This is Chapter 30 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Dylan Burke, Emmett Honeycutt, Debbie Novotny, Others.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin digs in. Pittsburgh. February 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
I drag myself into the Liberty Diner around dinner time, so tired I'm about ready to drop.
Brian and I got up very early this morning to drive from Ohio to Springhurst, and then I had another long haul all the way back to Pittsburgh. I'm exhausted, hungry, and feeling the whole letdown of the end of our long weekend at the cottage. That romantic afterglow is quickly fading in the harsh light of everyday reality. In place of the pristine snow at Cardinal Lake are Pittsburgh streets filled with slush and filthy snow piles by the sides of the road.
"Sunshine!" says Debbie as I come through the door. "How are you doing, sweetie? I haven't seen you in a couple of days."
"I've been busy," I say shortly. Everyone already knows enough of my fucking business. "Can you get me the Special? To go?"
"Sure thing, hon," says Deb. "You look beat."
"I am, Deb," I tell her. "I'm going home to crash for a few hours. Then I have a ton of schoolwork to catch up on tonight."
"You do that, Sunshine. I'll get your food." Debbie pats my hand and then bustles off to place the order.
I slouch on the stool and lean my elbows on the counter, trying to keep awake. I close my eyes and feel myself slipping back to the cottage. Back to that freezing bedroom. Back to the warmth under the covers. Sinking against Brian's hot body. And Brian sinking into me....
"I was wondering if I'd run into you here."
I look up. "Dylan," I say in surprise. "Hi. I'm, um, just getting some food to take back to the loft. What's up with you?"
He shrugs. "Not much. I stopped in to pick up some take-out, too. The food in the dining hall sucks." Dylan slips onto the stool next to me and takes off his coat and looks up at the menu on the wall. "Is the turkey meatloaf any good?"
"Oh, yes," I say. "It's good. But ask for extra gravy. It's a little dry."
"Right," Dylan smiles slowly. "Extra gravy. Can't have it too dry. Too dry is never good." Dylan licks his red lips. "Is it, Justin?"
I blink. My own lips suddenly feel very dry. "No. Dry is never good."
"Hey!" Dylan calls out to Juanita. "Can you give me the turkey meatloaf with mashed potatoes? And extra gravy." Dylan winks at me when he says that. "To go."
Juanita bats her false eyelashes at Dylan. "Coming right up, handsome." Then Juanita glances at me and leers. "With EXTRA gravy. You always need that extra gravy. Right, Justin?"
I ignore Juanita. I'm not in the mood right now for her snarking. She goes to put in Dylan's order.
"So, did you get snowed in?" Dylan asks. He's sitting very close to me, his left leg, in tight brown cords, almost touching my right leg.
"Yeah," I reply, but I don't offer any other details. What I did over the weekend is no one's fucking business. Not Debbie's and certainly not Dylan Burke's! I'm beginning to see why Brian guards his privacy so closely. Everyone on Liberty Avenue is a big gossip -- and I know that Dylan is a friend of Alan Wray, who's the biggest gossip at Carnegie Mellon.
The door of the diner opens and in blows Emmett -- along with a blast of cold air that swirls through the room.
"Hi hi!" Emmett calls cheerily.
"Shut that goddamn door!" shouts Deb. "You're letting all the winter inside!"
"So sorry," says Em, shutting the door behind him. "Hey, Debbie! Have you seen THIS?" He pulls a magazine out from under his coat and waves it over his head. "It was in my mailbox this morning and let me tell YOU that when you READ what BRIAN KINNEY has to say about...."
But Em stops cold when he sees me sitting there at the counter.
"Justin," he gulps. "I didn't know you were here. Well now, I have to be going! Bye-ee!" Emmett stuffs the magazine back under his coat and turns away.
"Emmett what the hell do you have there and why can't we see it?" Debbie puts her hands on her hips, challengingly.
"It's nothing! Nothing at all!" Em insists. "I'm late. No time for chit-chat."
"Let's see it!" Deb demands. "Hand it over!"
"Not now, Deb," Em hisses. Then he looks right at me and I feel a chill go through me.
