This is Part 3 of Chapter 107 in the "Queer Theories" series.
The narrator is Dorian Folco, and features Justin Taylor, Brian Kinney, Sir Kenneth Fielding, Sir Miles Hadleigh, Others.
Summary: Dorian must make a very difficult phone call. London, October 2002.
I look for a quiet place to make a phone call. One of the nurses directs me to a waiting room in a corner of the floor. I look inside and it's empty, so I sit down on the battered sofa and take out my phone.
This is something that I only wish that I could handle myself. But this isn't for me to deal with. It isn't my life or my relationship. I'm here only because... because I was here. Brian didn't want to go to a hotel and so I offered him my house. And my bed, I admit it. But in Brian's mind, I know that I am nothing more than a convenience. A friend, perhaps, as well. But a convenience none the less. And that is difficult to face about one's self. Especially when I find that he means so much more to me... but that makes little difference now. There's only one person who can matter right now. Only one person he wants. But how to handle it?
Frankly, I fear to have Justin come here. Especially when I don't know what the situation will be. Whether the police will find anyone to charge. Or if the press will get wind of the whole matter sooner rather than later. And Brian would not want him in the center of such chaos. Not after Brian has done so much to shield his young lover from publicity. And I also fear how upset Justin would be to see the condition that Brian is in. Physically AND emotionally. It isn't a pretty thing.
Of course, I perhaps did them both no little favor by springing the opening scenes of 'Hammersmith' on Brian the way I did. I'm afraid that I may have precipitated his panic episode. I was so proud of those scenes -- the boy has such a quality of innocence and longing in his face -- but I believe that I miscalculated. I didn't anticipate Brian's vulnerable mood. Or how much he missed Justin and has been despondent without him. Not to mention the nasty business that occurred with Ron right before he left California. Brian probably never should even have come here to do this event and all the publicity right after that unfortunate incident. He should have gone directly home. To see Justin. To get his mind settled. His heart settled. But he did not. To his grief. And to mine.
I check my watch. It seems impossible that the 'Hammersmith' premiere was only last night. And now it's Wednesday, almost mid-day. It must still be quite early in Pittsburgh, but I'm certain that Justin won't mind being woken. Better that he hear this news from me than from... the press? On the television? The internet? Yes, it's possible. If word of this leaks out before we can make a statement like the one Sir Miles prepared when Brian was arrested last summer, then who knows what will happen?
First I call Ivan and have him look up the number in my book. There are a few entries in there for Brian. I tell him it's under 'the loft' -- give me that number. Ivan reads it off and I program it into the phone. I may need to call Justin more than once. I may need to be in touch with him regularly. I just don't know.
The number at the loft rings twice and is picked up before the third. "Hello?" A very sleepy voice.
"Justin? It's Dorian Folco. In London." As if I'm ordinarily right down the street.
"Oh, hi," he says, yawning.
"I'm so sorry to wake you."
"I have to get up for class anyway, so it's no problem." Then there's a pause. He must be wondering why I'm calling. I've never called this number before. I hesitate, trying to rehearse how to begin. "Dorian? Are you there?"
"Yes," I answer, finally. "Justin -- are you alone?"
"Why? Are you checking up on me?" he laughs, softly. "Of course I'm alone! If Brian isn't here...." And then he stops. Stops and thinks. I can hear the wheels turning in his head all the way across the Atlantic. "Dorian -- what's wrong? Tell me! What's the matter?"
"I... I wanted you to hear it from me... before you heard it on the news or before someone else called...." I start, praying that I don't lose my nerve.
"What is it?" he says, his voice rising. "What's the matter with Brian? Tell me NOW!" Justin is almost screaming. I've completely botched this and sent him into a panic now. My own stupidity! Can I do nothing right?
"Justin, please calm down. Please. I can't speak to you while you are shouting into the receiver." I can hear his ragged breath on the other end. "Please stop and listen to me."
"I'm listening," he says. His voice sounds so small now. And so distant.
"Brian is here... in hospital." I hear a little gasp, but he doesn't speak. He waits. "He was brought in last night, quite late. He's been... injured."
"Injured? How?" His voice begins to rise again, just this side of hysteria. "Tell me the truth, Dorian!"
"Justin, he's... He's been beaten. The authorities are looking at robbery as a motive for the assault, but...."
