This is Part 1 of Chapter 101 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Messed Around -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Emmett Honeycutt, Wade Anderson, John Hamilton, Debbie Novotny, Jennifer Taylor, Ted Schmidt, Professor Minton, Lindsay Peterson, Others.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin's gallery show opening. Pittsburgh, September 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 don't know," I say to Emmett. "I don't know what to wear to the gallery opening tomorrow." It's Tuesday evening and I have been attempting to come up with an outfit for days. I've gone through all my own clothes at least twice and now I'm rooting through Brian's things. Since I can't come to a decision on my own, I've called in the Fashion Reinforcements.
"It depends on what 'look' you are going for, Baby." Emmett is sorting through the mass of sweaters and shirts that Brian has collected over the past few years. We've been going through boxes for hours, it seems. Whenever Brian decides that something is 'yesterday' he dumps it in a big cardboard box and puts it in his storage space in the basement. He hates throwing things out. Some of the items look like they may have been worn once and others still have the tags on.
"I have no clue, Em," I say. "I know what I like to wear and I know what looks good on me -- but I don't know what 'image' I want to project at the gallery tomorrow."
Emmett pulls a blue cashmere sweater with a deep v-neck out of the box. "Now, THIS is to die for. It might be a very good look for you. It's your color." And he sets it aside. Other things he puts into a different pile. I told him to help himself if he saw anything he liked.
"I can't look too twinkie, because I'm going to be the youngest artist in the show. So my 'normal' clothes are completely out. But I also don't want to look too old and stuffy, either. My mom wondered why I don't wear a suit and tie. I told her I'd look like I was dressed up in a costume!"
"No, on Brian the suit thing looks sexy, but you're better in something like what you wore over at Woody's the other night. The hot outfit with the skin-tight leather pants. Yowsa, Baby!"
"I thought those pants would be a little too... over the top? What do you think, Em?"
"Maybe, but we ARE talking about artists here. How about a similar look, but not so much leather?" Em separates a couple of pairs of black pants and holds them up against me. "You can't go wrong with basic black." He selects one pair and puts the others away.
"What about those boots you had on?"
"They're gorgeous, but they're brown."
"Well, black would be better. Brian must have tons of pairs of black boots."
"Yes, but they are all too big!" The size of my feet and the size of Brian's feet aren't even close -- unfortunately.
"Maybe thick socks?"
"I don't know, Em." But Emmett plunges into the closet anyway and digs through Brian's shoes and boots.
I pick up the blue cashmere v-neck. It's still pretty warm in September, but the sweater is light and it feels soft and silky. Kind of like Brian's skin. "This IS really nice."
"What does Brian do, buy things and then never wear them?" Emmett comes out with some boots and sets them on the bed.
"If he sees something he likes, he buys one in every color. Sometimes bags and bags of clothes! But then sometimes he forgets what he has and then he just buys new stuff!"
"That's what happens when you have more money than brains," says Em, smiling that little snarky smile.
"Emmett!" I say.
"Sorry, Baby. It's just a saying." He grins, as if he's just being Emmett. Which he is. Sort of.
"Well, keep your 'sayings' to yourself." I don't like anyone, even Em, taking cheap shots at Brian. Especially now.
"It's just a joke! Don't be so sensitive!"
"If you'd rather make cracks about Brian's buying habits than look at it as his 'generosity,' then you can put those sweaters back." I reach for the pile Emmett's reserved for himself and try to scoop up the clothes.
"I said I was only kidding!"
Just then, the door intercom buzzes. "Em, could you get that?"
"Sure, Baby -- you have important things to think about! So select something already! You'll look fabulous in whatever you wear!"
I'm still picking up sweaters and discarding them when Emmett comes back. "Company!"
I look up. "Who is it?" As if I can't already guess.
"Wade. He's on his way up."
"Jesus, Em! He's making himself at home here! Doesn't he EVER just go over to Ted's without stopping at the loft before or after?"
"Ted was the one who dropped him off. I think Mr. Schmidt is finding that while he might like the idea of a young twink to keep his pump primed, he is NO Brian Kinney after all. Ted is -- to put it mildly -- beat."
"I know that Ted's no Brian, Em! Not many people can keep up with Brian's sex drive. Except ME, of course." I'm not being smug, I'm only telling the truth! "I realize that Ted's exhausted, but why does he have to drop Wade off HERE all the time? I only met Wade on Friday and he's been here every fucking day! He's here more than I am! I came home from class yesterday and he was sitting on the curb outside, waiting for me. I's like he's my little brother. He's worse than Molly!"