"What is it, Emmett?" I ask. "Show me."
Em sighs. "I suppose you'll see it eventually, Justin. Especially here on Liberty Avenue." Emmett takes out the magazine and puts it into my hands. Deb and Juanita come over to see and Dylan cranes his neck to look over my shoulder.
It's the new issue of 'The Advocate.' And on the front cover is a picture of Brian, looking very seductive, very arrogant, and very much like a movie star.
"'Brian Kinney,'" Deb reads the cover text out loud. "'He's Here, He's Queer, and He's Ours -- Now What Are We Going To Do With Him? The Explosive and Exclusive 'Advocate' Interview With the Biggest Out Actor in Hollywood!'"
"Shit," I whisper.
"Wow!" Dylan yelps. "I want to read THAT!" And he snatches the magazine out of my grasp. The pages immediately fall open to Brian's interview. Emmett has obviously already read it over more than once and bent the pages back for easy access.
The photographs inside are hot -- but then pictures of Brian are always hot. There's one from 'Hammersmith' of Brian in leather and another of Brian getting made-up from the set of 'The Olympian.' And one of me and Brian that was taken in London at one of the clubs during the 'Hammersmith' shoot. I remember the photographer coming up to us and Brian giving him the finger. Both of us laughed our asses off about it. It doesn't seem so funny now to see the photo he took end up illustrating Brian's interview a national magazine. But at least they don't reprint any pictures of my bare ass on 'La Diva.' I guess I should be grateful for small favors.
Dylan turns another page and there, in full color, is an almost totally nude shot of Brian from one of the sex scenes in 'The Olympian.' It might as well be a fucking centerfold in 'Playboy'!
"Double Wow!" Dylan cackles, holding up the magazine for all to see. Juanita's eyes almost bug out of her head and Deb sighs heavily. By now, every guy in the place is staring at us and listening to our little broadcast.
The text of the interview, which goes on for page after page of 'The Advocate,' is peppered with big, bold type excerpts from 'The Wit and Wisdom of Brian A. Kinney.'
"'I fuck a lot of guys. So what?'" Dylan reads. "'I'm a queer and I believe in fucking as many men as possible.'"
"Can't argue with that," says Emmett. But Debbie gives him a hard poke in the ribs.
"'Monogamy is bullshit. It was invented by straights to keep people in line. And I refuse to be kept in line -- by anybody!'" Dylan continues. "'Love? It's a myth. It's fake, just like the movies. Love and romance are about fiction, and not about reality.'"
Dylan keeps picking out quotes and reading them with glee. And the guys in the diner are clapping and cheering every statement.
"That sure sounds like Kinney!" one guy in the back in the back booth says loudly. "I think I heard him spout that line about monogamy when I was blowing him in the backroom last year!" And his friends all guffaw.
"'I don't talk about my personal life. It's irrelevant to the work I do as an actor. But the press thinks it matters. They think it makes a difference if you're an actor and you're also a faggot. It doesn't. If people think you're straight and you play queer everybody gives you a big hand and maybe an award because they think that you're going against your true nature. But if they know for sure that you suck cock and then you play a fag they think it's meaningless. It's like a dog playing the part of a dog. "What's the trick in THAT?" they say. But the public would be shocked to know just how many 'straight' actors who are screwing women on screen deserve one of those big awards for going against their nature, too, because they are sucking plenty of cock at home -- and even more in the bars and baths of West Hollywood!'"
"Ain't THAT the truth!" Emmett says knowingly. Em's account of fucking the famous closeted movie star in the baths in L.A. is one of his favorite after-dinner stories.
"'The tricks I fuck are meaningless. You talk about 'relationships' -- I don't even know what that word means. I have guys I like to fuck. Maybe there's even one guy I like to fuck more than anyone else. But I'm not married. I'm not domesticated, no matter how much he might want me to be. And I never will be. That isn't me. That isn't what Brian Kinney is about. And anyone who wants to go one-on-one with me in bed knows that from the start. They either deal with it or they can hit the road,'" Dylan reads.
"Honey, maybe you should hold it right there," says Deb, glancing at my face.
