This is Chapter 60 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Fireworks -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Ron Rosenblum, and features 'Jack'/Brian Kinney, Jennifer Taylor, Lilith Rosenblum.
Rated PG for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Ron reviews the evidence. Los Angeles, 2002/NYC, 1988/Maui, 2001.
Author's Note: Thanks to Susan for the comments -- It actually makes SENSE, now!
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
When I fuck up, I don't do it halfway. I do it thoroughly. Completely.
Every fucking step I've taken since Brian came into this house has been the wrong one. Without exception. And the worst part is that I knew it. I knew what I was doing was fucked up. But I did it anyway.
I thought that Brian's tricking and drugging and doing his own thing wouldn't bother me. That I could be cool with it. In those first few weeks, God knows, I thought I'd go out of my fucking mind every time he looked at someone else. Then I tried blocking it out. Then I tried encouraging him to do it. To get all that fucking out of his system! That was a laugh. How could I be so naive? Me, who has lived in the shadow of Hollywood all these years and thought I knew the score!
He was no longer that basically innocent kid who I could save. Who I could be happy with. He was more damaged, more cynical. All those years that had passed -- I couldn't begin to imagine what else had damaged him since I left him in my apartment that morning -- and came back to a long, cold emptiness. That was the end of 'Jack' -- I thought he was dead, and he was, truly.
But Brian is now a law unto himself and it took me a while to realize that. It's his compulsion. Tricking is something he'll never get out of his system -- and something I don't think I can ever get used to. So, I looked the other way and made myself crazier and crazier as I tried to control Brian in other ways. Like the wedding. Another fucking disaster. It's only a symbol, for God's sake! It wouldn't have cost him a thing. But it was a way for me to save some face, keep my own fucking pride intact. A gesture that might have shown he gave a damn about my feelings. But no....
Like I say, every mistake there was to make, I made it.
And I miscalculated about that kid, too. That Justin. Goddamn, how could I have realized he WAS just a kid? I thought he was one of Brian's usual waiters -- good-looking, vacuous, and forgettable. But not this... this boy. Just about the same age that Brian was -- that 'Jack' was -- when... Shit! When I watched him smiling at Brian I felt like a knife was twisting right in my heart.
Consequences, I told the kid. He had to face them. Well, I have to face them, too. And it's harder for me. I can't go back and fix things. It's too late and I'm to old. Right -- I'm just about to turn forty and I'm too old. Maybe that was part of it. But I can't blame it all on mid-life crisis. That's too easy. Too fucking easy.
I put on another Dylan CD. I know -- Brian would rip the disc out of the player and frisbee it across the room. But he's not here, so fuck that. 'My Back Pages' -- there's a song that makes you think about just how badly you've screwed yourself over:
"My guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect,
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect.
Good and bad, I define these terms,
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow --
Ah, but I was so much older then --
I'm younger than that now."
I wonder if that's true? What HAVE I been trying to protect, after all? Good and bad -- I can't tell which one I am anymore. Or where I am in my life. Time seems all mixed up, sometimes. Everything seems all mixed up.
I sit in my office and set about opening the mail that's been piling up. I've been ignoring it, what with everything else going on. Most of it is scripts and proposals. I wish they would send these things to Freddy first. He's my agent -- let his office sort through this shit.
I see a big envelope. 'Photos -- do not bend!' It is addressed to Brian. Maybe that goddamn Eugene has sent him some proofs of that photo session. Or -- some other photo session. Of course, I open the envelope immediately.
But they aren't the 'Vanity Fair' proofs. They are photos of Brian. And Lindsay and the baby. At some place that looks like Hawaii. Some restaurant. It must be Trader Vic's or the Hawaiian Eye. Then I remember that they went out to brunch for Father's Day. These must be the pictures from then.
I sit and look at the photos. They look like a real family. Like Jimmy and his family. Something I'll never have. Ever.
The Hawaii theme is the worst irony. That's when I was in Maui, getting kicked in the head by Jerry Baxter and company for the wedding fiasco. And Brian had his little family here in L.A., playing luau. He couldn't have chosen a better way to mock me -- he's worse than Jerry. So much for thinking that he had even an ounce of feeling left for me.
Then I see the last picture. Brian and that kid, fooling around. He and Justin have plastic leis around their necks and Brian is wearing that hideous tie with Elvis painted on. They are kissing. I want to rip the thing into a million pieces -- but I can't. I can't stop looking at it.
"Look at how much it snowed last night!"
Jack dashes to the window and looks out. The snow is piled high on the sill. I can't get over how unself-conscious he is as he walks around my apartment stark naked.
I brought him back to apartment yesterday for the first time and we -- fucked? Made love? I don't even know what to call it. But it was nothing like with Jane. Or any of the other women I've been with. Not that there have been many. Maybe that's why there haven't been many women -- my heart was never into it. Not like this. Not anything like this. Because I can't get enough of Jack.
