This is Chapter 4 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Avi.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin settles in. Arizona, May 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
After Dorian dismisses the cast and crew, Brian heads for the corral with the other 'cowboys' and I head for...
That's the big question. For the first time in a long time I have no classes, no job, no projects that are due tomorrow -- or even a month from tomorrow. I've got the entire summer at my disposal.
So -- what the fuck am I going to do now? Especially since Brian will be working his ass off on this film. The last thing he needs is for me to get in his way or act like I'm bored out here in the middle of nowhere.
Even if it IS the middle of nowhere.
That's where I'll need to use my much vaunted creativity. Ever since I was a little kid I've heard people say it: "Justin is SO creative! He's a natural artist. He always thinks of so many creative things!"
Here's the truth -- it's bullshit. I'm not 'naturally' talented. When I was a kid I was clumsy and uncoordinated -- just ask the other guys on my Little League Team! On second thought, don't ask them. Especially don't ask Dylan Burke. He's someone I'd rather forget. Anyway, I was ambidextrous to some extent, maybe even a little dyslexic. I never knew which hand to use to pick up my spoon, let alone my pencil. I'd want something to go one way and instead it would go in the other direction. So much for 'natural' talent.
So I worked hard to get my body under my control. Learning to ride a bicycle was especially tricky -- I used to pedal backwards. But I tried and tired and tried. I never gave up. I was a persistent little fucker, that's for sure! It was the same with learning to draw. I saw so many beautiful pictures in my head that I wanted to recreate them. So I worked at it. Focused on training my right hand to copy down the images I had in my head. And slowly what I saw in my imagination began to take shape on paper. I began to understand what it was to be an artist.
It's ironic that I ended up having to re-learn it all over again after I got bashed. It was like being six years old and mastering how to hold the pencil correctly. But it was much more frustrating the second time because I knew what I had been capable of before -- and it seemed for a long while that I'd never recapture it.
I still haven't. Not completely. But I'm working on it.
I remember the first time I tried working with India ink after I was bashed. I used to love drawing with it because of the clean, dark lines it makes against the heavy white paper. But I couldn't keep my hand steady. The black lines turned out shaky and the pen made ugly splotches all over the paper. I remember ripping up the thick sheets and throwing them away in despair, vowing never to work with India ink again.
I'm not sure what it says about how far I've come since then, but I brought a fresh bottle of India ink and some new pens with me here on location. And plenty of heavy white paper.
Of course, Brian always helped me in his own fucked up way. He challenged me not simply to call myself an artist, but to actually be one. He urged me to defy my father and choose PIFA over Dartmouth. Then when he didn't come and visit me in the hospital, I worked extra hard to get out of rehab so that I could find him. And I did find him. Then, when I was ready to throw in the towel when I couldn't control my hand, he wouldn't allow it. He fucking shamed me into not giving up. He got me my computer. He never let me pussy out.
And he's always been my best model. Always. Especially for nudes. No matter who I'm drawing, the guy always ends up looking like Brian! Good thing I'm not planning on being a portrait artist!
So now I have the whole summer ahead of me. I have the opportunity to work in my own way, on my own time. I need to structure things like a real artist and not waste this opportunity. I have my computer, my sketchpads, my art supplies, and this amazing desert all around me. And Brian as my inspiration. What more does an artist need?
Yeah, I keep telling myself that. Now I need to stop telling myself shit and get busy. Now.
I start walking back to the trailer.
"Excuse me, Mr. Taylor?"
Avi, the guy who came to get us this morning, falls into step beside me.
He's a little taller than I am, dark-haired and skinny, with the perpetually worried expression of someone who has a hundred bosses to answer to. Being an assistant to one of the assistant directors means that Avi is pretty low on the film set totem pole. I think the only ones lower around here would be the unpaid interns.
"It's Justin," I tell him.
"Sure," he nods. He's got a clipboard in his hand. He starts to make a note, but then thinks better of it. I can just imagine him writing, 'Call Mr. Taylor by his first name' along with all the other things he has to remember. I don't envy him this job. "Justin. Is there anything I can get you? I mean, do you need anything?"
