This is Chapter 16 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Dr. Henry Mason, Sylvia Schacter, Justin Taylor.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian adjusts. Springhurst, McKinley, NY, 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'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering
Where it will go.
I'm filling the cracks that ran through the door
And kept my mind from wandering
Where it will go...."
So, I'm here. Really fucking here.
Again. Yeah. Fuck.
Detox. Always a bitch. Puking isn't my favorite thing. Neither is sweating and shaking. But they fill me up with Valium and gallons of bottled water (some cheap fucking store brand!) so I won't get dehydrated. It's no worse than the 24-hour flu or a bitch of a hangover. I've survived worse. I think I'll live.
Yeah, I'll live.
The worst thing about detox is that there's nothing to do but lie on the bed and think. Think about how you got here. About what a fucking idiot you are. About where you can get some more dope. More booze. A joint. A cigarette. A double latte. About getting your cock sucked.
In other words, you start thinking about your life and what your priorities are. And that's the last thing you ever want to do. My fucking life is how I got here. The last thing I want to do is think about it.
But that Gorowitz. He's a cagey one. He's one of those people who wants to get to the bottom of me. Fat fucking chance! There IS no bottom to me, only top! Well, maybe there was once, but not anymore.
No, I've been at the bottom and this ain't it. Not even close.
I really, really want that cigarette right now.
And then there's my cock....
The female nurse keeps coming in, so I have to try to keep my hands off it. The dope must really be out of my system, because I'm extra horny. I know that taking too much shit is supposed to make you lose your hard-on. That never happened with me. Maybe it took the edge off it a little, but it never scared it away completely. No, it took Dr. Hall and his magic needles to do that. I heard they're investigating him and his private drug business. I hope that they put him away and pump him full of his own shit.
The nurse asks me if I want anything. I'm tempted to ask her if they have any blond boy ass, to go.
"No, thanks," I hear myself say. "I'm okay."
And now I'm thinking about how many opportunities I wasted in the few days I was in the Pitts. Justin and I fucked, yes, but not as much as we could have. I was too wasted. Too wired. Too fucked up. That must have been a major clue to Justin that all was not well in Kinneyland.
But I still can't believe that Justin went to fucking BEN for help! And Tim Reilly, too. Jesus! It was bad enough when a bunch of assholes from the studio and the LAPD were trying to direct my fucking life, but now it's being decided by a couple of old, rejected tricks. And a smart-mouthed twink who thinks that he runs my life.
I could just get up and walk out of here -- if I wanted to. Gorowitz made it perfectly clear that there were no locked wards in this resort for burn-outs. I could take off any time. No one would stop me. No one would give a fuck.
Well... almost no one.
I drink another bottle of their cheap water.
There's a television on in here. The set is clamped to the wall and permanently tuned to some rerun channel. You have to wonder about people who are forced to lie in a place like this, day after day, with episodes of 'Full House' and 'The Brady Bunch' pouring into their brains. You would need drugs NOT to go insane. I guess that's why old people and sick people need to be sedated all the time. That's the only way they can sit and watch hour after hour of this bullshit.
I look around for the off switch or the channel changer or whatever, but I can't find it. It's like fucking '1984' -- Big Brother never gets turned off. I'd get up and do it myself, but I'm connected to the fucking IV, which is pumping me with saline solution and Valium. But not enough, apparently, because I'm still conscious.
I close my eyes and try to remedy that fact.
I am beyond fucking pathetic to have let myself get like this. That's the worst part -- that I know how pitiful I am and I knew it all along and I still let it happen. I knew what I was doing -- and I did it anyway. And I call Michael pathetic? I call Theodore Schmidt a loser? It's ridiculous. No wonder I can't stand to look at myself in the mirror. That, and the fact that I've gone almost an entire month without my French anti-ageing shit. Now THAT is truly pathetic.
And speaking of my pathetic life, Justin's face comes into my head. It's the look he had when Gorowitz asked me when I'd taken that last hit. Shit! Talk about a fucking moment of truth! And in front of Mikey and that smug asshole, Zen Ben. That was painful. More painful than the detox has been. The truth always is.
And that face. His beauty veiled by the disappointment on it. The realization. And then the deep breath as he sucked up another harsh truth about his so-called partner.
Fuckity fuck fuck.
"I'm Dr. Henry Mason."
I open my eyes.
"You must be Brian."
Yeah, I must. Who the fuck else would I be here in the detox unit except Brian Fucking Kinney, Boy Drug Addict?
"Right," I say instead. "What's the word, Doc?"