"Baby, you are Wade's ideal and role model," says Emmett. "Consider yourself flattered."
Right then my very own stalker and fan club president is pounding on the loft door, so Em and I cut off our conversation.
"Hello, Wade," I say, sliding open the door.
He prances right in. "What are you guys doing?"
Emmett flourishes a transparent black shirt that he's appropriated from one of the boxes. "Justin is deciding what to wear tomorrow to the gallery show opening."
Wade goes straight to the fridge and helps himself to a can of Diet Coke. Then he marches up the stairs and sits on the bed -- right on top of the blue cashmere sweater.
"Wade. Please?" I say, trying to save it from being crushed by his ass.
"Oops. Sorry, Justin." I'm afraid Wade is going to spill his soda all over the bed, but I just rescue the stuff I want and hope for the best with the rest of it. Emmett is already shoving his acquisitions into one of Brian's old Kaufmann's shopping bags. "You have such neat clothes. And ALL this neat stuff! Ted's condo is nice -- but it isn't cool like THIS. I mean, don't tell Ted that or anything. I really love him and stuff, but he doesn't have things like you do, Justin."
"We wouldn't dream of telling Ted, princess," says Em, rolling his eyes behind Wade's back.
I sort of feel sorry for Wade. He's trying so hard to be one of the guys. And he really needs a friend. I know what that's like -- to try to fit in with someone else's crowd -- because that was ME, two years ago.
But Ted isn't helping very much. He just seems a little uncomfortable with his 'relationship' with Wade -- if that's what they are having. He doesn't know how to make his own little boytoy fit in around his friends and in his life. Ted works weird hours and Wade is in high school (Brian LOVES this development, believe me!) and so Wade comes here when he doesn't have anywhere else to go -- or after Ted's fucked him and then wants a couple of hours of peace and quiet.
"Here, Wade, why don't you fold these?" I say, giving him something to keep him busy. "Then we can put them back in the boxes and carry them down to the storage space."
"Sure!" And he happily starts folding. I think Wade needs a job. I'd suggest Torso, but I don't think Em would approve of his old position as Couturier to Disco Trash being taken by a twink. Especially if that twink is Wade. But he'd be perfect for the Gap. And he folds pretty well.
I've decided almost for certain what I'm going to wear, so I put the rest of the clothes I'm keeping in the closet. Seeing all Brian's old suits and pants and that hoard of shoes and boots gives me an empty feeling inside. I can picture Brian inside every one of those suits. Getting ready to go to work. Or dressing to take a client to dinner. And in those jeans and shirts, getting ready for Babylon. Or slowly stripping them off as he prepared for bed....
Because I miss Brian like crazy and I know he isn't coming to the opening. He warned me before and I kept thinking he'd surprise me -- but I know he won't. He can't. And it won't be the same, no matter who else comes.
Emmett has brought Chinese from Ding How's, so we invite Wade to eat, too. Why not? There's plenty of food. And Wade is actually very amusing. He has a lot of funny stories about his high school. He goes to a public school, but it sounds a lot like St. James. Same kind of homophobic jerks. Same kind of don't-give-a-fuck teachers. Only Wade doesn't really have a good friend like Daphne to hang out with and tell his problems to. I was lucky that way.
And, of course, Wade has Ted instead of Brian. I mean, Ted is a nice guy, but he's no Brian. And as much as Brian could be an asshole at times (okay, maybe a lot of times -- at first), he always tried to teach me to be the best homosexual possible. I don't think Ted thinks that way. He's not trying to be a mentor to Wade -- he's just trying to figure out what to do with him! I think he should he introducing him to Gay PA and a lot more than just his apartment and his website studio! I sometimes get the feeling that Wade is a lot more clued in on things than Ted. Like to people and what is going on around him most of the time. Ted lives too much online and in his own head, I think. And I also think that Emmett is a little bit jealous of Wade. Just a feeling I get.
I excuse myself to go up into the bedroom and call my mom. I want to make sure she has someone to stay with Molly tomorrow night. But I get the answering machine. I leave a message and start to go back when I hear Em and Wade talking. I know I shouldn't eavesdrop -- but they are talking about Brian. Whenever I hear that name, it IS my business.
"What is he really like? Em? Do you think he'll be at the gallery tomorrow for the show?"
