This is Part 2 of Chapter 112 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "My Favorite Mistake -- Part 1", the previous section.
Summary: Brian and Justin spend an evening in their hotel room. New York City, November 2002.
"Let's walk, Brian," I say, as we leave the Ed Sullivan Theater.
"You don't want to ride in the car?" says Brian. The limo is sitting around the corner, waiting for Jimmy and Peggy to go to dinner.
"I'd rather just walk, especially if we aren't going to dinner with them. If that's okay with you?"
"Sure. It's fine. Let's go."
It's a little chilly now that it's November, but I have on a sweater-coat and Brian has that suede Cowboy jacket he's been wearing recently. We wander down Broadway, towards Times Square, looking at the lights from the signs and buildings as it grows darker. All these theaters and restaurants with their marquees and windows look so bright. I know Times Square is supposed to be a sleazy area, but it looks beautiful to me. It's a Friday evening, so people are hurrying along, on their way home or to a restaurant or to a show.
"Maybe you could do a play here sometime, Brian," I say, as we pass another theater.
"You mean on stage? On Broadway?" laughs Brian. "I don't think so. You have to be a 'real' actor to do that every night."
"You ARE a 'real' actor, Brian," I answer. "It makes me mad when you denigrate yourself by saying that you aren't."
"Put me on a stage and you'll SEE what a real actor is supposed to do compared to what I can do, Justin. I would need about a hundred years of intense training before I could manage THAT!"
We circle around Times Square, then head up Seventh Avenue. "Is this where the gallery is? Where you've been filming?" I ask.
"No, the gallery is further downtown, more in the Chelsea area. You know, they want me back on Monday for another scene, so I guess what they've shot so far is okay."
"I'm dying to see it, Brian. What's Woody Allen like?"
"You and your Woody Allen fixation!"
"Come on, Brian! You love his movies, too! What's he like?"
Brian shrugs. "I don't really know," he considers. "He's not very chatty on the set. And straight. VERY, very straight." Brian raises his eyebrows.
"That's a relief!" I laugh. "Finally -- a straight director."
"Lucky for YOU!" Brian laughs. "And he's very focused. He's like Ron in that respect -- he knows exactly what he wants and what he wants you to do. He's very specific in his direction. Now Dorian is completely different. He's more spontaneous and experimental. He'll try things a couple of different ways to see what happens. Maybe it's because both Ron and Woody write their own screenplays and they have every detail of how they want the scenes to look solid in their heads. But Dorian uses the script sort of like an outline to play around with. Funny how it's so different for different directors."
"So, which do you prefer, Brian?"
"I don't know, Justin. I felt more secure with Ron directing me when I didn't know what the fuck I was doing on 'The Olympian.' But Dorian definitely let me give more input to the role. I felt more able to do things my own way. And that was nice because I already had the experience of one film under my belt. With Ron you do it HIS way or you don't do it at all. And I never questioned that. It might be a very different story now...." Brian is quiet as we walk.
"Brian, it'll be trouble if you go off to the Wild West on location with Ron," I say, finally. "In the middle of nowhere? I think it would be a big mistake."
"It might be a mistake," he admits. "But I have to take the best part I can get -- and 'Red River' is it. I mean -- with Clint Eastwood, Justin! He's a legend."
"I don't care, Brian. It may be a good part, but I think you're asking for trouble working with Ron. Unless Cynthia and I BOTH go with you to take care of you."
"Ah, I need TWO babysitters now?"
"No, just your support system. Everyone needs that, but especially you. And especially out on in the desert! You need Cynthia to do all your paperwork and schedules and stuff. And you need me because... you just NEED me!"
"Justin, I know that I need you with me -- and I want you with me. But no matter what, 'Red River' isn't something I can afford to turn down. But it doesn't begin shooting until May. That's a long way off." Brian unwraps a stick of gum and shoves it in his mouth. I take one, too. He's full of nervous energy. "And Cynthia has her own career at Ryder to think of. She has clients. It was great that she could do this for me, but it can't be permanent. I don't want her to be a fucking go-fer her whole life."
"Brian, I could...."
"And I don't want YOU to be one either, Justin! Not even for me. So don't even think about it. You have to finish up the year at PIFA and then there are your exams and all that crap. THAT is what's the most important."