"But Brian still had some cash on him," I reply. "The police don't know that his wallet is back at the house. And that he wasn't wearing a watch...."
"He almost never does. He hates watches. And clocks. Time."
"I don't believe that Brian was robbed at all," I continue. "I think he was attacked by someone -- some people -- that he picked up. He was found outside a club. One of those private clubs that change names and locations one step ahead of the authorities." I trust that Justin knows what I mean.
"You mean like a leather bar?"
"Something of that order. Maybe a bit more... extreme."
I hear his deep intake of breath. "What was he... doing there?"
"I can't say, Justin. After the premiere last night... Brian was very depressed. I think he had a panic episode during the screening. He went running out and I found him in the gent's, shaking like a leaf. Then he refused to attend the party the studio was hosting. We came back to the house -- and he changed his clothes. Put on his jeans and leather jacket. And he went out. I... I didn't ask him where he was going." In hindsight I can see every step where I went wrong. How I should have read the signs. But I wasn't looking for them. I wasn't seeing clearly. I was wallowing in my own selfish emotions, upset that Brian was going out, looking for someone else. But Justin would have known the signs. Understood what they meant. Anticipated the danger. Justin might have been able to stop him and avoid this tragedy. "I... I feel entirely to blame, Justin."
"Pain management," he whispers.
"What? What do you mean by that?"
"Fucking pain management!" he cries. "That's what he does! When he can't deal with something! He goes out and immerses himself in sex and drugs so he doesn't have to think at all. He calls it 'pain management'! Some joke, huh?"
"Yes," I say. "Pain management. But this is hardly a joke, Justin. It's... very serious. He's been... badly hurt."
"A concussion, to begin with. His head must have been... knocked against a wall or the ground. He has scrapes and bruises. His ribs have been a bit battered. And his wrist wrenched. And... he's been cut. With a knife. Nothing too deep, but little cuts all over."
"But why?" Justin asks. "Why would someone do THAT? Did it happen at that club? Is that what was going on there? Cutting people? Is that some kind of fucking English kink? And I thought Ramrod was bad! What is going on over there, Dorian!"
"No," I say. "I don't believe this happened in the actual club. It must have been outside. They... the attackers cut at his clothes... and that's how he was... slashed."
"Cut at his clothes? I don't understand."
"Cutting them... off."
Now there's a profound silence. Then, "Oh my GOD!" And nothing more. I hope that he hasn't dropped the phone.
"Justin! Are you there?" I call into the receiver. "Please, don't hang up! Don't go away! I need to speak to you!"
"Speak to me about WHAT, Dorian? About Brian's real condition? Are you going to tell me the truth, directly? Or treat me like a baby? How bad is it? Really? How...." his voice breaks off in a small sob.
"It isn't good, Justin. But he's alive. When I... I first came here this morning, I didn't know that, so even his worst injuries seem a relief, Justin."
"You thought he was... dead?" Justin says in disbelief.
"Yes. They... showed me his damaged clothes and asked me... to identify them. That's all. I... I thought that was the end, Justin. I truly did." I have to stop and take another deep breath. "So I must tell you that his surface injuries aren't too terrible. They are physical wounds that are easily healed. But the other assault... that's something that will have to be dealt with. It's... it's unspeakable, but it's happened."
"That's easy for you to say, Dorian!" Justin answers, harshly. "Deal with it! So easy to say!"
"No! It's far from easy, Justin! It's... harder than anything I've ever had to face. To think on. It's...." But the words fail me. I try to focus on the positive. "The nurse mentioned that Brian could probably go home in a day or two, perhaps even on Friday... unless...."
"Unless there are medical complications. Or unless his... mental condition deteriorates."
"This is YOUR fault, Dorian! YOUR FAULT!" Justin's voice cracks as he cries out.
"I hope you enjoyed yourself with Brian while you had the chance, Mr. Folco," Justin says, with great bitterness. "I know what you and Brian have been doing. I know why you had him staying at your house, so don't even pretend. I always know. You tried to get at Brian last summer, but I was in the way. Isn't that right?"
"Justin, please be fair!"
"But if you were going to fuck around with him, then you should have looked after him, too! But you didn't! Because you don't really give a shit, do you? You have your movie in the can, so what the hell? You are just like Ron, Dorian! You're both finished with Brian, so who cares what happens to him? Who gives a shit? Well, I still care!"
