This is Chapter 33 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Sylvia Schacter, Dr. Henry Mason, Walker Talmadge III, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian faces the weekend without Justin. Springhurst. February 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.
"I see a man with a flag
and he leads the procession,
and a woman shedding tears
for a man locked in prison.
Then the two locked eyes
and for a moment I was taken,
and all paths lead
to a single conclusion.
Everything is good for you
if it doesn't kill you.
Everything is good for you.
One man's ending
is another man's beginning."
"Brian," says Sylvia.
"What?" I sigh. I'm hiding in my little corner of one of the smaller meeting rooms with my iBook plugged into the wall. "I'm kind of busy right now, Sylvia."
"Doing what, Brian?" Everyone around here is so fucking nosy!
"Working on something." She isn't going away. "A screenplay." So now she knows.
"Really?" she says, her carefully plucked eyebrows rising. "So, you took my advice for once!"
Sylvia is so fucking pleased. What I'm writing is only an idea for a low-budget picture. Something small and independent. It's not like I've got an option from Stephen fucking Spielberg. It's mainly something to keep myself occupied while I'm cooped up in this funhouse. It figures that Sylvia would try to take credit for giving me the idea.
But she didn't give me the idea. Not really. She may have mentioned the screenplay idea to me, but it's something that's been stirring around inside of me for a while. I just needed a reason to write it down. I needed my head to be clear enough to see what I was doing. And I needed the time to do it. And while I'm sitting here in Springhurst the one thing I've got plenty of is time.
"Yes, really," I say, hitting 'Save.' There's no way I can continue here. I'll have to find another spot. Maybe the gym. Sylvia would never go in there.
"Are you writing it for you to star in, Brian?" she asks.
I rub my forehead in the center. Where the headache is beginning. "Right now I'm writing it to keep my mind off the fact that my partner blew me off for the weekend. Because if I think about that for too long I start to get an anxiety attack. So I'm doing this instead."
"What's your screenplay about, Brian?"
I know Sylvia is curious, but what the fuck? She's my counselor, but does she have to be so fucking nosy? Asking about what I'm writing is like asking to see my private journal or my Barbie Secret Diary or some shit like that! I thought girls knew better?
"It's about a relationship between two guys. One is a 16 year old boy and the other is a man. They have nothing in common with each other -- except...." I smile. "What do you think, Sylvia?"
She perks right up. "Sounds like a romance to me! I love romances! So who do you see playing Justin in this blockbuster?"
I stare at the screen in front of me. Stare at the words I've written so far. This story isn't about my current life. It's not about now. It's about the past. And about what I have to do to get beyond it. So that I can finally be free of that past.
I close the iBook and stand up. "It isn't about me and Justin," I tell Sylvia. "Not at all. So -- if you'll excuse me?"
I know it's rude, but I have to walk away. That's the biggest problem with Springhurst. You can't fucking get away and be alone.
Or if you do get away, like for a weekend in a snowbound cottage, it's too good. It's too important. It means too fucking much to your head and your heart. And then you have to come back. Then he goes away. And he doesn't come back the next weekend. And you're alone.
That's the reality.
I retrieve my coat and scarf from my room. Then I ask for a two hour pass at the front desk and I trudge into the town of McKinley. It's sunny, with just a few flurries. But the plowed snow is piled high everywhere from last weekend's huge snowstorm. It's hard to see over the piles, so I have to be careful not to get run over when I try to cross the street.
I go into Brewed Awakenings. It's quiet in there. The teenage girl is working behind the counter. Two older women are sitting next to the fireplace drinking coffee and eating scones. I order a latte and a banana muffin.
I sit down next to one of the outlets and plug in my iBook. It's hard to write down things that are so jumbled around in your head. The true things. I've never had trouble writing lies. Advertising copy and that kind of bullshit. Puffery about junk. I was good at it. Damn good. Fucking good! And I have the awards to prove it.
But advertising isn't about reality. It's about image. About hype. And I hate that now. Because I've seen what hype can do to you when you're the product. When you're nothing but a commodity. No longer a human being, but an item for sale.
I've been for sale before and it's not pretty. It's never pretty. It's not pretty when you're standing on a freezing street corner. It's not even pretty when it's wrapped up in tinsel by a big movie studio or laid out in full color in a glossy magazine.
Fabrications. Bullshit. Hype. That's not truth.
The door of the coffee shop opens and two women come in with a kid who looks about Gus' age. The kid is all bundled up from the cold, so I can't tell if it's a girl or a boy. It makes me wonder what Gus is doing right now. So much for being a decent father. I don't even know where my kid is right now. Probably at that daycare place.