We keep walking up Seventh Avenue and it's getting a lot darker and colder, like it's really night. I pull up the collar of my sweater-coat and Brian slips his arm around me to keep me warm. The street is clearing out, as people head out of town or into restaurants. "Hey, I think I see dinner up ahead," Brian says.
"I thought we were going to get room service?"
"This is better. The Carnegie Deli. See," Brian points to a large building on the corner of the street. "That's Carnegie Hall. Hence, the name."
I grin at him. "Like in 'Broadway Danny Rose'!" Brian knows how much I love Woody Allen films, which was why I was so excited when Brian told me he was doing a small part in one. I love 'Annie Hall' and 'Manhattan' especially. All the ones about New York. Brian thinks I have a romanticized view of the city from watching too many movies. Of course, I don't have his very un-romantic memories of New York -- or, more specifically, the Bowery. In fact, except for stops at the airport, running away two years ago has been my only real New York experience -- and I have nothing but pleasant memories of THAT! Pleasant -- and hot memories!
"I knew you'd be just fine when you got to the city," Brian told me when we'd finished fucking in that hotel room after he tracked me down there. "I ran away when I was sixteen without even bringing change for a bus. You, on the other hand, deftly pocketed my VISA card, flew on Liberty Air, and checked yourself into a suite at a first class hotel. THAT is the difference between the clueless little Mick boy and the pampered Country Club brat!" And Brian meant that as a supreme compliment.
The Carnegie Deli is bright, noisy, and packed. Brian scopes out the crowd in the dining area and the line at the counter and makes a decision. "Let's do take out and we'll eat in the room."
While we wait for our order I feel like I'm really in the New York City I've seen in films. The way the waiters yell. And the smell of the pungent food. The jostling of the people waiting for tables. It's exciting, but a little intimidating, too.
While Brian pays for the food, I notice two women looking at him and pointing. They recognize him, probably from one of the television appearances he made this week. Then they approach him and ask for his autograph. Brian is very gracious, smiling and flirting with the two ladies. While Brian is signing, another couple waiting in line also asks for autographs. I hold the bag with the food and watch all the people now looking at Brian. These autographs seem kind of weird to me because I'm not sure why people want them. They haven't seen either of Brian's movies, so they can't be 'fans' of his work. But Brian's been on talk shows, so he's 'famous' in some way. Maybe people need to prove that they've met him. That they crossed paths with a celebrity here at the Carnegie Deli. And then I think of how excited I was when David Bowie autographed that CD he gave me. So I guess I'm just the same as the people producing pieces of paper and pens and smiling at Brian while he signs his name.
Brian finishes signing a few more autographs and then hurries me outside in case any more people decide that he's 'somebody' and want to corner him again. We walk about a block and stop at a little store and buy some cans of Coke, a bag of chips, and gum. Brian always has to have his gum, especially now that he's doing without his cigarettes. "Grab some straws, Justin. And napkins," Brian instructs. Like we're going to eat in the park or the car and not going back to a suite in a fancy hotel.
"Remember that night we didn't have any money for a motel room, Brian?" I say, as we walk back to the hotel. "Or even a hamburger?"
"You mean after we 'escaped' from Ron's house?" he snorts. "How could I forget! I ran out of there without my wallet. What an idiot I am! And then sleeping in the car. My back is STILL sore!"
"I know it was uncomfortable, Brian," I say. "But it's funny how I don't remember it being so bad. It was just the two of us. Together."
Brian smiles and leans down to kiss me, right there on Seventh Avenue. One guy turns around to look, but no one else really pays much attention. "I'd rather it had been the two of us, together, in a luxury hotel room with 24-hour room service and two hundred-count linen sheets!"
"Me, too. But the other didn't bother me. I love you, Brian, and I'd live on the street if I could be with you. And I mean that," I say. And I DO mean it.
"Brat!" Brian gives me that goofy smile. "I'll remember that when we're homeless and you have to support my worthless ass by drawing caricatures of tourists on street corners."
"If we could be in London, I could do it at the Portobello Road Market!" I reply. "That wouldn't be so bad." And it wouldn't. It might be kind of romantic.
