This is Part 2 of Chapter 101 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Bringing It All Back Home -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Cynthia, Wade Anderson, Emmett Honeycutt, Ted Schmidt, Debbie Novotny, Lindsay Peterson, Professor Minton, Others.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin goes out with the guys after the gallery opening, then has lunch with Cynthia the next day. 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.
After the fiasco with Lindsay, I lead Wade back to Ted and try to push them together again. Ted is glaring at me, Wade is confused, and Emmett is STILL laughing like a madman.
I keep glancing over at Lindsay, but she won't meet my gaze.
I walk over to Mom and Deb. They are standing by my exhibit and talking to a couple of other women who are admiring my piece. Debbie, of course, is telling them what a genius I am. "Hey, Justin! Here's the man of the hour now! Ladies, this is the artist!"
And they tell me how much they love my work. They turn out to be from Mrs. Worthing's Sunday Art Club. Vera Worthing is a friend of my mom's and the mother of a girl who goes to PIFA, Gwen Worthing, who's a dance major. I still remember that awkward conversation I had with Mrs. Worthing at the country club last Fourth of July. That was when I brought Brian with me and the fireworks in the sky over the Arcadian had NOTHING on the fireworks in the Great Hall when Brian and my dad faced off! Apparently, Mrs. Worthing is bringing her whole group here for the closing night on Sunday, October 6. The group meets every other Sunday or something like that and they all talk about art.
Deb is excited because she can tell these women are pretty rich. "Maybe they'll buy something, Sunshine!" she whispers to me.
"This piece isn't for sale, Deb."
"But you have other stuff, hon. And they might want to buy something!"
"That would be awesome, Deb. But I'm a little preoccupied right at this moment."
"Of course, honey. It's a busy night. Don't worry -- your mom and I will turn on the salesmanship!"
"Thanks, Deb. Now excuse me while I avoid Lindsay." I start to walk away, but feel a hand on the back of my sweater. "Deb! Watch that! This is a cashmere sweater! You'll stretch it out."
"Why the fuck are you avoiding Lindsay?" Deb demands.
I try to look away. "Oh, she tried to fix me up on a date."
"A date? With a guy?"
"Of course with a guy! Some kid in her art class," I say. "Wade, actually." I've been in the diner with Wade a couple times.
"Wade? The kid who is here tonight? I thought he was here with Ted!"
I nod. "He is. But Lindsay thinks we're an 'item' -- and I may have let her think that just to make her leave me alone. But now Wade is getting... weird about it."
Debbie looks at me seriously. "Sunshine, are you and this kid screwing around? I mean, you can tell me, hon."
"No, Deb. We're only friends. But I let Lindsay think... otherwise. And now she's freaking about it! I said a few things as a joke and now she thinks I'm 'corrupting' Wade. But she shouldn't have poked her nose into my life, Deb! It's like she's trying to make me cheat on Brian!"
"So," says Debbie. "You 'solved' THAT problem by making her think you ARE cheating on Brian, huh? And what happens when Lindsay talks to Brian on the phone and tells him that you are seeing this boy? You must know that they talk regularly about Gus, don't you?"
I gape at Debbie. "Oh, shit! I never thought of that! Well, I'll just tell Brian the truth. He'll believe me. And he knows what Lindz and Mel did -- I've already told him about that."
"You have, hon?" Debbie looks at me questioningly.
"Yes, Deb. Regardless of what people think, I DO talk to Brian. A lot. And he e-mails me, too. We ARE in communication. I know that no one believes it, but we are STILL together. We ARE!"
"I believe you, sweetheart. I do." But I can see by her face that she also believes that Brian has basically dumped me. Well, I don't give a shit what everyone thinks!
"Anyway, I hate being at odds with Lindz mainly because I really want to keep seeing Gus. But she makes me so fucking mad sometimes, Deb. And I know she's really moody because of the baby and everything, and that she's kind of jealous that I'm with Brian and SHE isn't -- but that's no reason to try to fix me up with other guys!"
Deb frowns. "Hold it, Sunshine! What did you say? About a baby?"
"Lindsay's baby!" I sigh. "The one she's having in March." And that's when I know by the look on Deb's face that she doesn't know. And if Debbie doesn't know, then no one knows. Except the Mommies and me and Brian. Shit. Now I've done it.
"Lindsay is pregnant?" Deb almost yells and I have to hush her. "How? Who's the father? When did this happen?"
"Who do you think, Deb? Obviously." I mean, get real, Debbie!
