This is Part 2 of Chapter 122 -- The final section of the Finale of the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Boats Against the Current -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Tess Hardy, Jennifer Taylor, Annie Hardy.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin looks for something he thought he had lost. Pittsburgh/Maui, January 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy's dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter -- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning --
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
The ending of 'The Great Gatsby,' by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The Sunday after New Year's I'm in my studio pretending to work. That's what I've been doing lately -- pretending. Pretending to work. Pretending to get up in the morning. Pretending that I'm alive. But I'm not very convincing, especially to myself. So I bury myself in my art. I sit in the studio most of the day, just thinking about my work. Trying not to think about anything -- or anyone -- else.
Right now I'm trying to rationalize the new piece I'm just beginning. I began conceptualizing it in my Painting class last semester, but I didn't have time then to carry it out. It's inspired by stained glass. I got the idea in England, from all the churches and cathedrals and their huge windows full of color. It's supposed to be a piece all about faith and splendor and hope -- but I'm just not feeling it at all. Everything I try to paint ends up looking like the ruin of Rievaulx Abbey, the place up in Yorkshire where I went with Brian -- a beautiful, tragic wreck, with the windows all empty and smashed out. Just like the mirror that Brian broke in Ron's house. Just like Brian himself. Like me. Like our relationship. Beautiful ruins.
I'm actually glad when the phone rings and snaps me out of my creative lethargy.
"Justin?" The voice sounds so familiar. Female, but I'm not sure for a moment.
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Justin, it's Tess Hardy. I'm calling from Hawaii. I'm at the house on Maui."
"Tess," I say, totally surprised. "Um -- what's up?" I don't know what else to say to her.
"I had this number, but I wasn't certain who would answer there in Pittsburgh. Are you... are you living at home? I mean, with your mom and sister?"
I take a deep breath. "I'm living at the loft. I spend most of my time working here in my studio. The loft phone rings down here. That must be the number you have. I have some pieces that are going to be exhibited at the Warhol Museum, and classes begin at PIFA in about a week, so I'm pretty busy."
"That's wonderful, Justin." Then there's another pause. I can hear Tess breathing.
"So... how's Annie?" I say, stupidly. Why doesn't Tess just get to the fucking point? As if I don't know what point she's leading up to. A 6-foot 3-inch point with a 9-inch cock.
"She's fine, Justin. She loves Maui. She swims like a fish."
"That's great, Tess. Just great. And Jimmy?" I look at my watch. How much more of this do I have to listen to?
"He left this morning for Toronto. He begins filming that dumb cop movie with Chuckie Ranger next week. Jimmy had to go up for costume fittings and script meetings and all that rigmarole."
"I hope it's a big hit for him." This conversation is going nowhere. I wish Tess would just say what she means. I cut to the chase "So what is this all about, Tess? Because I'm kind of working right now. And I have this life I'm trying to get on with... as unimportant as that may be to you or anyone out in Hollywood or Hawaii."
"Oh, Justin, don't say that!" Tess replies. "You know how much I care about you!" Then there's a long pause. "I'm calling about Brian."
"It figures!" My shoulders suddenly feel like a huge weight dropped on them. "I didn't think you actually wanted to talk to me," I sigh. "Well, I don't really want to hear a bunch of gossip about Brian, Tess. So, if you don't mind...."
"Justin, please don't be that way!"
"I'm sorry, Tess, but that's the way it is." I'm about ready to hang up now. I have an empty canvas here that I'm trying to fill with hope and beautiful light! "Besides, what makes you think that I give a shit about Brian or what he's doing? Because he obviously doesn't give a shit about me! He hasn't even tried to call me once, so that tells me how much he fucking cares...." Then I stop. I feel a cold fist of fear tightening around my heart. "Tess... is Brian... is he... okay? You aren't calling me because... because...." And my voice chokes off.
"No, Justin!" Tess reassures me. "Brian is okay! He's here. In Maui. Staying with us at the house." Tess takes a deep breath. "And he didn't call you before, Justin, because he couldn't call you."
