the right thing. How he treated Harold was wrong - so, wrong. And he knew it. But in a way he was as much a victim as Harold. Not at that precise point in time in the same way Harold was, and don't get me wrong, as an adult it was his job to protect Harold, but he was a victim nonetheless. For all the reasons listed above. Time had yet to help him though. Time did nothing more at that point than make the fear bigger. Too big to do the right thing. Later though, time does help, he knows it, knows it's too late for him, that it is time for someone else.

"It's too late for me. My time has gone, but your time, Harold, is now."

Like an onion, Joe Cosentino's stories have layers. I would really recommend them. This is a Bittersweet novel, but it has laughs-a-plenty despite the sad and ugly lurking beneath the veneer. A truly fabulous read.

Excerpt and to buy links:
One Friday afternoon I accidentally ran into my hero in the boy's locker room. I’d had enough of the big guys banging me into gym lockers, pushing me into cold showers, and hanging me from the gym ropes. So I was on my way to give Mr. Adoni a note from Dr. Dlorah excusing me from gym class for the remainder of the school year (due to my highly contagious disease being studied by my doctor in Guatemala, where he could not be reached for the next year).
The locker room smelled of an odd combination of soap, cologne, sweat, and desire. Mario was getting ready for football practice, standing at his gym locker without a combination lock on it. Nobody would dare to break into it (Except for me that one time I smelled his jock strap. Okay maybe it was a few times, but not more than ten.). Mario slid his T-shirt (red today) over his thick, black hair and threw it on the nearby bench. No longer harnessed by cotton, his arm, back, chest, and neck muscles swelled to full size. I was half hidden behind the adjoining row of lockers, wearing my usual green and blue flannel shirt and brown corduroy pants. Mario, who wasn’t looking in my direction, said something really beautiful to me that I will never forget. “Hi.”
“Did you just? Oh. Hi. Hello. Good afternoon. Nice to see you. I mean, change with you.” I looked down at the floor (but cheated a bit) as Mario kicked off his boots, slipped off his jeans then threw them in the lucky locker. His red underpants (briefs) revealed ample manhood. This is better than the newspaper’s underwear ads!
“Good gym class today with Mr. Adonis, I mean, Mr. Adoni.” Did I just say that? “Harold High.”
“High.” How can I get my pulse down to 260?
“Hi.” Mario reached into his locker for his sweat clothes.
Shouldn’t people be doing that for you? “Oh, my last name is High. Like a kite.” How can I stop my arms from waving like an airport flagger on speed?
“Mario Ginetti. Like nothin’ else imaginable.” Mario smiled, revealing a row of perfectly white teeth, and held the sweat clothes in his hands as if he was mortal.
“I know. I watch your body play.” Why can’t I stop talking? “I mean, I watch you play … football … on the field … in your football outfit.” I feel like Michelangelo with his David!
As Mario put on his sweats, I continued to sweat.
“I'm voting for your body … I mean I'm voting for you for president of your … our … the student body.” I need my jaw wired shut. “I’m your lab partner in Chemistry class. Ms. Hungry’s class … I mean Ms. Hunsley’s class.”
His olive-colored face glistened as Mario’s face registered recognition—of me! “I thought I knew you from somewheres. Hey, thanks for doing the lab reports.”
“It’s my honor … I mean my pleasure. It’s fine. If you need help putting up posters for your campaign, I can … ”
Having just tied the laces of his sneakers, Mario stood absolutely still. He looked at me as if he was staring into my heart and somehow knew what I was feeling. “I gotta take a wicked piss.”
Can I watch?
“Thanks for helping me out, Buddy.” He slammed the locker door and left.
He called me, Buddy! My heart was as soft and silly as putty that Mario held in the palm of his hand like his soap on a rope.

AN INFATUATION by JOE COSENTINO: a novella from Dreamspinner Press: e-book $4.99
purchase links:

For more information check out Goodreads.
A copy of this story was given to the reviewer. The review reflects her honest feelings.

No comments:

Post a Comment