This is Chapter 31 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Love Minus Zero/No Limit -- Part 4", the previous chapter.
Featuring Brian Kinney, Stan, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: New York City, January 1988. Brian learns the first important lesson of his life -- there's no mercy for anyone.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Get your ass up!"
The voice cut through my head worse than a punch.
"Jesus. I'm cold." This place is not really an apartment, like Mole said we were going to. It's an old warehouse. There's no heat. Just some room dividers and mattresses and other junk thrown around. All the kids who were here last night are gone. I look around for my backpack. It's gone, too.
"It won't get any warmer in here. Get up and move around if you want to be warm."
"Can't I have another blanket?"
"You want a blanket, you gotta EARN one. You ain't done nothing yet to earn SHIT! So get off there!" It's Stan. He's the owner of this fine establishment. I think. Or at least he lives here. With a bunch of kids. I think of 'Oliver Twist' for some strange reason.
"Where's my backpack?"
Stan shrugs. "How the fuck should I know? Now get moving!"
Stan. What a face to see first thing in the morning. He's kind of Southern, I think. Talks that way. Filthy blondish hair in a ponytail. A rat-like face. Dirty fingernails.
I nodded off last night and felt all warm and uncaring. A-okay. Nothing could bother me. He gave me some of the stuff to sniff. Just a little, but it was enough to go to sleep for a while. Now I wake up to this.
I'm freezing. Someone took the blanket I had grabbed. Fucking thieves! Of course, I took it off another kid, but that's no reason to take it from me.
I sit up and the puke factor kicks in. Luckily there's nothing in my stomach, so all I do is spit up some. I'm dizzy. I think I have the flu or something. Not too weird in this place. Looks full of creepy germs. Stan looks like he has most of them.
I'm thinking that coming to New York was a big mistake. That guy they call Mole -- yeah, he looks like one, especially his little beady eyes and flattened nose -- said we could have some fun here. I could look for a job. Everything was happening in the Big Apple, right?
He found me in the snow after my old man got me and kicked the piss out of me, literally. Took me back to his place. Gave me some of his medicine and taped up my ribs. Said me was a medic and knew all about fixing people up. Sure. Right. He fixed me up great.
I knew Mole was a low-life. I think he's an old Vietnam vet, like Mikey's father was. But now he's a kind of dealer. I bought some pot from him, some 'ludes, too. I let him blow me a couple of times when I didn't have enough money for the pot. I don't know if he's really like a fag or something, or if he just was doing me a favor, like he said. Yeah, doing ME a favor!
By the end of that bus trip to New York City I didn't feel so hot -- just like now. My stomach. I wanted to go home, but it was too late. How was I going to get any money to buy a bus ticket home? I sure as hell wasn't going to call my parents. And Pitts is a long way to hitch -- although if I got walking started now... Shit -- in the middle of winter? It's January, for fucksake!
And my side -- it aches like a bitch. Mole said it looks like my ribs might be broken. That's all I need. Feels like a knife going in me when I breathe. The tape he put on helps. He kind of knew the score there. Now he's gone. I'm wondering if he's coming back to get me? He said we'd be buddies and get some money and hang out here in the city. But he took off awful fast. And this Stan guy -- he's creepy. Mole was a little sleazy, but I wasn't scared of him. This Stan just makes my skin crawl.
"Come on. We got people to see."
"Shut the fuck up!" Stan smacks me on the side of the head. "You do what I say now, get it, kid?"
"You'll get something to eat when we conclude business, understand?" He waits. "I said, understand?"
"Right. Okay. I understand."
"Let's book, then."
Stan half marches, half drags me through the streets. It's a rotten neighborhood. Like the worse slum in Pittsburgh, a place I'd never go to. But here I am.
I'm really freezing. I appeal to Stan. "I'm cold. I don't have any gloves."
He smacks me again. "What you think your pockets are for?" Stan mumbles to himself. "Now the bitch wants gloves! What next? A diamond tiara?" I don't understand what he's talking about.
