This is Chapter 70 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Rites of Passage", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Kenroy Smith, Rowan Conley.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: What does Justin feel about Brian? Well, it's complicated, as usual. London, July 2002.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Susan -- wish I could be at the party.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"'Aperture' (noun): 1. An opening, gap, cleft, hole. 2. The opening admitting light, as in a camera. 3. The inside diameter of the ring holding the object glass of an optical instrument, as a telescope. Aperture applies to any opening such as a crack, cleft, or window in an otherwise solid wall or the like" ('Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary').
We haven't been riding in the Rolls more than twenty minutes, when Brian is out like a light. He kind of slumps over and it scares me for a second, because he falls asleep so suddenly. But then I realize that he's exhausted. He must not have slept at all last night, mainly worrying about me. And I guess I don't blame him.
I wish that I hadn't been able to sleep, either, because all I dreamed about was that vision. That other time stream that Fiona showed me. It was horrible and fascinating all at the same time.
When I finally woke up I really didn't know for a minute where I was, or who I was with. I was afraid to open my eyes. Afraid to see who was next to me. But it only took one touch, breathing in a single breath to catch his scent, just experiencing the vibration around us, to know that I was in the right place.
And I've never been more relieved about anything in my whole life.
I know it bothers Brian that I went in and talked to Sybil this morning. But I had to do it. To prove I wasn't frightened by what had happened with the time regression. To prove that I didn't blame her, or Fiona, or anyone else for showing me what might have been. And to prove it to myself. Because, regardless of what Brian says, I DO believe it. I believe that WAS my other possible life. Brian didn't experience it. HE didn't see what I saw, feel what I felt. I know that it was true.
So when Sybil says at breakfast that she and her husband are going to church, I know what I have to do. I have to go and thank God that I am here -- and not THERE.
This is something that I haven't done in a long time. Not since I was a kid, really. My parents stopped going to church a long time ago. Religion was a small part of being at St. James -- it WAS a school connected with a church, after all. Attendance at chapel was something that was more ignored than required, but it was there. So I never thought much about religion at all.
When I was in the hospital, before I got into the rehab unit and was still in the regular part of the trauma section, a minister came around and wanted to pray over me or with me or something. I think my mom must have checked off some box under religion and I was on this guy's list.
But he had no idea what had happened to me. Why I was almost dead. I'm not even sure that if he'd known the truth that he wouldn't have sided with Chris Hobbs and the guys who had been harassing me all those months. I really have no idea what he would have thought about it or said to me if he had known I was the queer victim of a homophobic hate crime. But I ended up telling him to 'Fuck off' anyway, that the last thing I needed was his hypocritical face asking me if I wanted to pray!
Brian would have been proud of me.
And the minister looked so startled. He left my room in a hurry and never came back.
But when I was by myself at night, crying, all I could do was ask God why this had happened to me? What had I done wrong? Why was I being punished?
And why was I alone?
That's the thing I couldn't deal with the most. The fact that I thought Brian didn't care.
But other people knew things. Michael knew Brian was there for three days and he never told me. I thought he was my friend. I thought we could confide in each other, especially when he was staying with me at the loft. We talked about so many things then. But he NEVER told me that. And Michael had to have realized just how much it would mean to me to know.
I think I understand why he didn't tell me. That experience, that pain, was something that he shared with Brian and didn't want to hand over to me, like everything else seemed to be handed over to me. That was something THEY shared and he wanted to keep it his own. But it still feels like there is an empty space that Michael might have helped to fill. A gap in my memory, in my life, that would have been easier to endure if I'd only known the truth.
And my mom knew about Brian coming every night to watch me. That freaks me out. It makes me angry. And frustrated. That is something I can't believe she would keep from me. That she and Brian would both keep from me! It might have made so much difference in the way I felt about myself when I was struggling to recover. About the way I felt about -- everything.
As it was, I fought all the way. Fought to get my mobility back. Fought to get my life back. So that the first thing I could do was find Brian and ask him "Why"? To confront him directly and say, "Where were you, Brian, when I was dying? Why didn't I see YOU at the hospital? How could I have been so mistaken in thinking that you gave a shit about me -- even a little?"