"Justin, I care! I do! That's why I'm calling you." I pause to take a breath. The boy is right. I AM to blame. I DID take advantage of Brian when I should have known he was in a vulnerable state. I should have used more judgment. Justin has hit it squarely on the head.
"I... I have to call Cynthia right away," he says. "She's in charge of Brian's account here. She can advance me the money for a ticket to London and what I'll need when I get there. I'll try to get over there as soon as I can. I...I have to be there NOW! He needs me...." I can hear him crying softly.
"Justin, please listen to me. I want you to remain where you are. In Pittsburgh. For now."
"What? Stay here? Why? Why don't you want me over there?" he says, suspiciously.
"It isn't that, Justin," I reply. "But I think it would be better if Brian... if he went home."
"Home!" he shouts. "You want to send him back to L.A.? You want to send him back to RON? You probably called HIM first thing, huh? Ron is probably on his way to London this very minute! Are you fucking crazy?"
"No, Justin! You misunderstand!" I say. "I haven't called Ron. I... I never even considered it." Which is merely true. "I mean to send him HOME! Not to Los Angeles. Home."
"You mean... here? To Pittsburgh?"
"Just so. That's his home. That's where he wants to be. I know he does. And that's where he should be," I say, knowing that it is exactly what Brian wants. And what he needs. "The nurse said that he was asking for you... when they first brought him in. That's what she said."
"For me?" he breathes. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, she was very clear. That he was asking for 'Justin.'"
"Oh my God," he whispers. "I should be there! Now!"
"Justin, Please! I think you should stay in Pittsburgh for the moment. The police are still investigating this. The press may soon be involved and Brian would not want you to be connected to any publicity."
"Fuck that!" he says, fervently. "I don't care! I wish people would stop trying to protect me! I don't NEED to be protected!"
"But Brian thinks that you DO need protection," I reply. "And, frankly, Brian himself needs protection right now. This could be a small ripple in the press -- or a huge explosion, depending on how it's handled."
"Fuck that," he repeats. "I want to see Brian! I HAVE to see him!"
"Justin, if I were to send him there," I say. "Could you handle it? And not just his physical and medical needs, whatever they might be, but emotionally? His emotions -- and your own? I need to know if you feel that you could do it."
"Yes! Of course, Dorian! I want him to come here! To BE here!"
"Because he... looks a bit messy...." I hesitate. "He's been sedated and non-communicative thus far. When he is more coherent, when we can really speak with him, I don't know how much he will remember about the attack. And I don't know how... upset he's going to be when he understands what has happened to him. Or what his reaction will be when he does remember fully." And that is the bloody understatement of the year!
"I think I'm more suited to knowing that, Dorian," says the boy, with steel in his voice. "Seeing that I've been with Brian through every mood and trauma known to mankind."
"But not this, Justin. Not this kind of... violation." I can barely think the word that I really mean, let alone speak it aloud.
"I don't care," he replies. "I... I'll do what I can. And I have a little experience with trauma, you know. With dealing with the aftermath of... something horrible."
"I know, Justin. Brian told me a little of the attack on you and your recovery. He... thinks of it quite a lot. He feels... great guilt over the incident, still, even though you're better now."
"I know he does," he says, somberly. "But Brian helped me more than anyone else. Helped me to get beyond it. Helped me to get back to normal. Or as close to it as possible. And I know I can do the same for Brian. I know I can!"
And I believe him. But it will be a job. A huge responsibility for a grown man, let alone a boy. But I mustn't underestimate Justin. No, he's a man in the way it truly counts. In his love for Brian and his fierce determination to protect him. "If I send him to you, then I must make some arrangements here first. I need to get him a new doctor to evaluate him. And get the results of... some tests."
"For HIV and the like."
"Dorian!" he cries out like he's been struck.
"It's necessary," I say, firmly. "And it's something that will have to be dealt with. That YOU may have to deal with, Justin. If indeed there is anything wrong...."
"I... understand, Dorian."
"And there's the police investigation. I'm expecting Sir Miles Hadleigh here any time. I'm sure you recall him from last summer. He's a fine solicitor and used to dealing with celebrities. He's been Sir Kenneth's solicitor for many years. And then the authorities are due. They'll try to get a statement from Brian. But I don't know how much he remembers. Or how much he'll cooperate with anyone."
