Go to all chapters of "Medium Security".
"This neighborhood isn't too bad," Justin told Brian as they left the apartment building on Barker Place. "My mother thinks I'm going to get mugged every time I walk out the door. Liberty Avenue is a little rundown, but I like it. I can walk to the diner. And I can catch my bus to class right on the corner."
Brian hunched his shoulders against the cold. He had tried to put on one of Justin's jackets, but they were all too small. So he wore two sweaters and topped them off with Justin's extra-large Carnegie Mellon sweatshirt. But he was still fucking freezing!
"Is this really a gay area?" Brian asked. He eyed the people walking by, but they just looked like regular people. Non-inmates. Civilians. No obvious queens like Emmett or Michelle. Everyone looked fairly middle-of-the-road.
"There's a gay bar over there." Justin pointed to a nondescript storefront with blacked out windows. "And a disco down an alley a couple blocks that way. There are head-shops and bookstores and funky clothing stores all along the street. And the Liberty Diner, of course. That's the most obvious gay business -- at least to an outsider."
"And that's where you work -- of course!" Brian grumbled. "With Michelle's crazy mother."
"It's a fun place to work, Brian," Justin insisted. "So don't knock it. That's where we're going for brunch."
"Brunch!" Brian snorted. "Jesus Christ!"
Justin pulled Brian by the hand, laughing. "Come with me! I know you must be hungry since you didn't eat any of Ron's big Chinese meal last night."
"I know," Brian admitted. "I feel kind of bad about that after he went to all that trouble. But I couldn't eat. There was... too much going on."
Justin stopped on the sidewalk. "Brian, I'm not going to pretend that I trust Ron, because I don't. I know you have a long history with him and that you feel like you owe him a lot. I understand that feeling. I owe him a lot, too. Ron worked hard on my case and he gave me the deposit so I could rent the apartment, as well as the rent for the first few months."
"That's the first thing we'll have to change," said Brian. "I'll pay the rent from now on. With the advance money for my supposed book."
"Not supposed book, Brian -- definite book!" Justin said. "Once you get settled you can start working with that editor and get it ready for publication. But in the meanwhile, we'll have to use some of your money for the basics. It's the only way we can be independent of Ron."
"That's what I want," said Brian. "If it's possible."
"It's possible, Brian." Justin wondered if Brian had any idea of just how much money he had gotten for his advance. A hundred thousand dollars was a lot of money, even after taxes. But for the moment it was all Brian had to live on until he made some money from his book. Unless he was going to rely on Ron. "One more thing, Brian. If Ron... if he starts, you know, bothering you in any way, I want you to tell me. Because I know that Ron still thinks about you all the time. I know that he does. Maybe he thinks he loves you or that he still 'owns' you or whatever the hell. I don't really care what Ron's motive is. But you're MY lover, Brian, not Ron's! And I want everyone to know that."
"They will, Justin." Brian smiled at Justin serious expression. "I'm not planning to slink back into the closet now that I'm out of the Quad."
"I didn't think you would go back into the closet, Brian," Justin replied. "That would be awfully hard to do after your 'New Yorker' piece. But forget about anyone else, Brian. Most of all I want YOU to know how much I love you! And I don't give a fuck what Ron thinks or what Ron wants. He's in my life now and I can't do anything about it. He may even marry my stupid mother and be my fucking stepfather, if you can imagine that!"
"I doubt Ron is planning to marry anyone, no offense to your mom, Justin," Brian countered.
"Who knows what will happen?" Justin shrugged. "But I don't want Ron to turn the screws on YOU, Brian. Not ever! He may have been your jocker for most of the years you were in Stanton, but I'm your boyfriend now! And I'll kick Ron's ass if he tries anything. Get it?"
Brian gaped at Justin in surprise. Then he saluted sharply. "Yes, SIR! I get it, SIR!"
"Don't laugh at me, asshole!" Justin swatted Brian's arm. "I'm not kidding!" But then Justin stopped smiling. "Unless you... you still have feelings for Ron? More than you have feelings for me?"
But Brian shook his head. "No, Justin. I have feelings for Ron, but not like that. He was my mentor and he was my lover. But that was in the past. I don't have those kinds of feelings for Ron anymore and I haven't for a long time. I think you know that already, Justin."
