This is Page 2 of Part 3 of Chapter 115 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "I Threw I All Away -- Part 3".
On Sunday afternoon I get home from taking Diane for her ride about 5 o'clock. We had a great time driving along the ocean and laughing. She really likes the Woody, so I told her to get her surfboard waxed up!
I walk into the apartment and Brian is on the phone with Mrs. Rosenblum, Ron's mother. She lives somewhere in Florida and I know that she is crazy about Brian, but I've never met her. Brian gives me a wave, but he's absorbed in his conversation.
"I promise, Lilith. Really, I will," he says into the receiver. "Yes, I would be concerned, too. It isn't like Ron not to call you on a holiday, but I'm sure he's just preoccupied with the film and everything. You know Ron -- he probably hasn't even realized that it's Chanukah already. It's really early this year."
I set down a bag with some groceries on the counter in the kitchen. I'm trying not to be a snoop, but whenever I hear Brian say Ron's name I'm all ears.
"I'll also call Jimmy and find out if he's spoken to him recently. I know they talk almost every day, no matter what. And I can call Ivy, Ron's assistant at the studio, and find out his schedule." Brian pauses, listening. "No, I really don't mind doing it, Lilith. It's no trouble at all." Brian catches my eye and shrugs. He doesn't look at all happy. "I know, but I'm NOT living there anymore so... Lilith! Come on! Yes, I know he's been depressed, but that's no reason to panic! Really, there isn't. Ron is the least suicidal person I know." Now Brian rolls his eyes. "I'll keep you posted. But I wouldn't be surprised if Ron didn't call you tonight. Doesn't he usually call you on Sunday evening? Right. Okay, Lilith. Yes, I PROMISE! Goodbye now." Brian sets down the phone. "Shit! That's the last fucking thing I need!"
"Lilith can't get in touch with Ron. She hasn't talked to him since the day before Thanksgiving and now she's freaking out. So she wants ME to go over and check up on him."
"You aren't going to do it, are you, Brian?" I say in alarm. I don't want him going over there.
"Only if I can't get him on the phone."
"Brian! Please don't go over there! You almost got into a fistfight with him when you dropped off the Mustang!" I say. "I saw how you were after that happened. AND after that confrontation at the studio -- you were a mess! You and Ron shouldn't be interacting unless it's strictly business. And this is NOT about business!"
Brian sighs. "I know. But I promised Lilith."
"Then swear that you won't go over there unless I come with you."
"Swear!" I insist. "I mean it!"
Brian must see by the look on my face that I'm completely serious about this. "Okay, okay! I swear, Justin. I won't go without you."
Brian tries to call Ron at his office, the house, and his cellphone, but he can't get an answer. Even his assistant, Ivy, isn't picking up her phone when Brian calls her at home. He leaves messages telling Ron to call his mother immediately, but even after several hours there's no response. I make some pasta salad for dinner and we spend the rest of Sunday evening watching some DVDs and I do more laundry. Then Brian puts on another DVD -- some classic gay porn from the 1970's with Casey Donovan. It looks really dated -- all the guys have moustaches and polyester shirts -- but once they get naked it's still pretty hot! That occupies the rest of the night -- that and some classic gay fucking!
Brian has a photo shoot on Monday morning for 'Film Forum,' a British magazine. The studio limo picks him up and even early on a Monday morning after not getting a lot of sleep the night before he still looks amazing! At noon I retrieve Brian at the photo studio in my new Woody and we go to lunch and then shopping. I haven't finished sorting out the clothes Brian already has and he's out buying more stuff! But this is so typically Brian. He's upset from getting all those calls from Mrs. Rosenblum, so it's time for a little Retail Therapy.
"Do you really want to go and stay with Jimmy and Tess over the New Year's holiday? I would have thought spending time with Jimmy would be the last thing you'd want to do," Brian says as he's paying for yet another cashmere sweater, this one in fuchsia, at the Paul Smith boutique.
"Tess invited us. And I'd like to see Hawaii -- I guess."
"You don't sound exactly keen. We can go to Hawaii anytime, Justin. And we don't have to stay with the Happy Hardy Family!" Brian sniffs.
"But I think Annie is counting on us," I reply.