I stop and look at him. "Like what?"
"Oh, anything." Avi looks vaguely uncomfortable. "Whatever you and Mr. Kinney might need to make this shoot a pleasant experience. That's my job. To get stuff for people."
"So, you're like a combination Welcome Wagon and Maid Service?" I ask in amusement. In other words, he's a glorified go-fer.
"If that's what you want to call it," Avi replies seriously. "Mr. Folco told me specifically that I was to take care of Mr. Kinney and his personal assistant and see to your needs." He hesitates. "And that's you, right? Mr. Kinney's personal assistant?"
"Yeah. That's me. I'm Brian's personal assistant, at least on this shoot. But I'm also his boyfriend." I pause, watching his face. I'm pretty sure Avi is straight. I don't get any gay vibe from him at all. "You don't have a problem with that, do you?"
"Not really," Avi shrugs. "There are a lot of gay guys in the movie business. I mean, even Mr. Folco is gay... I mean, sort of gay."
I have to laugh out loud at that. "Dorian? Sort of gay?"
"Well, he's dating Diane Rhys," Avi states defensively. "So he can't be totally gay!"
I sigh. I can see that Avi has a lot to learn. "Dorian and Diane are friends. Dorian has tons of female friends. But that doesn't make him any less gay. My best friend is a woman, too, but that doesn't make me straight." I decide not to add that Daphne and I have also had sex -- that would only confuse the poor guy further.
"If you say so," he replies doubtfully.
We reach the RV -- Brian's and my home away from home. I get out my keys and open the door. As we step inside, we're hit with a refreshing blast of cool air. "You can tell Dorian that the trailer is really nice. And the air conditioning works perfectly, thank God!" It's not noon yet, but this desert heat is enough to make me wilt.
"Would you like me to put down the awning?" Avi asks, setting his clipboard on the counter.
"Um... Sure," I say. "I didn't know there was one."
"Oh, yeah." Avi goes to a control panel on the wall and shows me how it works. "Your driver should have done this when he set you up."
"It was pretty late when we got in last night," I explain. "I think he was tired."
"Well, he should have taken care of it for you. All the controls work from this display," he demonstrates. "You can raise and lower the blinds on all the windows. Change the settings for air or heat. Adjust the satellite TV and sound system. And here's the awning. I'll lower it and you'll have some shade. Go outside and make sure it's working."
I step outside and watch the awning open up. Avi comes out and together we straighten it. "That's really nice," I tell him. "Except it's not very shady." The bright sun is beating down directly on the side of the RV.
"That's because your driver parked your trailer so that the door is facing east," says Avi. "You'll get the sun on this side in the morning, but in the afternoon, when it's the hottest, you'll get the shade."
"I get it," I say. "We'd definitely rather have the shade in the afternoon."
"There should be some chairs in this storage compartment." He opens a door on the outside of the RV and drags out two canvas lawn chairs. "See?"
We each unfold a chair and sit down. "Hey, this is pretty cool."
For the first time Avi grins broadly, very happy to be of service. "Anything you need, Justin, all you have to do is ask. That's what I'm here for."
That gives me an idea. "Do you have any maps of the area? I was going to download them from the Internet, but if you have some already, I'd appreciate it."
"Sure!" Avi says eagerly. "Where do you want to go? I can get you anything you need to find your way around. Or I can arrange to have one of the drivers take you."
"I'd rather drive myself," I tell him. "I brought my car with me so I'd have some freedom to explore the area." I point to where the P. T. Cruiser is parked behind the RV.
"There's a lot to see around here," he says. "The desert, the Indian Reservations, and the National Parks. Tucson is the nearest real city -- it's about 90 minutes on the highway. And Mexico isn't far, either. What kind of stuff are you interested in?"