The women buy some pastries and then they leave, the shorter one holding the toddler by the hand. The cold air swirls around as the door of the shop slams shut.
Cold. Like it always is at the end of February. How do you write the depth of that cold? How do you show in a film the way your feet feel when you're standing in the slush wearing a pair of sneakers and thin socks? And a tattered leather jacket. No gloves and no hat. And the goddamn wind is blowing right through you. How do you show that? How do you describe it? That's my fucking dilemma.
I sweat away at the scene I'm working on, trying to do what Ron always said that he did with a script -- picture it playing out in my head and then describe what I see. But picturing it is making it too real. Giving me bad feelings. The edge of anxiety is creeping up on me. I definitely shouldn't have had that latte. Too much caffeine and sugar.
The door opens again and that blast of cold hits me. I should move to a different seat, but I need the computer outlet.
I look up. The hot nerd. Dr. Henry 'Call me Harry' Mason. Dr. Gorowitz's partner in the vacation resort that is Springhurst Rehabilitation Center. Dr. Gorowitz handles the heads and Dr. Harry handles the bodies. I guess it all works out.
"Hey, Doc," I say. "I didn't know they let you loose during the day."
Dr. Harry's glasses are a little fogged up from the cold and he has snow all over his bad haircut. He grins at me. "Only when I have to have some hot chocolate and one of Betsy's eclairs!"
"Sounds like you have a bad chocolate jones going, Doc. You might need some rehab for that," I snark.
"Then I certainly work in the right place, don't I?" he grins. "Excuse me a moment, Brian." And he heads for the counter for his chocolate fix.
His clothes are horrible. Those baggy Sears suits. Cheap cotton shirts and polyester pants. But he's got a nice ass underneath the junk. In another life I'd fuck him in a heartbeat. In another life I'd have fucked him the first day I was here. But that's another life. Not the one I'm trying to create. Not the one I'm trying to live now.
Dr. Harry brings his hot chocolate and eclair back to the table and plops himself down across from me. "So, Brian," says he says. "How's it hanging?"
I raise an eyebrow. "Hanging as usual, Doc. Low and heavy."
"You wreck me, Brian!" he laughs. He nibbles at his eclair delicately, like he's afraid of it. I want to see him open up his mouth and shove the thing right in there. See what he can take. I think about how I can swallow one of those big eclairs down whole. Practice makes perfect. Lots of practice. And I've had plenty.
"They have good pastries here," I comment lamely. Food and weather. Safe topics.
"Brewed Awakenings is the social center of the town of McKinley, so I guess it doesn't matter if the food is good or not - but it sure helps!" Dr. Harry sips his hot chocolate. Again, delicately, like it's too hot for his sensitive lips. "Oh, one thing, Brian - we have a new guy coming in. I ordinarily wouldn't mention it, but you might know this fellow."
Shit! Who could it be? I know plenty of candidates for rehab. Fuck -- half the population of Los Angeles are candidates for rehab!
"Really? What's his name?" I ask curiously.
"Walker Talmadge. He's finishing up in detox right now. I just came from over there," he says.
"Walker Talmadge? The singer?" I shake my head. "Justin has some of his CD's. But I've never met him."
"Oh," Dr. Harry shrugs. "I thought you might. He's in show business and he's gay."
"He must belong to a different chapter of the Famous Fags of America Club, Doc," I tell him. "Because I've never met him."
"You're a riot, Brian!" Dr. Harry is one of those guys who laughs at his own jokes. That reminds me of Jimmy. Jimmy and Harry would get along great. They could tell each other jokes and then laugh at them.
"Yeah, I'm a real laugh riot." I guess I'm not going to get any more writing done this afternoon.
"So, Brian," he asks. "Is your partner coming this weekend? I've seen him here, but I've never met him."
Suddenly I don't feel so steady. Like a blast of cold air has gone through the room, except that no one has opened the door. I grip the edge of the table, my head suddenly reeling.
Don't fuck it up, Kinney! Don't think about getting through the weekend by yourself. It's not a problem. You can do it! It's a piece of cake, right? Like the song says, 'Everything is good for you -- if it doesn't kill you'!
"Justin's busy this weekend," I manage to tell him. But casually. Very casually. "He has a big art show coming up in March at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. His pieces were chosen for a special exhibition by the curator."
Dr. Harry seems impressed. "Warhol Museum, huh? That sounds important. I didn't know he was an artist. I thought he was a model or something."
