This is Chapter 42 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Leslie Mann, Lindsay Peterson, Sylvia Schacter, Michael Novotny, Melanie Marcus, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian hears the word from Lindsay. Springhurst/Pittsburgh, March 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.
"Here she comes.
You better watch your step,
She's gonna break your heart in two,
Yes, it's true.
It's not hard to realize,
Just look into her false-colored eyes,
She'll bring you up just to put you down,
What a clown!
'Cause everybody knows
She's a femme fatale.
The things she does to please,
She's just a little tease,
Just see the way she walks,
And hear the way she talks...."
"Justin? Where the fuck are you?"
I'm gripping the fucking cellphone in my hand. This is the fifth message I've left since Justin's opening last Saturday. I've actually called a lot more times than that, but I hung up when it went to voicemail.
"Listen -- are you listening to me, Justin? All I want to know is one thing." I pause, trying to think of some way to make this not sound like I'm fucking begging. But I can't think of a way. Because I AM begging. "Are you coming up here this weekend? That's all I want to know. Nothing else. No questions asked. No fucking Spanish Inquisition. I promise. So, please tell me. Get back to me. It's already Thursday."
I flip the cell closed and wait. Maybe he's screening his messages. Maybe he'll call me right back.
Yeah, and maybe fucking Hell will fucking freeze over.
I shove the phone into the pocket of my jacket and keep walking.
The grounds of Springhurst are beautiful. You can smell the change of seasons in the air. Winter seems really gone. And something else is taking its place. Something that ordinarily would be beautiful.
But not to me. I feel like a blind man stumbling around in the dark. Justin didn't come last weekend and it looks like I can't get him to come up this weekend, either. And now I can't even get him to talk to me. I keep telling Gorowitz that he's busy with school. With projects. With his life. But no one's so fucking busy that they can't return a single phone call.
I know what Justin is doing. He's teaching me a lesson. He's making me feel what he must have felt when I went to L.A. and left him behind. He's turning the screws on me. But why?
Because he can. He knows he can.
I'm fucked and Justin knows it.
This is what happens when you let someone inside. When they know all of your vulnerable spots. Where every scar is. And every open wound. Justin knows each one by heart. He used to kiss them. But now he's sticking the knife in and turning it.
I only wish I knew the fuck why!
I press another number. Leslie out in Los Angeles.
"Hey, chief!" she says cheerily. "When are you coming out for the Oscars?"
I open my Filofax. "Probably March 21. That's a week from Friday. Have you made arrangements for the car to take me to the theater?"
"Of course," says Leslie. The perfect personal assistant. She always has all the bases covered. "You and Justin will be sitting with Jimmy and Tess and Lew Blackmore and his wife. And Howie Sheldon and his boyfriend -- or should I say his very 'personal assistant'? Sorry about that seating, Brian, but they have everyone who is up for a major award near the front so they can get to the stage quickly, and Howie is one of the producers of 'The Olympian.'"
"It's all right," I say. "I don't mind sitting with Howie. I can ignore him. But I'm not up for any awards myself. I don't have to be up front."
"I know," says Leslie. "But Lew was thinking that if Ron won for either Best Adapted Screenplay or Best Director then maybe you could accept his award."
"No." I think of all the shit that went down when Ron died. And all the repercussions if I walked up and accepted an award for Ron. The shit would really hit the fan. "Tell Lew I can't. I... I just can't. Let Jimmy do it. I mean, if Ron wins something."
"You should do it, Brian," Leslie urges. "You're the only one who deserves to accept the award."
"Forget it, Leslie. Let it go. And... one other thing. I don't know if Justin will be coming with me to the ceremony."
"Oh, that's too bad!" she says with real disappointment. "He's not sick is he?"
"No, he's... I just don't know if he'll be able to make it to L.A."
I know that Leslie is curious, but she doesn't question me. Yes, she IS the perfect personal assistant. She knows when not to say anything. "At least the contractors will have finished the bedrooms before you get here, Brian," Leslie continues. "The living room and the poolhouse are still torn up, but the upstairs is done."
"What about the furniture?" I picked out most of the new decor through catalogs and on the internet. I knew exactly what I wanted and was able to coordinate with the decorator via e-mail.
"Your room is all set, Brian. And one of the guest rooms. The other is still missing the bed."
