This is Part 1 of Chapter 38 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Open Lines III", the previous section.
The narrator is Debbie Novotny, and features Brian Kinney, Vic Grassi, Justin Taylor, Michael Novotny, Ben Bruckner, Tim Reilly, Jennifer Taylor, Molly Taylor, Emmett Honeycutt, Ted Schmidt, Cynthia, Marty Ryder, Mrs. Ryder, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian invites everyone to dinner at Papagano's. Pittsburgh, May 2002.
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 spend half my life in restaurants, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited at the thought of going to Papagano's. Michael's been there -- it was one of David's favorite places -- and Vic ate there a couple of times in the old days. And Brian, of course, has gone there many times, mainly with clients.
But it isn't the kind of place you'd think of in connection with Debbie Novotny. So, I'm thrilled.
Still, I'm also a little doubtful about the whole thing.
Brian is trying so hard -- too hard -- to do things right. To make it up to everyone here. This dinner. Taking Gus shopping and then to Kennywood on Sunday. Taxiing Justin all over town. Hell, they even went to Jennifer's condo to invite her to dinner personally. Sunshine told me Brian really turned on the charm for her.
And he's co-sponsoring Lindsay and Mel's big Memorial Day barbecue on Monday. Turning it into a fund-raiser for the Gay and Lesbian Center's Youth Art Project. The same gang that put on the first art show Justin was in. So Brian is trying his damnedest to be Mr. Community. Mr. Responsibility. Everything he's always been so scornful of.
Like I said, I think he's trying too hard. Maybe he's growing up, finally. Or maybe he's desperately aware of what he's missed here and is trying to make himself a part of it in two short weeks. Very short weeks. To make up for the months he's been gone and the months he'll be gone again. It doesn't work that way.
He stops by the diner around noon. He's killing time, waiting to pick up Sunshine from some class at the Institute. He's antsy. First he sits at the counter. Then he moves to a booth. He can't settle down.
"What did you do? Swallow some Mexican jumping beans? Relax. How about some of that soothing herbal tea?"
He glares at me. "As much as I hate to say it -- Yes, I'll take some."
"Nervous about the big do tonight? I'm wearing a new outfit and getting my hair done especially!"
"Well, I'm getting my wig styled. Same difference."
He rolls his eyes. "Maybe this was a big mistake. My stomach is telling me to retreat and get back in bed and stay there until my plane leaves next Saturday."
"Oh, no you don't! I'm not missing a free, expensive meal!"
"Always the diplomat, Deb."
"Brian, what's up? You've been in such a good mood the last few days. You haven't had any bad news, have you? I mean, from -- out there?"
He hesitates. "Sort of."
Now I hesitate. "Did you hear from your friend out there, Brian?"
"Jesus, Deb. I've never known YOU to tiptoe around a subject before. You mean Ron, don't you? You can say his name aloud and the place won't collapse! No -- I talked to him earlier in the week. I heard from someone else this morning...."
I look at his face. This is more trouble. I read it right there so clearly. "What's wrong, if I'm allowed to ask?"
"This friend -- he and his wife look like they are splitting up. He's upset."
"Straight couples going caput? Doesn't sound like your thing, Brian. Why would this cause you even a minute's concern?" But then I see the look he gives me. It's more than that. "That's going on, Brian? Who are these people? Why do you care?"
"I can't go into it, Deb. But it isn't something good. Just another thing to stew about, I guess."
He stirs a ton of sugar into his tea and stares into space.
"I wanted to ask you something else, Brian. About tonight. I'm really asking for Vic...."
"For Vic? What?"
"I know it's a lot of people and it's expensive...."
"What, Deb? The expense doesn't matter. It's all taken care of."
"Vic would like to bring... his new boyfriend."
Brian's jaw drops. "What?! How come I don't anything about this? Who is it?"
"Well, that's why, Brian. Vic is a little nervous about this, but they've been seeing each other for about a month now. He's HIV+ and he's a social worker. Works with People living with AIDS and their families. He's a really great fella. Vic's known him for years -- since we were all in school together."
"Vic! The old dog! How come he didn't say anything about this to me?"
"I don't know. I think he's a little shy."
"Vic? Shy? Debbie, please!"
"Brian, it's been a long time since he's been with anyone, let alone had a real relationship. Both of them are like a couple of kids, stumbling around, trying to figure it out."
"Hmn. I can fucking relate to that."
I want to make a comment, but I stop myself because I realize that I have no idea whether he's referring to Sunshine or that Ron out in California. I promise to say a Novena if it's really Sunshine. And I fucking mean it, too!
"Sure. Have Vic bring his new boy toy -- or is it a hot stud? -- to dinner. I'm curious to meet him."
"Actually, I think you already have, Brian. A long time ago. If you remember. Tim Reilly. He used to be Father Tim? He's been out of the priesthood for ten years or so now."
"Tim? Tim Reilly?"
"Yup -- and he's still good-looking. More gray than blond in the hair now, but don't tell Vic that. Vic thinks the sun shines out of his... well, I guess I shouldn't be so profane about an ex-priest, huh? But he IS an ex, after all."
"You say he's HIV+? Tim Reilly?" Brian chews at his lip, thinking this over.
"Yes. His lover died about five or six years ago. Frank was his name. Vic knew Frank from one of the AIDS support groups and that's how he kept in contact with Tim. But after Frank died they lost touch. Funny, but it was Justin who brought them together again."
"Justin? In what way?"
Now, this is iffy ground. "Vic remembered that Tim used to work with teenage boys. Troubled kids. So he thought Tim might help Justin... when he was feeling a little... you know, down."