"Good God, Wade! You want 'Brian Kinney' in twenty-five words or less? Impossible. But I'll tell you one thing -- someday, not very far in the future, we will all say that we knew him when. I only hope that one of those people who 'knew' him isn't Justin."
"You mean, you think he's never coming back here?"
"I don't know, princess. I hope he does, for Justin's sake. And he does still call him -- sometimes. But Fame is about to hit Brian with a huge wallop -- and people tend to get caught up in all that. Brian's main focus is and always has been Brian. And when everyone in Hollywood is making a big fuss over him, flattering him, trying to get in his pants -- And I mean big people! Big stars! -- I just can't see Brian turning ANY of that down. It isn't in him to turn down ANY temptation. Not when he was in Pittsburgh and certainly NOT out in La La Land."
"But he's been out there a while, now!" says Wade. "Almost a year! And he still comes back here. He still takes Justin with him places and stuff. And he sent him that doll -- and other things, too. He bought him some cool jewelry. He didn't have to do that if he's a big deal out in Hollywood."
"I know, Wade. He doesn't have to. I think he really does love Baby. That is, if he loves anyone. But he's a strange character. A difficult character. It's hard for him to show his feelings in the best of circumstances -- so what must it be like when he's out there and Justin is here?"
"Gee, I don't know, Em. Poor Justin."
"Never say that, Wade. Especially NOT in front of Justin. Because he's rabid on the subject of Brian. And he isn't 'poor' Justin -- he's a very, very strong boy. I just hate to see him hurt. But he'll survive. Probably survive all this better than Brian. Brian is the one I fear for. Because that man has problems. Real problems."
I turn around and go into the bathroom and shut the door. I don't want Emmett and Wade to know I was listening to them. Because I don't want to pick a fight with Em. He's right -- I AM rabid on the subject of Brian. Brian calls me 'the Pitbull' and that's true. I AM a pitbull when it comes to defending Brian. But I'm also afraid for him, for the same reasons Emmett is. I know that Brian has too many temptations out there. I know he isn't able to resist all of them, even when he really wants to.
And I have the same doubts that Em has, only I can't show them. I can only make myself strong and do my work here in Pittsburgh. Go to school. Do my art. Live my life. Bide my time. And wait for my opportunity. To be with Brian. To help him. To show him that I CAN survive all the shit out there that Brian is afraid might hurt me. Because I'm not afraid of it. Not afraid of what will happen to ME at all.
And I hope that Brian doesn't leave it too long. And that there's something left of him for me to put back together after the whole fucking thing is over!
I walk into the Austin Gallery with my 'public face' all in place. I'm one of only fifteen artists chosen for the Fall Show and I want to make a good impression. But I also want to be cool. Very cool.
I look pretty good. I know I do. I'm wearing the blue cashmere v-neck and a pair of Brian's black silk pants that Em did a quick fix on. They were a little big, which is probably why Brian discarded them. I'm sure Brian bought them on one of his 'fat' days when he'd gained five ounces and thought he was a blimp! Brian is more obsessed with his weight than any woman, I swear!
And I went out today and bought new black boots to match the pants. And I'm also wearing my bracelet and shell necklace, of course. I think I look hot -- but also like an artist. A couple of people turn and look at me when I walk in. I see at least one guy checking me out.
The curator of the show, John Hamilton, comes over to me and shakes my hand. My piece is in a really good spot -- and NOT near the bathrooms OR the food, like Brian feared! It's in its own corner area, where the multi-media can play without interrupting anything. But it's not a dark corner -- it's right opposite the door, so you see it the minute you come in. The video is running and I can hear the song-loop playing softly. I hear 'Love Minus Zero/No Limit' as I walk over to the piece.
"I have to say, Mr. Taylor, your exhibit is the most surprising. I'm told you're a student at PIFA? And yet, all these Sixties images and songs -- for so young an artist to select them. It's unexpected."
"I tried to juxtapose images to fit personal AND political events both then and today. It isn't that different. War. Poverty. Materialism. Hate. Love. Revenge. It's the same kinds of emotions, both then and now. And I used these Found Objects to illustrate the songs, and the video clips to underline the themes."
"Well, it certainly is a complex work. And it's sure to attract a lot of attention. There are many excellent artists here, but you're made an impressive debut, if I must say."
"Thank you, Mr. Hamilton. I hope others think so as well."