"Couldn't? What's that supposed to mean -- he couldn't?" I say, trying to keep my voice even. Yes, I'm relieved that Brian is all right, but I'm also even more fucking pissed at him. "He had better fucking things to do? If Brian isn't dead, then he must be doing what he's always doing -- getting fucked up, right? His own patented brand of Mr. Kinney's Pain Management. So what's he doing in Hawaii, Tess? Taking some time out from drinking and drugging and sucking and fucking his brains out in Los Angeles to have a little vacation?"
"Drinking and drugging in L.A.?" says Tess. "Justin, why do you say that?"
I laugh bitterly. "Isn't that what he's been up to since he kicked me in the teeth and sent my ass back to Pittsburgh on Christmas Eve? To get me out of his fucking way? So he could burn his brains out and wouldn't have to feel guilty about it? So that he could destroy himself without a disapproving audience? Brian always told me what a great place Maui is. Plenty of hot guys there. And plenty of good dope, too!"
"Justin," Tess says quietly. "Brian didn't send you away so he could party his brains out. He sent you away so that he could go into rehab."
"Huh?" Now I have to sit down. Hard. "Rehab? Brian in rehab?" This is the last thing I expected to hear. Rehab is something Brian always swore he'd never do. That it was for fucking losers who didn't know how to handle good booze and good drugs. In other words, not Brian.
"Jimmy picked Brian up on Christmas Eve and took him out to Palm Springs to detox," Tess continues. "Howie Sheldon wanted him to go to the Spencer Pavilion, where Howie and the studio could keep an eye on him. That's the private hospital where all of the... the most difficult cases among the stars and their families go. But Brian had kind of a bad experience there last spring...."
"Yes," I almost whisper. "I know about that."
"So you understand why he refused to go there, Justin. Instead, Jimmy took him out to Desert Palm."
"Desert Palm? What's that?"
"It's another private hospital, Justin," Tess replies. "Jimmy went there about 7 years ago when he was having a slight problem with some prescription drugs. It's a decent place with a good 30 day program. Very discrete. But that's why Brian couldn't call you, Justin. Like most of these rehab centers, it's against the rules. Brian wasn't allowed to speak to anyone once he went in. No phone calls in or out, especially during the detox period."
"I... I just can't believe it," I say helplessly. My mind is spinning around at the thought of Brian in the hospital. Brian -- submitting himself to rehab! It's too unbelievable! "Is... is Brian okay? I mean, he isn't... sick or anything?"
Tess sighs. "I guess that depends on your point of view. Brian initially agreed to cooperate because he knew he needed to deal with his problems. His drinking and drugging was out of control. That was obvious even to him." I hear Tess sniff on the other end of the phone. I can tell she's upset about this. "But now he's in more trouble, Justin. When Ron died there was all that confusion about where he got the drugs and whether Brian gave them to Ron. That's when they took Brian downtown and questioned him. The police were very suspicious and Brian didn't seem to be telling them the whole story. But I guess at the station Brian completely broke down while they were questioning him."
I blink. "He did? Why didn't he say anything to me?"
"He obviously didn't want you to know, honey. Or anyone to know. Except Howard Sheldon and the lawyers who were down there. It was pretty obvious that he was in big trouble due to some kind of drug he'd been taking. I think they assumed that Ron and Brian had been doing drugs together and maybe Brian panicked and... left Ron there. And that's when he died."
"That's not true, Tess!" I say angrily. "Brian would never fucking do that! He'd never leave anyone to... to just die like that." And I want to tell Tess that I know what really happened that night -- but I can't. Not until I see Brian. Speak to Brian.
"Anyway, the detective who was investigating Ron's death...."
"Detective Parra? That bastard who questioned Brian?" I almost shout.
"Yes, that's the man," says Tess. "I guess he could see that Brian needed some immediate help. So Howie and the lawyers made a deal with the police that Brian would go into either residential rehab or an intensive drug and alcohol program. The only thing that Brian asked was that it be AFTER he returned to L.A. from his Christmas vacation." Tess pauses so that I really understand what she's saying. "He wanted to have that time with you, Justin. He wanted that Christmas. And they agreed to his terms." Tess stops and takes another deep breath. "But then Brian crashed the Jeep."
"I know," I breathe. "The fucking Jeep."
