This is Part 1 of Chapter 41 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Mistake-Proof", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Tim Reilly, and features Brian Kinney, John, Miller, Father Rossi, Melanie Marcus, Lindsay Peterson, Debbie Novotny, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Tim talks to Brian about the past inorder to understand the present and deal with the future. Pittsburgh, May 2002/April-May 1988.
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 think Brian is an idiot. Or else he's just taken leave of his senses. I've said it before and since seeing him here in Pittsburgh this past week, I'll just reiterate it."
"Mel, you have to give Brian the benefit of the doubt. You have no clue what his relationship with this Ron is like." Lindsay put down her paper plate and reached for another piece of cake.
"Well, I think it's fucked up. Did you see how he looked when he got here? Like he'd been run over by a truck."
"I thought he looked like he just got out of the hospital. That's what I thought," said Debbie, also reaching for a slice of the cake Lindsay had made for the Memorial Day picnic. "He was definitely a sick, sick pup."
"Don't say anything about Brian too loudly. Justin was around here a minute ago. Remember what he did to Ted when he heard him bad-mouth Brian?"
"What's he going to do? Punch ME out?" Melanie pulled up a lawnchair and eased herself into it. 'I'm a hell of a lot tougher than Ted!"
"Don't let Vic hear you say anything, either. He's a tiger on the subject of Brian these days. But that's the other thing that burns my ass about the whole shebang" said Debbie. "He's planning to leave here on Saturday -- do you have any idea what that's going to do to my Sunshine?"
"It going to be hard for him. I think it will be hard for both of them. Brian is so reluctant to go...."
"Please, Lindz -- you act like Brian has feelings like a normal person. And we all know that is not the case."
"It's the truth. He really is a soulless bastard -- and you know it. Stop defending him. And from what I gather about his lover or whatever the fuck he is out in Los Angeles, he's just as soulless and nasty. So they deserve each other, in my opinion. Poor Justin will just end up screwed over -- as usual."
"Mel, you know that isn't true about Brian. And Ron -- you don't even know him."
"I don't need to know him. I look at Brian and see all I need to know. If that relationship isn't based on something really sick and twisted, then I'll eat this lawnchair."
Debbie pulled up another chair and sat down next to the two women. "I think that Brian is only using this guy. He's a big movie director. He's rich. He's got a big house. And he put Brian into his movie. I think that's what it's all about. Not about emotion or even sexual attraction. I mean, this guy is -- what -- ten years older than Brian? That's not his type at all. Brian goes for the young beauties, like Sunshine -- always has. He never wanted to fuck anyone's mind in his life, let's face it! What else does this Ron have to offer besides his money and his bigshot connections?"
"Well," said Melanie, leaning forward in her chair. "Then that only goes to prove that Brian is still little better than a whore and probably always has been. Fucking his way to fame and fortune is just the latest development."
"Admit it, Lindz. It's only the truth. And that's the guy YOU picked to father our baby. I just hope to fuck that there's more to nurture than there is to nature."
"Excuse me, ladies." I stood up from my seat on the grass under the big tree in the Peterson-Marcus backyard.
"Oh, Tim. You are so quiet over there. Did you want some of Lindsay's cake?"
"No, thank you, Debbie. I think I'll go and look for Vic," I said.
"Well, ask him if he wants any before it's all gone. He loves marble cake with cream-cheese frosting."
"I'll tell him."
I had to get out of there. If I'd stayed a moment longer, who knows what I would have said? But I knew I couldn't listen to them anymore. Dissecting Brian with their plastic knives and forks, just like they'd dissected their barbecued chicken and hamburgers and now that big gooey cake Lindsay was pushing on everyone.
I hate cake. It's too sickeningly sweet.
And I kept thinking of that big dinner Brian had for them all on Friday night. The expense and effort he must have gone to in order to make it perfect. The gifts, so carefully selected for each person. His graciousness to me -- all for the sake of making Vic happy. Yes, that was soulless. That was the act of someone only semi-human.
And they could hardly wait even three days to begin to rip him apart.
I said a little prayer to try and dispel the bad thoughts I was having about everyone.
Because I knew something about Brian and his all-too-human side. About his soul and his heart. I even knew about his connection with this man out in California. The one they were all speculating about. I knew more than I ever should have known.
I had to talk to Brian.
I needed another prayer to dispel a few demons of my own. And his.
"Brian. I'm glad you decided to come and speak with me."
I stood and shook his hand. He was so much taller than me now. It seemed odd. So many years had gone by and he really was a man. And a man as troubled as he'd been a troubled boy.
For much of that I couldn't help but blame myself.
He looked out of place in this old Steel Town bar. In this old disintegrating neighborhood. I'd lived here the better part of a decade by now. It was a place I was comfortable in, because I was a disintegrating character myself. But we hung on -- me and the neighborhood both.