"I only wanted to be sure." Justin grinned. Then he took hold of Brian's face and pulled him down to kiss him, right there on the sidewalk in front of the Liberty Diner
"Faggots!" shouted some man across the street. "Fucking fags!"
"Jealous?" Justin yelled back. "Get your own boyfriend! This one's mine!"
"Be careful, Justin," Brian warned. He grabbed Justin's arm and pulled him towards the door of the diner. "This may be a gay area, but obviously not everyone around here thinks so."
"Some people are fucking jerks!" Justin muttered. "We're not hurting anyone!"
"I mean it, Justin," said Brian. "Kissing on a public street is a bit much. Before I went into Stanton if two guys had done that on the sidewalk, no matter what part of town it was, they would have been beaten up -- or worse! I don't think things have changed that much since 1968."
"I hate the way people are," Justin complained. "Some day it'll be different."
"Maybe," Brian replied. "But don't take chances. Why risk it when we have that great apartment to fuck in?"
"Yeah!" Justin grinned mischievously. "And we've only used two of the rooms so far!"
"God you are a horny kid!" Brian laughed. "Are we going inside? Or back to the apartment for another round?"
"We better go inside," said Justin. "Debbie's already seen us."
Justin turned and waved at Debbie Novotny, who was standing in the front window of the diner, her hands on her hips, watching them intently.
"Hell's bells! I was wondering when you'd show up, Sunshine!" Deb exclaimed. "I was shorthanded at breakfast this morning!"
"Sorry, Deb," Justin said sheepishly. "I'll be in tomorrow bright and early. But Brian and I were... up kind of late last night."
"Hello, Mrs. Novotny," Brian greeted her. It seemed so odd to see her in this diner instead of in the Visitors' Gallery with Michelle.
"Hiya, Bri Baby!" Deb returned. "So, you two were up all night screwing your brains out, huh?"
"Debbie!" said Justin, turning red. "People can hear you!"
"So?" Deb snorted. "Sunshine, if I had this sexy man fresh out of the joint that's what I'd be doing! Except I wouldn't leave the bed for at least a couple of days!"
"The only reason we left is to have... brunch," said Brian, making a face. "Whatever the fuck brunch is. So let's have some."
"Take a seat, gentlemen," said Deb, ushering them to empty booth. She handed both of them menus. "You can read this, honey," she said to Brian. "But I'm sure Sunshine can tell you what's good better than anyone else."
Justin handed his menu back to Deb and gestured for Brian to do the same. "The Brunch Special. Steak, eggs, hash browns, and English muffins. With plenty of gravy."
"That sounds like a lot of food," said Brian.
"You need to keep your strength up, Brian." Justin insisted. "You're going to eat it! All of it. And black coffee, too."
"Two Brunch Specials, extra gravy, and coffee. Coming right up!" Deb cackled. Then she headed back to the window to put the order in.
"This place is pretty busy," Brian commented. All of the booths were filled and the counter was also crowded. Maybe too crowded. There were people in the booth in front of them and in the booth behind them. Brian kept looking around, trying to see who was sitting nearby. It made him nervous to have so many strangers so close to him and Justin.
"It's almost lunchtime," Justin replied. "The diner is always humming at this hour. I'm usually at class during this shift. But mornings are busy, too. I make a lot of tips!"
"Do you really like working in this place?" Brian asked. "Because I don't want you to knock yourself out, Justin. You should be concentrating on school instead of carrying trays."
Justin squeezed Brian's hand in reassurance. "I want to work, Brian. That's the only way I can at least try to keep some of my independence. Between my dad and Ron -- and you, too -- I owe other people way too much! I want to do my share. And it doesn't interfere with class, believe me!"
"Justin, don't put me in with Ron or your father," Brian said. "You don't owe me anything. This is about both of us, working together. That's the way we did it in the Quad. A partnership, right? You contribute what you can and I contribute what I can. But we don't 'owe' each other anything. That's the way it has to be."
Justin grinned at his lover. "Then that's the way it will be. And I didn't mean to group you in with Ron or my dad, Brian. I'm sorry."
"Well, hello! Where's your apron today, cutie?"
They both looked up to see one the diner regulars passing them on his way to a seat at the counter. He was short, skinny, well-dressed man who was constantly putting the moves on Justin.
"Oh, hi," said Justin. "I'm not working today."