It figures. No bed in the bedroom. "Tell that decorator to get on it! I'd like all the bedrooms to be ready so I can approve them while I'm in Los Angeles."
"I'll see what I can do, Brian," says Leslie. "Will you be staying out here after the awards? Are you all finished at Springhurst?"
"That's a good question." Unfortunately, I don't know the answer. Not yet. "We'll see, Leslie."
"Remember that pre-production starts on 'Red River' in April," she reminds me. "I talked to Dorian and I think he's worried about whether you'll be there to begin shooting in May."
"I'll be there. I'll call Dorian and reassure him," I promise Leslie before I hang up. Yes, I'll be there. No matter what, I'll be ready to do the picture. I have to be ready if I want to continue working in this business. Besides, 'Red River' was Ron's last project and I don't want to ruin it. I also don't want to look like a fuck-up in front of Eastwood, who is the consummate professional.
I'm walking back to the main building when I hear my cellphone vibrating gently in my pocket. My heart jumps. Maybe Justin is finally calling me back. But it's not Justin.
"Hey, Lindz. How are you doing?"
"Bri! It's good to hear your voice." Lindsay sounds pretty chipper for a woman who's about a hundred months pregnant. "I'm doing okay."
"Only okay?" That's not like Lindz. With her everything is always great, wonderful, super! Never just okay.
"Well, Brian, that's why I'm calling you," she says, suddenly sounding more uncertain.
"What's wrong!" I almost yell. "Are you all right? Is there something the matter?"
"No, not exactly," Lindsay replies. "It's the baby." I hold my fucking breath. "She's... she's flipped!"
"She's what?" I'm stumped. "What the fuck do you mean? Flipped?"
"I went to my doctor today and she looked at my belly and said, 'This isn't right.' The last time I was there the baby was in perfect position -- head down and ready to come out. But... but she's flipped! That means she's all turned around and now her head is up and her feet are pointing downward!"
"And that's bad?" What the fuck do I know about babies?
"That means she's not in the right position to come out! Either she has to turn herself around. Or they have to try to turn her. Or...."
"They'll have to do a C-section, Bri. A breech birth is more dangerous. That's what the doctor says." And that's when Lindsay starts to cry.
"It's all right, Lindz," I say, trying to soothe her. "You trust this woman, don't you? She delivered Gus and she wouldn't steer you wrong. Lots of women have C-sections, don't they?" But I cringe at the thought of someone cutting Lindsay open.
"Yes," she agrees through her tears. "A lot of women do."
"Then it'll be fine. Have you told Mel?"
"Yes," she sniffs. "I called her first, then I called you."
"When will you know for certain?"
"The doctor wants to see what happens over the weekend. The baby might move back into position by herself. I'm going back in on Monday morning to see. If the baby hasn't changed position she'll try and turn her manually. If that doesn't work then the doctor wants to do the C-section on Tuesday afternoon." I hear Lindsay blow her nose.
"I'll be there, Lindz," I say. "Don't worry. I have to fly out to Los Angeles next Friday, but I'll be there on Tuesday. How is Gus? Does he know what's going on?"
"He knows his little sister is coming soon, but that's all. Dusty said that she'd take Gus when I went into the hospital. I'll have to be there for a few days at least."
"I'll make sure Gus is okay," I insist. "He can stay with me and Justin." And the words are out of my mouth before I even know what I'm saying. But maybe by saying them, they'll be true.
"Thanks, Brian!" Lindsay gushes. "You're a good dad!"
"I don't know about that," I reply. "But I'll do whatever I can."
After I finish calming Lindsay down I tell her to lie down and relax until Melanie gets home. Then I try to call Justin again. The fucking voicemail. I never get anything but the fucking voicemail.
So I do what I've always done whenever I'm in a corner. I call Michael.
"You have my number, Brian," Sylvia lectures. "Don't forget to call if you need to. And you have Dr. Gorowitz's number, too."
"Yes, Mom," I say, throwing my suitcase into the trunk of Michael's 'new' Volvo. "I have all the requisite numbers. Jesus! I feel like I'm going off to summer camp!"
"In a way you are, Brian," says Sylvia, raising her carefully penciled brow. "This is your first time away from 'home.' So be a good boy and make the most of it!"
"I'll take good care of him, Mrs. Schacter!" Michael chimes in. "I promise!"
"You do that, Michael," Sylvia orders. "As Brian's best friend I'm counting on you to keep an eye on him."
