This is Chapter 25 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Waiting for the Man - Part 2", the previous chapter.
POV of Diane Rhys, featuring Brian Kinney, Ron Rosenblum, Carmel, Dr. Hall, Jerry Baxter.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: April 2002. Diane is concerned about Brian -- and does something about it.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
It takes a lot of nerve for me to walk up to the front door of this house. The last time I was here was the night of the Jill Atwood premiere. The limo brought me over and Brian -- who was my date for the event -- was having a knock-down-and-drag-out argument with Ron on these very front steps. Brian had a few 'issues' about going to the premiere and even more 'issues' with pretending to be my date.
The housekeeper comes to the door. She's a bitch. Brian has told me some of the things she says and does to him behind Ron's back. On the surface she's all sweetness. But not to me, apparently.
"What do YOU want?"
I draw myself up to all of my five feet two. "I'd like to speak to Mr. Rosenblum. On personal business."
She narrows her dark eyes at me. "Wait here."
She leaves the door open and I can hear every word she says to Ron, who is hiding somewhere inside in the dimness.
"Mr. Ron, there's a woman at the door."
"What woman is that, Carmel?"
"That Diane woman. That trashy friend of Mr. Brian."
So nice to be recognized for what I am.
There's a long pause inside. "Show her in."
The housekeeper leads me down a gloomy hallway. Why is it so freaking dark in this house? The door to Ron's office is open and he sits behind his big desk like a Hollywood mogul. He looks just like a lot of the producers and studio execs I've blown in offices exactly like this. Thank God that won't be necessary today.
"What can I do for you -- Diane?"
"What's going on here, Ron? Maybe it's none of my business, but I want to know."
He sits back and works his mouth around. He's trying to make up a story. Men. Jerry is the same freaking way when he lies. You'd think they would have something ready.
"How did you hear about it?"
"From Jerry, who else? But it would be nice to know WHAT I had heard about? I don't know anything -- except something happened to him. After he left my place on Wednesday. He left with you -- and I want to know what happened after that!"
"Just a little accident. He's fine. Everything is fine."
"A little accident? What kind of little accident? Did he wreck the Mustang?"
"Um -- no, not exactly."
"Then, what -- exactly?"
"I don't think this is any of your affair, Diane." He narrows his eyes at me. He has glassy-looking blue eyes -- I think they are contact-lens-enhanced. Whatever, they are scary when they are staring directly at you. This guy is more ruthless than any shark. And he's had to be, I guess. Nothing like surviving and prospering for over a decade as an open fag in the Hollywood homophobic snakepit. No wonder he's paranoid and defensive.
"He's all right. That's all I'm prepared to say."
"Can I see him, then? Talk to him? He's here -- isn't he?" Now, I know he isn't here -- Jerry already spilled that. But I want to know where they've stashed him.
"He's gone away for a few days. He should be back at the beginning of the week."
He knows this doesn't make any sense. He's bullshitting me big time. "In the middle of the shoot, Ron? After he missed all this week with his nervous breakdown?"
"Brian did NOT have a nervous breakdown! And don't repeat that to anyone!"
"Well, he certainly did a good impression of someone breaking down when he spent almost four days in my bed with the covers over his head. Or is that his idea of a good time? I mean, I'm GOOD, Ron -- but I'm not Brian's usual type, am I?"
Ron glares at me. He really, really hates me now. He tolerated me before because I was useful. I was an easy beard for Ron and Jimmy to trot Brian out with in front of the Media. But when Brian actually began confiding in me -- that's when the cold shoulder began. Now Ron is actively against me.
"Fuck off, Diane."
"You first, Ron! Where is he? If everything's so fine, where the hell is he?"
"He's... He's..." Let's see how he'll put this. "Resting."
"Do you have him locked up somewhere, Ron? Because if you do, I swear I'll hire a freakin' lawyer. You can't do something like that!"
"He's NOT locked up, Diane. I told you -- he's fine. Everything is fine."
"Then why do your eyes tell me that everything isn't fine? You're about as subtle as a hammer over the head, Ron."
"I don't have to answer to you. You aren't anyone to Brian."
"Maybe not, but I still want to see him. And I'm not going to let this go until I DO see him, and talk to him, so think about THAT. Because I can make a big freakin' stink."
"And what do you propose to do, Diane?"