"No!" says one of the men listening. "It's just getting good! Keep reading, kid!"
Dylan looks at me and I shrug. What the fuck difference does it make now? Everyone is going to read these words. Everyone is going to know exactly what Brian said in this interview. And I know that I'm never going to forget what he said.
"'Advocate': 'What about Ron Rosenblum, the director of 'The Olympian'? Aren't you in a relationship of sorts with him?'" Dylan reads. "Brian Kinney: 'We've known each other since I was 16. That's no secret anymore. I work with him, yes. I have sex with him, yes. So what? But I'm not his partner or his lover. I'm no one's partner and no one's lover, personally or professionally. You'll have to ask Ron how he views things. I can only speak for myself.'" Dylan pauses, as if waiting for this information to sink in. Then he continues. "'The Advocate' adds that this interview was conducted shortly before the tragic death of award-winning director Ron Rosenblum, which was ruled as an accidental drug overdose. Brian Kinney, through his representatives, refused further comment on his former lover's death for this story.'"
Dylan reads on silently and then looks up at me. "I think I should stop now."
"Why?" I ask. "What does it say? Is it... something about me?"
Dylan shakes his head and hands me the magazine. He looks at the men waiting to hear more. "That's all, guys. You can get your own copies if you want to read the whole thing."
I scan the print and find the part that Dylan wouldn't read out loud. So I read it silently to myself.
"Brian Kinney: 'Justin Taylor? I don't want to talk about him. I think the photos of the two of us on my boat that were plastered all over the tabloids can tell you everything you need to know on that painful incident. I'm not going to add to the mess.' 'The Advocate': 'But what do you say to those who would ask about the appropriateness of you, a man in his 30's, having a sexual relationship with a 17 year old boy? Doesn't that only support the notion that gay men are sexual predators?' Brian Kinney: 'I don't give a damn about what anyone else thinks is appropriate behavior. I'm not a role model, I'm a queer. Period. And I wasn't in my 30's -- I was 29 when I met Justin. He was over the age of consent. It was about sex and nothing more. Any person who thinks that 17 year olds, gay or straight, don't want to get laid is fooling himself. Besides, Justin is 20 now. He and I like having sex with each other and I'm not going to apologize for that.' 'The Advocate': 'Then he IS your lover?' Brian Kinney: 'We fuck. What more do you want? Don't make a natural urge into some kind of fucking romance novel! That's not what real life is all about!"
I put the magazine down and stand up. Emmett and Deb and Juanita and Dylan are all looking at me, feeling sorry for me. Fuck them.
"Thanks for letting me see that, Emmett. It was quite an eye-opener," I say. "I have to get going now."
I start to walk to the door.
"Sunshine!" Debbie calls. "You forgot your Special. To go."
"Oh. Right." I turn around and pick it up. Then I set the money on the counter. "See you, guys." And I hurry out. By the time I hit the street I'm practically running.
Why the fuck didn't Brian tell me about this? Why didn't he tell me that this was coming out? Or what he said in this interview. Unless... unless he didn't know it was coming out. Or didn't know that it was coming out today. Because I find it hard to believe that Brian wouldn't at least warn me about this little lightning bolt.
I try to remember when he did this interview. The pictures of us on the boat had already come out in the tabloids, so it was after we returned from the London premiere. And it was before Ron's death. That was only a few days. I'm trying to think of Brian doing an interview during that time, but things were moving so quickly back then that I can't remember it. And after Ron died everything is nothing but a fucking blur in my mind.
I'm picturing Brian's state of mind during those days. Trying to recall if he was drunk or stoned. Or pissed off. Probably all of those things.
But still... even if he were in a bad mood, some of the things Brian says in that interview are awful. Shitty. Hurtful. And there must be more that Dylan didn't read out loud or that I didn't see. A LOT more. Not that I haven't heard Brian's fucking philosophy before, because I have, plenty of times. But it still sucks! It still hurts! It almost shocks me how much it really hurts. I feel like I've been slapped across the heart. And I'm still reeling as I stumble back to the Jeep.
"Justin! Wait up!"