"Shit," I mumble. "Now you'll never let me out of your sight, Mikey."
"Shut up, asshole," Michael says smugly. "Your counselor says that I'm officially in charge of you until you leave for Los Angeles."
"Good luck, Brian," says Sylvia. "I hope Lindsay doesn't have too hard a time."
"Sylvia, what if I call you as soon as the baby is born to let you know? How about that?" Sylvia has been almost more excited by the baby than I've been. Frankly, I've been more worried about Lindsay than anything else. Maybe having this kid was a big mistake.
Sylvia smiles broadly. "I'd love that, Brian! Please let me know. And the name, too! I'm betting on 'Brianna.'"
I almost choke. "Only over my dead body! And I'm not fucking kidding!"
"Brian, we better get moving or we won't get to the hospital in time," Michael says as he slides into the driver's seat. "Lindsay is due to go into surgery at 1:00."
I get into the shotgun seat and fasten my seatbelt. Michael puts the elderly Volvo into gear and we lurch off down the long driveway as Sylvia waves bye-bye.
"Jesus, Michael, I can't believe you drove this fucking rattletrap all the way from Pittsburgh -- and now I have to ride in it all the way back!"
Michael slams the car into the next gear. "It gets me where I need to go. And it was cheap. I can't ride around Pittsburgh all winter on a fucking bicycle anymore! I'm not five years old!"
"I told you I'd get you a decent car, Mikey," I remind him. "What about a Toyota Camry or a Nissan? Something practical that won't ruin your image as a comic book nerd."
"This is the car I can afford," Michael says stubbornly. "I don't need you to buy me stuff, Brian."
"It was only an offer, Mikey." Mr. Independent, that's Michael. "And it's always open."
"I can't believe you're out of that place, Brian!" Michael says, changing the subject. We're heading north from McKinley to the New York State Thruway. "You look so great!"
"There isn't much to do in rehab except eat healthy foods and work out in the gym -- or what passes for the gym," I shrug. "I guess I look all right."
"Come on! You look beautiful! You do need a haircut, though," Michael comments.
"You're right." I glance at myself in the side mirror. "But I can't get it cut too short. Dorian might want longer hair for 'Red River.' He has to see me before he decides. You got you hair cut, too, I see." It's sort of buzzed on the sides and a little longer on top.
"Well, yeah," Michael grumbles. "David likes it short. Hank and I both went to this salon where David gets his hair styled and we got the same cut."
"David?" I frown. I must have missed something. "Dr. David Cameron, Aged Chiropractor, is deciding when you cut your fucking hair?"
Michael squirms a little in the seat, his hands gripping the steering wheel nervously. "Now don't freak out, Brian, but... I'm seeing David again."
"Michael! What the fuck are you doing?" I can't believe I'm hearing this. I knew there'd be trouble when Michael told me Cameron was back in the Pitts.
"I knew you wouldn't like it, Brian. That's why I didn't say anything about it on the phone."
"But I thought that you and Ben were getting hot and heavy? That's what you told me before." I shake my head, trying not to show my revulsion. Christ! David fucking Cameron! Dr. Death! "When did this nasty turn of events occur?"
"Last week," Michael says with obvious discomfort.
"I'm waiting." There's more. I know there's much more to this change of heart than Mikey's saying.
"There's nothing to tell!"
"Don't lie, Mikey! Something must have happened between you and Ben to make you go running like a whipped puppy into the arms of Dr. Dave."
"I didn't run like a whipped puppy, asshole!" Michael shoots back. "Ben and I had a disagreement about... about something."
"A disagreement about what?" I'm trying to imagine what Ben could have said or done to Michael that would send him flying back to the Chiropractor from Hell.
"About... something personal." Michael stares at the road, avoiding my gaze.
"Nothing is so personal that you can't tell me, Michael," I remind him. "You showed me your dripping dick when you thought you had gonorrhea that first time. Which you did. I've seen you get sucked and fucked in the back room of Babylon and in the alley behind Woody's. I've seen you high and drunk. I've seen you at comic book conventions, gushing over a piece of dirty newsprint that some idiot was charging you $100 to buy. I've seen you wearing a glittery dress in a Gay Pride Parade. I've seen you acting like a disgusting breeder with both David and Ben. And I've seen you with your mother in every embarrassing circumstance a gay man can imagine. So there's nothing you can't share with me. Nothing."