But the minute I DID see him, standing in Woody's, his hollowed eyes as wide as if he'd seen a ghost, I couldn't blame him. Because he HAD seen a ghost. Me.
And I still don't blame Brian. I know that he's been injured by all of this as much as I have. It's one thing when your wounds are on the outside. Then you have bandages and tubes and wires all over you, and scars when everything else is stripped away. But it's even worse when all your injuries are inside. In your heart. In your mind. Because no one can see them, the way they can see a gimp hand or a scar on your head. On the outside, you look okay -- but the inside is smashed up almost beyond repair. And no one believes it. And no one ever tries to fix it.
Especially when you hide your emotions as well as Brian does. I know he originally did it to survive. So his dad wouldn't see what he was thinking or feeling. Or see what he really was -- a queer. And later -- in New York -- he did it to numb himself from the experience. So now he tells everyone that he really doesn't give a shit -- that's his mantra, Ben Bruckner says -- and they believe it. He convinces people that he can't be hurt, that he doesn't feel what normal people do. The heartless shit. The one who, like Ted Schmidt thinks, could pull the plug on someone in a coma and not be affected. Like he could ever have pulled the plug on Ted! Later, he told me that he sat next to Ted in the hospital for hours, obsessing, agonizing, over what he was going to do. On whether he was able to make that decision. Could he have pulled the plug on Ted? Could he have pulled the plug on ME? People just don't see that side of Brian. But I do.
No wonder sometimes Brian acts likes he's walking in circles, with no idea what to do. Things inside are all disconnected. He needs someone to help him do things, to feel things, in the same way I needed help just to learn how to pick up a pencil or how to piss straight again. But Brian needs help learning how to do everything.
Sometimes I give up thinking that he'll ever act 'normal.' Of course, Brian would challenge the very idea of 'normal'! He'd say that what is the POINT of being a queer if you just want to be normal? "Go and find a little girl and get married" he said to me once, a really long time ago. That's what you should do if you want 'love' and 'romance.' And yet I KNOW he believes in love, even wants it. He just can't let himself admit it.
The first 'Law of Brian' that I ever learned was from Michael that first night I sat with him in the Liberty Diner. That Brian doesn't 'do' boyfriends. End of discussion. End of story. But I've since found out that isn't true. He DID do 'boyfriends' a long time ago -- 'a boyfriend.' Ron. And then again out in California -- with Ron. I was beginning to think that was just a bizarre quirk that was connected forever with some attempt to recreate an imagined relationship from a million years ago -- with Ron. And that when that thing with Ron, that so-called 'normal' relationship, failed so utterly, I thought -- well, that's IT! That will prove to Brian that he WAS right all along. There IS no such thing as love or relationships or romance. No such thing as boyfriends!
And then, this morning -- it comes out of the fucking blue!
"Nobody is allowed to call my boyfriend 'beautiful' except me."
Hello? Hello! Call for Justin from Mr. Kinney with a thunderbolt out of the fucking blue!
And, of course, Brian acts as though he says it everyday! That this isn't an earthquake that they can pick up on a seismograph in some university in Peru! "Why look, professor! There is a 9.9 on the Kinney Scale somewhere in the south of England! We better warn all the queers to reset their gaydar, because this just throws EVERYTHING into total chaos!"
And he just continues packing his suitcase without even blinking an eye.
Is it any wonder that half the time I want to worship him and the other half I want to strangle him?
Just like Ron.
Now I really feel creepy. Now I'm comparing myself to Ron. But it's true. We are alike in a sick way. I really hate him -- but I really understand him, too. We are both being driven crazy by the same person -- the person we both love obsessively. Both of us trying to understand him. Trying to control him. Trying to keep him. But Ron does it in a destructive way. Catering to Brian's worst impulses instead of his good instincts. Feeding his addictions even though I know Ron hates those addictions. Indulging him and then letting him over-indulge himself, like a kid who stuffs himself with candy until he pukes -- and then you just give him more. That's NOT the way to do it. I don't want to see what's happened to Ron happening to me, too. That's why I have to keep my thoughts positive and focused on the good things.
