This is Chapter 17 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Fred Karr, Marshall Meyers, Daphne Chanders, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin has an important appointment. Pittsburgh. 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 have an appointment first thing this Monday morning that I've been trying to avoid even thinking about, but I can't dodge it any longer. I've canceled on Fred Karr twice already. Brian will kick my ass if I cancel this again.
I drive the Jeep through the slush until I find a shiny new office building with a new high rise parking garage attached to it. I park the Jeep in the garage and go in search of the 5th floor, suite 506, the law firm of Carson, Karr, Jennet, and Sager.
"I have an appointment with Mr. Karr," I tell the receptionist through the window. She buzzes me inside and sits me down in a big brown room. Yup, everything in it is brown. Brown carpet, brown bookcases, brown desk, brown curtains. Even the walls are painted a kind of off-white with a brownish tinge. I think that some interior decorator must have told this guy that brown was that year's power color.
I wish Brian were here. I'd make a bet with him that the man will be wearing a brown suit. Fred Karr comes into the office a few minutes later. I win! Brown suit with a brown and yellow tie. Yuck.
"Mr. Taylor," he says, shaking my hand. "So glad you could finally make it."
"Yeah," I say unconvincingly. "Me too." He and the receptionist probably had their own bet going about whether I'd show up this time.
"Frankly, Mr. Taylor, most people who are due to inherit a considerable sum of money are quite eager to come in and receive it," Mr. Karr says. "Have you had an opportunity to examine the documents I sent you?"
"Yes, Mr. Karr. I looked at them," I reply. "I'm not up on a lot of the legal terms, but I get the gist of it." I know that I probably should have had Melanie look these papers over. She's a lawyer and I know she could clarify some of the points, but I don't really want Mel and Lindz to have their hands in my personal business. Especially not THIS personal business. Not anything having to do with Brian -- or Ron. Our friends are already involved in so many aspects of my life and Brian's life that I'd rather keep this particular twist quiet. Besides, Mel would immediately want to take over as my lawyer and -- no offense to Mel -- that's the last thing I want.
"I've spoken to your lawyer out in Los Angeles, Mr. Urbanski, and also to Mr. Rosenblum's attorney, Mr. Fishman. He's the one who drew up Mr. Rosenblum's will and went over the bequests with him. He told me that Mr. Rosenblum was very specific about this trust. He wanted it to go to YOU, Mr. Taylor, and no one else. Am I to understand that you may be reluctant to accept it?"
Here it goes. How can I explain to this guy why I feel so conflicted about taking an inheritance from Ron? How can I get him to understand that I feel like it's a big 'fuck you' to me in some way? That I KNOW it must be! Why else would Ron leave me money, except as a way of screwing with my head? And thinking about this money IS screwing with my head in major ways! So I guess Ron got his wish.
In one way, I really could use this money. I could be independent. I could pay my own tuition at PIFA and even pay Brian some rent for my studio. I'd have money to live on and I wouldn't have to run up the credit cards that Brian gave me and feel like I'm some kind of kept boytoy -- even if I kind of am. And I could start paying back Brian some of the money he's already spent on me. I don't want to feel like I owe him so fucking much that I can never repay him! I think that puts our relationship on an uneven basis and I hate that feeling.
However, Ron's money feels weird to me. It's money that comes from what Brian refers to as Ron's "avant garde erotic pieces." Meaning porn. Ron's fuck films. He made a lot of them over the years under a bunch of different pseudonyms. And most of the money he made he apparently banked, like a nest egg, for a rainy day. But as Ron got more successful doing legitimate films for the gay market, like the Navarro Videos -- those 'gay romances' that Brian thinks are such crap -- and a lot of music videos, television, and even some commercials, he didn't need to use the porn money. So it stayed squirreled away in the bank. And Ron still kept filming the porn. Brian told me that he was making it right up until about two years ago, right before he seriously started work on 'The Olympian.' I think Ron was just getting off on making them.
The thing about porn videos, at least gay porn videos, is that they sell like crazy. Even the older ones that Ron made 10 years ago are still selling. Some of them are kind of covert, labeled as "pre-condom era." Those are reels that were made before it was the rule that you showed the guys using condoms and having only safe sex. But some men like watching those older videos. Maybe it's more of a fantasy thing. Brian has a huge collection of porn, including stuff from the 1960's and 1970's. Some of it is still hot, but most of it is just silly. Hey, a lot of porn is silly. I don't mind looking at it, but I prefer the real thing.
