This is Page 2 of Part 1 of Chapter 115 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "I Threw I All Away -- Part 1".
Just as Brian predicted, Michael is awake early. I can hear him roaming around the galley, opening the fridge and then searching for a plate in the cupboard. I look around for my Speedo, but I can't find it, so I wrap a towel around myself and go into the cabin. Poor Michael looks like he hasn't slept in days. He's slumped at the table, drinking some juice and clutching a piece of bread in his hand. "Hey, Boy Wonder," he says, dejectedly.
"Morning, Michael. I can make toast for you. Or we can go up to the coffee shop and get breakfast. But I know Brian was planning to take you and Deb and Vic to brunch before you guys have to leave for the airport, so we don't want to eat too much now."
"That's okay, Justin. I'm not hungry anyway." He sets the bread down on the table and stares at it. "It's just that... I can't believe it! I mean -- Ben! And Brian! And that fucking Ron! I... I still feel like someone kicked me in the teeth, Justin! Like my... best friend... and my...." He stops, as if he can't even frame the words correctly.
"Michael, what Brian and Ben did had nothing to do with you!" I assert. "It was a couple of years before Ben even KNEW you! And you know how Brian was back then -- it's amazing that he even remembered who Ben WAS! Let's face it, if you decided that you could never have anything to do with anyone who had been with Brian, then you better move out of Pittsburgh. Or else turn straight." I laugh a little, but Michael doesn't even smile.
"I know, Justin," he says, looking like he's going to cry again. "It's just that... Ben was MINE! He WAS! I had him first -- or so I thought. And now... now it's all ruined! Fucking ruined!" A few tears fall from his dark eyes. "And that fucking RON! HOW could Ben do it with HIM? Especially knowing how I feel about Ron. We had a relationship! I thought that it meant something to him, but obviously not. At least not once he was out of town and could do whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted! I mean, I expect that kind of thing from Brian...."
And Michael doesn't seem to notice that I wince when he says that. "Michael, I'm so sorry."
"I really thought Ben was different, Justin." He shrugs. "I guess Ben is no different from any of the guys I've been in love with. David... he was no better. He talked a good game and said our relationship was special and all that crap. But I wasn't enough for him, either. And Brian... I've never been good enough for him to even bother to fuck. All those years of waiting around for him to realize that he loved ME -- and then NOTHING! Yeah, any creep he picks up on a street corner is good enough to fuck! But not ME! Never me!"
I sit there and I can't look at him. "Brian picked ME up on a street corner, Michael."
"Yeah, well, I'm glad that YOU'RE so happy to belong to such an exclusive club! Enjoy it while you can!" he says, his voice heavy with resentment. "I heard you two going at it ALL night! Fucking like a couple of monkeys right out on the open deck! Jesus Christ! It makes me sick to my stomach!"
Michael gets out of the booth and stomps back into the front cabin, shutting the door firmly. I sit there for a while, thinking about what he said. I don't know what else to say to him. I know he's hurt, but what he said hurt me, too. I understand how Brian wants to make everything better, and even after his cruel words I still want to make everything better for Michael. To make it the way it was before. But I know that's impossible.
Michael comes out of the cabin dressed in his jeans and the sport shirt he wore Friday. "Here's your sweatshirt, Justin," he says. "Thanks for lending it to me. Yeah, thanks for everything." And then he goes to the door of the cabin like he's going to leave right now.
"Michael," I say, standing. I have to grip my towel to keep it in place. "Brian and I will take you back to the hotel. Just wait. I'll get Brian up and we'll get dressed in about five minutes."
"Don't bother." Michael takes out his cellphone. "I've already called a cab. It's picking me up in the parking lot in 10 minutes." And he pushes past me and out onto the back deck.
Brian is sitting up in the sleeping bag, yawning and scratching his head. "What's up, Mikey?"
"Bye. I'll see you around." And, very gingerly so he doesn't fall overboard, Michael climbs out of the boat and onto the dock.
"Michael!" says Brian, standing up. Of course, he's naked and his morning hard-on is fully in evidence. "Where the fuck are you going?" Brian turns to look at me. "What the fuck's going on?"
Michael turns and stares at Brian from the dock. He's looking right at Brian's erect cock. And then I see that he notices something else that he's never seen before -- Brian's tattoo. "I'm going home, Brian, that's what the fuck! And don't bother to follow me!" Michael shouts, his lip curling in disgust. "Yeah, nice tattoo there, FRIEND. I see that you got one to match your little Fuck Buddy's! Is THAT how people get engaged out here in California? It's so CUTE it makes me SICK!"
"Michael, what the fuck is the matter with you?" Brian asks. And he unconsciously reaches down and touches the heart-shaped tattoo on his upper right thigh.
"And put your fucking pants on! You want the whole world to have to stare at your dick first thing in the morning? You're nothing but a goddamn slut, Kinney! Fuck YOU!" And Michael practically runs down the dock, away from the boat. Away from us. Away from Brian.
"Justin, look for my fucking pants!" Brian says, scrambling around, searching. "I have to stop him!"
I grab his arm. "Brian, no."
"What?" He stops and looks at me.
"Let Michael go," I say. "There's nothing you can say to him now. Let him calm down! You'll only make it worse if you chase after him. You'll start yelling at him and he doesn't need that."
"I don't YELL at people!" Brian yells.
"Michael has got a long plane ride back to the Pitts with Debbie and Vic. Let THEM talk to him. It's the only way."
"Brian, you can't fix things like that!" I insist. "You can't just bull your way through everybody and everything! You can't fix Michael and Ben just by telling them everything is okay! They have to work things out. THEY do. And Michael has to work things out in his own head... about you. So give him a little space."
Brian looks like he wants to jump out of the boat and run after Michael, but then he leans back against the rail, in the same spot where we fucked last night. "But what if Deb and Vic can't... what if they don't know what to say?"
"Before they went back to the hotel on Friday night, Deb told me that Ben had confided everything to her while they were sitting in the cabin during the boat ride," I tell him. "So Debbie knew what was coming. She knew what Ben was going to tell Michael and she knew Michael was going to be devastated by it. But she also let Ben know that he was doing the right thing. She understands Ben isn't a bad person. She and Vic both love Ben. And they can help Michael to understand that, too, Brian."
"But, Justin, I'm the only one who...."
But I cut him off. "I hate to say this, Brian, but they can do it better than YOU. Because YOU are part of the problem. From what Michael just told to me before you got up, anything you say right now is NOT going to help. Because last night Michael was grieving. But now he's angry. At Ben. At Ron. And at YOU." I have to stop and swallow. "And at ME, too. So let him go."
Brian gazes down to where the docks meet the main pier. Michael is nowhere in sight now. "I'm sorry that Michael said that about you, Justin. It's fucked up. But Michael doesn't really believe that -- he's just hurt and angry. He's fucking mad at the world."
"I understand, Brian. And I don't blame him," I say, even though I feel crushed by his words.
"I knew it was all my fault," Brian says, almost to himself. "It's always my fucking fault!"
I pick up some discarded towels and a pillow, and I find my blue Speedo and Brian's jeans under one of the air mattresses. I toss Brian his pants and he puts them on. Then I start to shake out the sleeping bags and fold them. "What are you doing, Justin?" Brian asks, absently.
"Cleaning up," I say, purposefully. "Let's get this stuff in order and then go back to the apartment, Brian. We have a lot of things we have to do."
Continue on to "I Threw I All Away -- Part 2".
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Updated June 5, 2003.