"Justin," Brian says, suddenly. He shifts the bag of food around to his other arm and takes hold of my hand. "I have to tell you something. Because you're my partner and our relationship is supposed to be based on... on trust and all that. So, I'm trying to tell you everything and not start lying or covering up shit. But it's something that happened the other night, after I talked to you on the phone. And I don't want Cynthia -- or Jimmy snarking about it and making you think that... well...."
"Yes?" I say. Brian's hand is gripping mine tightly and that scares me. "I'm listening."
Brian takes a deep breath. "I... I had to go down to Ron's suite and give him back a script and I started talking to him and then he just kept gabbing away about the film and I was so tired that, anyway, I fell asleep on the sofa and when I went back up to my suite a few hours later Cynthia saw me come in and jumped to conclusions about what happened and I wanted to tell you before she said something or Jimmy said something, and so that you'd know that NOTHING happened -- it just LOOKED like something happened, but it didn't? Okay? Justin?"
I have to steady myself. "Geez, Brian. That's about the longest sentence I've ever heard you say."
"And?" he says, stopping us there on the sidewalk. "That's it?"
"You mean, when am I going to throw a fit and start screaming and hitting you and yelling about how I can't trust you and that you're a worthless piece of shit who will fuck anyone at any time?"
"I'm not going to, Brian," I say, swallowing. "Because I believe you."
"You do?" He stares at me. "Really?"
I peer up at him. "Yes, because I'm looking right in your face, Brian, and I know that you're telling the truth. If you really HAD fucked Ron then you wouldn't be telling me anything about it in a million years! You'd slink around, looking guilty, until I wormed it out of you. Or you'd just tell me to suck it up and accept that you're a queer and queers fuck whoever, wherever, and whenever they want to, blah blah blah! Am I right?"
"But that story about falling asleep in his suite is just SO in character with your screwed up relationship with Ron that I believe it. Every word. I can only imagine what Cynthia thought when you came sneaking back."
"She... was pretty disappointed in me. That felt shitty." We walk along again, turning down West 58th Street. He slips his arm around my waist very tentatively, like he's afraid I'm going to pull away or slap him or something.
"Brian, I do have one thing to say to you, though."
I feel Brian tense, bracing himself. "Which is?"
"How COULD you be so stupid?" I shout directly into his ear. "So fucking STUPID!"
"I know, Justin. I...."
"No, Brian. PLEASE listen for a change. Don't talk, just listen! Because I'm angry at you, Brian. Really fucking angry!"
A straight couple coming down the sidewalk in front of us hear me reaming Brian out -- and they cross the street to avoid passing by us -- the quarreling queers!
"Will you shut the fuck up!" I yell, getting really annoyed. "This ISN'T about fucking Ron or fucking anyone, Brian! I know you think it is, but it isn't." I lean up to his face, looking into those beautiful eyes. "This is about us REALLY being partners! About taking my feelings into account before you rush off and do shit that you KNOW is wrong! And this is about YOU believing ME when I say that I don't trust Ron! That he's going to HURT you, Brian! THAT is what it's about!"
Brian hangs his head, but he doesn't answer me. He shifts the bag of food again and I know it's hurting his arm, but he'll never let me carry it. Never.
"And it's about you humoring me and saying that you won't be alone with Ron," I say, much more softly. "And then going right out and staying all night in his room. It WAS all night, wasn't it, Brian? That's why Cynthia freaked out?"
He nods. "Most of the night. I was... really tired."
"And you fell asleep there and he could have done anything to you, Brian! ANYTHING!" I have to hold myself back, because I'm close to tears.
"He wouldn't, Justin. I know Ron better than you do -- and I know he wouldn't."
"You DON'T know, Brian! It hurts me that you just ignore my warnings, like I'm some kind of hysterical little wife or something. Because if you won't trust ME enough to stay away from him, then... I don't know what else to say."
We keep walking, crossing Sixth Avenue, and approaching the hotel. "I'm sorry," Brian says. "It's just difficult for me to stay away from... I mean, it's easy for me to fuck up, Justin. You know that. That's ME. I fuck up. And Ron... I feel sorry for him. He's really hurting. I know you hate him, but it's hard for me to just because I used to feel... I used to... Fuck! I don't know."