"Put this robe on -- you'll catch pneumonia." I chase him across the floor, trying to slip it over his shoulders.
"Oh, you sound like my mother."
"Is that so?" I grab him and make him put on the heavy bathrobe. Then I reach inside and rub his smooth ass. "Does your mother do THIS to you?"
"She might. Maybe we are a twisted family and that's why I'm the way I am." He purrs up against me like a flirtatious cat.
"You mean beautiful?"
"Quit that stuff. It's embarrassing," he says, ducking his head and turning red. But I kiss him again.
I go into the kitchen, while he keeps looking out at the snow, which continues to fall. "I'm glad I'm not out there."
I picture him standing outside with no boots, only a pair of Chuck Taylor high-tops -- and battered ones at that. No gloves, either. And a thin leather jacket. "Aren't you cold?" I had asked one day, as we trudged along the Bowery.
"Stan gave me something that warmed me up," he said, smiling. But it was a bitter smile. "He said it was better than a fur coat and cheaper, too."
It's Saturday morning and Jack turns on the television while I make breakfast. He clicks around from channel to channel, never lighting on one for long.
I watch his face and wonder what he's thinking. Where did he come from? Whenever I try to question him about those things he shuts down. But he must be thinking about his home, his family. He must miss them. But isn't that how he got on the streets in the first place? His father beating him.
But it couldn't have been all bad there. Any home is better than where he was. I think of Stan and the filthy tenements and abandoned warehouses where the boys hide at night. That squat where Jack collected the plastic bag with his belongings -- and stole Stan's drugs. It was dark and cold and you could feel the rats running inside the walls. I shudder to visualize it. The contrast with that dirty, hollow-eyed boy and the energetic creature who ricochets around my apartment staggers me.
I look around my own tiny apartment. It's always suited me. I don't need a lot of space. Besides my clothes and my books and my Macintosh, I don't own much. Most of the furniture and the TV are rejects from my parents or other family members and of no significance. Jane is always on me about getting a new place, saving money for the future, buying some 'good pieces' -- by which I take it she means stuff for our future 'place' together.
But there is no future place for me with Jane. I know that now for certain. I realize that I've been dodging this issue for years now. My advisor, Stephen, raised his eyebrows over my choice of subject matter when I started this project. He began looking at me strangely when I presented the proposal to him. And why DID I pick it? My rationale was that I wanted to detail an important social problem in this city. Stephen didn't buy that for a minute. He thought I just wanted to cruise the boys -- something I'd never done -- or thought of doing seriously -- in my life. And yet, that's exactly what happened.
Or, rather, Jack happened. And that's something totally different. HE is something totally different. I think I felt it from that first interview at Nick's. The way he talked tough to cover up something raw and aching inside. The way he swaggered to hide the injury his father gave him. The way his green eyes tunneled right into me. No wonder I couldn't point the camera at anything else. No wonder Jane hated him on sight.
The phone rings and I jump. Jack reaches to pick it up -- and then stops and looks at me. I answer it.
"Ronnie? It's me."
"What happened last night? I waited and waited. Then it was so late I didn't want to call and disturb you. But I was worried."
"I'm really sorry, Mama. I... I have a slight cold and I took some cold medicine and I was out like a light. I didn't wake up until this morning."
"Ronnie -- how much did you take? That doesn't sound right! How long have you had this cold?"
"Just a short while."
Jack is listening to this conversation with interest, knowing full well the real reason why I never made it to my parents' house for dinner on Friday.
"I've been working around the clock, Mama. I guess taking that medicine just wiped me out. I slept like a baby. I really needed that, too." Which was merely the truth -- what I got in bed last night was something I badly needed. Had been needing for a long time, but wouldn't admit.
"Don't forget that you're going to Jane's for dinner tomorrow night. Valentine's Day, remember?"
Shit. Another thing I'll have to blow off. Why did I agree to it in the first place?
"Um -- if I feel well enough." I throw a few coughs in to sound authentic. Jack shakes his head from the couch.
"Maybe I better come over there. Bring a little soup. You sound terrible, Ronnie!"
Jack climbs over the couch, an evil grin on his face.
"No! Don't come over here, Mama! I... I don't want you to catch my cold."
"I'm only a subway ride away, sweetie. I could bring you something to eat -- I have chicken soup in the freezer right now -- and left-overs from last night."
"Mother -- the snow. The city is practically shut down. It's better if you stay where you are!"
Jack is playfully undoing my fly, reaching into my briefs. I try to turn away from him, but he has me trapped against the kitchen counter.
"What if I call your cousin Shelly? He's just uptown. He can bring you a little something and get you some cough syrup at the drugstore. He won't mind at all...."