"I'm an artist, so I'm open to everything." I look around at our makeshift camp and start thinking. "But for now I think I'd like to check out the nearest town and see if I can get a few things. Maybe a grill to do some cooking out. And a couple of steaks. We brought some food with us, but it won't last very long. I doubt Brian is going to want to eat every meal at the catering tent."
Avi laughs. "I don't blame him! The catering food is okay, but what can I say? It's like eating in a high school cafeteria every day. I imagine Brian Kinney is used to something a lot fancier."
"Not necessarily fancy," I say. "But Brian can be fussy about what he eats. He likes salads and lean meat and fish. And not too many carbs, of course."
"The guys in the crew really like their carbs," Avi confides. "And grease, too. You get used to some sort of fried potato at every meal, including breakfast! I used to try to keep kosher on location, but it's hard, especially on a long shoot. Some stars bring their own chefs on location, especially if they have a special diet. Jude Law's co-star on 'Charisma,' Petra Osborn, is a vegan, so she brought her own cook to Vancouver. I was an assistant on that shoot, too."
"Have you been working in the movies for long?" I'm curious, because Avi doesn't seem much older than I am.
"I was an undergrad in the Film School at UCLA and got an internship at Terra Nova Studio the summer of my junior year. My dad is an agent with Magna Talent Associates, so I had an 'in' over there. Then they hired me as an assistant to one of the AD's on some action flick that went straight to cable. But then I lucked out and got the gig on 'Charisma.' Mr. Folco thought I did a good job, so he hired me again for 'Red River.' I'm really happy to be here. Clint Eastwood and Brian Kinney are awesome! I mean, Jude Law isn't exactly chopped liver, but this is a real step up for me. It's an A List production. There's no way this picture is going straight to cable!"
Avi is easy to talk to, especially now that he realizes I'm not going to pull any prima donna trips on him. But why should I? I'm not a star. I'm not even a real personal assistant. I know that the only reason Dorian told him to look out for me is because of Brian. I have no illusions about my own importance on this set.
But that's okay. I'm here because of Brian and for Brian. And I don't mind. In fact, it's the way I want it to be. If Brian is going to be making movies from now on, then this is going to be part of my life. I want to be with him as much as I can. We've lost a lot of time together in the past year and a half for various reasons -- some Brian's fault, some my fault, and others just the vagaries of Fate. But I want to make up for that lost time. And what better place to do it than when the two of us are stuck in the middle of fucking nowhere?
"I think I'm definitely going to drive into town today. We brought a lot of stuff with us, but now that we're here, I'd like to try to make this place a little more liveable."
"I can understand that," he nods. "I'm sure a trailer isn't as luxurious as you're used to."
I laugh. "Well, Brian's loft in Pittsburgh is very classy, but it's not ultra-luxurious. Brian likes good quality things, but he's not into showing off. And our house in L.A. is nice, but it's not like a real movie star's mansion. It's more a regular house. Not like Jimmy Hardy's estate. That place is huge!"
"You've been to Jimmy Hardy's house?" Avi asks, his eyes wide. "I'd love to work on one of his pictures!"
"Yeah, Brian and I have been there a couple of times." I feel uncomfortable talking about Jimmy. It's funny how people are so in awe of him. It's hard to think of Jimmy as being one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, but it's true. When I think of Jimmy, all I can think of is... well, that image of Jimmy and Brian in the alley behind the Beverly Hills Hotel is one I'd rather erase from my head forever. And I'm sure Tess feels the same way. "Tess Hardy is a wonderful person," I add, trying to say something nice.
"That's what I've heard," says Avi. "Too bad about their separation. They were one of those couples I thought would be married forever. You think they'll get back together?"
"I hope so," I reply. And I mean it. The thought of Jimmy running around without Tess to temper him is fucking scary! Or the thought of Jimmy deciding that Brian is just the person to replace Tess in his affections! That's even scarier! Maybe it's a good thing that we're out in the desert for the next month instead of in L.A. with Jimmy at loose ends!
"Do you want me to go with you into town?" asks Avi. "I've been there a bunch of times to run errands. I just have to let Mr. Packard, the location coordinator, know where I am. But if I'm with you, I'm sure it won't be a problem."