"How are you feeling, Brian?" he says, looking at a chart. They can't do anything without a chart, like a bunch of sailors who don't know what part of the ocean they're heading into. And my part of the ocean is labeled 'Shallow Waters -- Watch the Fuck Out!'
"Bored," I tell him. "Do you think you can get someone to turn off the tube?" I point to the television. Some idiot on it says something inane and the laugh track explodes with fake glee.
I blink and realize that I'm watching an episode of 'All American Dad.' The beaming, toothy face of Peter Bridges fills the screen. I cringe. There are certain people who you find yourself ashamed to have fucked, but with Peter Bridges it's even worse, because I fucked him numerous times. Not because he was any good. No, he's an abysmal fuck. He's one of those talkers, too, who wants to have a conversation after he comes. About how great my cock was. About how much he wanted to see me again. Jesus. I fucked him every time I was pissed off at Ron. Fucked him because I knew they were friends. Why do I do these things to myself? It's like the Fifth Circle of Hell and now I have to watch Peter Bridges' face throughout Eternity.
Dr. Mason glances up at the screen. "This is a funny show. 'All American Dad,' isn't it? Do you really want the channel changed?"
"No, Doc, I want the channel OFF!" I'm a little testy, I know, but what the fuck?
He goes over and plays with the knobs a bit. "I can't seem to get it to turn off," he apologizes.
"What about unplugging it, Doc?" I suggest. "Or better yet -- get me a shotgun and I'll shoot out the screen, like Elvis!"
"We'll take care of it, Brian. Don't worry." Dr. Mason smiles. "And you can call me Harry."
Oh, fuck. Dr. Harry is hot. In a nerd-like way. That's a problem. I LIKE hot nerds. It's a quirk of mine. He reminds me a little of Ron when he was young. The glasses, the bad haircut, the shirt from the Sears Collection. Yeah, I've always had a thing for the hot nerds. When I was a kid I thought they were so smart and knew all kinds of shit that I didn't. I didn't want to just fuck their bodies so much as I wanted to fuck their brains.
You usually don't find beauty and brains together in the same package, so I wasn't always looking for beauty. I wanted something more from the smart ones. To suck some knowledge out of them. To know what they knew. To own the power that knowledge gives you. Yes, it's the Power/Knowledge shit. Nietzsche and all that. I already knew about the power that beauty gives you. I'd been using it to my advantage ever since I realized that guys, especially older guys, can't resist a beautiful young dick.
Dr. Harry looks like the guy who was always first in his class. Knew the answer to every question. Stumbled around when it came to sex, but eventually figured it out -- with a little help. The guy everybody ignored in high school who wins the Nobel Prize -- or an Academy Award.
Maybe I was a little bit of a nerd myself, too. Smart, but not brilliant. Never the Perfect Boy, the Teacher's Pet. No, never like the Doc here. Nobody ever ducked Dr. Harry's head in a toilet. And I bet Dr. Harry never fantasized about blowing up the school and everybody in it -- except Mikey, of course. Dr. Harry never had to. He knew it was all bullshit and didn't matter in the long run. Who gives a shit about what happens to you in high school, anyway?
Unless you get your head bashed in at your Prom. Then it's kind of important.
Beauty. And brains. In one package.
Can't think about that now.
"So how long do I have to stay in this place, Doc?" I ask. Now that I'm not as sick, I'm fucking bored.
"In detox -- or in Springhurst?" he counters.
"Whatever the fuck."
"You should be out of here sometime Friday," he says. "And out of Springhurst?" He pauses. "When you're ready to leave."
"Sounds like a trick question," I mumble.
"No, Brian," he replies. "There's no trick involved. No trick and no magic formula. It's one thing to get the toxins out of your system, but it's another to get the toxins out of your head. That takes a lot longer. Sometimes it takes your whole life."
"That's helpful," I say. "I might as well cut my wrists now."
"Don't," Dr. Harry tells me. "You never know how much you have to live for until you're about to die. Haven't you ever heard that?"
"Yeah, I've heard it," I reply. "It's just another crap thing people tell you. But don't worry, because if I was going to kill myself I would have done it already. I wouldn't have bothered to come up here and let you stick me in this god-awful bed and force me to watch Peter Bridges reruns on TBS!"
I sit up more when I say this -- and immediately know that I'm going to puke again. You can't move too fast when you're in detox. The cramp hits me directly in the gut and it all comes in waves. Dr. Harry is pretty quick with the puke bucket. He's an old hand at this, obviously.
"Shit," is all I can say. I lay back on the pillow. Now I'm sweating like a pig again. I'm so fucking stupid!
