This is Part 2 of Chapter 88 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Four Seasons in One Day -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney.
Summary: A few final snapshots from our vacation. England, August 2002.
After we leave the Lake District we drive east, through the Yorkshire Dales. These are mainly gentle hills and valleys with little farms and, of course, more sheep. LOTS more sheep. It isn't impressive scenery, like the Lakes, with those steep mountains sweeping down to the waters, but it's calm and soothing scenery. A nice background for driving.
There are a bunch of ruined abbeys and castles along the way to York and we stop at one of them, Rievaulx Abbey. It's beautiful but creepy, standing in a narrow, wooded valley, with some of the walls still standing and others cut away or in pieces. Large black crows make cawing and hooting sounds that echo around the little valley as they perch in the trees or on the top of the broken church, looking down at us.
When Brian decided to make this detour I think he had in his mind finding another interesting place for an al fresco fuck. Ever since the picnic by the river, he can't get enough of doing it outdoors. This is something new. A quick poke in the alley outside Babylon or Woody's or a half-in/half-out in the Jeep, and one night in the backyard at the house in the canyon out in California were the only outdoor activities Brian ever initiated -- at least with me.
Now he's constantly searching out places to fuck outside. In the tall grass up at Grasmere. Under the trees behind the Wordsworth house, Rydal Mount -- Brian said that Wordsworth wouldn't mind, because he was a 'Romantic' poet, after all! Beneath some bushes by the side of the road in Wensleydale -- I have scratches on my ass from those bushes! Up against a number of quaint stone pubs in the dark between Bath and Keswick. I'm certain that he wanted to do it at Avebury, too, but there was no time and it was broad daylight, besides that fact that there were other tourists around, taking pictures! And I don't think that Brian particularly wanted us to become the centerpiece of someone's vacation slideshow!
But now that we're here at Rievaulx, it's just too eerie even to think about sex. This abbey was destroyed hundreds of years ago, but it has the feeling of a place that is still trembling. You can tell that it was once beautiful. In the main church you can see the graceful arches, the outlines of the empty windows, and the walls that reach up -- and then end suddenly, tumbled down and smashed. I start to get an idea about a piece of art that has purposefully been destroyed in some way. Smashed or burned or stomped -- or bashed with a baseball bat. Art, killed with violence.
"How did this place get ruined, Brian?"
"Same way as all the other destroyed abbeys listed in the guidebook. The Dissolution of the Monasteries. Good old Henry the Eighth."
"Because he wanted to marry your doll," says Brian, referring to the one I bought for Molly in Bath. "And the stubborn Pope at the time said 'Nope.' And Henry said 'Well, screw you, Your Holiness!' And he divorced the old woman he was already married to and married your headless wonder. Except she wasn't headless until she failed to have the correct baby. And he disconnected from the Church and started his own gang. And now here we are -- all this lovely rubble."
"All this destruction for THAT?"
"Well, mainly that. Plus the fact that the monasteries were rich and powerful. And arrogant, too, probably. And Henry couldn't stand that in anyone but himself. Ever seen 'A Man for All Seasons'? Sir Thomas Moore? Paul Scofield played him."
"I don't think so, Brian."
"I'll get the DVD when we get home. Incredible story. A fucking waste. Religion and sex -- a deadly combination. Throw in money and power and what you have is what you see before you."
"How many people lived here?" I look around at all the fractured buildings.
"Maybe five hundred or so. Monks and lay brothers. Priests." We walk through the ruins and Brian consults the map of the site. "Kitchen, library, school, hospital, cloisters, dormitory, refractory, chapel, Chapter House," he recites, reading the plaques. "Must have been a busy place."
We both look around at the small, quiet valley. It's completely still, except for those big crows, murmuring, echoing. Another car drives down the lane and pulls into the parking lot. There are some other tourists walking around in the ruins, but not enough to break the weird silence. "Very, very busy. Teaching. Healing. Writing. Praying. Busy, busy. Until the King's soldiers came and killed them all and ravaged the place."
"It must have been amazing, Brian."
"Amazing." He shudders. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
On Friday night I call my mother from our hotel in York. It's right by one of the medieval gates of the city, Bootham Bar, and you can see the big cathedral, Yorkminster, from the window of the room. We spend most of the afternoon walking around the cathedral with its incredible stained glass windows. Then we had dinner in a little place where we had roast beef and -- of course! -- Yorkshire pudding.
"Happy Birthday, Mom!"
"Justin! I got your flowers. They are so beautiful!"
"Thanks, Mom. But Emmett picked them out for me. I asked him to."