Just what I need when I'm feeling like total crap. Dylan catches up with me just as I reach the Jeep. He's clutching the styrofoam container of turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes -- with extra gravy -- in his hand.
"Don't drop that," I say, unlocking the Jeep. "You don't want to ruin your dinner."
"Could you give me a ride?" asks Dylan. "I mean -- if it's not too much trouble?"
"Oh," I say. "I didn't know that you don't have a car."
Dylan makes a face. "I can't afford one. Not everybody has a rich sugar daddy!"
I don't say anything, but turn away. I don't need this shit right now.
"Come on, Justin! I'm fucking kidding!" Dylan coaxes. "You know me -- I'm an asshole. I always say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Goofy old Dylan, right? So you can kill me, okay?"
I shake my head. "Get in and shut up."
He gets in. I start up the Jeep and it feels a little rough, coughing and hesitating. I should take it in for a tune-up. It's been a hard winter and the last thing I need is to have the Jeep start acting up.
"Shit," I say. But I pull out onto Liberty Avenue and it seems to be running all right.
"I could take a look at it," Dylan offers. "I'm no mechanic, but I used to keep my mom's old Buick running okay."
"Thanks, but Brian always wants me to take the Jeep back to the dealer if there's a problem. I should have done it before the bad weather set in, but I was kind of busy last fall and never got around to it."
"Oh," says Dylan. "No problem. Just a friend trying to help a friend."
I glance over at him. It's so weird. I've known Dylan since we were about 12, and yet he's almost a total stranger to me. I got to know Dylan pretty well back then, but everything I know about him -- or everything I think I know -- is all about a boy and not a man. And Dylan is definitely a man. He's not a kid now, if he ever was one. Dylan was always bigger and stronger than the other boys on our Little League team, he always looked and acted older, and now he doesn't seem like he's only a sophomore in college. On the other hand, I've always seemed younger than I was. I was kind of underdeveloped when I was younger, even if I do have the perfect twink physique now. But at St. James I felt like a little kid next to guys like Chris Hobbs. I flinch when Hobbs' fucking face comes into my head.
"You okay, Justin?"
"Oh, yeah." I grip the steering wheel. "I'm fine. The road's a little slick. So, what are you doing tonight?"
Dylan shrugs. "Nothing. Eating my dinner." He taps the container and smiles slightly. "Trying to avoid my roommate and his ugly girlfriend.
"You want to come over to my place?" I ask before I even think about it.
Now Dylan grins broadly. His eyes look dark green and smokey. "Sure. Why not? I'd love to come over and eat with you, Justin."
It's always strange to walk into the loft after I've been gone for any length of time. I always think of the first time I walked in there on that night in September 2000. Fuck! I knew that my life would change that night, but I had no idea how much. How could I have known? And how could Brian have known? And if he had been able to see into the future that night -- would he have turned away from that streetlight and walked in the other direction? Or would I have?
Thinking about this makes my head ache.
"This is a cool place," says Dylan, taking off his jacket. It's suede with leather trim.
I take it to hang it up. "This is a nice jacket."
"I got it at a church rummage sale," Dylan tells me without embarrassment. "I buy a lot of my clothes second-hand. You'd be surprised some of the great stuff people give away."
I frown. "But your folks have money, Dylan. You lived two streets over from my parents' old place."
"Not anymore," says Dylan. "My dad got down-sized when the foundries went bust. That's why we left Pittsburgh and moved up to Newcastle. But it's been tough since then. I'm at CMU on a baseball scholarship. That's why I have to keep my grades up."
"I heard you mention that at the Pride Union meeting. That was the one where I had Brian's son Gus with me and had to leave early." I set the two containers from the diner on the breakfast counter.
Dylan is walking around the loft, checking things out. He notes Brian's plasma screen television and his Italian furniture. "Cool stuff, Justin. Is it okay to sit on this white couch? I don't want to get anything dirty."
"Sure, you can sit there, Dylan. All the furniture is washable." I think of what's been done on that furniture. "Believe me -- everything in this loft is washable!"
"Oh, yeah?" Dylan raises his thick eyebrows.