The man raised his eyebrows. "Getting acquainted with some new customers, huh?" he said, looking Brian up and down. "What's your name, stud? You better watch out. Little Sweetie-pie here has a pretend boyfriend in prison who he uses to scare away Big Bad Wolves! Unless that particular Wolf takes his pretty little fancy!"
Brian glowered. Who the fuck was this guy? Brian had no idea, but he was obviously making Justin uncomfortable.
So Brian stood up. At 6 foot 3 he towered over the customer. And with his layers of sweaters under his sweatshirt he looked more bulked up than he really was. Add an unshaven face and a deadly-serious expression and you had a very intimidating presence.
"I'm the 'pretend' boyfriend, motherfucker," said Brian in a low, deep voice. "And I just got out of prison yesterday. Would you like to know what we do to mouthy little creeps like you in the joint?"
The man backed away in horror. "N... no, thank you, sir. I'd rather not know, if you please. Sorry I bothered you. Enjoy your lunch." And the man fled out of the diner.
Justin sat with his mouth open -- and then he burst into laughter. "That was priceless, Brian! I've been trying to get that guy to stop hitting on me ever since I started working here!"
But Brian wasn't smiling. "That's what I mean about this fucking place!" he grumbled as he sat back down in the booth. "In the Quad no one would dare say shit like that to another guy's punk. He'd get his ass kicked -- or worse! These people have no respect at all!"
"They don't mean any harm, Brian," Justin said. "That's just the way some of the guys are around here. It's a compliment because they think I'm cute!"
"I don't give a shit! I still don't like it!" Brian grunted.
"Chasing away my customers?" said Debbie as she brought their plates. "That's not too good for business, you know?"
"Sorry, Deb," said Justin. "Brian was only telling the guy not to bother me."
"Okay, Sunshine," Debbie replied. "But remember, Bri Baby. This ain't prison. You can't go around strong-arming or putting the evil eye on people just because they got a smart mouth. You can get yourself into trouble that way."
"Whatever the fuck," Brian mumbled. He glanced at Justin, who was shaking his head. "But anyone who messes with my kid -- I can't help it, Mrs. Novotny. Everything around here makes me fucking nervous."
"Shut up and eat your steak!" Deb commanded. "Both of you! I have lemon squares for dessert -- but only if you clean your plates!"
Brian ate his food. It was good and there was plenty of it. But he still felt uneasy. Wary. Like a tiger let loose in an unfamiliar jungle.
And he wasn't about to let his guard down anytime soon.
Julie jumped up from behind her desk when she saw her most infamous client standing in the doorway.
Brian glanced around the office nervously. He had followed Justin's directions and taken the bus downtown, then wandered around for about a half hour, looking for the right building. Finally, he saw the sign for the Prisoners' Legal Defense and went inside an old brownstone.
"I wasn't expecting you here so early," she said, taking his hand. "I thought Justin was going to bring you this afternoon?"
"He had a class and I didn't want him to cut it," Brian explained. "Besides, I don't need a nursemaid to lead me around the city. I found my way here okay."
"Of course you did, Brian," said Julie, carefully. She had a lot of experience with ex-cons and she knew that they were often secretly scared of the outside and so put up a defensive front. Brian had been in the Quad for a decade and that was a long time to be isolated from the hustle of the real world. "I'm glad you found us so easily!"
He shrugged. "It was no problem. I got here, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did, Brian. Is that a new jacket?" Julie asked, changing the subject. She knew that Justin had been planning to take Brian shopping for some clothes, but especially for a winter coat. This black leather motorcycle jacket made Brian look much bigger and more substantial than he actually was. But maybe that was the point. "It looks very nice on you."
"It's from this second-hand store on Liberty Avenue. Justin and I went there yesterday and I got a few things," said Brian. He stroked the leather fondly. "It cost 40 bucks. I also got a pair of jeans for $7 and a shirt for $5."
"You know, Brian," said Julie. "You can afford to buy some new clothes, too. You do have money in the bank."
"I know," Brian replied. "We stopped and got money out of a machine at the bank. Justin says that I need to get a card to get money out. And that I have to get some checks, too. But stuff costs so fucking much! They wanted $25 for a pair of Levis at another place we went. I thought this leather jacket was expensive until Justin told me that a new one would probably set me back $100! Shit! That's ridiculous!"
"You'll get used to the prices, honey," said Julie. "You'll get used to everything. Take your time."