We walk and walk and walk until my legs are about to give out. We come to a big bunch of apartments. A little better area than the one Stan lives in -- but not THAT much better. The buildings are covered with graffiti and the entryway stinks like old garbage. Lots of snarky-looking men hanging around the corners.
We walk up a couple of flights of stairs. The stairway smells like piss. Cat piss. Dog piss. People piss. I have to stop and throw up on the landing.
"What do I do?" I'm humiliated. I've never done anything like this before.
"Leave it. Come ON!"
We go to the apartment of some friend of Stan's. I guess he's a friend. He's old -- like forty -- and really fat. Greasy hands. He's wearing a dirty white bathrobe. He shakes my hand and feels up my arm. Yuck. He seems jittery. Really nervous. He keeps licking his lips.
"First things first."
Stan takes out some plastic bags and the guy takes out a wooden box that is all covered with fancy carvings. Like Chinese stuff. Dragons. Flowers. It's pretty. The prettiest thing in this dump. Inside he has a bunch of glass vials and some needles and cotton balls and other crap. Stan has the powder.
I stand back away because I know what they are doing and it scares the shit out of me. The guy is heating the powder in a big spoon. This guy is a big junkie. I just stare at them. When Stan ties off the guy's arm and gets ready to shoot it into him, I lose it. Stan comes over and punches me in the side -- where my ribs are taped -- sending me reeling onto the floor.
I'm way dizzy as I lie there and Stan steps over me. I hear the two guys laughing. The fat guy now seems in a good mood. He comes over and holds out his hand, helping me to my feet.
He sits me down in one of his grubby chairs.
"May I offer you gentlemen some refreshment?"
He brings me a can of coke. I suck it down like it's the last thing I'll ever drink. It tastes so good. He and Stan are talking in the guy's kitchen.
Finally Stan comes out and sits next to me.
"Listen up. We gotten go soon, but first we need to take care of business. You understand me?"
I shake my head.
"You that green? Didn't Mole say nothing to you?"
I shake my head again. "About what?"
"About your new job. You workin' for Stan now. Comprende?"
"Doing what? I'm not dealing drugs. No fucking way!"
Stan laughs shortly. "You think I'd trust you with my good shit? My good customers?" He gestures to the fat man, who smiles at me. I'm beginning to feel queasy again.
"You got a simple job. You do HIM . I collect the cash. I give you a place to crash and all the stuff you need to snort. Understand now?"
I look back and forth between them. "Do WHAT to him?"
"What do you think, idiot?"
Now it dawns on me. How many bricks have to fall on MY head?
"There's no way I'm letting him blow me -- he's gross and creepy!"
"You think so?" says Stan.
"Look at him!"
Stan and the guy exchange looks. He doesn't even seem offended that I said he was gross and creepy. He must know he is and doesn't care.
"No, I ain't letting him blow you, kid." Now Stan has the creepy look.
"No?" Something's up. I don't like where this is going.
"Hell, no. YOU'RE gonna blow HIM -- now make it snappy!"
"The fuck I will!" I stand up and make for the door.
"The fuck YES, you will." Suddenly Stan has a knife out. A real switchblade, like in the movies. Like 'Rebel Without a Cause.' That's a great flick. Not like this movie. This is a bad flick. This doesn't seem real. This all feels like a movie and I'm not really here. 'Cause Stan has the blade touching my neck. He trails it down my throat. Just enough.
"I don't think I can." I feel really sick now. My stomach is lurching around like a drunk.
"Come on, now. You blew Mole. He told me all about it."
Nice conversations these guys have. "But I knew him. I don't know this guy."
"So what? Just do it." Stan is getting impatient. He presses the blade a little more into my skin. "You blew Mole for dope -- right?"
Shit -- it sounds so... crummy. But I did. "Yeah."
"You don't blow this guy now -- you don't do more dope. Go out on the avenue and ask for some shit and find out the damage."