"Dorian, you know that Brian will never admit that he was... that he let anyone... attack him like that, Dorian. He won't. He'll never tell something like that to the police!" says Justin.
Yes, Justin is right. That will be the thing. Even if Brian does remember what happened, he will never admit it. But he must proceed in any event. "Then I'll call my office and have Clive clear Brian's publicity schedule. Cancel all his appearances here. I can get Sir Kenneth to take over some of them, but others will have to be let go. The 'Top of the Pops' and those that focus on the song, certainly."
"Brian will probably be relieved to hear that, Dorian. I think he has stage fright."
"You are undoubtedly correct. Brian wasn't looking forward to those at all!"
"I hope this won't completely screw up your movie, Dorian," Justin says, sincerely.
"Never, Justin. 'Hammersmith' is already far more successful than I ever dreamed. And it's mostly due to Brian. So how can I possibly complain?" How, indeed.
"I'm sorry I said those things about you, Dorian. That you were like Ron." Justin says it as if he can think of no worse insult. "I... I know Brian is hard to resist."
I have to laugh at that! Yes, I can still laugh! "Impossible would be the word!" I answer. "But you are right to be angry, Justin. I knew that Brian was in a relationship with you. I know that he... loves you very much, Justin. We spoke of it. And yet...." I can't say that I'm sorry. Because I wanted it to happen, even though I realize Brian has no feelings for me whatsoever. I was a convenience. But Justin isn't a convenience -- he's a necessity. And Brian needs him more now than perhaps he has ever needed anyone.
"Yes," he says. "Impossible. He's always been... impossible. Wonderfully impossible."
"When I get the word from the doctor, Justin, then I'll know when he can travel. He'll have to be cleared to fly. And he'll have to be in a mental condition that will allow him to."
"How soon are you thinking? Next week? Because I could come there and bring him back. It wouldn't be a problem. I could fly straight to New York and then on to London!"
"Perhaps as soon as Monday," I answer. "If it's longer than that, then maybe it would be good for you to come here. But I would rather that you prepared for him to go there, to you. Can you be ready for him? I think it's the only place where he might find some peace, Justin. That's the main thing."
"I'll do everything I can. Anything!"
"I don't know what kind of medical care he may be needing. Or if you can provide it there in your flat," I say. I think of those cuts. Those awful bruises. His hand and wrist, wrapped in gauze. His face....
"Whatever I need to do, I CAN do, Dorian. I will do anything I have to do to make sure that Brian gets well. I can get whatever resources necessary. And Cynthia can put me in touch with any doctors Brian needs. She can find anything."
"And who is this Cynthia?" That's a name I'm not familiar with.
"Brian's assistant. At his old job at Ryder Associates. She still kind of works for him. She'll do anything to help Brian. Or me."
"What about Brian's family? Doesn't his mother live in town?"
"I don't think she would be... very helpful, Dorian. It's a long story."
"Oh," I say. "And his other friends?"
"Maybe. I'm sure they could help... If it's needed."
"But you would rather they did not?" I say. I can hear the reluctance in his voice.
He sighs. "Sometimes they are more a hindrance than a help, if you know what I mean. Sometimes."
"I hate to think you will try to do all this on your own, Justin. But this is your call in the end. Once he's under your care, then you are in charge. He's... your partner, after all. Whatever you see fit."
"I'll do the best I can. I want to do it! And... I need to do it myself. For US."
"I understand, Justin." I give him my cellphone number and tell him to call me at will.
After I ring off with Justin I have to sit for a while, gathering my thoughts. Then I call my office and get Clive, my assistant, to begin canceling Brian's appearances and interviews.
"Tell them that I'll follow up with more information later, Clive," I instruct him. "And that it's possible that on some of them Sir Kenneth will be available as a replacement for Brian."
"But what's happened, Dorian? A few reporters have already called here. I didn't know what to tell them!"
"Tell them nothing, Clive! Brian is in hospital. He is in a bad way, but he should be all right soon. I hope. But we can't have the press bothering him while he is recovering." I sigh heavily. "And please get Harry Collins on the line. Have him call my cell number. I might have a favor to ask of him for this weekend."
