This is Part 1 of Chapter 42 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Confessions -- 2" , the previous section.
Narrated by Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian's visit to Pittsburgh is coming to an end. 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.
"Hello?" I've been lying in bed, trying to decide whether to get up when the phone rings.
There is silence at the other end. I have a creepy feeling of deja vu. Another phone call from the void.
Then, finally, a voice. "Is Brian Kinney there? This is Ron Rosenblum."
Oh. I almost hang up. "Just a minute."
Brian is in the bathroom, towel around his waist, doing whatever it is he does with his hair every day. Patting it. Wetting it. Combing it. Trying to get it to behave. Some days it's a losing battle, but he still looks great.
"You have a call."
He looks at me, raising that one eyebrow.
His face goes through about twenty different emotions in a couple of seconds. Finally, he puts his comb down, walks over and sits on the bed, taking up the phone.
I feel like a jerk eavesdropping, but I can't tear myself away.
"It's pretty early there, huh? Right. Yeah, Saturday. No, I confirmed it. From Kennedy."
The airline tickets. Saturday. It's now Thursday morning. I feel my stomach sink, like when a broken elevator suddenly drops you five floors.
"Yes, I already did. No, I did." He glances up at me and shakes his head. "Mostly raining. Yeah. No, the dinner went okay. Yeah, well... same old, same old."
He gestures at me with his hand, cupping it and pointing to the fridge. I go down and get out the container of passion fruit juice and pour him a glass. I bring it back up to the platform and sit down on the bed, next to him, holding the glass.
"No shit? When did he call? Is this something firm?"
I catch his eye and put my hand on his dick. Firm, as always. He takes my hand off and slaps it.
"How many weeks? What about the visa thing -- the working papers? Yes, my passport's always up to date, you know that."
He holds his hand out and I put the juice in it. He takes a long sip. And then another. Ron is saying a lot of something on the other end. Brian is grimacing.
"I don't know, Ron. I've never even met this guy... Well, that's different. I know you. I know Jimmy. It's not like I understand what the fuck I'm doing, after all. Yeah, Sir Kenneth and all, but... Yeah, it is a good opportunity, but...."
He hands the empty glass back to me. I take it back down to the kitchen and rinse it out. My mind is racing at about a million miles an hour. Talk about feeling completely left out of the conversation. I'm not even living in the same world as Brian and Ron -- that is the reality of my situation.
I go back into the bedroom and pretend to be 'tidying' up stuff in the corner. It's pretty lame, I know, but I have to listen. To get some sort of clue to... what?
"Yes, I'll meet with Lew when I get back. Monday. Right."
Monday. When he'll be back. In California.
He's watching me picking up things that don't need to be picked up. Folding things that don't need to be folded. He snaps his fingers and points to the bed. I sit down, like a dog obeying a command.
"Okay, then. No. I can get a cab from the airport. It isn't necessary... Right. Okay." He really is frowning now, his lips pressed together.
"No, don't do that...."
For a second I think he's talking to me and I'm startled. But he's still speaking into the phone. He reaches around my waist and pulls me over. Feels inside my bathrobe for my dick.
"Okay. I'll call you from Kennedy to let you know the departure time." He is stroking me now, slowly. I lay back on the bed and close my eyes. I wonder what Ron would think if he knew that Brian is talking to him and touching me at the same time. But who does Ron think is answering the phone here at 9:00 in the morning? I feel smug. And illicit. Like a dirty secret. It's making me hard.
"Right. I'll talk to you. Yeah, I love you, too. 'Bye." He puts the phone back on the cradle.
My eyes snap open and I sit up.
"What the fuck did you say?" I grab his hand and push it away from my dick.
"Huh? What's the matter now?"
"What did you just say -- to him?"
"What are you on about?"
"I heard you say it!"
"Say what? What are you talking about?"
I get off the bed and retie my bathrobe. "You don't even know what you're saying. And you don't even know what you mean. Do you EVER say what you really mean, Brian?" I turn and walk away. What I want to do is go right out the door, dressed or not.