"I'll go the Tess Hardy and talk to her. See what SHE thinks about all this monkey business. There are a couple of things I could tell her about her husband that would make her sit up and take notice. Yeah, I could cause a shitload of trouble for everybody."
Ron's face begins to change a little. The defensiveness seems to change to exhaustion. He looks older -- much older. This whole thing is taking a toll on him. I could almost feel sorry for him if I didn't truly believe that, if all this wasn't completely his doing, then he'd certainly made it much worse than it had to be. And I used to think that Ron was one of the nicer guys that I knew in this crummy business. A little bit of success has turned him into a freakin' monster, like all the others.
"Why do all this, Diane? Why cut off your own nose like that?"
"Because I'm a nobody, Ron. I've got nothing to lose -- nothing. But Brian -- he has a lot to lose. And I don't like seeing you guys screwing him around."
"Why not just go home and forget you ever knew him?"
"Why don't YOU, Ron? This is what happens when you try to turn a very fragile human being into your trophy boy! To feed your own freakin' ego! Why did you put him in this stupid picture in the first place? To prove you could do anything? Work miracles? Or just to bask in having a movie star boyfriend -- even if you had to invent him?"
"I think you should go."
"I'm his friend, Ron! Do you even understand that concept? Can you comprehend anything beyond the needs of your freakin' movie? Or your own cock? Be a man, Ron. Do the right thing!"
"I am doing the right thing."
"For who? For you? For the studio? Or for Brian? You must have had SOME compassion for him at one time? Maybe it was long ago, but there must be SOME feeling there? You couldn't have always been such a heartless creep!"
He hesitates. He's thinking. He's frowning. He's all mixed up, I can tell.
"You don't understand Brian, Diane. He needs a firm hand or he goes off the rails."
"A firm hand? A firm freakin' hand! You're killing the guy, here, Ron! That's what you call a firm hand? He's dying here...."
I stop. Now I understand.
"Oh. I see." I back away from the desk. "That's exactly what happened. Isn't it? You took him away from my place -- where he was at least safe, at least not preparing to OFF himself! What did he do to himself, Ron? Tell me! YOU took him away! You let it happen! That's all YOUR doing, Ron!"
"It isn't! It isn't MY FUCKING FAULT!" Now he's yelling. Guilty, guilty, guilty!
He puts his face in his hands. He can't even look at me.
"I think you just better let me see him. Right away."
"What the freak IS this place, Ron?"
"A private facility."
From the outside it looks like a horrible combination of a posh health spa and an abortion clinic -- and I've had experience of both. The inside only confirms my first impression. The soft lighting, expensive furniture and artwork, and the plush carpets contrast sharply with the strong hospital smell that clings to the air -- that smell of alcohol, rubber, and blood.
The staff doesn't wear uniforms. They are young and nice-looking and they smile blandly, with all the phony and smug 'we so care about you as long as you can pay through the nose' attitude. They fawn all over Ron -- another reason not to trust them. They could freakin' be doing anything to Brian in a place like this and no one would be the wiser.
"So, who do they usually store in a dump like this? Famous drunks who want to dry out in secret? Loony relatives who might spill embarrassing stories to the tabloids? Inconvenient girlfriends having 'procedures'? What is it, Ron?"
He is tight-lipped. "Why so cynical, Diane? This facility is helping him."
My ass! I want to scream. "Helping him do what? He's not sick. He's not crazy -- unless YOU drove him crazy. What is it, Ron?"
"He's been ill. He's better now. In a little while he'll be out and can finish the picture. The doctor guarantees it."
"How nice. He guarantees it. I didn't know Brian came with a warranty. If they can't fix him do you get a replacement? Do they guarantee THAT?"
"You're very amusing, Diane."
"It's funny, but he wasn't 'ill' when he left my apartment on Wednesday. Depressed, yes. Upset, yes. But then he has good reason to be upset and depressed. If you or I had been through what he went through a year ago, we'd be feeling the effects, too."
"I know all about what happened last year."
"You do? He said he didn't tell you."
"His friend in Pittsburgh -- Michael -- he told me about the suicide attempt last year when I called him up trying to get some information on Brian's whereabouts."
Now I go completely cold. "Suicide attempt? Last year?"
"It was on his birthday, apparently. I found out when I talked to Michael on the phone. Who was very rude to me, by the way."
"Too bad about that! His birthday, huh? When is THAT? Funny he never mentioned it? Did you ever bother to ask?"