Yes, I think that Harry's house, Firelands, would be the perfect place for Brian to have a bit of a rest before he attempts that long airplane ride to the States.
Then I phone my personal physician and inform him of my run-in with Dr. Arsehole, as well as Brian's condition, as I know it. "I know a good man on the staff there," says Philip. "I'm certain he will be willing to consult on your friend's case. And he might suggest a private hospital to which he can be moved, if that becomes necessary."
"I don't want Brian in this place one moment longer than he needs to be!" I insist. "I am ready to do physical harm to this man -- this so-called doctor! -- if he opens his mouth once more!"
"Please don't, Dorian. It won't help the situation."
"I know, but my patience is at an end, Philip." And it truly is.
After conferring with Philip, I go back to Brian's room. I find Kenneth sitting by his bedside, speaking to him softly. Brian seems much more alert. Aware of his surroundings. I look at him with relief. There's a spark of life back in his eyes.
"Brian -- how are you feeling?" I say, tentatively.
"I... I don't know. Crummy, I think." His voice sounds weak, but not too shaky. It sounds like his own voice and not some disembodied spirit. "I fell down... somewhere."
"Sister says that some of the sedative is wearing off, so he doesn't feel in such a fog. Isn't that so, my dear boy?" Kenneth pats his arm gently. Brian shrugs. He still looks so damaged, especially his face. I know the wounds are superficial, but it's still a shock to see him. Which is another reason why I didn't want Justin to come here right away. I don't want him to see Brian like this. His beauty defiled. I have this overwhelming desire to make everything right again. To make certain that Brian is whole again -- somehow -- before they meet again. To fix what I feel that I have helped to destroy. I know it's a ridiculous hope, but I can't stop myself wishing for it.
Kenneth stands up. "Brian, please excuse me, but I need to borrow Dorian for a moment." And Ken hustles me into the hallway.
"Where is Billy?" I ask, realizing that he isn't in evidence.
"I asked Mr. Smith to take him home. This is really no place for Billy," says Kenneth. "But that doctor, Dorian! He came in and began questioning me! ME! He was not only rude, he was downright... nosy! He inquired as to whether I was sexually involved with Brian! And then he began questioning Brian as well!"
"Bloody hell! That bastard!" I cry. "My own doctor is calling in another physician on staff here to consult. I am going to ask him if I can register a formal complaint, immediately. That man is a damn menace! He shouldn't be treating a dog, let alone an injured man!"
Kenneth nods. "I would be willing to sign that complaint as well, Dorry. But he also said that the police are due here soon. And Brian isn't about to tell them anything. He claims not to remember what happened to him."
"Do you believe that, Kenny?"
"Not for a moment, Dorian. I think he knows exactly what happened and who did it. But he'll never say so." Kenneth looks at me. "Would you?"
I sigh. "No, I don't think I would. But with the authorities involved...."
"What can they do?" continues Kenneth. "They have no statement from Brian. But he will have to say something to them, eventually. He can't simply claim to have fallen down! That's what he keeps repeating, that he fell down. Obviously, that's ridiculous. He's been violently assaulted! Someone is to blame for this. That's obvious even to our 'good' doctor. He made his opinion of the entire matter clear enough -- and in quite graphic terms!"
"He didn't discuss... the assault in front of Brian, did he?"
"He began to. Until I stood up and physically removed him from the room and into the hallway! I may be an old poof, Dorian, but I'm not a weakling! But then the 'doctor' -- and I use that term loosely -- stated exactly what had been done to Brian! He seemed to relish describing it to me. I think the man was enjoying himself!"
"He IS a bastard, Kenny! I don't want him alone with Brian -- ever! I'll hire private nurses 'round the clock if I have to in order to make certain he doesn't question Brian any further!"
"I agree, Dorian." I follow Kenneth back into Brian's room to await Sir Miles Hadleigh and the police. They arrive within the hour and immediately ask for Dr. Reid. I explain my reservations about Reid to the solicitor.
"He's the admitting physician, Dorian. They'll need his statement."
"I know, Sir Miles, but this fellow is very unprofessional. I don't want his opinions driving this investigation."
But Sir Miles is very firm. "He won't be influencing the investigation, Dorian. I'll see to it. But Brian MUST make a statement. The police are not going to simply drop this matter. They know what has happened. They have the medical report. They know an HIV test was done, among other things. That can't be ignored."