But Michael shuts down completely. "This is private, Brian. It's between me and Ben. He didn't like the way... the way I handled something. But I did what I thought I had to do. And I'd do it again the same way if I had to. So that's that."
I'm trying to imagine what kind of argument Michael had with Ben to make Zen Ben so judgmental. That's not like either of them. Unless it was about sex. Or about Ben's affair with Ron. But I thought Michael had let that go. Apparently not.
"I suppose now you'll list all of the reasons why I shouldn't be with David," Michael huffs. "I know you can't stand him. But it's my life, Brian."
"I know." I stare out the window as we huff and puff along. An 18-wheeler passes us. And another. And another. "It's none of my fucking business. If you want to fuck the Doc, if you want to move in with the Doc, if you want to fucking marry the Doc, then do it. Fuck what I or anybody else thinks about it! Yours is the only opinion that matters, Mikey. Whatever you want."
"I'm not sure what I want," Michael admits. "But David is so persistent. When we were living together I was sure that I loved him. And he treated me so great. He gave me my car and all those new clothes and we had such great parties -- and our trip to Paris, too. We had some really good times."
"Michael, all of that stuff is bullshit in the long run. You know that. Do you love him?" I can't believe I'm asking such a lesbionic question. I must really be fucking brainwashed from too much time at Springhurst.
"I don't know!" Michael whines.
"And what about Ben? Do you love him?" Ben can be a pompous ass at times, but he's not a pretentious fucking snob like David Cameron. He's a decent guy. An honest guy. It was a hard thing for Ben to admit to Michael that he and Ron had fucked, but it was the right thing to do. Ben knew how Michael would react, but the alternative was letting Ron blackmail him over his infidelity. Yeah, Michael could do a lot worse than Ben Bruckner.
Michael only shakes his head. Something is going on, but Michael won't spill it.
We drive in silence for a long while. Eventually Michael starts talking again. He's one of those guys who has to fill the void with sound, no matter what. And we still have a long drive down to Pittsburgh.
I close my eyes while he chatters away about his store. He's fucking proud of that store -- and he should be. Buzzy's place was a sty, but Red Cape Comics is the best comic place in town. Yes, I've been in a lot of comic book stores in my time, always with Michael, and Red Cape Comics is the best I've ever seen. Michael knows his stuff and the store shows that. If I were a 14 year old dork -- again -- I'd probably spend all my free time there.
"So Edwin has promised to get the storyboards back to me. But his sketches look pretty good. And if we can get some extra money together we should be able to run off a couple hundred copies of the first issue."
Wait a minute. I open my eyes and turn to Michael. "Who the fuck is Edwin? I thought Justin was doing the illustrations for your comic. I've seen his drawings. They're better than most of the published shit out there! What's going on?"
"Justin and I... we've decided not to work together anymore," Michael says tightly. "It's a mutual decision."
"Why the fuck not?" I demand. "What happened?"
Michael snakes his eyes at me and I'm surprised at the coldness there. "Ask HIM if you want to know." And that's all he'll say. I can't get another fucking word about Justin out of him. But then I can't get a fucking word about Justin out of Justin, either.
The rest of the trip is fairly quiet. Michael turns on the radio and listens to some sports talk show on AM for a while, then he switches to FM and cranks up a bad Hard Rock station. KISS and Led Zeppelin and mile after mile of Aerosmith. Jesus!
"I found a picture of the band the other day," Michael says out of the blue. "Ma was cleaning out the attic and found a bunch of my junk from high school. I'll have to make you a copy of it for you."
"Good old Femme Fatale!" I reminisce. "A.K.A, The Dickbeaters! If we'd only stuck with it we'd now be a couple of musical has-beens ready to make a comeback!"
"We were good! And we looked damned cool!" Michael insists. "Well, you looked cool, Brian. I liked it when you dyed your hair jet black."
I cringe. "I remember when your mom put that shit in my hair! There was black goo all over everything. And it took forever to grow out!"
"You were sexy, Brian!"
"I was an idiot," I laugh. "We all were. But I sure did get laid! Jesus Christ, I got laid!"
"You never had trouble getting laid, Brian," Michael informs me. "You didn't need a rock band for that."
"I know. But pretending to be a rock star made it more fun."