"I don't need any dope. I don't need your shit!"
Now Stan takes his blade away and puts it back in his pocket. He smiles a really scary smile. "You don't, huh? Don't need any? Let's wait around a couple of hours and see, huh?"
I feel panicky. "I have to throw up!"
Stan grabs me by the back of my neck and drags me down a short hallway. This guy's bathroom. It's tiny and not very clean. A moldy shower-curtain. The toilet and sink grimy-looking. But I vomit my guts out into the toilet and then sink down next to it. I'm covered with sweat and my hands are shaking. Now I'm as jittery as the guy was before.
Stan is standing there the whole time. Watching me. Maybe he'll help me up. But he just leans against the doorframe, arms crossed.
I start puking again. But there's nothing in my stomach and it just heaves and heaves until I think my insides are going to fall out. Finally, it stops and I slowly climb to my feet. Flush the yucky toilet. Wash my face, my hands, my mouth in the guy's dirty sink. Cold water. I wash my neck. I wish I could get into the sink and wash myself away and then slide down the drain.
I turn to Stan. "I think I have the flu. I need to go to the hospital. The emergency room." My voice feels thick.
"Oh, you need the hospital, huh? Need to see the doc, huh?" He grabs my arm and jerks me around. "Yeah, you need to see Dr. Stan, that's what. Because what you got they don't FIX in the emergency room!"
"What do you mean?" Now I'm scared shitless. I shrink back away from Stan. My ribs are aching, but my stomach now hurts as bad. Worse, even.
"You go to the docs, you end up in the Tombs."
"What's that?" I picture 'Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.'
"The pens. The jailhouse." Stan runs his finger along my jaw. "You'll be way popular down there. I mean it. Them pretty eyes... nice and soft." Stan reaches under my leather jacket and touches my chest. "They'll trade you around like the best pack of cigarettes anybody ever smoked. "
"What do you mean? Why would they put me in jail? I'm sick...." My voice trails off as I feel the puke rising again along with the panic.
"Yeah, you're sick, kid. Dope-sick. Ain't you figured that out yet?" Stan smiles as I throw up into the toilet again.
"No!" I can't think about what he's telling me.
I'm sitting on the floor with my head against the toilet seat. I can't make myself stand up.
"You get up. Now. And you do that fucker in there. And when you're done -- I got this for you." Stan pulls out a shiny square packet. "Stan takes good care of his boys."
"What is it?"
"The shit, kid. You do the job, you can have some. Enough to take the puking away. Make you nice and warm inside. Take away the pain in your side, too. Just like Mole gave you. Take away ALL of your worries. Know what I mean?"
"Because you see my pal out there -- my customer -- and you judge him, right? You think, whoa! That's a junkie, man! That's fucked up, right?"
I nod again.
"But you listen to me, kid, 'cause you a junkie, too! Maybe not as bad as him. Not as far along. But the same thing. You got the shakes? You need to cop, same as him." Stan grips my arm. "Only he's got the cash. And you got jackshit. Nada. So, you want dope? You gotta earn it. You cold and you want gloves? You gotta earn 'em. You wanna eat breakfast this morning? There's your ticket -- right in there."
I stand up and Stan gives me a push.
"Just remember -- you do the job and you get part of the packet. Maybe a quarter. We'll see how much. But enough to stop the shakes. Enough to feel all toasty and happy with the world, right? Then afterwards we'll get you something to eat."
I nod once more.
"Hey. I forgot to ask Mole. What's your name, kid? The johns -- they like a name. Seems more friendly and personal, like."
My head hurts. "Jack. My name's Jack."
I walk into the living room. The guy is waiting there, smiling.
"Here you go, good buddy. Meet my friend -- Jack."
He opens up his dirty bathrobe.
Continue on to Chapter 32 "Reality Check".
©Gaedhal, June 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from Paper Magazine.
Updated June 18, 2002