"Mama -- please. Don't call Shelly! Don't take the subway! DON'T send out the Mounties with a dog sled and a gallon of soup. I'll be just FINE. All I need is some rest."
Now Jack has my cock out. I try to push his hand away -- but not very convincingly.
"All right already, Ronnie! I'm only worried about you, that's all. It isn't like you to say you'll be somewhere and then never show up. Never even call."
"I'm sorry, Mama. I'm not quite... myself this morning."
Jack looks up at me and starts giggling.
"What's that sound? Who is there with you?"
"No one, Mama -- I have the TV on. Saturday morning cartoons."
"If you are watching cartoons, Ronnie, then I think it's time for you to go back to bed."
I look down at Jack, who has my cock in his mouth.
"I think you're right, Mama. It's time to go back to bed. I think I'll stay there all day."
And we do.
Every time I go to dial that number, I stop myself. I've had the phone in my hand at least ten times in the past day and a half. And now I'm punching in the number again. I don't know why I know it by heart, but I do. It's only been about 48 hours since Brian flew out of this house, leaving me devastated. Not just devastated -- completely humiliated. He's the only one who can do that to me. And the only one who seems to want to do it to me.
A woman's voice. Maybe this isn't the correct number after all.
"Is... Brian there? Brian Kinney?"
"He's downstairs in the studio. Should I get him? Whom shall I say is calling?" She sounds very precise. Very professional. Who the fuck is she?
"Um, this is Ron. Ron Rosenblum."
"Brian's... friend? From out in Los Angeles?" That uneasy tone to her voice. What has Brian been telling people about me?
"Yes -- who is this?"
"This is Mrs. Taylor. Jennifer." She pauses like I should know who the hell that is. "Justin's mother."
Shit. She's the kid's mother. What is she doing there in Brian's loft?
"I wanted to find out if Brian got there without any trouble. I haven't... he hasn't called to tell me he's okay. And I'm not sure when he's leaving...."
"The boys are leaving tomorrow morning. I'm taking them out to the airport."
Right. The boys. This woman's teenage son is going off to another country with a thirty year old man. And it's fine with her! Just fine. SHE'S driving them to the airport!
"Mr. Rosenblum, I just wanted to thank you...."
What? Is this woman insane?
"For letting Justin stay at your house while he was out in Los Angeles. He had such a great time! I'm sure it was an inconvenience to you, so I wanted to let you know that I appreciate it."
The woman really IS insane. Thanking ME. She has no fucking idea! What can I say to her? "It was my pleasure, Mrs. Taylor." I must be as insane as she is.
"Did you want me to go down and get Brian? It would only take a minute."
"No, that's not necessary. Really." Why did I call here, anyway? What WAS the fucking point? Did I really think that even if he answered the phone himself, that he would talk to me? About anything?
"Well, can I take a message, then, Mr. Rosenblum?" She's so polite and efficient, like a good secretary. But there's an edge there. She's feeling me out. And why not? She must have some idea who I am. Some idea that her twinkie son is a thieving little witch. And that he's going off across the pond with the biggest lying slut bitch on the fucking planet! Doesn't she see anything WRONG with this picture?
"Just tell him that I called. I'll leave a message for Brian at the Dorchester. He can call me back when he gets there to let me know he arrived safely."
"Oh, they aren't staying at the Dorchester, Mr. Rosenblum."
"What do you mean? I made the reservation for him myself."
"I have the name and number of the place written down at home, but I know it isn't the Dorchester. I've been to London a few times myself and I'm familiar with the hotels. They are staying at another place altogether. I wish I could remember the name. The Chesterton. The Chatterly. Something like that."
"Why would Brian stay anywhere else? That's ridiculous. It was all set up for him!"
"I don't know, Mr. Rosenblum. Maybe THEY wanted something different. Something less formal. Something that would suit THEM -- and not you." Now the edge in her voice is up front. She definitely knows something. Would that kid tell his mother about the video? Never! He couldn't....
"Thanks anyway. If you would please give Brian the message." Now I just want to get away from this woman. You can tell she's Justin's mother. That know-it-all attitude. Smug. Goddamn it!
I hang up before I lose my temper.
If I were Brian I'd just break something. Smash something into a million fucking pieces. But I can't do that. I just can't.
Instead, I'm breaking off pieces of myself.
I'm glad Brian didn't want to go back to that beach over at Little Makena. Nothing like a fucking nude beach packed with guys to throw your self-consciousness into terminal overdrive. What a nightmare. Thank God Tess didn't decide to broaden her horizons and come along on THAT little excursion. It would have been a little TOO much of a queer eye-opener -- I know it was for me!
Besides, the beach here at the house is just fine. In fact, it's great. Small, but private. You can get to it directly from the terrace down a wooden stairway in five minutes and you don't have to drive twenty fucking miles only to get trampled by a bunch of naked steroid-cases falling all over themselves to get at Brian.