I really don't want any company when I check out the area. That's part of the pleasure of exploring -- doing it without any distractions. However, it might be a good idea to take Avi with me the first time I drive into town. I'm sure I can find my way around, but things might go faster if I have a guide.
"Okay," I say. "Let's do it!"
"Fantastic!" Avi jumps up excitedly and grabs his clipboard. "I'll clear it with Mr. Packard and we can get started. It's about a 40 minute trip to La Reina. We can be there in time for lunch. I know a decent place we can eat."
"Sounds good to me." I stand up and stretch. It really is hot and the sweat is pouring off me. Luckily, the Cruiser has a decent air conditioner or we'd boil on the way into town. "Why don't you lead the way?"
La Reina turns out to be not all that much as far as towns go. There's a dusty main street and some nondescript stores with their paint faded by the relentless sun. A hardware store. A grocery store. A drug store. A souvenir shop selling cowboy hats and Indian handicrafts for the tourists. A Mexican restaurant and a pizza place. A post office. And a second-hand store. The most interesting place on the street seems to be the second-hand store. I love stuff like that. Junk shops. I'm usually able to find some interesting old magazines or prints, or bits and pieces for conceptual art projects. I put together my 'Bringing It All Back Home' piece out of discards I found at the Goodwill and flea markets, so I'll definitely want to check it out.
But I'll have plenty of time to poke around in there later. Priorities, after all. Which means... food. And something to cook it on.
"Let's start at the hardware store," I say. "Then we can have lunch."
Avi directs me to park the Cruiser in front of the Mexican restaurant. "I hope you like Mexican food," says Avi, getting out of the car. "Because that's mainly what they have around here."
"I like most kinds of food," I tell him truthfully. "But you can get sick of any food if you have to eat it all the time. That's why I want to get a grill. Then I can cook a few different things and we won't have to depend on the catering tent!"
"That's a great idea," Avi agrees. "Maybe I'll get one, too. I'm sharing a trailer with three other assistants and interns. One of them must know how to cook!"
"Putting hamburgers on a grill isn't that hard -- even for a bunch of straight guys!" I needle him. "I think you could do it if you put your mind to it."
"I don't know," Avi says dubiously. "I don't want to poison anyone."
"Come on!" I say. "Let's see what they have."
A half-hour later we walk out of the hardware store with my new gas grill and a hibachi for Avi, which should be good enough for the straight guys to burn a couple of burgers on! My grill isn't a top-of-the-line Weber like the one my father had for our cookouts at home, but it's still nice. It's got two levels of racks and an extra burner on the side to put a pot on to boil or steam something, which should be handy for vegetables. Brian will appreciate that.
"Do you do a lot of cooking at home?" Avi asks as we load the grill into the P. T. Cruiser. It's a tight fit, but we just manage to close the door.
"Not really. When class is in session I don't have much extra time. But if I didn't cook occasionally, then Brian would live on take out -- or he'd forget to eat at all!"
"Well, he's going to have to eat on this shoot," Avi advises. "With all the riding and other outdoor work on this picture, he's going to burn up calories like crazy, especially in this heat."
I frown. "I never thought of that." I remember how skinny and exhausted Brian was when he came back to the Pitts after the 'Olympian' shoot. Maybe there's a reason why cowboys are meat-and-potatoes men. "Then it's even more important that he's got food he really wants to eat."
"That's a personal assistant's job," Avi points out.
"And a boyfriend's job, too," I add.
"Oh, sure." Avi looks away. "That too."
I think Avi is more than a little uncomfortable with the gay thing, although he'd never admit it. On the drive from the location he was saying how much he really loved 'The Olympian' and admired Brian and what a great actor he is, yadda, yadda, yadda. I think he has a bit of a straight-guy crush on Brian, and maybe it squicks him out to be talking to the guy who has sex with the guy he idolizes.
"Do you have a girlfriend?" I ask. Because I'm curious. And because I want him to know that I know he's straight and I won't try to jump on him any time soon!