Ron shrugs, but he looks guilty. Good.
"I can't believe Brian was suicidal -- ever! Especially back in Pittsburgh. It's not like him."
"Well, believe it. So don't keep blaming me for his problems. He already came with a load of them."
"Which you haven't helped him deal with."
"He has an analyst.'
"Wow, great answer. And you knew about this when he was missing? You knew about this when you took him back from my place? What happened to him after THAT, Ron?"
"I don't think I should go into that."
I just want to give the guy a good swift kick!
"Anyway, I wasn't talking about that incident, Ron. He never told me anything like that. I'm talking about the other thing. About his friend who was attacked and almost killed. Brian was there and saw the whole thing, but couldn't do anything -- couldn't get to him in time to stop it, although he caught the attacker. The night he came to my place was exactly one year later. That was why he was so upset. I didn't know anything about the -- other."
"And I didn't know about this so-called attack."
"Well, NOW you do."
"And now YOU do."
"By the way -- so-called attack? It happened. Brian told me. It isn't some figment of his imagination. It was something very traumatic and he couldn't deal with it. Why he came to ME and not YOU -- you'll have to ask him that, Ron. I'd like to know the answer to THAT one."
At this point a snoopy nurse comes over to ask us to keep our voices down. This is a stand-off with no hope of compromise.
I'm surprised when I finally see him. He looks fine. He looks good, even. The guy is hot even in the hospital. Of course, Brian could be in a shipwreck and come up looking like he's modeling cruisewear for G.Q. There are no marks on him, no bandages. He's clean-shaven and his usually rumpled hair is carefully combed. Except for an I.V. in his left hand, he looks perfectly fine.
Until you see his eyes.
"Brian? How are you? Are you okay?"
He just looks at me. Those beautiful eyes. But the light is gone, like someone blew out the candle.
There's no one else in the room. It's completely private. I wonder how much they are paying to keep him in here -- and how long they are planning to have him remain? I sit down on the edge of the bed and put my hand on his arm. I point to the I.V. "Is that all right?"
"Just a little dehydrated."
He sounds so normal, but for Brian, that's NOT normal. He just makes tiny, one word responses or else doesn't speak at all. No digs at Jerry. No jokes about Ron. No bitchy asides about the nurses or the food. Nothing. He doesn't even question why I'm here, how I found out where he was. Nothing about what's going on. No requests for me to smuggle him in a bottle of Absolut. Like I said -- not Brian-normal.
He's just -- empty. That frightens me more than if I'd walked in and found him in traction.
"Are they taking good care of you?" I feel like a dork asking these innocuous questions. But I don't know what else to say, especially with Ron lurking somewhere right outside the door.
"Nice room." Good one, Diane! "Nice and quiet." Make it worse!
He almost smiles. Almost, but not quite.
"Is there anything you need? Anything I can bring you?" Like a ladder to climb out the window and escape? A gun to shoot Ron with? A rope to finish the job you apparently started a year ago?
He only shakes his head.
"Can I call someone? Someone at home? Please? Tell me a name -- give me a number! Someone who can come and take you home? I know there is someone. Just tell me his name?"
But he won't -- or he can't.
I want to tell him that it's all right. That he CAN go back if he wants -- that he should go back. That if he made a mistake by coming out here with Ron -- and who knows what Ron told him, offered him, seduced him with? -- that he can still return home. But, of course, he's been too stubborn to admit that he made a mistake. That maybe it wasn't the best thing to do. And that's why he's been drinking and drugging -- I know he has -- and doing God knows what else to pretend everything is a-okay with his life. And now he's just totally alone. Even Ron has abandoned him here, in this place where the rich and famous bury their mistakes.
I need to touch him. To let him know that there some kind of human contact in the world. He's just here -- isolated. I'm not sorry that I came, but I keep thinking that I'm going to be haunted by this scene -- especially if anything worse happens. And I can imagine that. I'm afraid for him.
I rub his right arm, like you'd rub someone with frostbite. Maybe I can put the feeling back into him. Rub his whole personality back. Something is wrong, though. I can't quite think what. And then it dawns on me.
"Brian, where's your bracelet?"
I always tease him about it. His good luck charm. His little affectation.
He looks down at his wrist. He strokes his right wrist with his left hand, the one the I.V. is sticking out of. Then he looks directly at me for the first time, right into my eyes.
