This is Chapter 7 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Fuck Armani -- Part 4" , the previous section.
The narrator is Debbie Novotny, and features Michael, Justin, Emmett, and Ted.
Rated PG for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: The boys meet for breakfast in the diner for the first time in ages. Takes place in February 2002.
Author Notes: This story is the direct follow up to "Lasagna."
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
The morning rush is just winding down when Michael walks in.
"Hi, sweetie! What are you doing in here so early?" Michael always likes to avoid the rush altogether and usually doesn't show up until well after 10:00 a.m.
"Emmett and Ted and I decided to meet for breakfast. After the other day I realized that it had been a long time since we'd gotten together. And I sort of felt like re-connecting...."
"Well, that's super, honey."
Justin comes out of the back carrying a big bag of salt to refill the shakers.
It's nice to see these two being civil -- no, even friendly to each other. Why do I have this picture of the two of them, twenty years from now, sitting around having a beer and Justin saying, 'Hey, Michael, remember when you used to hate me?' and both of them having a big laugh?
"You want to order now or wait for the guys?"
"I'll order now."
"Who's coming in?" Sunshine gets Michael a napkin and some silverware and pours him a cup of coffee.
"Ted and Emmett."
"That's nice. I haven't seen them in a while." He goes off to gather the sugar dispensers and the salt and pepper shakers from the tables.
I watch Michael and can tell that something is bothering him big time.
"Okay, Michael -- spill it."
"Come on, honey. What's the point of coming in here and looking mournful if you aren't going to tell me what's wrong?"
He stirs his coffee. "David called me last night."
"Tell me about it." He shook his head slowly. "I guess he was feeling... I don't know... guilty about stuff. About the way everything ended." He shrugged.
"What brought THAT on all of a sudden? I mean after all this time, to call out of the blue?"
"I guess he's seeing someone new... and Hank is giving him a really hard time."
"Yeah." Michael was thinking. "He really misses me... I guess. I didn't think he would. I... sort of missed him, too, after I left Portland. More than I thought I would... after everything that happened."
"Kids get attached to people. And they don't always understand when things don't work out."
"All this time I've blaming myself totally for what happened. For screwing up. Ruining my chance to have a... relationship. And all this time Hank has been blaming David. Holding everything against HIM. And now he's taking it out on this new guy. He told David he hates him -- and that he hates David, too."
"Well, Michael, that's a hard age -- you know that. You're all confused about everything. And then his mother and her husband break up. And then you and David... I mean, no wonder the kid is angry."
"Yeah, but I guess I never really thought about how much we were both at fault -- I was so busy blaming myself. And he was blaming himself! And... things really can get fucked up, can't they?"
"Tell me about it!"
I'm aware that Sunshine is standing behind me, filling shakers and fiddling around with stuff on the counter. And listening to all this. I can't imagine what he's thinking about. Or maybe I can.
"It made me want to do something special for Ben...." Michael shifts, uncomfortably. "I mean, I don't do these things very well -- I don't know how, really...."
"Well, Valentine's Day is coming up and I thought it would be... I know it's mushy and stupid, but... Thinking about how I was afraid to really show my feelings to David for so long... That I could do something, dinner, or something like that for Ben."
"There's nothing stupid or mushy about showing someone you care about him." I want to say, even if it is Ben, who I'm not crazy about. Who scares the fucking hell out of me. But I can't let myself say anything -- and, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, do I want to say what I think! But I keep my trap shut right now.
"I mean, Valentine's Day -- it's so... hetero, you know?" I set Michael's scrambled eggs down in front of him and he takes a bite. "Tastes good, Ma. I can imagine what Brian would say about...." He stops short. Justin's back is to us, rigid. He hasn't moved or said anything, but the name is now hanging in the air, vibrating like a plucked string.
Thank God that Emmett and Ted choose this moment to come bursting through the door.
"Hey, Emmett. Ted."
"Mornin' fellas! Long time, no see!"
"Mornin' to you, too, Deb!" Emmett unwraps his long scarf from around his neck and plops down on the stool next to Michael. "I'm so hungry I could eat Ted!"
"Don't do me any favors, please."
"Ted is treating this morning! He's putting it all on his new 'expense account'!"
"Oh, now breakfast is a business expense?"
"Why not? Emmett is a valued employee. You and Michael are potential advertisers... And it's all deductible."
"Isn't that how they eventually got Al Capone?"
"Believe me, I know what I'm doing."
"I hope so."
"Guess what's on the menu today, Emmett?" I've been saving this one.
"Ooo -- I can't guess!"
"Oh, honey! Bring them ON!" He claps his hands happily.
"Ted? Some for you, too?"
"I don't think so. Actually, I'd rather eat a bowl of wallpaper paste."
"Damn Yankee! You don't know WHAT you are missing!"
"They are kind of good." Sunshine brings the coffeepot over and fills their cups.
"See? Even Justin appreciates fine Southern cuisine."
"Emmett, I need your advice, and since you are the 'expert' on holidays and stuff like that...."
"What holidays and stuff like that are we referring to?"
"Ah! Planning a little romantic interlude with the Professor of Love?"
"Thinking about it."
"Well, I think it's a good idea. You can never go wrong with the tried and true traditional displays of your affection and esteem."
"Please! The whole holiday is nothing but an invention of the greeting card industry."