"Um -- Gus, comes over and you have to have furniture that you can clean when there's a two year old around." I don't mention all the times Brian and I have fucked right there. Or the time Daphne and I walked in and saw Brian fucking some trick he picked up at the Shop N Save in the exact spot where Dylan is now resting his hand on the back of the sofa.
"You want a beer?"
"Of course I want a beer!" Dylan grins at me. "What do you think I am? Some kind of faggot-boy? 'I'll have a Cosmo, please, sweetheart!'" he minces and sits down daintily on the white sofa.
Dylan really cracks himself up. And I have to laugh, too. Dylan is doing a perfect impression of Emmett. But then I feel guilty about laughing. Em is my friend, after all. And I'm not exactly the butchest guy on the planet. I remember when guys at St. James used to do impressions of me.
But with Dylan -- I mean, he's a queer, too. It's like when Brian says rude things, even about his friends, like Emmett or Ted. I know I shouldn't laugh, but I can't help it sometimes. And it isn't as if Em doesn't make fun of people. No, he does it all the time.
I hand Dylan a cold beer.
"Thanks, Justin! This is just what the doctor ordered!"
"I hope Heineken is all right," I say.
"Sweet!" he replies and takes a long chug. I watch his throat move as the beer goes down.
My cellphone vibrates in my pocket. It's Brian. "Can you excuse me, Dylan?" I say. "I've got a call."
"Sure. If you don't mind me playing around with your fancy television." He picks up the remote.
"Go ahead," I say. "Check it out."
I walk up into the bedroom and pull the shutter closed. "Hey," I say into the cell.
"Did you get home okay?" I hear Brian say. "Stupid question, since you're answering the phone!"
"I'm fine. Just fine."
"It started to snow a little more right after you left, so I was worried." Brian's voice sounds concerned. "Are you all right? You sound a little funny."
I suddenly feel so cool towards Brian. I don't know why. Because I was blindsided by the 'Advocate' interview? Because of the letdown after our weekend? Because I had to come back to Pittsburgh alone -- again?
Or because Dylan Burke is sitting in the loft, drinking a beer and watching television?
"Sorry, Brian. I'm a little tired. That's all."
"Listen, Justin," Brian says. "I talked toLeslie when I got back to Springhurst. She told me that there's an interview coming out in 'The Advocate.' I gave it right before... before Ron died. I guess they are running it now because of the Oscars coming up and everything."
"Oh," I say. My hands feel freezing cold. I should tell Brian that I already know about the interview. I should tell him about the fucking scene at the Liberty Diner and how everyone reacted to his quotes. But I don't tell him. And I'm not sure why I don't tell him. "An interview. That's great publicity for you, Brian."
"I don't know about that," says Brian. "I can hardly remember giving the fucking thing. It was about 8 a.m. and the guy was a real jerk. He kept pushing those tabloid photos of the two of us in my fucking face and asking what Ron thought about THAT! That's all I can remember. Except that the first thing I did when I got there was to go into the bathroom and take a Xanax and smoke a joint. So I wasn't exactly... er... as coherent as I should have been."
"And where was I, Brian?" I ask. "When you gave this interview?"
"Where were you?" Brian considers. "At home in bed. It was the day after we came back from London. We were both jet-lagged and I thought you needed your sleep." Brian laughs. "I guess that was a big fucking mistake, huh? I should have had you there to stop me from making an ass of myself -- as usual."
"As usual," I reply. "If you say so, Brian. I'll have to read the interview myself." I'm trying not to let my anger spill through the phone, but it's hard. Fucking hard! I'm mad. Maybe I have no right to be mad. Maybe Brian isn't responsible for saying those things because he was sleepy or stoned or pissed off or whatever excuse I can think of to make for him. But I AM mad. Brian opens his mouth two months ago and shit comes out and it hits ME in the face today! Why does the past always have to come back just when things are starting to go okay with us? That's always the fucking way!
"Anyway, the new issue is coming out today. Leslie is Fed Ex-ing me a copy. You'll probably get one in the mail. I'm pretty sure I have a subscription to 'The Advocate.'"