"They took it away. They took everything away."
And he won't say anything more.
Ron and I are walking out when a well-dressed man stops to speak with Ron.
"Diane, this is Brian's analyst, Dr. Hall."
I don't take his offered hand. "Tell me the truth, Dr. Hall. What are you giving him? I mean, what are you dosing him with to make him into the zombie you are holding captive in there?"
The shrink looks daggers at me. "Excuse me, miss, but are you a physician?"
"No. Are YOU, mister?"
"Now wait a minute, Diane." Ron grabs my arm and tries to pull me away.
"No, you wait! Dr. Hall, have you ever heard the term 'ethics'? Do you know what that's all about?"
"I resent your insinuations, miss."
"They aren't insinuations, doctor, they're accusations. I think you are drugging him and I think it's criminal."
"Diane! That's slanderous!"
"I don't freakin' care, Ron! I may be just a dumb little Polack actress from Buffalo, but I know what's right and what's wrong. Do you, Ron? Do YOU, doctor?"
I turn and stomp out of there. I can't stand the thought of even getting into the car with Ron, so I walk up the road to a fast food place and call a cab to take me home.
That night I try to tell Jerry all my misgivings about what is happening to poor Brian.
He takes a big drag on his cigarette and then sets it in the ashtray next to the bed. "Stay out of it, Diane," he says.
"But Jerry, I just can't! He's my friend and he's being hurt."
"I've told you this before -- don't get involved with these fags and their fag problems. It's not for you."
"I'm already involved. I'm involved because he came to ME when he was in trouble."
"And that was your mistake. You'd take in a skunk if it was 'in trouble' -- but it'll still stink up the place and then shit all over you. Like I said -- butt out."
"But if I don't, then who will...."
He cuts me off. "Ron brought this on himself and now HE has to deal with it. If this picture gets finished it will be a fuckin' miracle."
"I don't give a damn about Ron or his lousy picture. What about Brian?"
"He's disposable. Face that fact. Pretty fags are a dime a dozen out here, just like big-titted women. You trip over them everywhere you go."
"That's a rotten thing to say."
"I tell the truth -- take or leave it, Honey. If they can hold him together long enough to finish his final scenes, Ron and Jimmy should cut their losses and cut him loose. Get rid of him. Give him a one-way ticket back to New York or Cleveland or wherever the fuck they picked him up."
"Whatever the fuck."
"But Jerry, that's what he's wanted all along! To go home! Hasn't anyone been listening to him?"
"Probably not. What HE says doesn't signify. It doesn't add up to shit. It's what Jimmy and Ron and the studio say that counts. Now I say they should eighty-six the guy as soon as possible. But they won't."
"Why not? He wants to go -- they want to get rid of him, then why not?"
"Ah -- I didn't say they wanted to get rid of him. I said they SHOULD get rid of him. That's different. Ron won't let him go in a thousand fuckin' years. And now, it seems, Jimmy won't, either. This guy is like Queer Kryptonite. Ron is fucked over it -- and I don't have a clue what's going on with Jimmy there. That's fucked, too!"
"What do YOU think is going on, Jerry?"
"I know what they are all saying. I've been hearing the rumors since filming started, but I thought it was all hype because of the subject matter. Any time a big star plays a fag the gossip starts. I can't buy it. I've known Jimmy Hardy since he was on the tube back in '83 and he's as straight as... as I am!"
"You just don't get it, Jerry."
"I guess I don't. Why would a guy with a sexy wife like Tess and the opportunity for all the pussy he wants, any time he wants -- I mean, what's the deal? It's gotta be a rib."
I just laugh at Jerry and his complex take on human sexuality and emotions.
"What do you know about it, Diane? Do you know something about them fuckin' around?"
"Nothing," I say. Yeah -- nothing I'm telling YOU, Jerry.
But I do know one person that I can have a talk with. The regal Mrs. James Hardy. And maybe the only one who can get her husband and his evil twin to cut Brian any kind of slack.
While Jerry is snoring, I, Diane Jablonksi 'Rhys,' make plans to pay Tess Hardy a little visit. Hollywood's A-List Hostess and Wife meets Little Miss Nobody. There's only one thing we have in common -- and I'm counting on it for everything. And that's Brian.
Continue on to "Sooner", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, June 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from Showtime.
Updated June 12, 2002