"Okay, hold it right there." He crosses the bedroom and grabs the collar of my robe, pulling me back and sitting me down on the bed.
"It seems that YOU were the one who was listening to MY conversation. Right?"
My face feels hot and I know it is getting red, the anxiety rash on my neck beginning to break out.
"So, you're listening to my conversation with Ron? That's okay, because this is your place, too, as much as mine and there are no secrets here. I've never tried to hide anything from you, even if it was something that might be painful. Maybe I should have, but that's another story."
I start to speak, but he stops me. "But what I say to Ron and what I say to YOU has no correlation, do you understand?"
"I don't understand. I can't understand." I can't look at him at all. I feel like I've been slapped and the handprint is bright red on my heart.
"Tell me, which would you rather have -- the words or the deeds? Because I can switch it around, if that's what you want." He pulls me around to look at him.
"You always rationalize, Brian. I'm sick of it." I turn my face away. "Especially when you are leaving me and going back there! It's always YOU who gets to pick and choose. To come and go."
"I never said you HAD to live here. To stay here. I gave you plenty of chances, plenty of space to do whatever you wanted to with your life. And I never put any conditions on things. No strings attached that said you had to wait around for me -- or for anyone." He begins to rub his bracelet and twist at it, which he only does when he's very nervous or very upset. "If I'm not doing -- or saying -- things the way you want me to -- what can I do? What am I supposed to say?"
"Why is it so hard for you to say those things to ME? It should be easy, Brian. Why isn't it easy? Especially when you can say them to other people without any thought at all. It makes me feel like two cents. It makes me feel like you really don't care -- and all I'm doing is deluding myself."
"If you want to feel that way, that's your prerogative." He lets me go and goes to the closet, raking through the line of pants and shirts, looking for something to wear. "But I am leaving in two days, that's true. And if that's the way you want to finish this up for now -- fine."
"I don't." My heart is pounding and I'm trying not to lose it.
"Then get dressed and don't sulk. We'll go to the diner and get something to eat."
He thinks that's the end of it. Don't sulk, Sunshine. Eat something. Here's a present. Let's fuck. It isn't that simple.
I take my shower and by the time I come out he's dressed and on the computer. I put on my own clothes and creep around the loft, picking things up and putting them away for real. I keep passing behind him, trying to see what he's looking at, but it just looks like some travel sites. He is going on a trip, that was for certain, but I didn't know where or when. As if it had anything to do with me. As if anything had anything to do with me.
I look up. He's motioning for me to come over to him.
"Have you ever been to London? Or anywhere abroad?" It's like he's already forgotten the phone call and what he said and he's on to something else in his life. It's always that way.
"My parents went a couple of times. But they left 'the peanut gallery' at home. I was hoping to go for my junior year at PIFA. Maybe to Florence. That's their best program." I try to picture myself in some other place. Some place far away. Running away there, like he runs away.
"Well, I went to England for my junior year abroad. But I spent more time studying the guys in the Royal Shakespeare Company and at RADA than I did looking at the effect of advertising on British culture. Maybe that should have given me a hint."
I go over to him and sit on the edge of his chair, pressing against him. He doesn't talk a lot about his college years. In fact, he never talks about them, so this definitely has my interest. He's reeling me back in, as always. "What's RADA? It sounds military."
"Twat. It's the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Like the Harvard of acting schools. It's in London, obviously."
"Hot guys?" I know it wasn't the acting that had captured his attention, even back then.
He gives me a look. "What do you think?"
"Brian, you aren't thinking of going there? To that school? I mean, for acting lessons?"
Now he really laughs. "I probably could use quite a lot of them, but the answer is 'no.' " He shuts down the computer and stands up, pushing me off the edge of the chair. "Let's get some breakfast."
I follow him out into the morning.
The day is like a watercolor all smeared over.
Debbie is laughing at the diner. She brings me something and I eat it. I don't know what it is. Brian eats a sesame bagel, toasted, with butter. And that herbal tea. His breath smells like mint.