"You were at the hospital, Justin, so you must know that this Detective Parra went there after the accident. Howie told Jimmy that Parra threatened that if Brian didn't go into serious treatment immediately for at least the minimum 30 days, then Parra would have him held on this California law called a 5150."
I swallow hard. "5150? What the fuck is that, Tess?" I remember Parra showing up at the hospital -- and Howie making William take me out of the room. That must have been when the cop gave Brian his ultimatum.
"It's a law that's pretty well known in Hollywood, where, unfortunately, becoming a danger to yourself is practically a requirement for stardom. It allows the authorities to place someone they deem a danger to himself or to other people under 72 hour custody for psychiatric evaluation. Brian had already agreed to go into rehab, but now the detective insisted that he enter the facility the soonest they were able to take him -- or else he'd be taken into custody right then. And the soonest they could take him at Desert Palm was on Christmas Eve, Justin. I'm sorry."
"Fuck me," I say. I'm sitting here in my studio, stunned. And definitely ready to murder someone. Maybe Brian. Definitely that fucking Howie Sheldon. And Detective Parra for sure. And also myself for being so goddamn clueless about what was going on right under my nose! "Why the fuck didn't Brian tell me any of this, Tess? Why didn't he? I would have understood! I could have helped him!"
Tess laughs shortly. "Because he's Brian Fucking Kinney, the guy who believes that man IS an island! Or maybe he didn't want you or anyone else to see that he could no longer handle himself or his life? Or because it's humiliating for a proud man like Brian to be told by total strangers that he is so out of control that he no longer has any choice over what is going to happen to him. Or simply because he's a stubborn and exasperating son of a bitch? Pick any of the above and then add your own spin to those, Justin." Tess' voice softens. "I think that you are the main reason Brian agreed to get help, Justin. So perhaps he needed to prove to you that he was strong enough to do it all by himself."
"He doesn't need to do this all by himself!" I say, feeling like I've been hit sideways. "He's NOT alone in the fucking world! He's NOT! I'm right HERE!"
"I know you are, hon," Tess replies. "But Brian still has a lot of ego. Too much, like most men. I think Brian wanted to do this rehab thing and then be able to show you what he'd done. So you could be proud of what he'd accomplished."
"But I AM proud of Brian, Tess!" I yell into the phone. "I thought he knew that! All the shit he's been through, all he's survived -- that takes someone who's strong. Stronger than he realizes. He KNOWS I'm proud of what he's accomplished. He doesn't have to prove anything to me!"
"I understand that, Justin. But you know Brian -- he's stubborn as a mule and always wants to do things HIS way -- or no way."
"Brian in rehab," I repeat, half to myself. "I still can't fucking believe he didn't tell me!"
"He didn't want anyone to know, Justin, especially not you. But also all of his other friends. Diane thinks Brian is in Pittsburgh with you. That's what everyone thinks. That Brian is back East. I don't know if he's embarrassed to admit that he has a problem or if he's afraid that he wouldn't succeed and then be humiliated in front of all the people in Hollywood who would just love to see him fail. People like Freddy Weinstein and Jerry Baxter. They would have a field day with this information."
I put my hand to my head, which now aching. "Brian sent me off on Christmas Eve! He sent me right over the fucking cliff! When I... I could have helped him with all this!" I still have to process this information. I have to think. To figure out what I need to do next. Then I realize something.... "Tess, you said that Brian is in Maui with you. How can he be there if he's in rehab? At that Desert place in Palm Springs?"
Tess makes an exasperated sound. "Because Desert Palm is a voluntary program -- and Brian didn't stick it out. He was supposed to be there for a month, but he stayed there less than a week. He just took his suitcase and walked out. Then he showed up at our door here on Wednesday -- New Year's Day. And he's been here since then, mainly sitting on the beach or staring out the window at the ocean. Now that Brian has jumped rehab that's one big strike against him. Jimmy's been trying to get him to go back to Desert Palm, or at least go into a different program, but so far Brian's refused point blank. Howie Sheldon has been calling here every single day, driving me nuts. Desert Palm informed Detective Parra that Brian went AWOL, that he broke the deal by walking out of their facility. So Brian is in big trouble with the cops unless he gets back into treatment -- and soon."