"Are you all right?" he asks quietly, putting his hand on my bare arm. "Brian?"
"Just leave me alone."
That's all I really want. To be by myself. Alone.
Someone told me once that cats always know when they're going to die. So they disappear. They just take off one day and their owners never see them again. Now, I think cats are evil. They are always staring with those green eyes that look right through you. But cats have the right idea. When it's time for me to go, they'll never fucking find me. Never.
And with that pleasant thought, I puke up another gallon of cheap bottled water and liquid Valium.
Dr. Harry keeps touching me. I mean, it's doctor/patient touching, but -- fuck! Hot nerd here!
"Please get away, Doc," I tell him. "I don't need your Florence Nightingale routine."
And he steps back. "All right, Brian." He looks at me. Trying to figure me out. He shakes his head. "I'll send the nurse in to turn off your television."
"Thanks," I say. "For small favors."
On Friday evening, after they bring me some soup and limp white bread for my so-called dinner, a woman comes in with a clipboard. Earlier they pulled out the IV and let me go to the bathroom to take a long, private piss, wash my face, and comb my hair with my fingers. Then I put on my jeans and the same tee shirt I was wearing when I got here. They must have taken my suitcase away somewhere. Maybe this is all I'll be allowed to wear for my stay!
I ball up the hospital smock and shove it into the trash can. I can't wait to get out of this fucking room.
But I'm surprised at how unsteady I feel. I think of myself as a strong guy, but my legs are wobbly. That's what too much time in bed will do to you. I mean, too much time in bed NOT fucking.
It's nice to piss without an audience -- or at least an admiring audience, like at Babylon. Pissing into a plastic bottle while lying in the world's most uncomfortable bed isn't very hot. They take every ounce of piss away to analyze it and drug-test it. Or maybe they are selling it on eBay? That's okay -- as long as they give me a cut of the profits.
"So, Brian," says the woman. She's dark-haired and 40-ish, wearing casual pants and a big sweater, so she doesn't look like a doctor or a nurse. "I'm Sylvia." She holds out her hand. Long nails. French manicure.
I guess I'm supposed to shake it, so that's what I do. "What are you, the fucking social worker?"
"No," she says, raising a plucked eyebrow and calling me on my shit. "I'm your fucking counselor."
Well, this is a little bit different from Skip, my tormentor at Haven of Hell. First of all, this woman actually acts like she has some real human emotions. She's already pegged me for a sarcastic asshole, so I'll give her that.
"Are you ready to move into your new room?" she asks.
"Anything to get out of HERE," I say.
We hike out of the hospital annex and into a very different-looking part of the complex. This is more like a hotel. Definitely not a 5-star resort, but not a flophouse, either. For all its sterling reputation, supposedly being so great and famous and full of well-heeled addicts, Haven of Hope was a fucking dump. Broken linoleum on the floor, gray cement walls, prison-quality beds, the smell of Clorox and piss emanating from the toilets. It was disgusting.
But this place actually isn't too bad. The floors are carpeted and it doesn't stink. It's also very quiet.
"Where is everyone? Chained and gagged in their cells?"
Sylvia laughs. "It's Friday night. They're all over in Recreation. Playing Bingo or watching movies." She does that eyebrow thing again. "Do you enjoy Bingo, Brian?"
"Oh, it's the guiding force in my existence." Bingo! Jesus fucking Christ!
"Good, then we'll expect to see you there next week," says Sylvia.
"Only if I'm in a straightjacket," I answer. "So -- how many demerits do I get for bailing out on Bingo?" Might as well start finding out right away just how badly I'm going to fuck up.
"Demerits?" She frowns. "What do you mean?"
I frown back. Monkey see, monkey do. "You know -- demerits! Fuck-up points. How many do I need before I have to go on Toilet Patrol?"
"We don't have demerits here, Brian," Sylvia returns. "Or Toilet Patrol. Unless that's what you like to do for fun."
"Hell, no," I reply. "I was only wondering. The last place I was in... I was kind of on permanent Toilet Patrol."
"What a surprise!" she says. And then she laughs. And I find myself laughing, too.
We walk down the hallway and stop in front of a room. She pushes the door open and walks inside. It's like a hotel room. Clean. A double bed. A bathroom -- with a shower. All to myself!
And there are two suitcases sitting on the bed.
"What's this?" I know that I only brought a single suitcase with me. But then I see that it's my big Louis Vuitton bag. The one I took with me to Haven. The one Skip pawed through, deciding what I was allowed to keep. "How did this get here?"
Sylvia looks at her clipboard. "Dr. Gorowitz contacted your last rehab center and asked them to forward your records and personal effects." She points to the chair next to the dresser. "That, too."