Michael comes in and sits next to us, crowding the three of us in the booth. He doesn't look mad anymore, just sad. He has a package for Brian to take to Ron. Some article that Ben wrote. Brian puts it in his bag.
Vic comes in next and sits across from us. They are talking about people I don't know, things that happened a lot of years ago. Vic keeps patting my hand. His hand feels dry. He has melancholy eyes. Sadder even than Michael's.
I wonder what it must feel like to know that you are going to die soon? But Vic has thought he was going to die again and again. And, yet, he's still alive. And I'm still alive, even though certain people thought I would die. Wanted me to die. I look at Vic like he's a mirror image of myself. But I don't know what I'm supposed to be seeing.
Then we are in the Jeep. We drop Michael off at his store. He says something to me about the website and some ideas he has. I nod. I can't think about that now.
We are going to Lindsay and Mel's. There's a tree in their front yard. It's covered with big pink flowers. And a lilac bush next to the front door fills my head with its smell.
Gus is walking around. He bumps into chairs and tables like a toy that turns and goes the other way when it hits an object.
Lindsay is smiling all the time. They are looking at a calendar. She and Gus are going out to L.A. in June. Melanie doesn't say anything, but she narrows her eyes and looks away. She isn't going, obviously. Why would she think she was part of anything? Everything is on Brian's time. Brian's terms. I picture Gus when he's grown -- he'll be Brian's, too, then. How can it be any other way? It's something between men. Even now, if my father called, I would go. That's something these women will never understand. Everything belongs to Brian. That's just reality.
We don't go to Woody's tonight. Or to Babylon.
Instead, Brian takes me to a Thai restaurant a little way out of town. The Orchid. Everything is decorated with pictures of orchids. The menus. The murals on the walls. A glass enclosure full of orchids growing along the side of the room. Even the hostess is wearing a silk dress with the flower embroidered across the front.
"This is perhaps taking the theme to the extreme, as we say in advertising. As they say, I mean."
I wonder if he misses that. His job. He spent all Tuesday down at the office. Doing what? Meeting with his boss, Marty Ryder? Going over papers with Cynthia? What did they decide he was going to do there? Stay on as a 'consultant'? Good publicity for the agency, they said. What are they really saying about everything? Does Brian really care? He won't say or he can't say.
And so he's going back to this new thing. This new life. I think of all those scratches and bruises on his body, now almost all healed. He thinks I don't know what they are from. But I know. I've read the book, 'The Olympian.' I've even read his script -- while he was asleep. Seen his notes and marks all over it.
I know that he doesn't want to talk about the final scene -- at least the final one he's in. The one where he gets killed. Shot in the head by some homophobic sports official. While he's running, winning the race. And the scratches are from all that falling down, again and again, as they filmed it.
That's what he didn't want to talk about. What he didn't want me to know about because it might be too 'upsetting' to me. Never mind the million other things that are okay to upset me. This is the thing HE can't deal with. Why he came back here looking haunted and sick and afraid.
What he's going back to. More of the same.
We eat the food and then go back to the loft.
The next day he has a million errands to run.
I can't get out of bed. I miss my Friday studio, like I skipped classes yesterday. What difference does it make? I tell Brian they are conference days and there aren't any classes, or else he'd make me go.
When he leaves I put on Ron's CD. The Dylan one. My 'found art.' I can't get off this one song, the last on the CD. Only now Ron isn't sending messages to Brian. He's sending them to me. Maybe he was sending them to me all along. Like he sees me. Sees me listening. Sees me hiding my head under the dark blue sheets.
"You must leave now, take what you need, you think will last.
But whatever you wish to keep, you better grab it fast.
Yonder stands your orphan with his gun,
Crying like a fire in the sun.
Look out the saints are comin' through
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense.
Take what you have gathered from coincidence.
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets.
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue."
It's the last evening.