"No, I do understand, Brian," I reply. "And I don't hate Ron. Well, not like I did. Because I know how he must feel. Because I know how I would feel if I had to see you constantly, knowing that my feelings for you were hopeless. That I could never have you. Knowing that I'd ruined everything between us. It would make me crazy! But that's exactly WHY you can't trust Ron, Brian! Because he's NOT behaving rationally. Maybe some day it will be different, but not now."
"I told Ron that we could still be friends. Do you believe THAT cliché?"
"I can just imagine," I say. Ron satisfied with being Brian's 'friend'! Sure! "Brian, I know you think I'm an alarmist, but I'm only trying to protect you. Because if anything happened to you... if you were hurt... I don't know what I'd do. I couldn't stand it. Can't you see that?"
"Yes," he says. "I can see that, Justin. Because I lived it. I failed at protecting you. I fucking failed!"
"You didn't fail, Brian," I say, gently. "You saved my life."
But he only shakes his head.
In the lobby of the hotel Brian picks up the papers he didn't have time to read this morning -- the 'New York Times,' of course, but also the tabloids like the 'New York Daily News' and the 'New York Post' -- mainly to check out the gossip columns. And sure enough, there's a brief mention of Brian, Jimmy, Cynthia, and Ron having dinner at that Chinese restaurant.
"'The very dishy Mr. Kinney, who those who have previewed 'The Olympian' are saying is a shoe-in for an Oscar nom...' -- listen to THAT, Brian!" I exclaim, as I read aloud from 'The Post' in the elevator. "'... was accompanied by his current squeeze, a young, attractive blonde who declined to give her name.' Poor Cynthia! Nothing like being the pretend girlfriend!"
"She's not my pretend girlfriend, Justin! And I never told that dumb woman Cynthia was my girlfriend! She just assumed." Brian tosses his head. "At least she got the 'young blonde' part right!"
"But not 'attractive,' Brian?" I ask.
"Nope," he says, swiping the key card to open the door. "Beautiful."
The two of us can only make a small dent in the huge corned beef sandwiches, but I finish up the bag of chips and some of the cheesecake, while Brian leafs through the newspapers. "Hey," he says, pausing at the TV listings. "I know what we're doing while we wait for 'Letterman' to come on tonight."
"I thought the evening's entertainment was a forgone conclusion, Brian!" I laugh.
"You're getting to be a real sex fiend, you know that?"
"Takes one to know one, Brian!" I answer, kissing him. "So what is the big event?" I lean over and peer at the paper, draping myself across his lap.
"We're going to watch 'Dirty Dancing'! It's on at 8:00." Brian gets up, practically dumping me on the floor, and turns on the television! Then Brian plops himself down on the sofa and stretches out on his back. He's already discarded his shoes and unbuttoned his jeans, the way he usually does when he gets comfortable. He clicks around until he finds the right channel and looks to be settled for the evening.
"Brian! That old movie!" I whine. "Do we have to?"
"Be quiet, brat. It's good."
Well, if you can't beat them.... I pull off my jeans and sweater and stretch out right on top of Brian, trying hard to distract him. However, once the movie begins Brian is lost. Yes, he sticks his hand down the back of my briefs, but it's more a relaxing gesture than anything else. So, I settle down and watch the movie, too.
And I'm surprised how interested I get in it. And not only because, yes, Patrick Swayze is way hot! But it's the story, too. And the really surprising thing I realize is just how completely and utterly romantic this movie is. As much as, if not more than, those romantic comedies Brian is always mocking -- the gay ones Ron used to make or the straight ones Jimmy is so famous for.
I think the scenes with Johnny teaching Baby how to dance are especially romantic. There's something so sensuous and intimate in seeing two people dancing together and seeing how that dance reflects their feelings about each other. And the difference in their sizes reminds me of me and Brian together. Dancing together at Babylon. And then moving to the bed together -- that reminds me of me and Brian, too. Yes, dancing. Yes... but there's something else, too. A flash of something. A picture. The two of us dancing, but not at Babylon this time.
And then the final scene of the film comes, where they dance the last dance of the summer at the resort. The big ending. The climax. The pair dancing together like they've been doing it forever. Their feelings displayed in their movements, in their bodies. "I've had the time of my life," sings the soundtrack. And they are spinning around, joined together, magically, at this one moment. "And I've never felt like this before." And then they kiss. In front of everyone. Even though what they are doing is forbidden. Even though everyone tells them they shouldn't be together.