Just like Brian helped me with my hand by tossing the ball back and forth, I have to help him with his feelings. Toss a few emotions around with him. Not being afraid -- the way I have been in the past -- to tell him what I'M feeling. To tell him that I love him -- even if he doesn't want to hear it. Because using those feelings are the only way they are ever going to work right, just like using my hand was the only way to keep it from completely shutting down. Maybe it isn't perfect, maybe it isn't pretty to see me have to struggle -- but I can still make a meaningful piece of art with this gimp hand. And Brian can have a meaningful relationship with his gimp heart! I'm going to make sure of it.
He would certainly be horrified if he heard me planning like this, thinking like this. Screwed up Twink Logic, he would say. But I remember Diane's advice about Brian's addictions -- set your plan of action and carry it out like you would a war. Okay, then, this will be a covert war. I'll be as crafty as I have to be and continue the way I'm going. Because there's nothing logical about Kinney Logic, nothing straightforward -- it's ALL fucking instinct! And the one thing I have learned to tune myself to is Brian's instincts.
And he just keeps sleeping on the drive back to London. Peacefully. Finally.
I talk to Kenroy Smith a little as we go. Brian is always talking to him about things. He says a guy like Kenroy is a lot more interesting than ten Gerry Miltons. There's a little jumpseat on the back of the front seat of the Rolls and I perch on that and talk to him through the little open window that separates him and the passengers.
He says that some people he drives around never speak to him directly, but use the little phone in the back to give him instructions, like whether to turn off the heater or what road to take to get somewhere.
"Some blokes would rather see you as merely a device and not a person," Kenroy says.
"That is so screwed up!" I say.
"Maybe, but it's the honest truth."
"How long did it take you to get the Rolls?"
"Now that was a bit o' luck and no mistake. An elderly gentleman I drove in the cab regular used to talk to me quite a bit. I told him that my dream was to be me own man some day. Work for meself. Then one day the old gentleman died. He left me this car. It had been sittin' in his garage for years and years because the old gent couldn't drive no more. And he left it to me, free and clear. I borrowed a sum of money and had it restored to prime condition. And I've been a happy man ever since."
"Do you have a family?"
"The car and the job -- that's me life. This city and these streets. That's all I ever wanted -- or need."
I can't imagine it. "Don't you get lonely?"
He turns and looks at me for a second before putting his eyes back on the road. "I was brought up in care since I was four years old. All I ever dreamed of was bein' alone and havin' something that belonged to me and no one else. Now I have it."
"What's 'care'? I don't know that term."
"Bein' in care -- in the children's home. A ward of the state. Sleepin' in a big room with fifty other kids. Eatin', playin' pissin', everybody together. Never havin' a bloody minute to yourself. I lived there 'til I was fifteen and got me workin' papers. Now I have me car and me clients and peace of mind. And the entire city is at me fingertips."
"Geez, Kenroy. I think that's sad."
"Not at all. It's my way. You have your way and I've mine. I'm a happy man, Justin."
It sounds funny when he calls me by my first name because he's usually very formal with his clients. But I hate having him say 'sir' or 'Mr. Taylor.'
"I can't imagine not having someone to be with. You know, to be with someone who takes care of you."
Kenroy laughs. He has a throaty laugh that comes from deep inside. "Seems like YOU are the one what takes care of HIM -- I mean, from what I can see!"
"Well, that is kind of true" I say. I'm pleased that it's so obvious to someone as observant as Kenroy Smith. "He thinks he does it all, taking care of me. He even promised my mother that he would! But I do the same for him just as much. Except quieter. Don't tell him that, though. He thinks he's totally in charge."
"Oh, really? I had a mate years ago. A professional boxer. Huge bloke. I worked nights with him as a bouncer down in Brixton -- and that's a tough lot down that way. He had a wife who wasn't any taller that his elbow and didn't weigh more than a large plucked chicken -- which she resembled, by the way. But all she had to do was look cross at my mate and he turned into the big pile of mush! So, you can't tell by looks -- it's all in who knows what's what."
"You think I know what's what, Kenroy?"
"I wouldn't bet against you, son."
"Can I ask you a question? I mean, if it isn't too weird?"