"Tess, are you telling me that they are going to... to arrest him?" I can feel a panic attack beginning in the center of my chest.
"I really don't know the answer to that, hon. They might. They could use that 5150 law to take him into custody, probably at the Spencer Pavilion, but it would be in a locked ward."
"No, Tess!" I say, trying to steady my breath. "Not there! Anywhere but there! Brian will completely freak out in that place!"
"I know, Justin! Right now Howie Sheldon is working on smoothing Detective Parra's feathers. And Jimmy has been handling Brian here, basically keeping him sober, trying to get him to talk, but also trying to get him to go back to Los Angeles and face the music. So far, it hasn't worked." I hear Tess sigh again. "Unfortunately, Jimmy left today for Canada, and, frankly, I... I can't cope anymore, Justin. Brian is isolated here at the house, so he's clean and sober -- for now. But I know he doesn't want to be sober. That's the last thing he wants to be. I'm afraid the minute my back is turned Brian will take the car and go get drunk or high or whatever. That he'll do something really, really stupid. Because that's the way he's acting. Like he doesn't give a damn what happens to him. And then he WILL end up in jail or the loony bin -- if he doesn't end up dead first. Sorry to be so blunt, honey."
"You don't think he'd really... hurt himself, do you, Tess? Not really?" I say fearfully.
"Justin, I truly don't know. But I'll tell you one thing -- Annie and I have to leave Maui on Friday. I have to get her home and ready to go back to school next week. I can't drag Brian back to Los Angeles with us and dump him there. But I can't leave him here by himself, either. I thought of calling Howie Sheldon to come and take charge of him, but I just can't do that to Brian. I can't. Howie will put him into the Spencer Pavilion for sure. But I agree with you, Justin. I don't think Brian will survive another stay there."
I remember how Brian looked when he returned to Pittsburgh after being in that so-called hospital last spring. He was like a shadow of himself -- ill, shaky, unsure, scared. All things that Brian is NOT. I was terrified for him. And I'm sure that Brian wouldn't survive being locked in that place again. Not even for one hour.
"I don't know anyone else who Brian will listen to -- except you, Justin," Tess confesses. "I tried to convince him to call you and I won't repeat what he told me. Needless to say, he didn't care for the idea. Then I wanted him to talk to Diane, but he refused again. He doesn't want anyone else to know what's going on. But he especially didn't want you to know. Right up until I made this call I was still hesitating whether or not to do it."
"But why did you hesitate, Tess?" I ask. "You know that Brian isn't exactly making good decisions right now. You know you could have called me anytime."
"I know, hon. But the truth is that I thought maybe you'd had enough," she answers. "And I wouldn't blame you if you had. You've been through the mill with this man, Justin. You've put up with a hell of a lot. You've put up with more than most people would ever want to deal with even from a person that they love. I understand a bit about what it's like to be in love with a difficult, stubborn, infuriating man. It takes a lot out of a person. Even a tough Italian broad from Chicago like me! And you're so young, Justin...."
"Don't condescend to me, Tess. My age has nothing to do with it," I warn her. "Brian is my partner and I knew what I was getting into when I accepted that reality. I know he's difficult and I know he's nothing but trouble. But he's MY trouble. And he's MY partner. You should have called me the second he showed up at your door."
"But Brian didn't want me to call you, Justin. He didn't want to see you until he could show you that he was a success. And that's not at all the case. He's not good. I won't lie to you, Justin. I want you to know the score."
I pick up my Filofax from my little desk. That's another habit I learned from Brian -- my Filofax. He bought me one in London and I keep all my appointments and class assignments and addresses in it, as well as notes for my art pieces. I open it to this coming week. Classes at PIFA begin one week from tomorrow on Monday, January 13. My schedule is clear until then. I take a deep, calming breath. "How do I get to where you are, Tess? On Maui? Can you tell me what airport to fly into and how to get to the house?"
There's a short silence at the other end of the phone. Then a sigh of relief. "You don't have to do this, Justin," she says. "But... there is no one else. You know that, don't you? There's never been anyone else."
"I know," I say. Yes, I know. There is no one else. Because Brian is my partner. And I know what I have to do.