So I'm conflicted about this whole thing. I don't know why Ron wanted me to have this money and that's the main thing that bothers me. Of course, Brian accepted his own inheritance from Ron, including the House of Dysfunction in the canyon, and the cars, and the rights to most of Ron's "intellectual property." Brian thinks I'm crazy even to think of refusing my own bequest. He told me to grow up and not be a twat about the money. He thinks that it doesn't matter what Ron's intention were because Ron is dead and the inheritance is mine with no strings attached. Brian says that I should take the money and put my quarterly payments into CD's or invest in something very sound, like real estate. Then I can just sit on it while the money grows.
"Besides," Brian told me. "I may want to dump your big ass someday and then you'll need something to fall back on until you find some other old geezer to finance your expensive tastes!"
Naturally, Brian assumes he'll keep paying my tuition and other expenses, just like he's been doing all along, while I keep the cash. Even though I want to pay him back, it's going to be a struggle to do it. He's got money and he's my partner, so if I need it, it's there for the asking. Anything from Ron is gravy. Brian thinks it's as simple as that. But it doesn't feel simple to me.
"The terms of the trust are quite simple," Mr. Karr explains. There's that word again. Simple. "You'll get a payment once every quarter until you turn 25, at which time you'll have access to the full amount of the trust. But even then I'd advise you to keep your capital invested and just take what you need, when you really need it. The way it's structured, the trust is meant to provide you with a living income and the means to pay for your education as an artist. That's what the will states: 'For the support of Mr. Justin Taylor's education and his continued artistic career.' Mr. Rosenblum seems to have had a firm belief in your talent. His will is very specific that he wished you to be free to pursue your gift." Mr. Karr smiles at me with big plastic-looking teeth. "He must have been a good friend, Mr. Taylor. A VERY good friend."
There's more than a little bit of a leer in that smile. Unless I'm just paranoid. Mr. Karr must think that Ron was interested in other 'talents' beside my art. Why else would some 40 year old guy leave a pile of cash to a blond twink, right? That's another reason why it feels creepy to accept it. But Brian would tell me that I shouldn't give a fuck what other people think. Especially not some hetero lawyer in a shit-brown suit, sitting in a shit-brown office.
"Yes," I say, keeping my face a blank. "He must have."
Brian always says that if you have money and if you're successful then you can tell everyone else to fuck off. It doesn't matter what they think of you, and you don't have to care or live up to anyone's expectations. I know that Brian was mainly thinking of my father when he said that. Of how my dad used my education to try to control me. It was Dartmouth and business -- or nothing. Even after I got bashed it didn't change my father's mind or his determination that I do things HIS way. But then Brian stepped in and gave me my dream -- the Institute and my art. Without his money I couldn't have done it. And I WILL pay him back one day! That's something I have to do.
Yes, my own money would give me independence. Or the illusion of independence. Because I'm still living in Brian's loft and sleeping in Brian's bed and driving Brian's car and using Brian's computer and working in the studio that Brian built for me. But if I had my own money it would be because I WANT to and not because I HAVE to. I could leave anytime I wanted to. Which makes me understand more than ever how much I want to stay.
Mr. Karr pushes some papers across the desk at me and I look them over again. I need to bring my mom into the office to sign some things because I'm still a fucking minor. But I know that I'm going to do it. I'm going to take the money. And I tell that to the lawyer.
Fred Karr grins and shakes my hand. He's going to set up a direct deposit into my savings account. I should get the first payment within a month. "You're a fortunate young man, Mr. Taylor. This legacy will give you the freedom to do a lot of things that many people your age can only dream of. I hope you make good use of it."
"I plan to, Mr. Karr," I reply. "My art is very important to me and I do plan to pursue my gift, just as Mr. Rosenblum wished. I have some pieces that are going to be exhibited at the Warhol Museum in March, so I really mean it when I say that I'm serious about my art."
"I'm sure you are," he answers. "Are you interested in working in the movie business? I know that you and Mr. Kinney...." He stops and makes a face, as if unsure exactly how to put things.