It's my Gucci carry-on. I unzip it. My Filofax. My books. My notebook and pens. And my photos. All of my photos. All of the stuff that Justin and I packed for me to take to Haven. All of the stuff they wouldn't let me keep. I sit down on the bed, looking through my things. Feeling thankful that I got it all back. Touching my memories. All the stuff that I used to think I didn't care about.
"If you need anything else, Brian, like personal items, just make a list. There are some things in the bathroom -- toothbrush and toothpaste, disposable razor, shampoo, that sort of thing -- but I'm sure you'll want your own products. You can either give the list to me and we'll try to get the items when we go into Erie to shop, or your partner can bring them the next time he visits." She pauses, but I don't say anything. "Do you have your own laptop computer? You might ask him to bring it for you. Until then, you can use one in the office to send and receive e-mail. There are also fax machines in there. Dr. Mason tells me that you aren't a big TV fan, but if you want your partner to bring you a portable stereo system or a radio, that's okay -- as long as you don't blast the music too loud. We only ask that you respect the other patients."
"Right," I say. "I'll be quiet."
"Well, we don't want you to be mute, Brian!" Sylvia laughs. "We want you to be yourself and to feel at home. Why don't you come with me now and we'll take a little tour of the facilities? Then you can come back and unpack your suitcases. Tomorrow is Saturday, but there are still some lectures and other activities. You aren't cleared to leave the complex yet, so you can't go on the shopping trip or any of the outings this weekend. That will come when Dr. Gorowitz thinks you're ready to do it. And on Sunday we have religious services. Are you planning to attend services, Brian?"
"Are you fucking crazy?" I tell her. I'm looking at my photo albums. All the pictures of Gus. He looks exactly like me. Except he doesn't even know who the fuck I am anymore.
"I'll put that down as a 'no,'" she says, making a note on her clipboard.
I follow Sylvia around, getting the lay of the land. It's bigger than it seems from the outside. A series of buildings connected by corridors. Living areas. Clinic. Offices. Recreation, including a gym, television room, and meeting rooms. I see the inmates sitting in one big space, playing Bingo. No fucking way! Sylvia shows me where the computers are located and gives me the passwords to log-in, and also the numbers for the fax machines. I'll have to e-mail Leslie and give her those numbers. I guess I'll do all that shit tomorrow. And then Justin can bring me my laptop next week.
That's when he'll be here.
Sylvia sits me down in an office -- the counselors' office, it seems -- and we go over my schedule. It's the usual routine. Times for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the late night snack -- late night around here being 10:00 p.m. Group therapy -- I'm SO looking forward to THAT! -- and individual sessions with Dr. Gorowitz. Drug testing procedures. The whole nine yards.
Sylvia introduces me to a couple of patients who are in the office, working at the computers. They eye me curiously. Most of the fellow addicts I've seen here are in their 30's or 40's, white, straight, upper-middle class. Yuppies. They'd have to be to be able to afford this joint. And they don't have the beat-down look that people had at Haven. They look like they are at a corporate retreat and not at their last stop before prison. It's a whole different vibe at Springhurst. It might actually be tolerable.
Sylvia walks me back to my room. "Good luck, Brian. I'll see you tomorrow in Group, okay? Try to get some sleep -- and when you get up EAT something, for heaven's sake! Maybe that's the Jewish mother in me talking, but you need to get something in your stomach. Besides, you're too damn skinny!"
I have to smile at that. "The camera puts on 20 pounds."
"You're not on camera here, Brian," she reminds me. "Why do I think that you were a fussy eater before you ever went in front of a camera?"
I snort. "No comment, warden."
Sylvia makes a face at me. "There aren't any wardens here, Brian. I'm not your keeper and I'm not your nanny. I'm an ex-addict and a certified counselor. I don't believe in BS -- and I don't think you believe in it, either. Except when you are dishing it out and expect other people to buy it. Try a little honesty for a change."
"I'm always honest!" I insist. "Brutally honest."
She looks right through me. "Are you, Brian? Honest when telling other people what's wrong with them, maybe. But what about being honest with yourself? And with your partner? How about trying to be honest about your feelings -- for a change?"
I shake my head.
But this woman won't let go. "Try it. Then you might not need so much 'pain management.'" She looks right into me. "I know that you'd like nothing better than to take a hit or down a couple of shots or fuck your brains out without having to think about why you're doing it. All I say is -- step back for one minute and do just that. THINK about why you're doing it. Why you want to do it. And who you are hurting when you do. That's all I ask." She pats me on the shoulder. "Have a good night. Oh -- I almost forgot." She reaches into some pocket in her big sweater and pulls out my cellphone. "This is yours."