"He's an extremely talented artist. He does paintings and computer graphics." I don't know why I sound so defensive. "And he's only a sophomore at the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art."
"Not just a pretty face?" Dr. Harry grins.
"No," I say stiffly. "Not just a pretty face."
That always bugs the shit out of me. People assuming that Justin is some vacuous twink because he's young and good looking. Or because he's with me. That's even worse. I think about people referring to Justin as my boytoy or my trophy fuck or my piece of blond ass or other fucking insults. I hate that. Fucking hate it.
I think about the two of us in that cottage with the power cut off. Justin taking charge. He always takes charge of things. Takes charge of me, specifically. People would be amazed if they understood what was really going on between us. If they understood the dynamics of our partnership. Because I might be big and loud and require a shitload of attention, but Justin is the real captain of this ship. He's the anchor. He's the core. If it wasn't for him, I'd have floated over the edge long ago.
Just a pretty fucking face, indeed.
"How are you feeling physically, Brian? Any problems with cravings? Do you need any vitamins or supplements to help you out? Other than caffeine, of course!" Dr. Harry points to the latte, not to mention the remnant of muffin on my plate.
"Busted, Doc!" I exclaim. "I always need my coffee! Yeah, I'm still an addict. And I always want a cigarette after I finish jerking off in the morning. And in the shower. And after lunch. And in the evening. And before I fall asleep. But that's about it."
Dr. Harry stifles a laugh and adjusts his nerdy glasses. "Do you really masturbate that often, Brian?"
"I've cut back since I've been in here," I deadpan. "My libido has been severely suppressed by the lack of hot guys you provide to the paying customers."
"You're pulling my leg, aren't you, Brian?" asks Dr. Harry, like he isn't certain.
"Who, me?" I reply. "I'm used to having a lot of sex, Doc, and that's not an option here."
Dr. Harry snorts in amusement. "No one too sexy in Springhurst, huh?"
"There's that. I meant it about the hot guys, Doc. I could give you the numbers of a few male nurses and massage therapists who might liven up the joint." I sit back and sip the last of my latte. "But there's also the fact that my partner isn't here. And I... I really don't have a lot of desire to fuck anyone but him."
As I say the words I realize that it's simply the truth. I've been doing that a lot lately -- saying something and knowing that it isn't bullshit, but something that I actually fucking mean!
And it has nothing to do with making empty promises or being fearful of losing Justin or even being like a couple of dykes in Vera Wang walking down some fucking aisle! It's the difference between what I want and what I don't want. And I want Justin and no one else.
Yes, I could fuck a couple of guys in Springhurst. I could fuck them regularly if I wanted to. They've either approached me or given me the eye, letting me know they're available. And that doesn't even include the females who have hit on me in here, were I desperate enough to have to turn to pussy. No thanks, ladies! Not as long as I have my right hand available!
But I've turned them all down. Not because I had to -- there are rules about no sexual contact in Springhurst, but rules were made to broken and they are every day -- but because I wanted to. I actually made a real, conscious, clear-headed choice NOT to fuck anything that crossed my path simply because it was there. Because I don't want anything that crosses my path. I'm not afraid to admit that anymore. I only want one person.
How fucking pathetic is that?
And how fucking amazing?
Especially for an asshole like me.
It makes me feel good, but it also makes me feel terrified. Exposed. Raw. Vulnerable. And I hate feeling vulnerable. Feeling that my emotions are out of my control because they belong to someone else.
Thank fucking God that Justin is my partner and not someone else! Because with Justin I never have to worry that he'll hurt me or use my vulnerability against me. I think about the way Ron constantly played me and used my own insecurities against me. That's why it never could have worked out with Ron, even if I hadn't already been in love with Justin. Ron couldn't NOT hurt me. Ron could never leave well enough alone -- and neither could I. We were made to hurt each other. Destroy each other.
But Justin -- he's something else again.
He was made to rescue me. Teach me. Save me.
Jesus! Now I really sound like a fucking dyke!
I start laughing and Dr. Harry laughs with me, even though he has no fucking idea what I'm laughing at.
"That's great, Brian!" he says, grinning. "You seem happy. That's good to see."
"I AM happy," I tell him. I'm miserable this weekend. I'm lonely and I'm horny. But I'm happy. How fucked up am I?
We talk a while longer as he finishes up his hot chocolate and eclair. But it's getting late and my two hour pass is almost up. It gets dark so early here in mid-winter and I don't want to be wandering the roads in the dark. That's a good way to get your ass taken out by a redneck riding a snowplow!
I unplug the iBook and put on my coat.