Brian shrugs. "Maybe. Maybe not."
When we get home Brian has three more messages from Lilith Rosenblum -- and nothing at all from Ron. Brian calls her back and tries to calm her down. Now she's begging Brian to go over to the house and make sure her son is all right. And I'm feeling this little prickle of fear at the back of my neck. I feel that something is wrong with this whole scenario. That something is wrong with Ron, with the house, with everything, but I don't tell this to Brian. He'll think I'm getting as hysterical as Ron's mother.
"Can I drive the Woody over there?"
"No, Justin," Brian shakes his head. "I better drive the Jeep."
Brian is very quiet as we make our way up the canyon. We turn into the long driveway that leads to so many memories for both of us. It's getting dark and the house looks ominously quiet. Brian looks through the window into the garage. "The Jag is gone, but the Mustang and the Mercedes are there. So it looks like Ron is out. He's probably still at the studio." Brian knocks on the kitchen door. "Carmel! Maria!" he calls. We can hear the dog barking inside. "I should have kept my fucking key." Then he tries the door -- and it opens. I shrink back, like I can feel there's something behind it, but Brian walks right in, fearlessly.
Armani rushes up, whining and fawning on Brian, who snaps on the lights. "Carmel?" Brian opens the door to the women's suite and looks in.
I peer in from behind him. It's empty. Totally cleaned out. "Where are the girls?"
"Fuck if I know," he replies. We both glance around the kitchen. The dog runs over to his bowl, yipping. It's empty and so is his water bowl. "Justin, will you get him some food? Bottom cupboard, nearest the door." I pick up his dish and rinse it out, then I fill the water bowl while Brian stands there, staring at the empty suite. "Where the fuck did they go?"
I give Armani some food and he eats like he is starving. "Poor little guy."
"Justin, you stay in the kitchen while I look around."
"Oh, no!" I say. "I'm going with you, Brian!" And I follow him into the main part of the house. Most of it is dark, but the lights are on by the pool. Brian slides open the glass door and I hear some rap music coming from the poolhouse. And there's a guy out there. He's sprawled on the lounge chair, a can of beer in his hand and a couple of empties on the cement. He turns and gapes at us, but doesn't act surprised to see us there.
"Where the fuck is Ron?" asks Brian, standing over him and glaring down.
"How should I know?" The guy shrugs his shoulders. "At work -- wherever that is." He's wearing a stained white wifebeater and a pair of dirty jeans and he has a hard, dead look about him. His stringy dark hair is hanging down in his face, his skin is blotchy and his eyes red. It's obvious that the guy is some hustler who Ron picked up and who is now making himself at home. "Hey." He sits up. "I seen you! That movie about that guy -- the runner. Awesome flick, man!"
"Let me write that quote down for my resume." Brian pulls me over close to him -- and away from the guy. I can feel his heart racing and a trail of sweat courses down Brian's long neck. "Go into the poolhouse and look around. See if anyone has been in there. I'll check Ron's office."
The guy watches me impassively as I go into the poolhouse. It feels strange being in here again. And the place looks and smells horrible. The sofa is pulled out, but the bed isn't made up. In fact, it's just the mattress -- no sheet or blanket. The computer is nowhere in sight. No television, either. There are some old newspapers and magazines and other garbage strewn on the floor. An old portable radio is playing the rap music.
I walk outside, past the pool and the guy, and back into the house. Brian is jiggling the knob and pushing at the door of Ron's office. "It's locked. At least he's had some presence of mind to protect his important shit."
I swallow. "You don't think Ron is... in there, do you?"
Brian frowns. "No, he's at the studio. I'm pretty sure. But this is fucking bad."
"The computer's gone. And the TV. The poolhouse is pretty trashed."
"Shit, shit, shit!" He raises his fist like he's going to smash it against the office door, but then Brian stops and just puts his hand up to his forehead and presses it.
"What are we going to do, Brian?"
He takes a deep breath. "Get a bag and pack up the dog's stuff. Food, bowl, leash, whatever. It's all in that cupboard. We can't leave him here with no food."
"What about that guy? Who is he, Brian?"
"Some goddamn hustler. I'll take care of him."