The beach is a little rocky in places, but that little outcropping is nice. You can walk out there and stand and the surf washes up around you. And the main part is fine white sand. It's quiet. It's Maui, for fucksake, what more could anyone want?
What more could I want? Plenty more. Everything.
Brian. That's what I want.
We are sitting in the shade of a big beach umbrella. Brian is wrapped up in a big white robe because he got his ass burned at that other place and then whined about it all night. I warned him, but he wouldn't listen to me and now he's nursing a wretched sunburn. He's lucky his cock didn't get fried as well.
He's reading a magazine. He has a pile of postcards that he bought and has been scribbling on, but he has yet to send a single one.
"Don't you want everyone back in Pittsburgh to know you're having a good time?"
"I don't know. Maybe I won't send them at all."
He just shrugs. I don't get it.
"Hey. Have you seen this?" I hand him a brochure that I picked up in Wailea.
"Gay weddings? I thought that was a fucking joke!"
"It isn't. They do them all the time here. This company does everything. Makes all the arrangements. They'll even provide the honeymoon if you want."
"And what about psychiatrists to psychoanalyze the entire wedding party for even considering such a hypocritical breeder ritual? Do they provide that service, too?"
I don't say a word.
He takes off his sunglasses and looks at me. His nose is starting to peel and he has a sheen of sunblock smoothed on his face. "You have got to be fucking kidding."
"You could at least think about it."
"Yes, and I could think about running for the first queer President of the United States, but that doesn't mean I would ever do it! I could think about swimming from here to Los Angeles, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't fucking KILL me!"
"No need for the hyperbole, Brian. It was just an idea that crossed my mind."
"There's no such thing as an idea that just HAPPENED to cross your mind, Ron. You never do anything without a clear game plan and an intended result. You never SAY anything without expecting a specific answer. That's why you're a great screenplay writer -- everything is plotted out in advance and proceeds logically."
"It was all those 'Matlock' episodes I had to write to pay for the house."
"Ron -- listen. I'm just out here for the short term. You know that. I have to get back to my job, my loft, my friends, my...." Brian stops and looks away. I know there's someone else back in Pittsburgh. He won't talk about the guy, but I know. But with everything Brian has right here AND in L.A., this guy has to seem pretty inconsequential. Or he will by the time I'm finished.
"You might THINK you're here for the short term, Brian, but I haven't seen you make any move to go back."
"Maybe -- but that doesn't mean I'm going to fall for some kind of wedding bullshit! Be real, Ron!"
"I am, Brian. Never more real."
He frowns and puts his sunglasses back on. "Pushing is NEVER a good idea, Ron. I don't like to be pushed. I might push back."
Okay. That isn't a 'Yes' -- but it's not a 'No' either. Not a 'No' at all.
The snow keeps falling all weekend.
I put off calling Jane and canceling our dinner until I can't postpone it another second.
"What do you mean, you can't come? I've got everything ready! I mean -- I've already started making dinner! You can't NOT come!"
"I'm sick, Jane. I have a bad cold." I think about throwing in a few fake sneezes, but I don't want Jack to start laughing again.
"You sound fine to me, Ron. Just fine. And you were all right when I saw you Thursday night. What's going on?"
"Nothing. Nothing is going on." Nothing that I can talk to you about, Jane. Nothing you would want to know about. Jack is going on, that's what.
"Are you really sick?"
"I'm in bed, Jane. I've been in bed all day." Which was completely true. I only left out one detail.
"But it's Valentine's Day, Ron! I thought... maybe you would... since it IS Valentine's Day and all...."
She must be kidding! She was expecting me to propose. It's obvious now. My mother knew about it, too, I'm sure. The two of them have been calling each other. Planning shit. Planning my life.
"Jane, I can't come. And I'm not sure about... our relationship. It's probably better that I can't come."
Jack rolls over when I say the word 'relationship' and makes a face. I put my hand over his mouth in case he decides to make any noise, but he only starts licking and biting at it.
"What the hell do you mean you aren't SURE about our relationship? What are you talking about? What's the matter with our relationship all of a sudden?"
Plenty, I want to say. Where do I start? Start with the fact that I'm here in bed with someone else? Someone I have feelings for that are ten times stronger than any that I've ever had for you, my supposed fiancee? A male someone. A boy someone. Jack.
What would you think of THAT, Jane, if you only knew?
And this feeling isn't going to end any time soon. That, I know. Instead, it looks like only the beginning of something. The beginning of what my life is meant to be. What I've been looking for all this time. Now, with my films and with Jack, I CAN do what I have to do. I CAN go on with my life and understand who I am, finally. What I am. If that's a fag, then so be it. It doesn't make me afraid, because I'm not alone. I have Jack now.
And it's a wonderful feeling.
Continue on to "Walking on Air -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from Paper Magazine.
Updated July 30, 2002