"Mr. Kinney is my partner," I say. "He's the actor in the family. Maybe someday I'll work on a film, maybe in the area of computer animation. That's something I've always wanted to pursue."
"And now you have the means to do it." Karr grins. "Oh, one other thing." He reaches into a drawer and pulls out a large manila envelope. "This is for you. Mr. Fishman, Mr. Rosenblum's attorney in Los Angeles, said that Mr. Rosenblum wanted this to be turned over to you when you accepted your inheritance."
I take the envelope. "What is it?"
"I didn't look," the lawyer admits. "But it feels like a video tape. Maybe it's one of his movies. If Mr. Rosenblum wins the Academy Award -- posthumously, of course -- it might be worth something!"
A video tape. The envelope suddenly feels very heavy in my hand.
At the receptionist's desk I make an appointment to bring Mom in on Thursday to finish signing the papers. I wait until I'm sitting in the Jeep before I open up the envelope. It's a plain VHS tape. The sticker on it reads: "Justin -- 6/22/02." Last June. It's the tape of me -- and Ron. He's given it to me. As far as a I know he never showed it to Brian. All I have to do is throw it into the nearest dumpster and forget about it. I never have to think about it again. Ever.
But I shove the tape back into the envelope and close the clasp. Then I drive home. Back to the loft -- my home. When I get there I open up the bottom drawer of the dresser. There are all sorts of things in there that probably should never again see the light of day. A scarf with dried blood on it, folded and wrapped in a pillowcase. And another tape in another envelope. A tape that Jimmy Hardy took out of Ron's VCR the day he died. A tape labeled "Jack -- NYC 1988." I put this other tape into the drawer next to it. I know that I should destroy all of these things, that they're bad luck, bad news, full of horrible memories. But they are also all part of my life. OUR life. Mine and Brian's. And I know that one day, when I have the courage, I'm going to show Brian that tape of me and Ron. And if we are really meant to be, it won't make any difference. I know it won't.
I slide the drawer shut and head back out to class.
"Tell me again why I'm going to another mixer with you?"
"Because it'll be fun and you need to get out?" Daphne grins at me.
"Last time was a fucking disaster, Daph!" I fume.
"You didn't have any fun because you weren't trying, Justin," she points out. "This time you can relax and get loose! We never have any fun anymore. You don't even have to talk to anyone else except me."
"You... and Marshall," I say as I pull the Jeep up in front of Marshall's dorm.
"Better Marshall than Wade," Daphne again points out. Wade is grounded after his mom caught him sneaking out after 11:00 on a school night to meet some guy. It's just as well. Wade's mouth muscles need a break.
"I guess." I hit the horn and see Marshall trotting down the sidewalk. He slips on a patch of ice and slides part of the way, right up to the door of the Jeep.
"Whoa!" he says, climbing into the back. "Hi, Daphne!" Marshall and Daph have met a couple of time when I had them both over to the loft to eat pizza and watch some DVD's. Marshall likes to rag on me about my 'girlfriend.' He would probably shit if he knew that we'd actually fucked! "Hey, Justin. I almost ended up on my ass on that ice!"
"If you get lucky at the mixer you might end up on your ass again!" Daphne cracks.
Marshall blushes. "Will there be a lot of cute guys there?"
"Tons!" Daph laughs. "I'll introduce you around. I know all the guys!"
"Yes," I say. "Of course she does. Daph is Carnegie Mellon's official fag hag."
"Daphne, why don't you come to the movies on Friday with me and Justin?" Marshall asks.
"Shit," I say. "I forgot to tell you, Marshall. I can't go on Friday night. I have to... to go out of town for a family thing."
Daphne looks at me. "What family thing?"
"It just came up," I tell her. "I'm sorry, Marshall."
"Crap," I hear Marshall mutter. "I was looking forward to the movie!"
"I know," says Daph. "You'll meet a really HOT guy at the mixer and take HIM to the movie and have a TORRID affair and then live happily ever after!"
I snort. "You've been reading those Gordon Merrick novels again, Daph!"
"What are those?" Marshall asks curiously.
"They're like gay romance novels," I reply. "All the guys are blond and perfect and rich and they have amazing sex on the French Riviera and live together forever!"