I go into the kitchen and put Armani's stuff into a shopping bag. He's wagging his tail and obviously happy to be going for a ride. Then I walk out to the pool. The guy is standing now. He is short and weedy and kind of hunched over next to Brian's tall figure. "Get your shit together NOW," he orders. "You're leaving."
"Hey, man," the guy counters. "You don't live here! And you can't kick me out!"
"Want to make a bet?" says Brian. He's ready to deck this creep. "If you have anything here, get it now, because you're going."
The guy mumbles something and ambles over to the poolhouse, with Brian following him and me trailing behind. He stuffs some clothing into a plastic bag, along with the cheap radio.
"Hold it," says Brian.
"What?" The guy stares at Brian, his mouth open.
"Empty your pockets."
"Huh?" says the guy. But Brian grabs him roughly and sticks his hand into the guy's jean pockets, pulling out some bills. There's about two hundred dollars in tens and twenties. "I fucking earned that money!" the guy whines, wiping his nose with the back of his hand.
"Give me that watch, too." Brian points to an expensive-looking wristwatch that seems so incongruous on the guy's skinny wrist.
"The man gave it to me!" the hustler gripes. "That's not fucking fair!"
"I ought to punch your lights out, you filthy whore!" yells Brian, his face bright red with rage.
"Shut the fuck up! I said I earned that!" The guy balls up his fist, defensively.
"Brian," I say, touching his arm gently. "Just let him keep it. And the money. What difference does it make?"
Brian steps back, watching the hustler with hard eyes. The guy grabs a tattered leather jacket and puts it on, then slowly leaves the poolhouse. I pick up Armani and his bag as we walk through the kitchen. Brian locks the door behind us.
I get into the backseat of the Jeep with the dog and Brian gestures for the guy to get in the front. Then Brian drives down out of the canyons, out of Beverly Hills and on to West Hollywood. The guy slumps in the seat of the Jeep, not saying anything.
We reach an area that I'm not familiar with. There are a lot of bars and empty lots and sleazy-looking guys walking around. Brian pulls the Jeep over. "Get out," Brian tells the hustler.
"Can't you leave me up at Santa Monica?" he asks, looking around.
"Get the fuck OUT -- or I'll kick your lousy ass out!"
"Fucking asshole," the guy says, opening the door.
"Oh," adds Brian. "If I catch you at that house again or anywhere near it, I'll break your rotten little neck. And don't think I won't."
"Fuck YOU, man!" the guy yells, but Brian is already peeling the Jeep out of there.
Brian drives back in the direction of Beverly Hills, just staring straight ahead, without a single word. It's now dark in Los Angeles on this second day of December. Suddenly Brian pulls over into a parking lot of a drive-in. I climb up into the front seat, Armani on my lap. "That was kind of scary," I say, mainly to break the awkward silence.
But Brian puts his head down against the steering wheel, his hands gripping it tightly. Then he looks up at me. The gold in his green eyes reflects the lights of the passing cars. "Justin -- there's still time for you to escape while you still have your soul. I mean it. Get out of this goddamn town before it's too late! Get away from ME before it's too late!"
But I just gaze back at him calmly. "I don't want to get away from you, Brian. Besides, it's already too late," I answer. "It was too late as of the moment you picked me up under that streetlight on Liberty Avenue -- and you know it!"
"Don't start that shit about fucking Fate now!" he says, desperately. "THIS is what Fate is all about, Justin. History just repeating itself! The names change, but it's the same old thing."
"Why not talk about Fate, Brian? Isn't it about that as much as anything? About how you and I are fated to be together -- no matter what? Not you and Ron or you and anyone else -- but US! And you know that! And it's about how some people can confront their Fates and triumph over what life throws at them -- and how others just can't cope and are destroyed by their Fate? But you know that nothing is set in stone, Brian. Nothing! You make choices, just like I did with the car -- and then you live with them. You make them work. Just like WE are making things work! You have to believe that."
"It's too fucking hard, Justin," he replies. "When I saw that creep sitting there, I... I...." He touches his forehead like it hurts. "I've been there. No wonder I fucking hate myself!"