"I know, hon. He brought them over personally. And the pin! It will go perfectly with my beige suit! He said you told him exactly what he should get -- and it's just right! A little lion! With tiny diamond eyes!"
"Well, you ARE a Leo, Mom," I say. I'm embarrassed to tell her that Emmett did it all. I never would have thought of a lion pin. But she wears those suits every day to her real estate office and it really is a good choice for a piece of jewelry.
"I thought you'd be home for my birthday, Justin," she says. She sounds disappointed.
"Now, this is NOT a criticism -- but you've been away so much longer than I thought you'd be."
"We're leaving on Sunday evening. Really. So we should be back in Pittsburgh sometime early Monday morning or really late Sunday night. I'm not sure about the flight numbers. Brian has the tickets."
"Do you want me to pick you up at the airport, Justin?"
"No, Mom. Like I said -- I don't know the times. And I'd hate to have you waiting around for hours in the middle of the night in a drafty airport. We'll get a taxi and I'll call you from the loft. The minute we get in."
"Oh, Justin -- I want to come and pick you up! I want to see you!"
I'm already dreading some airport hug-fest. "Really, Mom. I'll call YOU. I have presents for you and Molly. I'll be over at your condo first thing. Truly!"
"All right, Justin." She sounds unconvinced. "Be careful!"
"I will be! It's okay, Mom! I'll be fine!"
When I disconnect I look over at Brian, lounging on the bed, watching sheepdog trials on the television. "She's beginning to obsess."
"She's your mother, Justin. It's only natural that she should be concerned about you. You've been away in a foreign country for over a month. You're with ME, the Queer Terror from the Bottomless Abyss or whatever the fuck she calls me, remember? She's worried about airplanes and security and God only knows what else she's seen on television. She should be more worried about me driving you around these fucking narrow roads in that junk heap of a car!"
"I think you've been doing great, Brian. Only a few major close-calls."
"Bully for me! I can actually drive a car!" He clicks off the sheepdogs and stands up, stretching. He's wearing his black briefs and black wifebeater, his heart necklace dangling in the scoop of the tee shirt. When he stretches it exposes the bottom of his stomach and the dark trail of hair that goes down from his navel to his cock.
"I wouldn't have been able to do it, Brian."
"Sure you would have. You're a great driver, Justin. Why do you think I trust you with my Jeep?"
"I know." I come up behind Brian and put my arms around his waist, running my fingers down that dark line of fur. He sighs.
Brian knows that my mom is worried about a lot more than just my physical safety. About a lot more than dangerous airplanes or cars or the unknown. Brian knows that it's HIM she most fears. His influence. His power over me. Because that's exactly what Brian himself fears. How he thinks he's going to hurt me. How he thinks that I'm not strong enough to cope. To survive. Fuck! They BOTH underestimate Justin Taylor!
Brian pulls away from me. Now he is packing. Again. For about the fifth time. And he's getting anxious trying to fit more things into his suitcase. "You know, Justin, I am NOT buying another bag! Plus, we still have those suitcases at Harry's that we have to pick up before we get on the plane! I swear -- anything that doesn't fit in THIS fucking bag I'm throwing OUT the window!"
I go over and calmly take a few things from his bag and refold them to fit. "You aren't throwing anything out the window, Brian. Except maybe that smelly sweater."
"THIS is THE perfect sweater!" he cries, clutching his 'find' to his chest. "The salesman said that slight odor is only the waterproofing they put on the wool. Plus the natural lanolin smell from the raw yarn. It's NOT sheep dip or anything else nasty! THIS is a genuine hand-knit sweater and not some factory-processed piece of crap!"
"No, it only STINKS like a piece of crap! Brian, it's going to make ALL of your clothes smell like a dirty sheep!"
"Maybe I'll wear it on the plane."
"And WHO are you going to sit next to? Or maybe they'll put you out on the wing!"
"It doesn't smell THAT bad," he mumbles. And he begins repacking the bag. Again.
We spend our last night in England in Cambridge.
We have lunch at the Fort St. George, a pub by the River Cam. We sit outside at a wooden table and watch a group of rowers move up against the current of the river, their oars beating on the water. Brian has a Ploughman's Lunch, which is bread and cheese and ale. I have the bangers and mash with a bottle of Foster's Lager. Plus extra 'chips'! I love these big British french fries.
"TWO orders of potatoes at one meal?" Brian makes a face, looking at my fries and my mashed potatoes.
"They have baked spuds, too. Should I get one to go? I might get hungry later!"
"Are you SURE you aren't Irish after all?"