"Yeah," he says, smiling again. "Her name is Gabby. She's a grad student at USC. She's getting her Master's Degree in Psychology. Want to see her picture?"
Before I can answer Avi whips out his wallet and shows me what looks like a high school graduation picture. She has short blonde hair and wears glasses.
"She's cute," I say. "Have you been going together long?"
"Almost three years." Avi stares at her picture longingly. "But I've been so busy I hardly ever see her. We e-mail each other every day, but it's not the same, you know?"
I think of Brian at Springhurst. "Yeah, I know what that's like."
Avi puts his wallet away and then looks at me. "Did you say you were still in college? I thought you'd been with Brian a couple of years? I mean, from what I've read... and stuff." He seems a little embarrassed. I guess Avi follows the tabloids, too.
"Let's go have lunch," I say, slinging my arm around his shoulder. He doesn't pull away. "And I'll give you the short version of 'The Amazing Story of Brian and Justin'!"
"The short version?" Avi grins. "How long would the long version take?"
"The long version?" I laugh. "Believe me, Avi -- you don't want to know!"
The look on Brian's face when he sees the set up at the trailer is priceless.
"What the fuck?" He stares at me relaxing on the canvas chair with my sketchpad in my lap. He's all dirty and sweaty and his ass is dragging after a day of playing cowboy. Of course, he looks totally hot and very fuckable! "What are you? On vacation?"
"Yes, actually -- I am!" I tell him. Then I pour him a big glass of ice cold lemonade and watch him drink it down, his throat moving, his lips clinging to the glass, savoring every drop.
I love watching Brian doing anything physical. Eating. Drinking. Dancing. Exercising. Fucking. Even drinking lemonade. The way his muscles move. The way he holds his hands. The faces he makes even when he's just standing. Because Brian is never completely still. Something in him is always moving, even if it's only his tongue roaming around inside his mouth, poking out his cheek or peeking between his lips!
I put on the steaks. I know exactly how Brian likes his steak -- almost raw. Once he told the waiter at a restaurant to have the chef walk the cow back and forth in front of the fire and then serve it to him. The guy just gaped at Brian like he was fucking nuts!
I also have baked potatoes and salad. Meat and potatoes -- a manly man dinner for a real cowboy! And I bought a lemon cream pie at the grocery store for dessert. I was going to get vanilla ice cream, too, but it would have melted before Avi and I got back here. Next time I go into town, I'll take the ice chest and a freezer pack and bring back plenty of ice cream. Brian loves vanilla ice cream. And so do I -- especially when eating the ice cream isn't the main object!
Brian eats the dinner I've prepared like a starving man. And I mean that he devours the food like I've never seen before. I like to eat. No, erase that -- I LOVE to eat. While Brian usually fuels his body grudgingly, I like to relish what I'm eating. That's why Brian is always warning me that eventually I'm going to have to watch my weight. He thinks that one day my metabolism will shift and I'll wake up and be unable to fit my ass through the door. Hopefully, that day is still far in the future. But Brian is a picker. He dwaddles over his food, poking at it like it's the enemy. Sometimes a little bit will reach his mouth and he'll actually swallow it. That's how he stays alive -- one forkful at a time. But he inhales his Porterhouse like it's a piece of sushi -- gulp... and it's gone. It's the same with the baked potato, salad, and the large slice of lemon cream pie.
"Do you want the rest of my steak?" I've only eaten half of it. Avi and I ate a big lunch at the Mexican place in La Reina and I'm not that hungry.
"I couldn't," says Brian. But he's eyeing my plate.
"Go ahead." I pick up his empty plate and put mine down in front of him.
He finishes up the food while I carry the dishes into the trailer and load the dishwasher. Yes, the RV's kitchen has a dishwasher, a Sub-Zero fridge, microwave -- everything we have in the loft, except smaller. Dorian was right when he said that we'd have everything we'd need to be comfortable.