He goes off to greet some of the other artists and I think that I've passed the first big hurdle. If John Hamilton likes my piece he's likely to give other things of mine some attention later on. Like my computer prints done in the Warhol style. The one I did of Gus turned out so well that I'm making a whole series, using people I know posed like famous Warhol images. I'm using photographs I've taken of Brian, Lindsay, Deb, Vic, Michael, Em, and Molly, scanning them and then working on them with my computer. Then I print them out in different colors and section them. I've finished Brian as Lou Reed -- I did that right after I did Gus. And I'm working on Lindsay as Marilyn Monroe and Emmett as Jackie Kennedy. I've really just started this project, but I think it's interesting. Different. Maybe Mr. Hamilton will think so, too.
My mom arrives with Deb and they both try to kiss me at the same time.
"Hey, Sunshine! I met Jennifer just as I was coming in. Vic and Tim are parking the car." Deb is pinching my cheeks. Hard. "Remember your first art show? At the Gay and Lesbian Center? You've come a long way, Baby!"
"I remember, Deb. Well, Mom. What do you think?"
"Justin -- you look just beautiful. So grown-up. And that sweater is gorgeous. Is it new?"
"It's one of Brian's. These pants, too. Emmett hemmed them up for me. I think they look good, too."
"You can never go wrong wearing Brian's clothes, hon! He buys the best," says Deb.
"And speaking of Brian...." My mother looks hard at me. "Any... surprises this time? I mean...." She looks down at her feet.
"Yeah, like any more drawings of Brian's cock that we haven't seen before?" Deb cackles.
My mom looks mortified. "Debbie! Please!"
"Oh, for fucksake, Jen! Your son was drawing naked pictures of Brian two minutes after he met him! And he isn't about to stop now. Especially now that Brian is going to be world famous!"
"Maybe that's all the more reason to be a little more... discreet?" Mom frowns at Deb -- and me.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Brian made an appearance here tonight. Any word on that, honey?"
"He won't be here, Debbie. He can't. He's got publicity that he has to do for the film -- and he's going back to London, again, in a few weeks, too."
"His passport is sure getting a workout! Maybe he could make a little stop in town in the near future?"
"He said he'd try, Deb. But you know how it is."
"Yeah," Debbie says. "I guess so. But Vic and I have our tickets and reservations for our trip to Hollywood all set. That Cynthia -- she came to the house to work out our schedule. She's a doll, you know that?"
"Yes, Cynthia is great. She just got a promotion at Ryder Associates, too. She's a junior ad exec now. And she has Brian's old office. I'm meeting her for lunch tomorrow. She wanted to come tonight, but she's taking a client out to dinner -- just like Brian used to!"
"Well, she'll need to go a long way to take Brian's place, that's for sure, kiddo!" Deb keeps smiling at me. It's a little embarrassing to see how proud she is of me.
"She'll do a good job. Brian says she's the best and he ought to know." I lead Mom and Deb over to the refreshment table. They might as well start on the free sherry before they look at my stuff. And then I greet Vic and Tim at the door, and then Emmett and Ted and Wade right behind them.
"This is definitely like a reunion of the Old Gang, Baby!" says Em, giving me a big hug. And, sure enough, Michael and Ben walk in a few moments later. I almost expect to see Brian, wearing his black jeans and boots and his black sleeveless shirt come striding into the gallery. But as much as I long to see that vision, I know it won't happen.
I mingle a little bit and talk to some of the other artists, looking over the 'competition.' There are some really good pieces, but I like mine the best. Obviously. Not that I'm going to win anything. At my first gallery show that's doubtful. But I'm here and that's pretty amazing. Even more amazing when I think about what I've overcome in the last year just to get back to square one with my art. And now I've taken the next step forward.
I look across the room and see Professor Minton, the man who recommended the Found Art project that I made for his class for the show. He's talking to Lindsay. I didn't even see her come in. I look around, but I don't see Melanie. I'm kind of disappointed that Mel isn't here, but maybe she'll come later in the run. The show is going on for two and a half weeks before the big closing night and awards ceremony. But I'm glad that Lindsay came. I get pissed at her and her attitude a lot, but I also know she's really encouraged my art. Lindsay, and my mom, and Brian -- those three encouraged me, inspired me, helped me the most. Without my mom, I wouldn't have started in art. Without Lindsay I wouldn't have had the confidence to show my work to people or apply to PIFA. And without Brian I would have given up after I got bashed. I would have packed it all in completely over a year ago. And I wouldn't have been inspired to make some of my best drawings. Or the piece I have in this show, 'Bringing It All Back Home.'