"Well," I say, thinking. "I don't have any Irish blood -- but I've had a LOT of Irish IN me -- especially this last week!"
Brian laughs. "Don't let your mom hear you talk like that. She already thinks I've corrupted you enough."
"Better YOU than someone else, Brian."
He stops smiling. "Like what someone else?"
"No one, Brian. I was just kidding." I spear another chip with my fork.
"No, you must have someone in mind. Who is it?"
I look at him, cocking my head. "Will you stop being silly, Brian! I was speaking rhetorically. If YOU hadn't picked my up that night on Liberty Avenue, someone else might have. Then I probably wouldn't be here. Maybe someone not very nice. And that would be anyone who isn't YOU."
Brian shakes his head. "Impossible. No one else could have picked you up but ME."
"Oh, why not? I'm so cute!" I joke.
"That has nothing to do with it! You were THERE for ME to pick up. It's obvious."
I have to smile at all this. "I knew you were superstitious, Brian. I just KNEW it!"
But he isn't smiling. "I thought you believed in that kind of stuff. Don't forget your 'vision,' Justin? Don't you think THAT had a meaning?"
My smile disappears. "I thought you told me that my vision was just a dream."
"Yeah," he says, quietly. "Just like that dream you had of New York City in February was 'just a dream.' The one where you were standing in the snow."
I put my hand on his wrist. "It WAS real, wasn't it! That DID happen! I KNEW it did!"
"Right -- so now you are dreaming scenes from MY life. How weird is that? How...." he stops and looks away.
"So, is that the real meaning of the question you asked me at JFK?"
"Huh?" He just stares at me, blankly.
"About why you decided to take me with you to London? I haven't forgotten that question, Brian. You said we should both think about it and then we'd compare notes when we landed." I stop and watch Brian's face carefully.
"You really need to ask that question? Now?"
"Yes," I say. "Especially now that we are going back. I HAVE to ask. To know. It might be the only thing I have to hang on to... later on... when...."
He sets aside his glass of ale and moves closer to me on the wooden bench. "I brought you with me because I couldn't fucking stand the thought of coming here without you, you little Fiend. It's as simple as that."
As simple as that. And as complicated as the Theory of Relativity!
"Funny. That's the same reason why I CAME here with you, Brian. Because I can't stand to be anywhere else except with you. But that's NOT so simple. Because I'm not going to be with you... Not for very long."
"So, because we aren't in the same room, in the same city, then that means we aren't 'with' each other?"
"You know what I mean, Brian!" I cry, getting frustrated. "It's not the same at all."
"When you are dreaming pieces of my life and I'm...." He nods his head, thinking. "That whole time I was in L.A. before -- we were together that whole time, Justin, even though we didn't see each other. Even though we didn't even speak to each other. But we WERE together. I believe that. Because the minute I came back...."
"But I was so angry at you, Brian!" I interrupt. "SO fucking angry! I almost turned around and walked out of the loft when I realized you were there!"
"Then why didn't you, Justin? It could have ended. Right there," he says, knowing damned well that it wouldn't have. Couldn't have.
"I don't know," I say, hanging my head. "And now... What are WE going to say to everyone in the Pitts when we get back? I mean, it's going to be obvious that things have changed! They'll SEE it! They'll FEEL it! Especially Michael...."
"They'll have to deal with it. But I don't think things have changed that much, Justin."
"No, only like the shifting of the continents, Brian! Not much!"
Now he laughs. "They've seen it all along, Justin. Debbie has only been twisting my arm to get me to admit my feelings for you for about forever! She practically pulled me by my ear that night you ran out to her house in the rain after asking me if I was only letting you stay with me because I felt guilty. Deb knew the score. But I still couldn't say it. Couldn't admit it. And then you made those stupid fucking 'Rules'!"
I wince, thinking about how the Rules almost ended up ruining us. My face gets red when I think of that kid -- I can't even remember his name! -- I met and fucked at Daphne's party. How I was breaking the Rules I had set myself right from the start. Unconsciously rebelling against them because I really wanted something more. Something Brian wasn't ready to give. And how that pressure, those lies, those Rules Brian knew I was flouting....
"So, this time I'm not going to make any promises that I know neither of us can keep. And I'm not going to force you into a box -- as much as I might want to protect you or keep you just for myself. That isn't right and it isn't fair. You're a man, Justin, and you should be treated like one. I won't lie and tell you that I won't be doing things out in California, because I will be. Things that I won't be proud of, but then what else is new? If you can't stand that -- I'll try to understand. I'll... try to deal with it. But it isn't going to change the way I feel -- or what I've said to you on this trip. And you know that."