I go into the bedroom. Dinner is over and it's time for the second segment of the evening. I turn down the duvet, light a candle on the bedstand, and take out a small bottle of massage oil. Then I get out some big, fluffy towels that we brought from the house. The shower stall is pretty cramped -- too small for more than one, unfortunately. The last thing I do is adjust the music for the bedroom -- some Chet Baker, turned down low.
When I go back outside it's beginning to get dark. Brian has finished my steak and is lying back in the canvas chair, his eyes closed. "This is the time when I most miss having a fucking drink. Or a joint. When I really need to unwind."
"There are other ways to unwind," I remind him. "Why don't you get your shower now? That should relax you."
"Yeah." Brian heaves himself to his feet. "Jesus. My ass feels like I'm still on that fucking horse! And this is just the beginning!"
"You'll get used to it." I push him into the trailer and close the door behind us. I've already turned off both of our phones. No interruptions tonight.
Brian peels off his sweaty shirt, dirty jeans, and briefs. Everything he was wearing smells like horses, partly sweet and partly like manure. Luckily, I'm used to the odor from when I was taking my riding lessons in London. But I bundle the clothes into a plastic bag. Avi told me that they have washing machines over at the wardrobe trailers that we can use any time. I have a feeling that I'm going to be doing a lot of laundry while we're on location.
Brian stays in the shower a long time. "Don't fall asleep in there!" I call to him.
"I'm almost done." I hear the water turn off and he stumbles out, reaching for a towel.
"Let me do that." And Brian stands placidly as I dry him off. I'm tempted to blow him right now, but I'd rather wait. I don't want to ruin my big build-up!
I keep drying while I guide him into the bedroom. The queen-sized bed takes up most of the limited space, but that's okay -- we need the bed more than we need the floor!
"What's this?" Brian smiles lazily as he takes in the flickering candle. "Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to seduce me?"
"Of course!" I laugh. "But I'm going to give you a massage first."
Brian lies on the bed, his face cradled in the pillow, his long back and smooth ass perfectly displayed. I pour the oil into my hands and start with his shoulders, which are full of tension. "How's that feel?" But Brian only mumbles into the pillow.
I feel the tightness slowly being released from his body. I learned a little about massage when I was in the rehab unit. It doesn't just relax you, it also helps your muscles learn to work again. Brian used to massage my hand when it would cramp up. In fact, he still does. It doesn't happen that often anymore, but when I'm tired or upset my hand is the first thing that fucks up.
I work my way down the slope of Brian's back. I can feel every rib. Every muscle. The hard ridge of his spine. Then I knead his ass. His skin is very soft here, but also reddened by being in the saddle all day. I take it easy because I know he must be sore.
"Shit," Brian sighs. "I think this is better than a double shot of Jack Daniels."
"You bet your ass it is," I reply.
"I knew there had to be a price." He yawns and stretches. "Maybe you should join me in bed instead of sitting on my ass?"
"With pleasure." I hop off the bed and take off my clothes. Then I go out into the living room area and switch off all the lights. I look out the window and see lights from the other trailers. Rock music is coming from down the row -- some guys in the crew are having a party. I think it's going to be okay here.
I pause in the doorway of the bedroom. "Your ass is mine tonight, Kinney!" I proclaim. But he doesn't answer. I lean over. "Brian?" I whisper. His black lashes are long and thick against the top of his cheek. I hear that little wheezing sound he makes as he breathes, gentle and regular. He's sound asleep.
I could wake him up, but I know he's exhausted. I pull the duvet up to his shoulders and smooth it down. His face looks so peaceful. So young. All the tension is gone now and he's beautiful.
I go back into the living room and find my white paper, my lapboard, my pens, and my India ink. Then I sit on the end of the bed, cross-legged, and dip the pen in the ink. I trace Brian's perfect profile onto the paper. There's no wavering at all. The line is true. Tonight my hand is steady and sure.
This is the way it's supposed to be. And the way it will be. Brian and Justin. From now on.
Continue on to "Takin' Care of Business".
©Gaedhal, January 2007.
Posted January 21, 2007.