"Surely. Ask away."
"What's... Spotted Dick?"
Kenroy Smith laughs so hard I think he's going to drive the Rolls right off the road. Now I'm totally embarrassed and can feel my face going bright red.
"It's a sweet. A white pudding with sultanas -- raisins -- in it. Why do you ask?"
"Brian threatened that they would serve it to me this weekend. I didn't know what it was -- and I was afraid to ask anyone at Firelands for fear it was one of Brian's disgusting jokes!"
Kenroy shakes his head. "You two! I should drive you blokes 'round for free just for the entertainment value!"
I must have fallen asleep, too, eventually, because when I feel the car come to a halt, I jerk open my eyes suddenly. Brian has his head in my lap and he's still out cold. Beautiful and peaceful.I lean over and brush my lips across his forehead. I don't get that many moments when I have him all to myself like this. He's always racing off somewhere, restless and driven. But right now....
"Huh? What?" He looks around like he's not sure where he is.
"We're back at the hotel."
"Can't be. What's going on?"
"You slept the whole way back."
He sits up. "I did? Jesus."
Kenroy is taking the suitcases out of the trunk of the Rolls. The bellman comes out to help him. I drag Brian out of the Rolls and he yawns as we stumble up the stairs to the Chatterton.
In the room, Brian flops down under the tent.
"If you go to bed now, Brian, you'll be up all night and the studio car is coming for you at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning," I warn him. "You don't want to start off this week already tired. You want to go there in the morning and look devastating!"
He rolls his eyes at me. "You're right. Let me get cleaned up and then we can go out and walk around a bit. I need some filthy city air to clear that weekend out of my brain."
A half hour later we're strolling up to Notting Hill Gate.
"Too bad it isn't Saturday. We could have gone to the big antique market. But instead we could wander around Hyde Park. We could go to Speakers' Corner and see if any good loonies are ranting today. Or maybe we'll find that stable where they have riding."
"Sure!" After raining all last night, it's now sunny and warm out, and I'm ready to stretch my legs.
Of course, we eventually end up walking by the Hyde Park railings along Bayswater Road. I see the two hippies -- Julie and Terence -- who made my bracelet and we stop and talk to them for a few minutes. Julie shows me a few pieces that might be nice for Debbie. The stuff is a little over the top for my mom, but for Deb it would just perfect. I also see a necklace that Emmett would like, too. I buy the necklace and leave deciding on something for Deb until later. "We'll be here next Sunday and every Sunday, love," says Julie.
Not far down from the hippies, Rowan has his photos set up. Brian walks right by him, pointedly. He definitely has a bug up his ass about Rowan.
"Hey! Rowan!" I call.
"Where've you been all this weekend?"
"Out in the country. At this big house. Sir Ken Fielding was there and lots of other theater people." I know it sounds like bragging the minute it comes out of my mouth.
"So," Rowan says, craning his neck to look at Brian, who is standing, impatiently, in front of a display of macrame planters. "He's really in a movie, then?"
"Of course he is! Did you think I made it up?"
"Don't know. Maybe." Rowan shrugs. "People say many things to make an impression."
"Well, this isn't made up. I don't need to make up things to impress you, Rowan. There were a lot of important people there because Brian IS an important person." I'm not exaggerating -- it's the truth and it bothers me that Rowan is so dismissive of Brian. "Gerry Milton, who's in a lot of plays, was there, and a bunch of other actors. Harry Collins -- he's in a TV series."
Rowan gapes at me. "Harry Collins? From 'Mornington Close'?
"Right! THAT'S the name of the show. I couldn't remember. I've never seen it."
"You're really not joking, then? What's he like? Harry Collins?"
"Just a nice man. It was his house we stayed at."
Someone stops and asks about one of the photographs. I wait while Rowan answers the man's questions. I can see Brian, trying to act interested in the planters. Trying to act like he is NOT waiting for me.
"Rowan -- I have to get going."
"Stay, just a moment." He sells the man a print. "That was five pounds right there!" he says, pocketing the note.
"Brian is waiting for me."