"Oh my God! That fucking Brian!"
"SHE wanted another baby, Deb," I explain. "She and Mel, too, I guess. Lindz had been bugging Brian for months about it. And Brian finally gave in. Out in Los Angeles. I know. I was there. But not in the actual room, of course."
"In the ROOM! You mean they didn't use the 'Jack-Off-in-the-Cup Method' this time? Why the fuck not?"
I just shrug and look at Deb, pointedly. "You'll have to ask Lindsay THAT one!"
And Deb looks over at Lindsay and narrows her eyes. "Excuse me, Sunshine." And she marches over to Lindsay, who is standing with Professor Minton, sipping her little glass of sherry. And Debbie goes right up to her and takes the glass OUT of her hand! And then Professor Minton gets the hell out of there. Fast. And then Deb and Lindz have an intense discussion. And I fuck off to the men's room to hide.
Wade finds me there a little while later. Cowering in one of the stalls. I've been ending up in the bathroom quite a bit when I go out lately. I have my cellphone in my hand and I'm forcing myself NOT to call Brian. Hoping that somehow he'll call ME a little early. I think I'm having another panic attack.
"Justin, the gallery is getting ready to close. We're going over to Babylon to celebrate your art! Come on! Emmett is going to teach me some dances! Justin, are you in here?"
I take another deep breath, and finally come out of the stall. "I'm here, Wade."
"There you are! Come ON!" Wade puts his arms around me and kisses me right on the mouth. But it's pretty innocent. Mostly innocent. "Are you coming to Babylon? You HAVE to!"
"Wade, please remember that I'm NOT your boyfriend. Ted is." Sort of, I want to add. Who knows?
"I know. But Emmett says that one of the best things about being a queen is that you get to hug and kiss EVERYONE!"
"Wade, you are NOT a queen. You're a twink. So do NOT kiss everyone! They'll just think you're a slut. Emmett can get away with it -- you can't. At least not yet."
Wade looks crestfallen. "Does that mean you don't want to kiss me?"
"Only as a friend, Wade. Remember how jealous Brian is? When he comes back in town he won't be happy if he thinks we've been playing around." Wade stands back a little, considering this. "The thing with Lindsay was just a joke! A joke, right? So, no threeway, okay?"
"But what if Ted and you and me were to...."
Ouch! "Please, Wade! No! NOT with Ted. And NO threeways! Ever." I'm trying to erase the picture of me having sex with Wade and TED! It's something I'm going to need a wire brush and some bleach to wash out of my brain!
"But you have done them, haven't you? Threeways? Ted says you and Brian have done everything!"
I hesitate. "Yes, we have. But I didn't like it and so we stopped. Brian didn't want me to feel uncomfortable if I didn't like doing it. And I didn't. I really ONLY feel comfortable fucking ONE person -- and that's Brian. Really, Wade. No offense."
"Oh, I'm not offended, Justin. I think it's romantic. And I DO like Ted -- but I'd like to try some other guys -- eventually. Does that make me seem like a slut?"
"No, Wade. I think that's normal. It's ME who isn't normal for a queer. I've always only wanted one guy -- even when I was doing it with other guys. There was only one person I was ever thinking of. So I just decided to do it with the one I was thinking of and forget the rest. But that's just me, Wade."
"I still think it's very romantic." But the way Wade is looking at me, I can tell that he still wants me to fuck him. Maybe even MORE now! Kids are so frustrating!
We come out of the men's room and who do I see but Lindsay -- and she sees the two of us walking out, Wade's arm around me. Now she's going to think we were humping in the toilet! Great!
Deb ambles over to me, her jacket over her shoulder. "Lindsay is taking me home. We're in the middle of a little talk and I want to continue it. Come into the diner every once in a while, Sunshine. Don't be a stranger. Come over tomorrow for supper -- turkey meatloaf is the special." And she goes over and hooks her arm through Lindsay's and they go out. Talking about ME, probably. And the new baby, definitely. And Brian. Always Brian.
My mom kisses me goodbye and I tell her I'll call her tomorrow. I see her glance over at Wade. Even SHE is wondering what's going on between us! She goes out right after Deb and Lindsay.
Then Professor Minton corners me. I thank him for nominating me for this show. "The pleasure is mine, Justin. I've heard nothing but good comments all evening. John Hamilton told me personally how much he enjoyed your piece. You know, he was quite the campus radical back in the 1960s. I think it hit a chord with him. All that Bob Dylan music."