"Yes, I swear it's true. And I owe it all to you." But those aren't the words I'm hearing in my head. And Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey aren't the ones I'm seeing in my head. Instead, I hear a different song. Another old song. A corny old song. Only it doesn't sound so corny to me now. And, suddenly, it's not Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey who are twirling together on the dance floor. And it isn't them sharing this incredibly hot and joyous kiss. And I see it all. All at once. Everything.
"Quiet -- it's almost over."
And so I wait until the screen goes to the credits. Then I take the channel changer and click the television off. "Brian," I say, calmly. "Why were you so scared? You looked like a deer caught in the headlights."
Brian looks up at me, frowning. "I wasn't scared. I thought I did the bit on 'Letterman' just fine. Why would you think I looked scared?"
"Not 'Letterman,'" I whisper, laying my head on his chest. "At the Prom. Why did you look so scared?"
"What the fuck are you talking about?" He takes my chin in his hand and pulls my head around to make me look directly into his eyes. And the emotions that I see flying across his eyes. "Justin?"
"I remember it, Brian," I tell him. "The whole thing. Emmett taking me to get my tux. Picking up the corsage for Daphne. The hotel ballroom. Me and Daphne posing for our portrait. And turning and seeing you walk into the room."
He stares at me. "You can't! You've never remembered that... not after I tried to... make you... when I tried," Brian stutters. "How?"
"I don't know, Brian," I answer. And I don't know how. But I do. "I just remembered. While I was watching the movie with you just now. And they were dancing. And then... it was US. Dancing."
"Jesus," he breathes.
"You had on that white scarf. And you put it around my neck. We danced. We were... happy. And you really DID kiss me -- in front of all those people."
"Didn't you believe that?"
"Yes," I say. "But it seemed so... impossible. Because you were always so closed off. Afraid to show what you felt. But not that night. Not then."
"Yeah," he answers. I can feel his hand trembling. "And then you know what happened."
"But it wasn't because of YOU, Brian," I assert. "Because I can remember it now. Daphne WAS right! We WERE amazing! People's mouths WERE dropping. But most of them were smiling at us. NO one stopped us! No one said anything! They could SEE that we were... in love. It wasn't them. And it wasn't US -- it wasn't YOU, Brian! It was ONE fucked up person -- Chris Hobbs. He was the only one at fault. The only one to blame. And no one else."
Brian doesn't say anything. He's simply stares at me, his mouth moving around, like he's trying to control himself.
But then the rush of all those memories overwhelms me and I have to grip Brian's hands with my fingers. Not that these memories are bad -- no, just the opposite. It's the relief of it. Like the final piece of a huge puzzle has fallen into place and suddenly the entire picture makes sense for the first time. Perfect sense. Something heavy and dark is lifting from my heart. I lay my head down on Brian's chest again and close my eyes. I hear his heart pounding like thunder. He puts his arms around me tightly, holding me into place on top of him.
"I WAS scared," he says. "I was fucking terrified. Terrified at what I was going to do, to say. What I was going to admit to you -- and to everyone. But mostly what I was going to admit to myself. Which was what I felt. That I was in love with you."
"Really?" I whisper. "Way back then?"
"Way back then. And before that, too. But I couldn't deal with it. That's one of the reasons I wanted to get that job here in New York. So I could run away and not have to deal with breaking all of my bullshit rules and going against all my bullshit pronouncements about what I do and don't do. Because I knew that is exactly what would happen if I stayed. But I didn't get the job. And then... you got hit. And I knew it was all my fault. That it happened to you because I wasn't allowed to feel those things. I wasn't allowed to love. To be happy. Ever."
"You know that's such crap, Brian."
"Is it? What would you think, if everyone seemed to agree that it WAS your fault? Your mom. Deb. The Court. The boys. Even Michael and Lindsay. To have them all look at you and see in their eyes that they believe you never can change. That you shouldn't change! And that you ARE to blame. Like that Howard Bellwether said -- that I had injured YOU just as badly as Hobbs and his fucking bat!"
"It's not true."
"And I did the best I could to 'eliminate' myself -- or at least all my feelings -- with weeks and weeks of 'pain management.' But then one day you walked into Woody's -- and there they were again! All those fucking emotions! They weren't dead, after all! And neither were you! Shit! And when your mother told me never to see you again...."