Marshall brightens. "I'd like to read those!"
"They're pure fantasy," I add. "There are no guys who are like that anywhere in the world!"
"What about you and Brian?" says Daphne. "You guys are exactly like a romance novel! And you're BOTH gorgeous and perfect and have amazing sex! And Brian is rich and famous!"
I grimace. "Brian and I are hardly a romance novel! Besides -- we're REAL, not fantasies!"
Daph turns around and smiles at Marshall in the back seat of Jeep. "You should have seen the two of them dancing together at our Prom, Marshall. It was just like a movie!"
"Wow!" says Marshall. "I wish I could have seen that. I didn't know that your boyfriend took you to your Prom, Justin."
I wince. "Can we talk about something else -- please?"
Daphne looks at my face. "Sorry, Justin. I thought you were okay with talking about it."
"Can we skip it?" I say shortly. "Please?" I'm on the Carnegie Mellon campus now. I look around for a parking space. Daphne and Marshall fall silent as I find a space and wedge the Jeep into it. The snow is piled up everywhere and there isn't a lot of room to maneuver.
We get out of the Jeep and head over to the mixer. I feel like turning around and going home right now. Calling Brian and indulging myself in a little phone sex. But we've been doing that every night since he got out of detox and Brian finally told me to get the hell out of the loft for the evening. That's the only reason I agreed to do this in the first place.
We walk in and the first person I see is Shayla. Great. She's just what I need. Obviously Daphne doesn't share my dislike of Shayla, because she pushes by me and turns on the charm. And Shayla actually smiles at her. I guess I take Daphne for granted and forget that she's really hot. Brian always says so, but that's Brian's flirting gene that takes over his whole being in certain situations. I look at Daphne and realize that she IS hot. But she has such rotten luck with her boyfriends that she's still hanging out with me. She's still coming over to the CMU GLBT Mixer and dancing with the gay boys.
A couple of people say "hi" to me as Marshall and I make our way over to the beer. I see Alan Wray and some of his friends. I also see some guys from PIFA, too. One of them nods at Marshall and Marshall smiles back at him.
"This is great, Justin!" he says, clutching his plastic cup of beer. "Thanks for bringing me here!"
I had thought about taking Marshall to Babylon, but Marshall is still kind of innocent. He's never had a boyfriend and never gone to clubs, so I figured that Babylon would scare the hell out of him. But the mixer is more Marshall's speed. It's all college guys and the cruising is pretty low key. No dirty old men or drug-crazed queens are going to grab Marshall and freak him out. I really like Marshall and I want him to have a good time, but I don't want him to end up a cock-crazed twink like Wade.
"You want to dance?" I ask him. The music isn't too bad and I feel like moving around a little.
"I don't know how to dance," says Marshall, blushing. "I think I'll just watch."
"You wanted to come here, Marshall," I tell him. "And now that you're here you aren't going to wimp out on me!" I grab him by the arm. Daphne turns around from talking to Shayla and she laughs when she sees me dragging Marshall to the dance floor.
Compared to Babylon, the dance floor is pitiful. It's just a small area of the multi-purpose room with a flashing red light pointed at it. But there's music and a couple of guys dancing. If Marshall is going to learn any social skills, this is a good place to start.
"Do you dance a lot with your boyfriend?" Marshall asks me.
"We used to. A lot!" I'm trying to get Marshall to move with the beat. He's a really cute guy and there are a few guys checking him out. He's certainly hotter than most of the other prospects at the Mixer. There's no reason why he can't meet someone nice here. Jesus! I sound like Daphne or Emmett. Trying to fix people up. That's what comes of being part of a couple. You want everyone else to be in a couple, too. "But Brian and I don't get that much of a chance to go dancing these days. Although we've been to clubs in Los Angeles and New York and London together. But we mostly hang out at home when we're in Pittsburgh."
"Did you meet Brian at a club?" The music isn't very loud, so Marshall has plenty of opportunity to shoot questions at me.
"Outside of a club, actually. Babylon on Liberty Avenue." I move a little closer to Marshall and touch him. He jumps back like he's been burned. I laugh. "I'm not trying to molest you, Marshall. But if you want to hook up with a hot guy, you can't act like some straight boy who thinks he's going to catch fag cooties!"