"I didn't know that. I just... made what I felt. Once I had the CD with those songs, everything else fell into place. Organically." 'Organic' is one of Professor Minton's favorite words. Whenever he likes something he says it's 'organic.' I guess that means that it flows naturally, that it seems real and unforced. And with 'Bringing It All Back Home' that happens to be true.
"Yes, Justin. It FEELS very organic! Yes, that's exactly it!" The professor pats my back.
I chat with him for a few more minutes and then Emmett sweeps me up and out the door. Ted and Wade have already left for Babylon. I open up the Jeep and we get in.
"Happy, Baby?" says Em. "You made a big hit. And you LOOK fabulous. You should just wear NOTHING but that sweater, every day. It could be your trademark!"
I laugh. "A lot of artists only wear black. Maybe wearing blue cashmere sweaters could be my 'quirk'?"
"Could be worse ones, Baby. And I am STILL cracking up about that little 'scene' you put on Lindsay, the Delusional Dyke. I don't think she's been able to close her mouth all night. And it serves her right, too. Lindsay Peterson is all too fond of trying to run other people's lives when she has trouble enough running her own!"
"I know, Em. But now I'm afraid she's going to call up Brian and tattle on my supposed 'extracurricular activities' with Wade! I was sitting in the bathroom, trying to decide whether to try calling him to explain, but I guess it can wait until later tonight." I shake my head. I get myself into some real fixes whenever I try to be 'smart'! I should know better by now!
And I drive on to Babylon. I realize the minute I walk in how little I've actually been here without Brian. And I feel like I'm missing half of myself. A lot of people greet me, even people I don't recognize. "Who are all those guys, Em? They act like they know me."
Emmett chuckles. "Baby! Don't you know that you're famous?"
"Huh? What do you mean?"
"Justin, honey -- you are a celebrity in the Pitts Queer World!" explains Emmett. "You have been for ages, but you didn't realize it. First, you were the twink who caught Brian Kinney, the Stud of Liberty Avenue. Then he went to your prom and you got bashed! And then he was attacked in print by that Bellwether idiot for 'corrupting' you and you both made all the gay rags. Then you were the one Brian 'left' in the lurch to go out to Hollywood to be a big movie star. THEN you were the one he couldn't keep away from! The one he kept coming back to! The one who he took to England with him! YOU are like a twinkie icon on this street. EVERYONE knows who you are. And everything you do is of interest."
"Shit, Em. Is it that bad?" I notice some guys watching me and pointing.
"Bad, Baby? It's an honor! My Jerk-at-Work notoriety is nothing compared to YOUR story! Enjoy it!" Emmett loves his 'fame' and all the trappings, like signing autographs -- especially on a guys' dicks!
"But Brian hates gossip and doesn't want people to talk about us!"
"Brian? Hate gossip? 'La Diva Kinney'? Then he should have become a monk and not a fag -- especially such a FAMOUS fag!" Emmett tosses his head back.
A song starts playing. Sister Sledge and 'We Are Family.' "Come ON! We ALL have to dance to the Queer National Anthem!" Em grabs my hand.
"No thanks, Em. Brian HATES this song. He says that just because he fucks guys doesn't make him part of any big family. Especially any 'Sisterhood'!" I explain. And besides, every time I hear this song all I can think of is Gene Hackman in drag in 'The Birdcage'! That's enough to give anyone nightmares -- queer or straight!
Emmett sniffs. He LOVES this song! "You tell 'La Diva' to think AGAIN, Baby!" Emmett drops my hand and grabs Wade instead. "Come on, princess. You don't mind this song, do you?"
"I guess not. I don't know it very well -- yet!" says Wade. He's ready to dance.
"Then Aunty Em will TEACH you. Who better?"
And off they go, leaving Ted and me standing by the bar. Ted looks away. We've been up and down with each other since the incident in the diner when I hit him. And now this thing with Wade. I decide to set the whole thing straight. "I'm not interested in Wade, Ted. Believe me. We're only friends."
Ted sighs heavily. "I know, Justin. But when I see him with you -- someone his own age, someone he obviously likes -- I know I'm something that's just temporary with him. I can't sustain a relationship with him for long. He's just... a kid. As much as I might like him, I know it won't last."