"So, what I am I going to do... while you're gone, Brian?" I can feel my nose stuffing up. Allergies! Fucking allergies. "What am I going to say to everyone when you leave? I'll... look like a fucking failure! It will be a repeat of last December -- all over again!"
"With one big difference -- you know the truth. Maybe that isn't much. Maybe it's really fucked up. No -- it IS fucked up. All I can say is that I'm a fucked up person. And maybe the main reason why I ran away from you for so long is because I was afraid of YOU getting fucked up too."
"Too late for that, Brian. Way TOO late!" Brian hands me a tissue and I try to clear my head. I sound like a fucking goose when I blow my nose.
We get up and walk around the Backs, which are literally the backs of the college buildings that face the Cam. We walk over the bridges and watch the punters, standing in their little boats and pushing them along the river on poles. Some of them have picnic baskets or bottles of champagne, as they head down towards Grantchester or some other little spot along the bank.
"Next time we'll rent one of those things and see what we can find upstream," Brian remarks. Some of the punters wave as they float by. A girl in a big picture hat lays back in one of the punts, trailing her hand in the green water as her boyfriend poles.
Brian buys me a scarf for King's College in one of the outfitting shops on King's Parade, the main street. They have scarves and rugby shirts and ties in the colors of each of the colleges. The Chapel at King's with its awesome stained glass is my favorite place here, so I pick that scarf.
"You can wear this all winter in the Pitts. You'll need a good, heavy scarf." He wraps it around my neck. "Good thing they don't have any hats."
"Don't start with the HATS again, Brian!"
"I'm not! Sorry I mentioned it!" He picks out a rugby shirt for himself. Another thing to try and fit into the suitcase, I think. And then I think that we really are leaving. Tomorrow. It's almost the end of our holiday. The end of summer. I try to think of something else so I won't get depressed.
I can tell by watching Brian that he's thinking of it. And I know he's been thinking of it the whole time we've been driving. Sometimes I can see it by the expression on his face when he looks at me. Or the way he sighs suddenly, for no reason. Or the nightmares that he's still having almost every night. The ones that he pretends he isn't having.
At 5:30 I make Brian go to Evensong at King's College Chapel. I tell him that it isn't really a religious service -- it's just something I want to experience. And he lets me pull him in there. The Chapel is crowded, but we find a good spot to stand near the carved wooden choir screen. The late afternoon sun is pouring in through the stained glass and the choir is singing and everything else that's inside my head makes me think about what has happened to us since we've been in England, and what will happen to us once we leave. These thoughts are suddenly overwhelming me. I begin to sniff. "My allergies," I whisper, but Brian isn't fooled. He hands me a tissue. He always seems to have plenty of tissues when I need them.
The minute it's over, Brian hustles me out of there. By now I'm openly crying. "That's the LAST church you are dragging me into! I swear! You're becoming a religious fanatic right before my very eyes!" He dabs at my tears, gently. A few tourists leaving the Chapel gawk at us as they walk by, but Brian ignores them. Then he puts his arm around my shoulder, hugging me close, and leads me away.
And it IS the last church, I think. Because the trip is over. All that's left is to pick up our luggage at Firelands and then get on the airplane.
"This really is the end, isn't it, Brian?" I whisper in the darkness after we've made love that night in the little room of the bed and breakfast place on Portugal Street.
"For England now, maybe. But we'll be back here soon. There's the 'Hammersmith' premiere -- whenever THAT is. And the 'Olympian' premiere, too."
"YOU'LL be back, Brian. Who knows where I'll be?" Sitting in class at PIFA, I think. Sitting in the loft. Sitting at my mother's condo. Sitting in the comic book store. Just sitting. Alone.
"WE'LL be back. You know we will. If you believe we will be." He's stroking the bracelet on my wrist. He does that a lot. I don't even know if he's aware that he's doing it.
"And what about the Pitts? I'm sure there's lots of fun awaiting us there. Aren't you homesick, Justin? You must be by now."
"I do want to go home, Brian. Back to Pittsburgh. It's my home." I pause. "OUR home." He doesn't say anything to contradict me. "But you won't be there for very long...."
"We've talked about this, Justin. You aren't going to back out now, are you? Not going to abandon me to my fate?"
"Shut up! Don't talk about it." Because I'm afraid if we start to talk about it -- I won't be able to DO it.
"But I thought you wanted me to talk about things? To express my feelings? And now I can't fucking stop myself! You've created a monster! I'll be watching 'Oprah' and reading Sylvia Plath next! You've made me into a touchy-feely dyke!" He reaches around and squeezes my waist. It tickles.