I put my hand on the back of his head. His hair feels like silk. "Brian, that guy -- that hustler -- he doesn't have anything to do with YOU! Or with US! What you did in New York and what this guy is doing aren't even close! You were a kid, doing what you had to do to survive. And you... fell in love with the person who helped you. Who rescued you. And you changed your life! You got an education and became a better person. You are NOTHING like that guy, Brian! He's a hustler, plain and simple. But this is not about that guy at all. This is about your imaginary guilt trip over Ron. Which is exactly what it is -- imaginary. You can't control what Ron does or what he feels. This isn't about YOU, Brian! It's about HIM. About RON! And Ron is responsible for his own actions, just the way we all are. YOU taught me that. No excuses, no apologies, no regrets -- right? Now believe it yourself."
"Justin, you can't understand everything!" Brian says, quietly. "You can't know... You just can't."
I don't try to push the issue right now. This is something that we'll need to work out together. "Brian, let's go home. Armani ate his dinner and now I'm starving, too."
We go back to the apartment and eat a little dinner. And Brian eats very little. After dinner he calls Lilith to tell her that Ron wasn't at the house, but he doesn't mention the hustler or the missing Carmel and Maria. Then Brian goes over his schedule for the London premiere while I clean up. But Ron still hasn't returned any of Brian's messages. He doesn't even call back to ask about the dog. But Armani makes himself right at home. I put down a placemat for his bowls and hang up his leash and I even get out his brush and try to untangle his long hair. Then I retie his bow.
"We can't keep him here, Justin," says Brian from the couch, watching me play with the dog on the floor.
"But when we move we'll have a lot more room!" I say, stroking Armani's belly.
"Justin, you've been sneezing all evening. You know that he can't stay here with us for very long, especially when we're leaving for England in less than a week. And your allergies will start to go crazy." Brian stares into space for a while. "Maybe Diane can take him. I'll call her tomorrow. She's got a big condo now and she loves animals."
I know that Brian is right, but I still want to keep Armani. He keeps licking my face, like he's glad to be somewhere other than where he was. "What do you think happened to Carmel and Maria?"
"I have no clue, Justin. No fucking clue," he answers. And Ron never calls.
Finally, Ivy, Ron's assistant, calls Brian from her place and he puts her on the speakerphone so I can listen in. "I'm really sorry, Brian, but Ron won't take ANY calls, especially from his mother or from you. And he isn't speaking to Jimmy, either. I have no idea why. The only calls he's taken for the last few days are from Howie Sheldon at the studio, the publicity people in London -- and Jerry Baxter."
"Jerry Baxter? Isn't that Diane's old boyfriend? That agent?" I say. "Why would Ron talk to him? I thought they hated each other?"
"I don't know, Justin," says Brian. "Ivy, what is going on with Baxter?"
"No clue, Brian," she answers. "Maybe Jerry is pitching a project to Ron or something."
"Look, Ivy, could you do me a favor and call Ron's mother? Tell her that her son is alive and well and just absent-minded or something? Please? Because the poor woman is going to have a nervous breakdown if he doesn't fucking call her!"
"I will," she agrees. "I'm sorry about all of this. Ron just hasn't been feeling very well since -- well, you understand, Brian. He's still so depressed and isolated, much more than he lets on. But I see him every day and I know." She pauses. "I know things are over between you two, but I wish you could at least be friends."
"Yeah, well I don't think that's an option right now," Brian says, looking at me.
"I know. I'm just trying to smooth things out a bit," Ivy replies.
"Oh," adds Brian. "Tell him that I have the dog."
"I will, Brian." And then Ivy signs off.
That night Armani sleeps wedged between us and in the dark I can hear his little snores along with Brian's wheezing until I fall asleep.
"Love is all there is, it makes the world go 'round,
Love and only love, it can't be denied.
No matter what you think about it,
You just won't be able to do without it.
Take a tip from one who's tired.
So if you find someone who gives you all their love,
Take it to your heart, don't let it stray.
For one things that's certain,
You will surely be a-hurtin'
If you throw it all away."
"I Threw It All Away," by Bob Dylan.
Continue on to "Inside Out -- Part 1", the next section.
©Gaedhal, May 2003.
Updated June 27, 2003.