"Sorry," says Marshall, sheepishly. "I... I've never danced with another guy before. It... feels funny!"
I shake my head. "Marshall, how do ever expect to get laid if you can't even dance with a guy? Not even with ME? And you know that you're safe with me."
"I know," he mumbles. "But I keep thinking that my dad is going to walk in and see me!"
"Marshall, didn't you say that your parents lived in Scranton? So what would they be doing at a gay mixer at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh? Think of it that way."
"I guess." Marshall hesitates and then actually touches me. Well, it's more like he bumps into me, but that's a start.
"See? You're doing fine!" I tell him.
It's so weird. Marshall and I are about the same age but I feel so much older than him. In experience. In what I've done and what I've seen. How many times I've fucked -- and how many guys. Not that I'm anywhere near Brian's league in that department. I'm probably not even in Wade's league anymore, for that matter! But compared to Marshall I'm like a man of the world.
The music changes to something a little slower. "Okay, put your arms around me and we'll slow dance."
Marshall gapes at me. "No fucking way!"
"Just do it! Jesus, don't be a twat! Do you want me to send Daphne out here to dance with you?" I look over and Daph is dancing with two CMU guys. I think she knows them from her Biology lab or something like that. "You want me to call her over so you won't look too queer, Marshall?"
The DJ starts playing 'Have a Nice Day' by the Stereophonics. It has a steady beat that even Marshall should be able to follow.
"No! Don't do that," he says, blushing again. "Let me get used to it first." He tentatively puts his hands on my hips. At this rate Marshall will be 40 years old before he can work up the nerve to let a guy put a dick in his ass! "How's this?"
"Fine," I say. I want to laugh at his panic, but I don't want to make Marshall feel bad. It's a shame that Wade is grounded, because he would have just taken hold of Marshall and had him up against the nearest wall in less than 15 minutes. Emmett says that Wade has a true talent for slut-hood. Maybe it was all that hanging around Jerk-at-Work and watching the professionals go at it while he was waiting for Ted.
"Excuse me. Can I cut in?"
Marshall looks up and so do I. Into very familiar green and gold eyes.
"Um... I... I...." I just blink at Dylan Burke. His silky brown hair is falling over his forehead and he tosses his head back to get it out of his eyes.
"Do you mind?" he says to me. And then he takes Marshall by the hand and pulls him away as I stare after them. I see the back of those tight jeans and have a flashback of Dylan Burke's ass in a Little League uniform. I have to shake the image out of my head.
I walk off the dance floor and get another beer. The DJ is playing 'Never' by the Roc Project. I love that song. It's a good one to dance to. I look around and sip my beer. A couple of guys look over at me, but then they look away quickly. I know they were watching me and talking about me. It's not my paranoia, it's the truth. Well, fuck them. Daphne is dancing with her two pals from her class. There's no one here I want to dance with anyway, so what the fuck?
I can't believe that Marshall is dancing with Dylan Burke. Jesus! Neither of them can dance at all. Dylan is like Brian. He has that stiff-arm thing going and he bounces back and forth in a way that would be stupid if he wasn't so completely fucking hot. And Marshall is moving back and forth with a goofy look on his face. He's gaping at Dylan Burke like Dylan just told him that he won the lottery. Now Marshall will have a total crush on that guy! And I bet you that Dylan Burke is one of those guys who fucks 'em and forgets 'em. Who is only interested in getting his dick sucked. And Marshall is NOT the one to do it. He's so naive that he's looking for love and romance and a relationship. Yeah, like it's going to happen at the GLBT Mixer!
"Where's Marshall?" asks Daphne as she comes over to get a beer.
"I think he made a 'Love Connection,'" I tell her and point to the dance floor.
"Isn't that Dylan Burke?" she says, squinting. "Wow! He's REALLY hot! Way to go Marshall!"
"Burke probably only feels sorry for the kid," I sniff.
"Why? Marshall is cute. He's one of the cutest guys here," Daphne points out. "And he's new. That's always a plus. The guys were all over Wade when he first came here."
"Marshall is NOT Wade!" I remind her.
"I think they make a really nice couple," says Daphne, sizing up Marshall and Dylan Burke as they dance.