"I have not!"
"You HAVE! I'll have to buy some flannel shirts. I've already got the herbal tea! And I'll get some cats! Five or six of them. And a k.d. lang CD!"
"Stop that! Don't make me laugh!" Because I don't want to laugh. I want to be miserable tonight.
"Why not? Life is funny, isn't it? Love is funny -- isn't it? Justin?" He rolls me over to face him, then to pull me on top of him.
"I don't know," I whisper.
"You want to know something even funnier?" He picks up something from the little table next to the bed. He puts a condom packet in my hand.
Brian has only let me fuck him a few times. Twice, actually. He has issues with it. Big issues. Issues about control. Issues about... other things.
When Ben Bruckner first started hanging out with Michael at Woody's last fall, he was going on and on with his 'theory' of queer sexuality and male power. I think he must have been working out one of his lectures by trying it on us. It was all about the stereotyping of roles, of 'top' and 'bottom' being outdated concepts that hinder free sexual expression and true equality in a relationship.
"Bullshit!" was what Brian had to say about that -- and he went storming off, right out of the bar. Yes, BIG issues. I followed him out of Woody's.
"Ben is SO full of shit!" Brian was raging as we walked back to the Jeep. "And he has the fucking nerve to look at ME while he makes those 'theoretical' statements! Right! He may be so smug because Michael is such a total bottom he KNOWS that HE never has to worry about Mikey wanting to switch roles! But that didn't stop Ben from letting himself be fucked! Twice."
"You did him!" I said. "Where? When?"
"At the White Party in Miami. Two years ago." Brian was still steaming. "Yeah, he can play the brutal top with Michael and all his students -- but he knew who to come to when he needed someone to fuck HIM!" And he refused to talk about it anymore. I still don't think that Michael knows that Ben and Brian have done the deed. And I sure am not going to be the one to tell him!
Another time he took me to the baths and encouraged me to fuck some guy. Helped me to do it, in fact. I didn't want to. I just wanted to please Brian. And he thought he was trying to please me. He thought he was giving me what I wanted. Because I was always asking him to let me fuck him and he was always putting me off. Pushing me away. It was all about control -- I know that now. About the past. It nothing to do with 'equality in a relationship' or 'free sexual expression' -- and everything to do with Brian and his fucked up life.
"This will never work for long, Justin," he said to me then. "Us, I mean. You aren't a real bottom, like Mikey. You'll never be satisfied with just getting fucked. You're a natural top, just like I am. And that's why this is a no-win situation."
But I didn't believe it then. And I don't believe it now. Because I think that Ben was right -- and Brian was wrong. It's all about power. Brian losing it. Brian not wanting to give it away, especially to me. All that was needed was trust.
And so he hands me the condom. And I know that it IS about trust. About believing that I'm NOT going to 'fuck' him over. Fuck him up. That's it's not about that. But that it IS about equality. About the two of us -- and no one else.
And this is completely different from fucking a nameless trick at the baths, or even that kid at Daphne's. This is about love, I think. About letting yourself believe in love. Letting someone inside you when all your mind wants to do is drive everyone out. About letting ME in.
And Brian is almost too tight for comfort. I have my work cut out for me, but I don't mind at all. "It always hurts a little at first -- that's part of it," I whisper.
"Don't fucking make me laugh!" he says, stifling his mouth in the pillow. "You'll end up on the floor!"
"No I won't," I say. Because now I'm deep inside. And he's not going to shake me off. Not going to push me out, either from his body or his mind. Because it's more than just fucking with us now. And it doesn't matter who he fucks -- or even who I fuck, tomorrow or next month or ten years from now. Because it's what's in your heart, in your soul, a lot more than what's in your ass or your cock. I realize that now. And so does Brian.
Now it's my turn to say, "I love you," when I come. My turn.
"And strangely enough," says Brian, when he comes, just minutes later, my hand on his dick. "I love you, too. How messed up is that?"
"Pretty messed up," I answer. "That's what we are, I guess -- a beautiful mess."
I can hear a clock striking somewhere from one of the many churches in the town and the colleges. 2:00 a.m. It's already the day we are leaving.
Brian reaches over and feels my cock. It's starting to lift its head up again, growing in his hand. "Why don't you fuck me again, Justin?"
And I do. And it's such a beautiful mess. Beautiful.
Continue on to "Happy Hour", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, September 2002
Pictures of Gale Harold and Randy Harrison from Showtime.
Updated September 25, 2002