Brian stepped into the place like a creature from another world. He was dressed casually, but you could tell at a glance that his casual clothes cost more than the weekly salaries of many of these men -- especially since the mills and foundries had begun to close. Maybe he had been ill. Maybe he didn't look what his cronies on Liberty Avenue considered 'his best.' But here he was like a star in nova -- so bright that everyone turned to look at him. And I felt a thrill when he came and sat down next to me.
"I almost didn't come, Tim. I'm rather out of practice when it comes to True Confessions." He motioned the bartender over and ordered a beer. "Anything BUT Old Pitt or Steeltown." He turned to me. "I worked on both the campaigns for those pisswaters and I refuse to drink them on my own time."
"Do you miss advertising?"
"A little, yes. In fact, Marty Ryder, my old boss, and I are working on a few projects. I'm acting as a consultant. I was there all day yesterday going over specs with him. It was nice."
"Can you do that with him here and you out in L.A.?"
"This is some stuff connected to the film, actually. With some promotions and marketing. It's not for certain, yet, but I'm hoping that they'll use some of my ideas."
"That's great. Sort of combining both aspects of your life."
"A little...." He trailed off and sat there, waiting for me to tip my hand. To say what I had to say... But it was difficult, even for someone used to the Confessional.
I was surprised when his voice broke into my train of thought.
"I heard from Deb all about what you've been through in the past few years. With leaving the priesthood and then your partner dying. Your HIV status... I, well... I guess I feel I have a lot of responsibility for... for kind of fucking up your life -- excuse the language. For starting you down some kind of road that was bad for you. That probably screwed up your whole future. I've been avoiding you because I didn't want to have to face you. To face myself, I guess. But since you've obviously brought me here to have it out with me -- I want you to know that I admit everything and that I'm really sorry. I know I can't really make it up to you, but what the hell? I can't say anything but I'm sorry."
I could only stare at him. Stare at his face as his eyes appealed to me to give him some kind of absolution. Talk about a tangled situation!
"Brian -- I didn't ask you here to 'have it out' with you."
"No. I wanted you here so I could ask YOU to forgive ME."
"I should forgive YOU? For what?"
"Brian, you know full well for what."
"Please, Tim. Don't turn it all around."
"Brian, I'm not turning it around. I was the one in the wrong. I was the one who used my position to take advantage of you...."
"Tim, believe me -- no one has ever taken advantage of ME!"
I look at him quietly. "And I happen to know that's not the truth. I KNOW the truth, Brian. And you can't let me or anyone else off so easily by taking all the blame onto yourself."
I was exhausted.
It wasn't an unusual condition for me. Between my general duties as a priest, my pastoral work in the local community -- a run-down urban neighborhood in Pittsburgh -- and my administration of St. Lawrence House Group Home, I could barely hold my head up throughout the day.
"I'm going to suggest a Retreat for you, Timothy. If anyone needs it, it is you."
Father Rossi, my spiritual director, had been concerned for some time that I was stretching myself too thin, too fast. But, of course, I was young and thought I was Superman. What young priest doesn't, who is out to fix the entire world?
"I know, Father, but I can't possibly do it now. I have some new boys who need a lot of help, not to mention close supervision. I can't leave the house at this time. Maybe in the fall...."
"By September you'll be in the hospital. You realize that, don't you, Timothy? And who will do your job then if you run yourself into the ground now? I'm afraid you'll have a physical collapse -- and then St. Lawrence will be closed."
"What am I going to do, Father? The only other person I have to take over is John -- and he's only a graduate student."
"Yes, a grad student in Social Work from the university. He's been working at the Home part time and helping me with supervision, especially on the weekends. He's doing a study of some of the boys and their progress. He's cleared it with my superiors and the Trustees of St. Lawrence."
"Then perhaps this John could take over for a while. Spell you while you went on Retreat?"
I hesitated. "The St. Lawrence is my responsibility, Father, not John's. Besides, I don't think he's capable of running the place himself for any period of time. I mean, he's good and all, but his experience with these kids is pretty lacking. They run rather roughshod over him, if you know what I mean."
"And they don't over you?"
I smiled. "I grew up in a tough, working class neighborhood like the one St. Lawrence is in, Father. I also spent three years in the Marine Corps. It takes a lot to put one over on me. John doesn't have that."
"Perhaps you could take a few weekends off, Tim. Maybe two or three days at a time could be manageable. Because if you don't, both for your physical and your spiritual well-being, there's going to be trouble."
In my mind I knew that Father Rossi was correct and had, as always, my best interests at heart. But I also knew the St. Lawrence couldn't run -- couldn't exist -- without me. Or I liked to think that. I saw the place as a memorial to my brother, who had died of an overdose as a young teenager before he'd really had a chance to live. There had been no such place as St. Lawrence for him to go to. And if my own health was the offering that I had to make, then so be it.