I go into my room and close the door. There's actually a lock on it. Obviously I'm not a 'Risk' here at Springhurst. Or if I am, then they figure that if you want to kill yourself it's your call.
And speaking of calls. I sit down on the bed, put my feet up, and hit #1 on the speed-dial.
That voice spits out at me, angrily. "What does it take to get you to fuck off!"
I stop for a second. He must have been talking to Wade or one of his pals from school. I doubt that he'd tell his mother to fuck off! "Must be that time of the month, Sunshine. Take your Midol and I'll call back in the morning."
"Brian! Wait! Don't hang up!" Justin pleads. "I didn't know it was you!"
"I'm here," I reassure him. "I should have called earlier. Sounds like you're all talked out."
"I'm sorry, Brian. It's been a long, long week," he explains. "How are you? Are you out of... of detox?"
"Yeah. It wasn't too bad. A couple of hours of puking and then two more days of being bored." That's the short version. He doesn't need to know all of the gory details. "They released me this evening and took some time familiarizing me with the routine here. Getting me settled into my room, that kind of thing."
"So," says Justin. "How is it there, Brian? Is everything okay?"
I give him a virtual tour of the place, which he'll need when he comes next weekend. IF he comes. "Do you think you could bring some of my stuff with you? I mean, if you are really coming next week?"
"Of course I'm coming, Brian! If you still want me to."
"I want you to, Justin. That is -- if you still believe in me even after all my fuck ups." Jesus Christ! I sound like some pitiful dyke, whining into the phone. "I don't want to be the one who you're telling to 'fuck off' for real next time."
"I won't. I'll never, ever tell you to fuck off!" Justin tells me. "You believe that, don't you, Brian? Because that's something you have to believe. I know how hard it is for you to believe that I'll always be around, no matter what. But it's true."
Yeah, Justin knows me all too well. It IS hard for me to believe that somebody would stick with me through all the crap. That somebody would put up with ME. Not even my own fucking parents would do that. So why would Justin, who could literally have anyone, waste his youth sitting around, waiting for me to grow up? Waiting for me NOT to fuck up? It's one of those inexplicable things, like the platypus or the popularity of Country Music.
"You know how hard it is for me to believe in anything, Justin," I say. "But I may be starting to get the hang of it -- with your help."
"Then maybe we both can believe, Brian," he says.
Maybe, I think. It's still hard for me to believe in much of anything. Whenever I put my fucking faith in something, it always kicks me in the teeth.
That's why I've never trusted anyone -- except myself. Maybe Mikey, a little. But even then, I've always held something back. That's why I've never fucked Michael and never will. That would be too much. I've come close a few times, but then he's always put the brakes on it. Michael understands the game. He knows that our friendship would never be the same after that. You don't fuck your brother. I don't need that lightning bolt blasting me into a million pieces.
"Must have been a fun trip back to the Pitts after you dumped me off," I comment.
Justin sighs. "I sat in the back and looked out the window. Michael and Ben talked."
"Are they getting back together?" I ask. Ben is a decent fuck and also a pompous ass, but Michael loves him for some strange reason.
"I don't know. I think they're taking it slowly right now. I'll keep you posted on the Tell-a-Queen Gossip Network." Justin giggles. I like that little giggle. There's a spot on his side, just above his hip, where if you run your finger there, very lightly, he'll always giggle like that.
"Thanks, twat," I say. "It's getting late... and I have to get up tomorrow and face the firing squad for the first time."
Justin sniffs. "Brian, you only face a firing squad ONCE in your life."
"Not me," I insist. "I face it every fucking day. Or it feels like I do."
"It doesn't have to be like that, you know, Brian."
"I know," I answer. "But that's the way I've always lived. It's hard to change after all this time."
"You can change the way you see things and the way you do things without changing YOU, Brian. You don't have to lose what you ARE," he says quietly. "I think that's why Haven was a pile of shit. They didn't care what you really were. They only wanted to fit you into THEIR mold. That's not what I want, Brian. I want you to get better, but I don't want to lose YOU."
He really means that. The little bastard. "I... I miss you." I can't believe those words are coming out of my mouth.
"Do you, Brian?" he breaths. "I miss you, too."
And it's as simple as that. Isn't it?
"I'm taking my time for a number of things
That weren't important yesterday,
And I still go...."
'Fixing a Hole,' by Lennon/McCartney.
Continue on to "Have a Nice Day".
©Gaedhal, May 2004.
Posted May 26, 2004.