Marshall isn't having any trouble slow dancing now. In fact, he's doing just fine in that department. I can't understand why it's bugging me. I mean, I brought Marshall here to meet some guys and have fun and he's met a guy and he's definitely having fun. So, what's the problem?
"You know who Dylan Burke reminds me of?" says Daph, nudging me. "Brian! Look at the way he moves his head. And something about the angle of his face. Do you see it, too, Justin?"
"No," I say shortly. "Dylan Burke doesn't look a fucking thing like Brian! Just because he's tall and has brown hair? No fucking way!" I crumple up my empty cup and toss it into the trash can.
"Well, I think he does. Dylan's so hot!" Daphne gushes. "Like Brian used to be!"
I glare at her. "Used to be? What does THAT mean?"
Daphne blinks. "I... I mean when he used to hang out at Babylon. When he was 'The Stud of Liberty Avenue'. You know what I mean, Justin! I didn't mean that Brian isn't hot now. It's just that... that he's older now. And he's not out there like he used to be. He's all settled down. And... and...." She shakes her head. "Forget I said anything! I wasn't insulting Brian. I think he's gorgeous. You know that! He's a movie star, for godsake!"
"Whatever," I mumble. I think about going outside or into the john and calling Brian on my cell. He'd still be awake. I have a strong urge to talk to him, even though I'll be seeing him in less than 48 hours.
Once again I've made a huge fucking mistake coming here. I could be home, talking to Brian on the phone and jerking off. Instead, I have to watch Marshall making goo-goo eyes at Dylan Burke. And I'm stuck here because I have to drive both Marshall and Daph home. I can't leave them stranded.
Another song ends and Marshall walks over. And Dylan Burke is right behind him. "How am I doing, Justin?" Marshall grins.
"Fine," I say, eyeing Dylan. He gives me a very slow smile that pisses me off for some reason. He looks at me like he knows something about me. But he doesn't know me at all. He knew me when we were little kids and that's meaningless. We weren't even friends back then. Well, not very close friends. We were in Little League together and that was IT! He probably doesn't even remember me from then. I barely remember him!
Marshall goes over to get a plate of nachos for him and Dylan, leaving me standing there with his 'conquest.' That's a laugh!
"So, Justin Taylor," says Dylan, picking up a cup of beer. "How's right field?"
Right field. That's where they stick the worst player on the team. That's where they stuck me. "I don't know what you're talking about," I say, turning away from him.
But I feel him leaning down behind me. I feel his hot breath on the back of my neck. The hair there bristles under the damp warmth. "They said you were a real snob now, Justin, with a bigshot boyfriend and a major attitude. I didn't believe it because I remembered a sweet little kid." He sniffs my neck. "Expensive cologne. Armani? Gio? Right?"
"None of YOUR fucking business," I say, not turning around. Not trusting myself to face him.
"I remember white-blond hair and the bluest eyes I'd ever seen," he whispers. "And I remember other things, too. Like that little squeak you make when someone touches you -- right here." He gently squeezes my side, right above my waist, and I jump slightly. I knew he was going to do that. He was always doing that to me.
"Quit it," I breathe. "Don't touch me."
"Hm, maybe you DO remember, Justin," he murmurs. "But maybe I'm not on your list of acceptable memories these days. Or am I?"
I finally gather the nerve to turn around and look at him. "I said that I don't know what the fuck you're talking about. So why don't you leave me alone, okay?"
Dylan Burke laughs. He laughs right in my face as I stand there, squirming. Because I know exactly what Dylan Burke is talking about. He's talking about one boy worshipping another boy from afar. He's talking about a boy sharing a clandestine touch at an amusement park. He's talking about a boy awakening to the truth of his sexuality. He's talking about all of that. And what he's talking about is getting me stiff. And Dylan Burke knows it.
I stomp off and go outside, his laughter ringing in my ears. I need to bum a cigarette off someone. And I need to call Brian. Right this minute.
It's cold and my jacket is inside. I look up and the snow is beginning to fall again. The flakes are cold on my face, which is suddenly very hot. I let them melt as I close my eyes.
Continue on to "Handle With Care".
©Gaedhal, June 2004.
Posted June 8, 2004.