Brian goes over to the tall chest and opens the bottom drawer. That's where he keeps photographs. Odds and ends. A metal box with papers. I assume his will is in there, maybe his birth certificate, insurance policies. I don't know -- it's locked and I haven't been able to get it open. He's going through the box. And he is sorting the photos. Pictures of him and Michael that are way old. School pictures. One of Lindsay at college. Gus. A photo of the two of us at my first art show at the Gay and Lesbian Center. I have a copy of that one, too. The kinds of things you'd never expect Brian to keep around.
He puts the pictures and papers into a manila envelope and closes the metal clasp. He's taking them with him. To me, that can only mean one thing.
I walk into the bedroom. We are supposed to be getting ready for Woody's, then Babylon for one last Friday night. Brian already has his 'being seen' clothes on. A pair of close-fitting white linen pants and a crimson silk shirt, open to his waist. I am just going to wear what I usually wear -- my cargo pants and pullover.
I start to comb my hair. Then I think about tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. And the day after that.
I take my clothes off and go over to the shower. I turn the water on full blast and rotate the dial all the way over to cold. I step in and for about three seconds I feel the shock of the freezing water. It almost knocks the breath out of me. I sit down on the floor of the shower stall and let the cold water fall all over me until I feel numb. Until I can't feel anything at all.
I can hear him calling me, but it sounds far away. Like under water. But I'm the one under water.
He opens the shower door. The cold water splashes against him and he recoils. Then he steps into the stall and turns the dial to warm, then hotter. He's wearing his good clothes and the water, now getting warmer and warmer, soaks the red shirt and white pants. The dye from the silk shirt begins to run down the linen pants, leaving trails like fresh blood as it heads for the drain.
He seizes my arms and pulls me to my feet. My body, my legs feel numb and icy. He is rubbing them, rubbing the feeling back into them. I want to say, no - no. Don't make me feel anything. But the sensation comes back like needles piercing me.
He drags me out into the bedroom and wraps me in a large towel. I'm trembling and can't stop. My teeth are rattling.
"What the fuck do you think you are doing?" He shakes me, but my body is shaking more on its own.
"Washing everything off." I say it, but the words are coming from somewhere else.
"You're going to give yourself pneumonia, do you know that?"
"Your clothes are wet." I look at his ruined pants, ruined shirt.
"Fuck that. What were you DOING in there?"
I can't answer that question. I can't answer any of the questions that mean anything to me.
I'm still trembling all over. I can feel the cold straight through me. I wonder why he took me out of there? The numbness was good. The numbness was a relief. Almost like a bat to the head.
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
I realize that I've said those words out loud. I thought they were only in my head and not in the room.
He puts me in the bed and gets another blanket. I can't stop shaking, even though the room feels hot. Like my skin is burning. But inside it's nothing but ice.
I can hear that Dylan song again. I can't get it out of my head, even when the CD player isn't turned on. I hear your message. I hear it and I can't deal with it.
"All your seasick sailors, they are rowing home.
All your reindeer armies, are all going home.
The lover who just walked out your door
Has taken all his blankets from the floor.
The carpet, too, is moving under you
And it's all over now, Baby Blue.
Leave your stepping stones behind, something calls for you.
Forget the dead you've left, they will not follow you.
The vagabond who's rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore.
Strike another match, go start anew
And it's all over now, Baby Blue."
And it's all over now. I'm sure. I hear you. I hear it.
He comes back with a cup of hot tea, full of sugar. Makes me drink it. My mouth is burning. But I'm still shaking with the coldness of everything.
He strips off his red shirt and the white pants that look all bloody and make me shudder. He wads them up and tosses them in the corner.
I know they are planning a party over at Babylon tonight. But we won't be there. He spends the night holding me down and making sure I don't float away.
But I can't do the same for him tomorrow.
Continue on to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue -- Part 2".
©Gaedhal, May 2002
Picture of Randy Harrison and Gale Harold from Showtime.
Here is the link to the lyrics to "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" from Bob Dylan's album Bringing It All Back Home.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated July 5, 2002