"Can I drive you back, Brian?" Dr. Harry offers. He's putting his gloves on.
"Thanks, but I think I'll walk," I reply. "I need the exercise."
Dr. Mason takes off and I also go on my way, an extra banana muffin stuffed in my pocket for later. It's numbingly cold, but walking feels good. I'm too slack. Too fucking passive. I don't miss being stoned, but I do miss the buzz of movement. The rush of dancing or driving fast or fucking hard. I wouldn't make a very good monk. There's only so much peaceful contemplation and introspection I can take before I start screaming.
Walking into the main building of Springhurst after being outside feels like stepping into a hot bath. The warmth is almost stifling. I unwrap my scarf. I can smell dinner cooking. I hear people laughing in one of the recreation rooms, waiting to go in to eat.
And I hear someone playing the piano in one of the meeting rooms. I recognize the melody. It's 'Crying in Chelsea,' a song on one of Walker Talmadge's CD's. Justin has only played it about a thousand times.
"Nothing more pitiful,
Nothing more cliché --
A poor gay boy
Standing alone in the rain.
Why did I think he was different?
Why did I think he'd work out?
A beautiful man made to hurt me,
A beautiful man to have to forget about.
I'm crying in Chelsea,
As the boys all walk by.
I'm crying in Chelsea,
What a silly fool am I!"
It's Walker Talmadge III himself sitting at the piano. Music's gay golden boy. The son of a prize-winning journalist and the grandson of a senator. A pure patrician WASP who is also a total queer -- and one of the most famous queers in the music business.
Walker looks exactly like one of the covers of his CD's. His dark hair is long and floppy, with blond streaks bleached through it and he has that pampered, classic Anglo-Saxon face -- all sharp cheekbones and receding chin. His hands are long and delicate as he plays the piano, which is slightly out of tune from being banged on by all the talentless inmates. He has piercings all around his ears and a tattoo of a violet flower on the back of his left hand. He's one of those Downtown Gai Bois who are trendy and hip and young and rich and very, very sad. And very talented. Walker Talmadge even makes the tinny piano sound good.
He looks up at me. His eyes are sea-green and they widen in shock to see me standing there.
"Brian Kinney?" he breathes. "Are you real? Or are you something that I've conjured up out of my detox nightmares?"
"No, it's me," I say. I'm still standing there in my coat, dripping melting snow from my boots all over the floor. "I heard you playing. I hope you don't mind me coming in for a second. Welcome to the Monkey House, as Kurt Vonnegut might say."
I hold out my cold hand and he shakes it anxiously. Like he doesn't want to let my hand go -- ever. We've never met, but he knows who I am. That's something to grab onto in a place like this.
"Are you... staying here? Or just visiting?" he asks, running his long fingers through his messy hair. He looks tired and thin and beaten down the way everyone does when they get out of detox. Still shaky. I don't know what he's in for, but I'd guess cocaine or crystal meth. He has the wasted look of a crystal queen.
"Oh, I'm a veteran junkie," I say, flippantly. "I've been in here a month. So if you want to know the routine, you can ask me."
Walker shakes his head. "I never expected to see... see someone like you in this place!"
"Why? Not trendy enough?" I snark. "I was at a place in Malibu, but I washed out of it."
"But here...." he hesitates. I notice that his thin fingers are trembling. "It's... it's not too bad?"
"No," I say. "Not too bad at all. Are you feeling a little antsy?"
He nods. "A LOT antsy. Like I could use about a hundred Valiums to scare the ants away!"
"That feeling will go away. You'll settle in." I smile at him. Nothing like an addict to understand another addict. We have a common language, a common experience. Like war buddies. And it's nice being the guy who isn't falling apart for once. The guy who is hanging on. Surviving. Everything IS good for you, if it doesn't kill you.
"So," I ask. "Feeling a little better now?"
He stares at me with those blue-green eyes. "I was thinking about jumping out the nearest window, but maybe I'll wait on that." And then he smiles a crooked smile as his ethereal fingers move over the keyboard, playing a measure of an unfamiliar tune. "Because things certainly are looking up!"
"Everything is good for you,
it's a nightmare talking
to a restless ocean,
with a reckless calm
to state their position,
but if you come undone
it might just set you free.
Everything is good for you
if it doesn't kill you.
Everything is good for you.
One man's ending
is another man's beginning.
Bring back your head,
here comes trouble,
to turn me and be well,
cover your heart.
Everything is good for you
if it doesn't kill you."
By Neil Finn.
Continue on to "Purple Haze".
©Gaedhal, December 2004.
Posted December 10, 2004.