"He'll wait a touch more. I got you this photo magazine. Well, it's an old one of mine, actually, but it has an article about buying a camera."
"That's great, because Brian said I could get one. Maybe we can go out tomorrow and look?"
Rowan smiles. "Super. I'm finished at the hotel at 10:00 a.m. The big man out all day?"
"Probably. He's leaving at 7:00 a.m."
"Good. I'll see you at breakfast and we can make plans. You got cash for the camera?"
"I... don't know. I have a credit card, but I'm trying not to run it up because I have to pay off any charges."
"Bollocks! Just get HIM to pay!"
Suddenly Brian is standing there. "I'm hungry," he says. This is usually my line, not his. He's glowering at Rowan. "Let's go. Now." He takes hold of my arm and starts to pull me.
"Bye," I say to Rowan. He stands and watches us go down Bayswater towards Marble Arch.
"Brian, I was in the middle of a conversation!"
"Your conversation with HIM is over." His face is set.
"He's just a friend! I told you -- he's isn't even gay!"
"Like fuck he's not!" Brian sputters. "I saw him sniffing my fucking UNDERWEAR when you left him in the room with me! He's not only GAY -- he's some kind of freak."
"Don't be silly, Brian. You were dreaming it."
"I know what I saw, Justin. The next thing you know I'll walk in and he'll be sniffing YOU! Forget THAT shit!" He clamps his hand around my slave bracelet and digs it into my wrist, as if to remind me of something.
"Brian -- I'm not interested in Rowan! He's just someone to hang out with."
"I'd rather you hung out with Hughie."
"I don't like Hughie," I pout. And I don't. But Brian continues pulling me along Bayswater Road. "Brian, stop. Please, stop for two seconds!"
We pause on the sidewalk. "I'm sorry," he says. "I just don't like that kid. He's... it's like... like you said you saw -- or thought you saw -- in that psychic thing. He's probably telling you all that shit you told me about. From your fucking dream!"
Then the light dawns. I understand it now. Brian thinks my vision had something to do with Rowan. He thinks that Rowan is using "romantic bullshit" on me to turn my head. Bullshit phrases that I STILL can hear in my head. "You are all I need!" and "You are my inspiration!"
But nothing could be further from the truth! Rowan, if anything, is even less romantic than Brian! All he ever talks about is work and money and his photos. And he's straight! It's so obvious!
But to me this isn't at all about Rowan. This is about Brian and me. This is a new turn in our "relationship" -- if I'm finally allowed to use that word. I think of Brian's short temper and his general impatience and possessiveness -- and I realize that not only is Brian REALLY my boyfriend now, he's my insanely JEALOUS boyfriend! And now he's not afraid to show it! This could be a delightful development. And also real trouble.
"Brian. PLEASE listen to me. Why the fuck would I look twice at Rowan? He's a friend, but that's ALL. He's NOT interested in me! And I'm NOT interested in him. Not today or tomorrow or next year! Because I love YOU, you shithead! I don't WANT anyone else! Geez, buy a clue, will you?"
He stares at me, his face all quizzical. "Do you really think I'm a shithead?"
I pull him down to kiss me. "Yes, a beautiful fucking shithead! Now let's eat something before I have to take a bite out of YOU!"
"You can bite me later," Brian says, smiling crookedly. "Just don't do it on my ass -- I need that for the film."
"I'll try to remember. But you can bite ME anywhere."
"Hm," Brian leans down and bites my ear. "I think the next classic we need to review is 'Dracula.' By Bram Stoker. The blood is the life. And the neck isn't the only place where the vampire feeds. Where he sucks the vital life force from his victim and makes that victim become one with him. Where they both become Children of the Night. Hunting their victims. Bound together for eternity by blood and...."
I step away and wave down a cab.
"What are you doing?" Brian says. "Where are you going?"
I tug the front of his shirt and pull him towards the taxi. "We're going back to the hotel. Fuck the food! I need some literature. Right NOW!"
Brian smiles a lazy, lewd smile. "Now THAT'S music to my ears."
Continue on to "Ithyphallic", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Pictures of Gale Harold and Randy Harrison from sandyd/pfyre/rrambles and "OUT."
Updated August 16, 2002