We talk a little bit about the band and stuff we did in those days. I'm not usually the kind of guy who likes to think about the past. Most of my past is made of memories I'd rather forget. But some of the things that Michael and I did I remember fondly. And I always remember feeling safe at his house with Mikey and Deb, and Vic, too, when he was in town. I haven't felt safe in that many places, but the Novotny house was one of them.
As we get close to Pittsburgh I realize that we aren't going to get there before Lindsay's scheduled time to go in for the C-section. Michael's dilapidated Volvo has its limits, after all. I try to call Melanie, but her cell is turned off. Lindsay's probably already getting prepped for surgery and Mel is with her. I can feel my stomach reeling at the thought of the operation.
"I think we should go directly to the hospital," I tell Michael. He agrees. It's already well after 1:00 p.m.
It figures that I've missed the births of both of my kids. The first time I was too stoned and fucked up to be there, and the second time I had to come down from fucking rehab. I guess that's progress of a sort. But what kind of father am I really? A bad one. An absent one. One who's never there when you need him. One who's easy to forget.
I guess that's the kind of lover I am, too.
I've tried not to think too much about Justin in the past week or so. That is, unless Gorowitz forced me to in our therapy sessions. I don't know what's happening, but whatever it is, I'm not with him to know about it. I'm not there to do what I need to do. To see to Justin's needs. And if he's angry, I can understand that. And if... if he's more than angry, then I'll have to deal with that, too. For better or for worse, as they say. I'm hoping for the better, but expecting the worse, as is my usual way.
Michael pulls into the Visitors' Parking Lot of the hospital and finds a space.
"What floor is the Maternity Ward on? Do you remember from when Gus was born?" Michael asks me.
"Of course I do, Mikey. I wasn't THAT high!" I snort. "But Lindsay's in surgery. We'll have to go to Reception and find out where she is. There's probably a waiting room for expectant sperm donors. That's all we can do for now. Wait."
We walk up to the front of the hospital and Michael hooks his arm around mine. "How does it feel, Dad? Two kids! That's amazing to me! I don't think I could deal with even one!"
"You could do it. Aren't you great with Dr. Dave's evil spawn? But don't count our chickens yet, Mikey," I warn him. "The kid isn't born yet. It's bad luck." I think about Lindsay being cut open. Think about all of the things that can go wrong. I almost fucking cross myself -- but I stop just in time! Jesus, the programming that stays with you! But I'd never let myself live that one down!
We go through the revolving door and head for the Main Desk. But I see something out of the corner of my eye. Something white and gold standing up and coming towards me.
I stop in my tracks and turn to him.
The moment I see him I know. I fucking love him. There's no denying it. No bullshit. No fooling myself anymore. I'm fucked. All I can think of is that he's here and I'm glad.
"Brian?" Justin steps forward tentatively. "Lindsay called me before they left for the hospital and I came right over. I didn't know it would happen so soon! But I've been waiting for you to get here."
I reach out and he's in my arms. I hold him so tightly. I don't fucking care that he hasn't called me back or that he blew off last weekend at Springhurst without an explanation. The last thing I want now is a long, rambling explanation. No excuses, remember? No apologies. None of that matters anymore. Because he's here now.
"Brian," he whispers. "I'm so fucking sorry!"
"Forget it," I say. "Everything will be fine now. I know it will. Fuck anything else!"
Justin buries his face against my jacket and I can smell the freshness of his hair, his skin. I can even smell the slightly oily scent of his paints. He's been in hisstudio today. I can tell by breathing him in.
Then I look up. I see Michael walking out of the hospital. Out the revolving door. I start to call to him, but it's too late. Michael's gone. Why? But I can't deal with that right now.
"Let's go upstairs, Brian," Justin urges. "We can wait on the Third Floor. I already asked. It won't be long before Lindsay has a little girl." Justin grins at me. "And before you have daughter!"
"And then I'll have everything, Justin," I say, clinging to him. "Everything in the world that I could ever want."
Everything. Because now I know it will all be okay.
"You're written in her book,
Number 47, come take a look,
She's going to play you for a fool,
Yes, it's true.
The voices from the streets
Say before you start you're already beat,
She's gonna smile just to put you down,
What a clown!
'Cause everybody knows
She's a femme fatale...."
Continue on to "It's Only Love".
©Gaedhal, April 2005.
Posted April 17, 2005.