I watch Lindsay talking to Professor Minton. They are drinking sherry and laughing about something. And I think about that dinner she had last Friday when she set me up with Wade. Maybe it's the sherry, or maybe I'm just feeling a little perverse tonight, but I get an idea.
I look over at Em and Ted and Wade. They are examining my piece and sipping glasses of sherry, too. I walk over and grab Wade by the arm. 'Want to have a little fun?"
"Huh?" says Wade, startled.
"Play along. Ted, I'm borrowing Wade for a few minutes. I hope you don't mind." And I snake my arm around Wade's waist and guide him over to where Lindz is standing, alone now, looking at an exhibit of mixed media abstracts.
"Justin! There you are. And... Wade." Lindsay's mouth falls open. "Wade, what are you doing here?"
I grab Wade a little tighter. "Haven't you heard, Lindz? Wade and I are an item. Why, we've hardly been out of bed ever since you introduced us! We went straight from Woody's to the loft that night and haven't turned off the blue neons since then! Right, Wade?"
I give him a pinch on the ass to wake him up. "Oh, right!" Wade nods vigorously. "Just what Justin said. He's... great. In bed, I mean."
Lindsay is staring at us. Like she isn't sure what's going on. Come on, Wade -- keep a straight face. And he does.
"Aw, shucks," I say, keeping my voice down so the whole gallery can't overhear us. "Just doing what comes naturally -- right, Lindsay? Brian would be so proud of me -- breaking in another twink and introducing him to the Liberty Avenue bar scene. Making him the best homosexual that he can be! Why Wade has been to Babylon with me almost every night! We cruise all the guys and dance our asses off all night long! He's a natural."
"Right!" agrees Wade. And he actually HAS been to Babylon -- once. He went with Ted and Emmett last Saturday night. I think they got him in using Blake's old membership card.
"And he just LOVES 'E'! We have the most incredible sex in the backroom after a couple of hits. Right, Wade?"
"Sure, Justin. A couple of hits." And Wade is hanging all over me now. His hands are roaming all over my beautiful cashmere sweater and he's nuzzling my neck. He's really getting into it now! Out of the corner of my eye I see Emmett, watching us and laughing his ass off, while Ted stands and looks uncomfortable. Ted has no sense of humor at all.
Now Lindsay looks truly horrified. She's glaring at me like... like I'm Brian! It's too funny! But I'm not finished -- yet.
"In fact," I say, glancing around. "Tonight, in honor of my piece getting into the show, Wade and I thought we'd look for another hot guy to pick up here and take back to the loft. I mean, I popped old Wade's cherry on Friday night -- it's now Wednesday night, so I think he's about ready for a threeway." I turn to Wade, who is making goo-goo eyes at me. He IS a natural at faking someone out! "What do you say, Wade? You pick out someone and we'll take him home and take turns fucking him."
"Cool!" And Wade actually seems like he's into it! He's playing along really well. Lindsay believes us completely!
Lindsay looks at me and then at Wade with dismay. It's perfect payback for her annoying efforts at matchmaking. "Justin... I... I don't know what to say, but... but...." And then she turns and stomps away, shaking her head.
And that's when I crack up! I'm laughing so hard that Wade practically has to hold me up because I'm almost doubled over! I realize that with all the tension I've been under, my laughter almost verges on hysteria. But it also feels good. Like a big release.
"Justin, are you okay?" says Wade. Now he's concerned. He strokes my forehead.
"I'm all right, Wade. Really." I stand up a little straighter and brush myself off. And I rearrange the cashmere sweater. "It's just something that I needed to do to Lindsay. To teach her a lesson. And she deserved it for all the shit she's pulled on me. Let her stew about THAT for a little while!"
"Right!" replies Wade. He's had at least two glasses of sherry and he's smiling at me. Smiling a little too broadly. "So, everything is okay?"
"Everything is fine, Wade." I start to walk him back over to Ted and Emmett, who are standing by my piece. Em is still giggling and Ted still doesn't look happy. Not happy at all!
But Wade stops me. He tugs at my elbow and points to a tall guy standing next to a sculpture installation. He's one of the two student artists from Carnegie Mellon who got into the show. He's dark and really good-looking. "How about HIM?" says Wade.
I look at Wade, confused. "How about him for WHAT?"
Wade smiles at me. "For the threeway! That guy is really HOT! He'd be PERFECT!"
I feel a huge headache coming on. "Shit," I whisper. "Brian -- Help!"
Continue on to "Bringing It All Back Home -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, November 2002
Updated November 16, 2002