Brian's face is strained. "You mean from being bashed again -- emotionally and mentally, this time. So that Vic had to bring in fucking Tim Reilly to 'fix' him? Tim -- he's the champion at fixing damaged boys, that's for certain!"
"I don't mean to put you on the spot, Brian. But it is the truth. It's what happened, like it or not. And if you were responsible in some way, then you should face it."
"What the fuck do you think I've been doing, Deb? Trying to face it! Trying to make it better! If people will fucking let me! And not keep laying it on me again and again and again! And now you pull fucking TIM REILLY out of your magic bag of tricks? I mean -- how much more can I take here? How much more?"
And with that, he gets up and stalks out. He doesn't even finish his goddamn herbal tea!
A little later Vic comes by to pick me up and I tell him about my conversation with Brian.
"You didn't," says Vic. He puts his head in his hands.
"Why the fuck not?"
"Deb -- Tim ran that halfway house that Brian was in when he got out of the hospital!"
"So what? That was, what, fifteen years ago? Ancient history!"
Vic looks exasperated. "So, maybe he doesn't want to be reminded of that when he's giving his big party for his friends. Or be reminded of his past screw-ups with Justin -- especially when they are here and together right now!"
"So, I wasn't thinking! So, sue me!"
"That's IT! You never stop and think! And what gives YOU the right to invite someone to Brian's dinner?"
"But Brian was all for it -- until I said who it was! What, did Tim force Brian to make his bed or take out the trash way back when or what? That place must have done him SOME good. He went straight from there back into his class in the fall, if I remember correctly. And he graduated with honors. And got a scholarship to Penn! All while poor Michael never left his fucking room! And the poor kid was struggling just to pass!"
"Well, I certainly can't bring Tim now. And now I'm embarrassed to go myself."
"Why the hell are YOU embarrassed?"
"Because I have a pushy sister, that's why!"
Vic drives us home and does nothing but bitch at me the whole way.
But when we pull up to the house, Brian's Jeep is parked in the driveway. He and Justin are leaning against it, waiting for us. Brian is waiting for Vic, actually. Sunshine follows me inside the house, but I keep peeking out to see Brian and Vic, talking intently.
"Something is really getting to him today," Justin looks over my shoulder. "And it isn't about the dinner tonight, either."
"It's something with Vic and Tim. It's upset Brian. Me and my big mouth. I wish to fuck I knew what it was all about."
"He was upset before that, Deb. It's his friend, Jimmy. Looks like his wife left him. Brian was trying to call her back at the loft, before we came over here, but had no luck getting through. It seems odd -- Brian having straight friends out there."
"Maybe it's the movie business?"
"No queers? I doubt that."
"Who is this Jimmy? How does Brian know him?"
"Deb! Jimmy is Jimmy Hardy! The movie star -- Brian's co-star!"
I stare at Sunshine. "You mean from 'Liberty'? From 'Love Squared'? 'Castle in the Sky'? THAT Jimmy?"
"Yeah. Weird, huh?"
"Really. It's hard to believe. Brian, a real movie star."
I look at Sunshine's face. It doesn't look very happy all of a sudden. "Hey! He hasn't forgotten all about us! Or about YOU! He's right here and trying to kiss all our asses with this fancy dinner."
"I know -- but then he's leaving again. He won't come back here. I know it." He turns away from me so I can't see him tearing up.
"Don't beat yourself up, honey. If he won't come back here -- you'll just have to go out there!"
"Out to L.A.? How?"
"Shit, Sunshine! Fly. Take a train. Hitchhike if you have to. Get your ass out THERE if he won't stay here. What's keeping you here anyway?"
"School. My mom and sister. My friends. My life."
"Honey, you can make a life anywhere. Think about THAT. Sometimes Brian doesn't know what's good for him. He needs a tiny little push. Or else a big slam by a Mack truck! Maybe it would take YOU to provide it. Or at least remind him of what he really needs. And that isn't whatever he's getting out in California. Because much more of that looks like it will kill him!"
Sunshine just gawks at me, thinking.
I hear a whistle and look out the window. Brian and Vic are standing in the drive. Brian is waving at the house. Sunshine is out the door in a flash and into the passenger seat of the Jeep. My heart does a little dance as I remember him trudging out -- alone -- to that big, ugly thing in the middle of February to drive back in the dark to that cold, empty loft. Then I think about what is to come and I start to dread what will happen in a week when he's alone again. Why do I always want to kiss AND kick Brian -- at the same fucking time?
Vic comes into the house after they leave. "Well, Tim and I are going. Brian invited Tim specifically."
"See? Was that so bad?"
Vic just shakes his head. "Deb, you have no idea. No idea at all."
"What? What's the big mystery?"
"Victor Grassi! Don't leave me hanging with that shit!"
"It's just seeing Tim might bring back memories for Brian. I guess it wasn't all that pleasant in rehab. I'm sure he rather would have not been reminded of that period of his life. But he was gracious enough to want Tim there if it would make me happy. That's what he said -- if it would make me happy." Vic sits down at the kitchen table and shakes his head. "Don't EVER let me hear anyone say anything against that boy! Not as long as my body is still warm! And that means YOU, too, Sis!"
"I didn't say a fucking word!"
"Make sure you don't. Now, you better start getting your wig on -- we only have four hours until we have to be at dinner."
"Ha! The word from Vic Grassi, Fashion Queen!"
"Some have it," Vic says as he sweeps upstairs. "And some don't."
Yeah, some have it, all right.
Continue on to "Antipasto -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, June 2002
Picture of Randy Harrison, and Sharon Gless from Showtime.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated June 28, 2002