I get the information from Tess. I hang up and get out my credit card. Then I call Trans-Con Airways and ask for Reservations.
As I pack to go to Maui I think of the days when Brian and I were on our 'honeymoon' in England. Just the two of us, driving around the beautiful countryside. We spent a lot of time in the car, laughing, talking. I mean really talking. Communicating like we never had before. But when we weren't talking I was listening to the handful of CD's I'd bought in England on my little portable CD player. Oasis. Elvis Costello. And Crowded House. One of my favorite songs from that time comes to mind. 'Four Seasons in One Day.' I was so wrapped up in being happy then that I wasn't paying much attention to the words, but now I can't get them out of head:
"Smiling as the shit comes down,
You can tell a man from what he has to say.
Everything gets turned around
And I will risk my neck again.
You can take me where you will,
Up the creek and through the mill,
Like all the things you can't explain,
Four seasons in one day...
It doesn't pay to make predictions,
Sleeping on an unmade bed,
Finding out wherever there is comfort
There is pain
Only one step away,
Like four seasons in one day...."
Yes, I think of these words as I fill up my suitcase, getting ready to go to Brian and try once again. Try to save him. Try to love him. Try just to be with him. When I don't even know if he wants me there. Or if he's already given up on us. On me. On himself. Because what will I do if he turns away from me? If he won't even look at me? Will I be able to deal with that? Will I be strong enough to fight it? To fight for what I want? For what we both need?
"Wherever there is comfort there is pain." That's it. That's the real truth. Our truth. Comfort and pain. Both sides of the coin. But I know that I have to go to him. It's as much for myself as for him. Because without Brian I'm only half alive. And I can't exist only half alive.
"Justin, I can't believe you are doing this," she says, her hands tightly gripping the steering wheel.
"Please just take me to the airport, Mom. I don't need any fucking lectures!" I sit back in the passenger seat and close my eyes.
I wanted Emmett to take me, but he's only just learning to drive -- he and Wade both got their learner's permits and Ted is teaching them. I couldn't ask Michael or Deb or Vic because they'd want to know every detail about what is going on with Brian and then the entire story would be all over Liberty Avenue by tonight. Daphne is out of town with her parents and I couldn't get hold of Tim Reilly. So I had to ask my mother. I probably could have driven myself, but I don't want to leave the Jeep sitting at the airport for however long I'm going to be gone. And I have no clue how long that is going to be.
"Mom, have you ever heard the words 'For better or for worse? In sickness and health? Until death do us part?' Are those familiar to you at all?"
She turns and glares at me. "You aren't married to that man, Justin! And you never will be! He'll never make that kind of commitment to you -- or to anyone! He's not capable of it and you know that!"
I hold up my head. "Maybe not. But Brian calls me his partner. And I call myself that. Which means that I'm not only his partner when things are going right or when it's easy or when Brian is acting the way you think he should act. No, it's even more important that I'm there for him when he's in trouble. When he's difficult. When I'm the only person who can help Brian get himself back again! That's what it means -- 'for better or for worse.' Brian was there for me when I was at my worst. When even YOU couldn't -- or didn't want to -- deal with me. I know how you handed me over to Brian for him to take care of. He didn't have to do it, but he did. Because he loves me, Mom. He does! And he was there at the hospital every night, watching over me. Which you KNEW and neglected to tell me. That's something I still haven't forgiven you for, Mom."
"Justin, that's all in the past!"
"No, it isn't. It's about how you view our relationship. Brian's and mine. I know you try to understand it and sometimes... sometimes I almost think you can see what I see in Brian. His goodness. His caring. His pain. And then other times I feel that you wish he'd just disappear from my life." I stare out the window at the other cars. At the dirty snow along the expressway. "When I really needed him, when I felt hopeless and damaged and angry at the world, Brian was there for me -- and I'm going to be there for him."
"Justin, please listen to me...." she starts.
"Accept it, Mom!" I say, cutting her off. "I'm a man and even if you disagree with my choices, at least allow me the privilege of making those choices for myself." And I don't say anything more all the way to the airport.
Continue on to Page 2 of "Boats Against the Current -- Part 2".