"I understand," I say. "Well, at least Brian is a bit more coherent now than he was this morning. I... I was almost fearing for his sanity then."
"That's only natural, Dorian. He was undoubtedly pumped full of drugs, as well. Who could be cogent in such circumstances?" says Sir Miles. And I feel better that he's here and taking charge of things. He sends Kenneth and I down to sit in the dismal little waiting room while he and the police inspector speak with Brian.
A few of the nurses come in to speak to Sir Kenneth Fielding. And Ken, as is his way, charms them. He signs a few autographs and the nurses bring us tea and biscuits. I try nibbling on one, but it's like a rock. I realize that I haven't eaten since we had an early dinner on Tuesday before the premiere. It's now Wednesday afternoon and I should be famished, but I can't think of food at all. The thought makes me ill. But Kenny eats the dry biscuits and chats with the nurses. Nothing fazes Kenneth. Perhaps because he's lived through so much. He takes tragedy and comedy, the fortunate and the ill-fated in equal measure. Perhaps it's his age. Or just his own resilient self.
I, on the other hand, block out unpleasantness. When my own father was dying a few years back, I couldn't bring myself to acknowledge what was happening to him. His wife (his third, a Danish actress half his age, of course) called me again and again, begging me to come to the Positano villa where they were living and see him before he died. But I put it off. And put it off again. I didn't want to believe it was really happening. And I did not go. I denied the facts. But I did arrive in time for the funeral -- and that was worse than any deathbed scene my unconscious may have dreaded. That Danish woman had arranged some strange New Age farewell, with chimes and chanting and all sorts of rubbish, when my father had stated more than once that he wanted a traditional Jewish service and simple burial. And I couldn't even manage to get THAT done for him.
I believe Brian is much the same. He told me that his father also died rather recently and that he was in denial for a long time. Is still in denial. But then Brian and his father seem never to have gotten along, whereas I was always on good terms with mine, even when he was chasing me around Europe, trying to pry me away from unsuitable lovers! And I haven't changed much, I suppose. Still one unsuitable lover after another. Still.
Sir Miles comes into the waiting room. I stand up immediately. "Well?"
"He's made a statement," he says, simply.
"And?" asks Kenneth.
"He says that he exited the club, was jumped and robbed of his wallet and watch, and was then knocked against the wall. That he fell down. After that he doesn't remember anything. No description of the assailants. Nothing more."
"And what will the police do now?"
Sir Miles shrugs. "They've already interviewed the doorman and the bartenders at the first club. No one remembers seeing Brian. No one saw anything at all."
"Complete bollocks!" I assert. "No gay man would forget having seen Brian at that club! Especially since he'd been there before! Brian stands out in any crowd. That's what makes him Brian!" I reply.
"Even so, do you expect them to identify a patron?" says Kenneth. "Really, Dorian."
"No," I admit. "They would be out of business in two minutes. Especially since it was Leather Night. Men go there with the expectation of anonymity. They'd lose their entire clientele."
"Precisely," says Sir Miles. "And as for the other club, The Black Door, the police can't even find anyone who admits to working there. They can't unearth the manager or the owner. The place is closed and will probably remain closed for the time being. Then it will probably open up in another location, under another name, once this incident is forgotten."
"Of course," I say. What did the police expect? Cooperation? "What about a statement for the press? We have to release something before it gets out on its own."
Sir Miles nods. "I will draft something and run it by the inspector on this case. He seems a decent chap. He knows that he'll never get anything more out of Brian. But he also would like to see the men who did this apprehended."
But I just shake my head. What I would like to see happen in a perfect world and what actually happens are two very different things. In a perfect world, Brian would never have had cause to go to that club. In a perfect world, he would still be beautiful and unscathed. In a perfect world, I wouldn't be feeling the horrible guilt weighing upon my shoulders at this moment.
I leave Kenneth and the solicitor to talk things over. I go back down that faded corridor, with its prison-like walls and doors, to sit with Brian for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening, until I feel that he will be all right. Until I feel that I can finally go home. And so can he. Home -- where he belongs.
Continue on to "Things Have Changed -- Part 1", the next chapter.
Updated February 3, 2003.