I returned from my session with Father Rossi to find the house in a bit of an uproar. This was one indication that I couldn't just go off any time.
"What's up, John?"
"That new kid. He's nothing but trouble."
I sighed. "I'm beginning to be sorry that I agreed to take him. But I did it as a favor to a friend."
"Well," said John. "You'd better come on in."
A couple of the boys were working on projects or their homework -- as they should have been on a Tuesday night -- but most of them were gathered in the living room, observing the face-off. It was better than professional wrestling for them -- especially since we didn't have a television for them to waste their time watching.
The minute they saw me, though, the crowd backed away, leaving the two combatants alone in the center of the room.
"Can someone tell me what's going on here?" I looked around. "Anyone?"
One of the boys involved, Spassky, turned away. "Nothing, Father."
"Oh, nothing, huh? Who can explain to me what's going on? I've always been straight-forward with you and I expect you guys to be straight-forward with me." I looked at the two. Most of the fight -- if that's what it was -- appeared to have gone out of them. Maybe this deflated confrontation would serve to defuse the situation between them.
"And what about you? Miller?"
Miller was a big kid. As big and as strong as a grown man, even though he was barely 17. I'd had reservations about taking him into the house, but did it because his parole officer was an old Marine buddy of mine. This kid had multiple arrests, mostly for drugs, and had 'future thug' written all over him. I guess I saw him as a challenge. Just what I needed -- another 'challenge.'
The same old response. Always.
"Okay, I think you all have some work to do."
I left John to hold the fort in the living room while I retreated to the kitchen. Retreat. The kitchen was the closest thing to a Retreat I was going to any time soon. But a cup of coffee and two aspirins were going to have to do the trick for now.
I walked into the kitchen and saw my other new problem sitting by himself at the kitchen table. He was, as usual, doing homework. That's all he ever did -- his schoolwork or reading. He had caused no trouble so far. In fact, he was a model student. A model 'inmate' of this establishment -- but only through his almost complete withdrawal from it. In the two weeks he had been here he'd had hardly any interaction with the other boys or with either John or myself. He just seemed to be living in his own private world and he didn't want to know anything about ours.
Well, at least he wasn't getting into fights. There were worse things than sitting around, reading Ayn Rand, I suppose. Although I did try to direct him to some other authors for a change.
"Mr. Kinney. Would you like something? It's a little late for coffee for you, but how about some milk?"
"No, thank you. Milk makes me sick to my stomach."
"Well, then, what about some fruit juice?"
He looked up. "No, thank you." He blinked. "Father."
He was trying so hard to be polite to me, but I knew he didn't trust me or any priest -- any adult, for that matter -- as far as he could throw him. And if I'd had his home situation or been through some of the things he'd lived through recently on the streets, I probably wouldn't trust any adults, either.
I sat down at the kitchen table, across from of him. "You do a lot of homework."
"I'm just trying to catch up. I thought that was the point of being in this place."
"It is -- but there are other things besides just doing homework, Kinney. Have you made any friends here?"
He looked up at me across the table. "With THESE guys? With Spassky and his buddies? You must be kidding."
"Well, it's always nice to make an effort. You have to live with them, after all."
He frowned. "They are a bunch of illiterates. The only thing I have in common with them is that we are all sentenced to be in here. And that's the way I like it. I'm... safer on my own."
"Safer? Has anyone threatened you? Tried to call you out? You haven't been in any fights since you've been here, have you, Kinney? I haven't heard of any."
"No, I'm not a big fighter. My old man does enough of that for both of us." He put down his pen. "I'm just safer staying in my own mind. I just try to keep as far away from everyone else as possible. It's the only way."
"The only way to do what?"
"Never mind." He picked up his pen and kept looking down at the notebook he was writing in.
I stood up, picking up my coffee cup. "Well, Kinney, just keep doing what you're doing and you'll easily be back with your class come fall semester."
"Right. And where will I live then?"
I stopped. "Probably back at home. With your family."
"Great. Something else to look forward to. I'll have to mark my calendar and count off the days."
My God, this kid was too young to have such a cynical edge to him. What was he -- 16? Almost 17? But every boy needs some kind of protective coating. This was just his and I certainly couldn't judge him harshly because of it. It was better than the veneer of the bully, like Miller or Spassky, I suppose. I made a mental note to speak with Dr. Finer, his doctor at the Kensington-Welsh Center. He was still seeing him at least once a week. Perhaps the doctor could give me a little insight in proceeding with Brian Kinney.
Continue on to "Confessions -- Part 2", the conclusion of this chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from PAPER.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated July 4, 2002