"She had no right, Brian."
"But she DID have the right, Justin. She's your mother and she was protecting you. Just like I'd try to protect Gus if I thought someone was hurting him. She was identifying the danger and eliminating it -- like a fucking parasite."
"She had no right," I say again, softly.
"And then when she asked me to let you come and live with me again... it fucking ripped me apart. I wanted you to be there -- but I was terrified every moment. I still thought it was wrong. That I was wrong! Bad for you. Dangerous. That I'd destroy you -- eventually. If I didn't destroy myself first."
"But you saved me, Brian. Saved my life and my belief in myself. You saved my sanity."
"Possibly," he whispers. "But I couldn't believe that. Maybe I didn't want to believe it. And when you couldn't remember anything -- not what I had done, what I'd said to you and showed you, what we had felt together -- it felt like I was alone in a desolate universe. And that I'd always be alone there. Then when you remembered the bashing, but not the dance -- you remembered the tragedy -- but NOT the 'ridiculously romantic' moment. That's when I knew my last chance had gone by. It would never happen now. I'd lost that chance -- for the second time. First, in New York, with Ron. And then in that fucking parking garage, with you."
"I'm sorry I couldn't remember, Brian," I say. I feel a tear coursing down my cheek, but it's too late to wipe it away before it drops on his hot skin.
"Don't be sorry. It wasn't you. It was all me. Fucked up me."
"And so you pushed me away."
"It seemed so useless. We were together, but it... it was so fucking painful to watch you struggle. And painful to feel myself become more and more numb denying my feelings, as you got more and more needy expressing yours. You wanted more and more from me -- and I couldn't give it to you. I... couldn't give you what you wanted because I was totally closed off. And I couldn't be... monogamous. I couldn't stop drinking and drugging. And I was dragging YOU into that life, too. And that fucking horrified me! To think that you would just become a little heartless carbon copy of ME. And... then came Ron."
"And he was a way to escape," I say. It seems so clear, all of a sudden.
"Yes. A quick fix. I could go with him and start fresh. Leave behind everything. Everyone. And Ron kept saying that it was Fate. That we were meant to find each other at that moment. And I... I believed it. It was like the fucking answer to my prayers! I could go with him to where no one knew me. Where no one had any expectations of me. I could forget all the old pain and my old life and become another person. I could recreate myself. It was the perfect solution. Except...."
"You couldn't stop calling me." And I smile to myself, thinking of sitting in the loft late at night, waiting for that phone to ring.
"I couldn't. Because a huge part of me was still in the loft. And that part was you. I knew that I... love you. And I couldn't make myself forget that. Not even with more tricking and drinking and drugging -- which I started doing again almost immediately. Poor old Ron," Brian says, sadly. "I fucked him over royally. I never even really gave it a chance. I... couldn't really be with him because I couldn't forget you. Not even Dr. Hall's drugs at the Spencer Pavilion could make me forget."
"I'm glad you didn't forget, Brian. And I'm glad I remembered," I tell him. I reach down and slide his jeans down past his slender hips, pushing them off and over onto the carpet.
"Even if it took a while?" he says.
"We have a lot of time now. All the time in the world, actually."
"Well, I'm not going anywhere -- at least not tonight. Except maybe the bedroom."
"Sounds good to me, Brian." And it is good, I think, as he pulls me to my feet and leads me into the other room, discarding his tee shirt as we go. With Brian's clothes all over the floor and mine in a pile by the couch, Cynthia will think there was some kind of orgy in here while she was out on her date!
"What are you laughing at, Fiend?" Brian breathes as he pushes me down on the big bed.
"Don't forget to lock the door. And bolt it this time!"
"Good thinking," he says. He locks and chains the door and then comes back to the bed and drops down over me. "And now it's time for a little 'Dirty Dancing' of our own. So start humming, because I want to hear the background music. I'm a movie star and I can't fuck without a soundtrack. I NEED to hear you. All the time. Play it loud -- until they call the cops."
And Brian and I make a lot of music. Because this is what we both need. What I hope we'll always need. Even if it is ridiculously romantic.
Continue on to "My Favorite Mistake -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, March 2003.
Updated March 30, 2003.