"Cynicism doesn't become you, Ted. If you had someone to send a Valentine's Day card to, you'd be the first in line to buy a whole box."
"Michael, it's too bad you can't rent one of those heart-shaped tubs -- like they have in the Poconos."
"You mean, like at a honeymoon resort?"
"Why not? Sitting in the tub, sipping champagne, letting the whirlpool do a number on your lower areas -- what could be more romantic?"
"Yeah -- more so than getting blown in the backroom at Babylon by someone you can't even get a clear look at, you know what I mean?"
"Ma, do you have to be so graphic?"
Ted snaps his menu closed. "I'll have the soft-boiled egg and white toast."
"Yeah," Ted looks around and catches sight of Justin, screwing the tops back on the salt shakers. "The backroom hasn't been the same since it lost its favorite charter member."
Michael glares at him. "Ted..."
But he won't be stopped. Ted has been in his element ever since Brian became the most vilified, gossiped about, and slandered character in Gay PA. He has happily passed on every crude story, rumor, and pornographic anecdote that he could find -- and probably made up a few of his own. He doesn't seem to care that these stories hurt Michael, his supposed good friend, but that they also hurt poor Sunshine, who hasn't done anything to deserve his hostility.
It was at its worst in the weeks right after he left. Not that many people actually saw that movie they showed at the university -- mainly some students and film freaks -- but the word about it made its way around the scene in record time and the story grew and got stickier as if grew. I always knew there was a nasty and jealous streak in some people on Liberty Avenue, but something like this really brings it out in spades. I still haven't seen the damn movie myself -- Michael says it would upset me -- but I do know what is NOT in it. But before even a week had gone by the description of the thing had grown beyond all reality into a full-blown pornographic extravaganza, with Brian taking on any and all comers, in every orifice, in every position, the more humiliating the better. And the worse thing was that most people believed it. And I'm sure that Ted had his hand in spreading some of the more disgusting details.
People being the shits they are, many couldn't resist repeating these details to Sunshine whenever they got the opportunity. It got so bad right before Christmas -- Ho Ho Ho and Good Cheer, everyone! -- that I had to send Justin home from the diner because he couldn't face the room. And I didn't blame him! I chewed a bunch a people new assholes in those days, let me tell you! But it didn't stop the talk. And I know that it is still going on -- only not in front of me.
But Ted -- who can shut THAT guy up?
"Come on, Michael, why mince words? Why should you defend our ex-good buddy, the Whore of Babylon?"
"Ted!" Michael's face is bright red now.
"He doesn't care, I'm sure. He isn't giving a thought to what any of us are doing or saying -- if he ever cared a lick when he was here, which I doubt. Your good friend? That's a laugh, Michael! You think he's wondering what you're up to? How you're doing? Or how his little protégé is fairing in the cold, cruel world?"
He gestures to Sunshine, who is standing, holding the tray filled with salt and pepper shakers and sugar dispensers, his mouth hanging open. But Ted is on a roll.
"Well, I don't think so! He's out in California, plying his trade. The only difference between now and when he was sixteen is the price."
For a second I don't know what the sound is -- it's like a bomb going off in the place. But it's the tray Justin was carrying, which he's thrown against the back wall of the diner with the force of a hurricane. The sugar, the salt and pepper, the glass containers, the pictures hanging on the wall -- everything comes crashing and smashing down over the booths underneath. Thank God it's the slow time and no one is sitting there!
"FUCK YOU! Fuck you all the way to hell and back!" Justin knocks Ted off his stool and begins kicking him. I think of Sunshine as a little kid in so many ways, but it takes Michael and Emmett and Phil, who is on short-order this morning, just to pull him off Ted, who is about as stunned as I've ever seen a human being.
"You think YOU can point the finger at ANYONE? Jerk-at-Work? No one would jerk you -- unless they were paid -- or stoned out of their minds like that Blake! What gives YOU the right to say anything about ANYONE!"
Michael and Emmett pull Justin into the back and try to calm him down, while Phil and I help Ted onto the stool.
"Ted, you just never know when to quit, do you?" He still can't say a word.
A moment later Justin -- Sunshine no longer! -- comes storming out of the back, his coat half on, his backpack slung over his shoulder. His face is like stone. He looks like a man -- an angry, angry man.
"Bye Deb, I'm going now." He takes a few steps, as Michael and Emmett come out behind him. "Oh...." He turns at the door. "I quit, by the way. I'm never coming back here." He looks down at Ted. "Hope you enjoy your breakfast." And the front door slams.
Michael blinks at me. "I'm going with him." And he goes, without looking back at Ted.
Emmett picks his way through the wreckage and sits back down on his stool. He eats his grits silently, as Ted puts his head in his hands and shakes.
Phil and I assess the damage. He gets out a big garbage bag and a broom and dustpan and begins to clean up the mess.
I get out my pad and do a quick estimate, writing a figure on a guest check. I rip it off and set it down in front of Ted.
"That should cover breakfast. Oh, and a few extras." I've added the cost of the rubbish, plus clean-up, plus a little something for Justin's pain and suffering -- who said watching 'The People's Court' doesn't come in handy?
"Gee, Ted," says Emmett, looking at the amount. "It's a good thing you are on an expense account, isn't it?"
Continue on to "Open Lines I" , the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, May 2002
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated May 7, 2002