"I know," said Brian. "I'm trying." He walked around the room, peering out the window, and gazing at the shelves, the walls, Julie's desk. "I can't believe I'm finally here in the PLD office. I never thought I'd see it."
"It isn't much," Julie apologized. She was aware that her desk was old and the chairs worse for wear and that the walls needed a fresh coat of paint.
"Oh, no," Brian countered. "I was going to say how great everything looks! All of these books! And there's so much room in here. And an electric typewriter, too. Wow! It's... much more than I imagined."
Julie had never been inside the Stanton Law Library because she wasn't permitted that far into the Quad, but Ron had said it was primitive at best. Now she looked around her own office with Brian's eyes. Yes, he would see how much they had compared with what he was used to. It put many things into perspective.
"Would you like an electric typewriter of your own, Brian?" Julie asked. It hadn't occurred to her that he didn't have any sort of typewriter now that he was out of prison, let alone an electric. "We can get you one right away."
"Oh, I couldn't let you go to the trouble." Brian seemed uncomfortable with her offer. Wary of anyone offering him something. Perhaps wondering what strings were attached.
"It's no trouble at all, Brian," Julie insisted. "You can pick one out and we'll charge it to your account. An IBM is a good model. Maybe you can look for one while you're shopping with Justin? Or I can call our office supplier for you?" Julie looked Brian in the eye. "Brian, you have some money, remember? You can afford to buy a typewriter. And new clothes, not second-hand. This isn't charity. You've earned that money. Anything you make with your book is only what you deserve. Do you understand that?"
"Sort of," said Brian, slowly. "But it's hard, Julie. Everything is coming at me too fast. I wake up in the morning and I don't have the right clothes to wear. I don't know what's going on in the world. I don't 'get' what people are talking about. I mean, I read the papers while I was inside. I followed the news. But that doesn't tell you what it's really like in the world. People look different. They talk different. Act different. Even Justin -- he's so open now. He's so relaxed when we walk down the street, while I feel like I'm under siege every minute."
"He wasn't in for as long as you were, Brian," Julie reminded him. "And he's been out for months. He's had more time to adjust. It wasn't easy for Justin at first, Brian. He was seeing a therapist. And he was having nightmares. Ron told me about that. He had a tough time. But he's so happy that you're out now. That's all he cares about."
"I know," Brian agreed. "And he's still seeing that psychologist. He told me. I think he wants me to see the guy, too. But... it's hard for me to talk to people about my life and my fucking feelings. That's why I wrote my book -- so I wouldn't have to say the words out loud!"
"You may have to say those words out loud, Brian," Julie said. "When the book is published you'll be asked to give readings from it. We've already had at least 20 inquiries about whether Brian Kinney would be available to speak and I expect we'll get even more after your re-trial."
"Speak?" said Brian. "Speak where? And about what?"
"At colleges. At law forums. At civics groups. To talk about your life. About prison. About all sorts of things," Julie replied. "Brian, you are now a well-known man, whether you realize it or not. When we go to trial it will be a media event. And when your book is published you'll have to be ready for what might happen to your life. If the book is a best seller you may well be a very famous person. You may be asked to be on television and the radio. You'll have to give interviews. And readings. You may even be asked by your publisher to go on a book tour. But that's a way down the line, Brian. Perhaps next fall. But you'll need to prepare yourself."
"Fuck," Brian whispered. "This is getting beyond me, Julie. I... I don't know if I can do that kind of stuff! I... I'm scared shitless even to cross the street without Justin!" He looked at her searchingly. "Now you know the truth."
"Brian, honey," said Julie, squeezing his hand. "That's normal. You'll get over it. I promise that you will. Don't freak yourself out."
But Brian shook his head sadly.
The door of Julie's office opened suddenly and Ron burst in.
"Brian!" Ron cried excitedly. "Why didn't you tell me that you were here! I walked by the front desk and Doris told me that you'd come in!"
"Hey, Ron," said Brian. "I just stopped by to see Julie and the office."
Ron grabbed Brian's hand. "Come into my office! We have a lot to discuss."
Brian hesitated, but then, after giving Julie a farewell glance, he went along with Ron. They would have to be alone eventually. Might as well get it over with now.
"Brian, I've been thinking about this day for a long, long time," Ron said as he led Brian down the hall to his own office. "There's so much to talk about. And so much that we have to plan, Baby! So very, very much!"
Posted June 30, 2005.