"Can't you enjoy it for what it is, Ted? Wade's having fun. He likes you a lot. And... you were his first. That's a big thing, Ted. No matter who he's ever with, you'll always be there," I tell Ted, thinking of the one who told me this a lifetime ago. Always thinking of him. "He'll never forget you and, hopefully, you'll still be friends afterwards." Even as I say I realize how hollow that must sound -- and how depressed Ted is thinking about the end of his affair when it's hardly even begun! Maybe that's why Ted is such a loser at love.
"I know, Justin. And if Brian were here I'd love to apologize to him and take back all those bitchy things I've said about him -- and about you. About the two of you together. Because I was jealous. And I understand now how Brian must have felt. How new a young lover can make everything seem. You don't feel jaded anymore. You see the world through HIS eyes and it all seems beautiful. No wonder Brian seemed so happy then! And how I hated seeing him happy. It wasn't fair that Brian should have money and good-looks and sex appeal and be happy, too, with a beautiful young boy. And now I know how it feels. Why he did it -- and why he couldn't stop himself. And I also know how rotten I'll feel when it's all over." Ted tips his beer into his mouth, draining it.
I listen to Ted seriously. This is the most he's ever confided in me. And I'm a little embarrassed, too, thinking that Ted thought I was beautiful. I don't quite know what to say. "Was Brian really happy? I mean -- at first? I thought he was always trying to get rid of me! And you guys were always making fun of him and encouraging him to dump me!"
"I know. But he didn't. He couldn't. He was seeing you and pretending he wasn't for the longest time. Especially not letting Michael know. But we figured it out and we never let him forget it. And he'd say things like, 'I don't need ANY fucking twink hanging on my neck!' And then you'd show up and smile and his whole face would change. He WAS happy. It was unmistakable to everybody but Brian. He was hooked from the first taste. Just like I am now with Wade."
"I don't know what to say, Ted." And I don't.
"There's nothing TO say, Justin. You're still here. You two are still together. And probably always will be. And I don't care if Brian is in Timbucktoo or the front page of the 'New York Times' holding hands with Tom Cruise! I know that tomorrow he'll be right back HERE, holding up THAT bar, with his fucking arm around YOU! It's fucking FATE!"
"Maybe you and Wade...."
Ted laughs bitterly. "No, Justin. Wade isn't you. And I'm not Brian. Obviously! And Wade isn't like Blake, either. I loved Blake, but he was so damaged. So troubled. It was doomed because of that. But Wade is a baby -- truly. And he has the attention span of a baby. And I have to face the fact that I'm just a start for him. He's too young to know what he wants yet. Even at seventeen YOU knew exactly what you wanted once you found it, Justin. And you'll never let go. That's YOU. Not Wade."
"But if you give Wade a little time, he might grow into the relationship. If you're patient with him, then maybe..."
But Ted shakes his head. "Wade is all shiny and new -- just like you were. So enthusiastic about everything! He wears me out just listening to him talk, let alone trying to keep him satisfied in bed! Good God!" Ted smiles now, sadly. "But that's not a real relationship. I'm older than Brian and Wade's younger than you, Justin. We have nothing in common and nothing to talk about out of bed. And he even likes going to your place more than mine. Hanging out with you and Em. Believe me, I was strictly his second choice -- and I think you know that."
Now it's my turn to sigh. "I'm so sorry, Ted."
"It isn't your fault, Justin. You can't help it if Wade idolizes you. It's merely 'The Story of Ted Schmidt, Vol. 120,' or whatever. I'll try to enjoy him while I can and hope for the best." Ted gazes at Wade. Wade and Em are laughing as they dance. Emmett is trying to teach him the Electric Slide or the Hustle or one of those old dances. Em knows them all.
And now I feel so badly. Because I was the one who introduced them. If the truth be told, I basically dumped Wade at Woody's that night and then he and Ted hooked up, so I'm responsible for this mess. But I never dreamed that Ted would fall in love with him! I guess I never realized just how lonely Ted has been. You don't think of a guy who runs a porno website as being lonely! But there you go. I bet no one understood how lonely and miserable Brian was, either. Except me. Who saw him late at night, drinking and staring into space. Telling me to get the fuck out, while begging me to stay with his eyes. That's when I learned Kinneyspeak. I had to. But I don't think Wade is a student of languages. Especially Tedspeak. Or else he's not all that interested in taking the time to learn.
And I think of all the things I've learned right in this club. On that dance floor. And on Liberty Avenue and beyond. Everything I've learned in the past two years since Brian scooped me up under that streetlight just outside this place. And how much more I need to learn before I can truly understand this life. Or Brian. Because for me, they're the same thing.
Please continue on to "Page 2".