"I'll be on the lookout for it, Brian." I realize that Dylan and I came in and I didn't check for the mail. It's undoubtedly in the box right now. But I'm not anxious to go downstairs and get itthis minute.
"Oh, one other thing, Justin." I hear Brian moving around on the other end. I wonder if he's in his room. Sitting on the bed. I wonder what else he's doing. "The Academy Award nominations came out early this morning. Leslie told me."
The Oscars. I hold my breath. "And?"
"I didn't get nominated." Brian's voice sounds matter-of-fact, but I can hear the disappointment in it. "Jimmy got a Best Actor nomination and Ron got two, for Adapted Screenplay and Director. And 'The Olympian' is up for Best Picture."
"But they didn't nominate YOU!" I can't believe it. I really can't. Brian's performance is the best in the entire film. The character of Bobby is the whole picture! "That's so unfair, Brian!"
"At least I can't blame this new interview for fucking up my chances," Brian sniffs. "I'm not exactly the most popular guy in Hollywood. Ron had a lot of friends and, frankly, they blame me for his death. Guys like Freddy Weinstein have a lot of influence in the business. I don't want to say that I'm a scapegoat, but you saw how it was at Ron's memorial. He's dead -- and I'm alive. A lot of people will never forgive me for that single fact."
"I don't care about the nomination and neither do you, Brian," I tell him. "You always say that all awards are bullshit. That doing what YOU think is good work is all that matters."
"I know, Sunshine," he says. "The only thing that really matters now is... is us. That's the only important thing."
I swallow. Ordinarily I would be turning cartwheels to hear Brian say these words, but not right now. "Are you sure you mean that, Brian?" I say skeptically.
"Yes, I mean it," he replies. "I thought that was pretty obvious after this weekend."
"Nothing is obvious when it comes to you, Brian," I remind him. "I've tried to let you understand how I feel for as long as I've known you. But sometimes it's hard to know what you think. Or what you feel." If you feel anything, I add silently. Because words are bullshit, too. That's another thing that Brian always says. Words are fucking meaningless.
"It's hard for me to know, too," Brian says. "When you've suppressed your emotions for as long as I have, it's hard to recognize them when they come right up and smack you in the mouth. But I recognize YOU. I hope you won't doubt that."
"Yes," I tell him. "It's hard to know whichemotions are true -- and which are lies. Really, really hard."
"I'll need a date for the Oscars, Justin," Brian goes on obliviously. "That is -- if Gorowitz will let me out of this nut house to go to the telecast!"
"Do you still want to go, Brian?" I ask. "Even after you didn't get nominated?" Brian usually doesn't want to go anywhere he might be seen as a loser. And there's nothing more public than the Academy Awards. With all of those people who didn't nominate him.
"What?" Brian snorts. "And miss Jimmy Hardy win his second Oscar? And try for a third with his tearful acceptance speech?" Brian cracks up.
He's right. I can picture Jimmy standing up on the stage, clutching his Oscar and weeping like a 12 year old girl!
"No," I sigh. "I can't miss that." The Oscars. That's really something. I guess.
"I have to hike now, Justin. Can't miss din-din or Sylvia will kick my ass from here to Buffalo. I'll talk to you later."
"Right, Brian," I say. "I have to get going, too. I haven't eaten yet, either. And I have a lot of stuff to do before I go back to class tomorrow."
"Sounds good," he says. "Um -- Justin?"
"Yeah?" I reply. "What?"
"One more thing." Brian pauses. "I... miss you." He pauses again. "No, that's not what I meant to say, Justin. I mean... I love you. Okay?"
I don't know what to say. I know what I should answer, but I can't say it. I can't say those words back to Brian. Not today. Maybe tomorrow. I'll see how I feel then.
"Okay," I repeat, finally. "Good night, Brian." And I hang up.
I hear Dylan out in the living room, surfing the channels on the plasma screen TV. He's sitting on the sofa, drinking a beer and waiting to eat dinner. With me.
Yes, it's all okay. Me and Brian. Brian and me. I tell myself that over and over. It's okay. Fucking okay!
Continue on to "Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk".
©Gaedhal, October 2004.
Posted October 29, 2004.