This is Part 1 of Chapter 62 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Walking on Air -- Part 2", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Sir Kenneth Fielding, Kenroy Smith, Rowan Conley, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin settle in on their first day in London. July 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"So, dear boy, tell me -- what happened to the Dorchester?"
"You tell ME, Sir Ken? Where would you rather stay? In a huge fish bowl where half the maids and busboys are on the payrolls of the tabloids? Or in a small, quiet, out-of-the-way place where we don't have to worry about having a camera stuck in our faces every five minutes?" Brian has a slight pout on his face, thinking of those cameras in his face. "Guess which place RON picked? Where HE would stay?"
"Why, the fish bowl, of course! The Dorchester is THE hotel to stay at if you are looking for a lot of free publicity, that's certainly true. But the Chatterton...."
"Why? What's wrong with the Chatterton?"
"Who recommended it to you, my dear?" says Sir Kenneth, raising one eyebrow at Brian.
"A friend in L.A. An actress I know out there." I know Brian is talking about Diane. She's the one he confabbed with about this trip, I'm sure. She was in London last summer with that Jerry guy.
"Is she a... lady of leisure?"
"Er -- she's a working actress, Sir Ken. But she's also the girlfriend of a big agent out there. His mistress, if you want to know the truth. Is that what you mean by 'lady of leisure'?"
"Well, there you are, my boy."
"Sir Ken -- are you suggesting that the Chatterton is... a bit shady?"
"Not at ALL! It's tres sophisticated and VERY exclusive. It's just that the Chatterton is known as a place for... well... honeymooning couples." Brian frowns at THIS! "Or else the ultimate dirty weekend," Sir Kenneth adds.
Brian leans back on the Roll's leather seats and crosses his arms. "Well then -- it should be just perfect."
As the Rolls Royce moves into town it gets more city-like, but not like any other city I'm familiar with. Rather than more 'urban' -- all concrete and tall buildings -- it looks more comfortable and green as we go. We drive past a lot of rowhouses and traffic circles and finally into a park-like area.
"Is this Hyde Park?"
"No, my dear -- Holland Park," says Sir Ken, pointing out the window. "Hyde Park is further in and much larger. You'll see it soon enough as you meander through the town."
Kenroy, the driver, slows down and then stops in front of a large mansion set deeply back in a huddle of large trees.
"This doesn't look like a hotel. Are you sure this is the right place?" says Brian.
"Oh, this is it, sir," answers Kenroy Smith, opening the door and helping Sir Kenneth out of the Rolls.
I look up at the door and notice a small brass plate next to the door that says 'Chatterton.' "Boy, this really IS hard to find!"
Brian picks up his carry-on bag and pushes me along. "If you don't like it -- we'll move. To a Holiday Inn. Or a Motel-6!"
The door opens and a man in a suit comes out and picks up the bags. He's the fanciest bellboy I've ever seen. He speaks to Sir Kenneth and Brian and then leads the way up the steps and through the door. Another man in an old fashioned-looking suit greets us.
Everything about this hotel is very quiet and very elegant. Maybe too elegant to make me feel completely comfortable. I'm aware that I'm dressed in my usual casual clothes -- my khaki pants and pullover -- but that I look pretty shabby next to Brian in his Versace and Sir Kenneth in his classy British-style suit. The bellman and the greeter both stare at me as if they know I'm out of place here. It's intimidating.
Sir Kenneth turns to Brian and shakes his hand. "You can't imagine how pleased I am that you've come to do this part. I think it will absolutely make the difference in this film."
"I don't know about THAT, Sir Ken."
"Everyone calls me Kenny, my dear boy. But it will be marvelous fun." he says. "Now, tomorrow at 9:00 p.m. sharp my good Mr. Smith here will collect you and bring you 'round for a drinks party at my house. It's down in Chelsea, not far at all. I'll introduce you to some of my friends and colleagues. Oh -- Hughie will be there, too, so you may bring... em...?"
"Of course. Justin." Sir Kenneth smiles at me, vaguely.
"I wouldn't have thought of coming without him," says Brian, frowning a little.
"Indeed. Anyway, until 9:00 tomorrow, then."
"So, we should eat beforehand? I just want to be clear."
"Yes -- this is drinks and nibbles only. The party really won't get started until after the theaters close, anyway. Ta for now." He gives a little wave and follows the driver out the front door.
We turn and follow the bellman, with our luggage on a little cart, into a tiny elevator. We go slowly up to the third floor.
Brian shakes his head. "Sir Ken is a trip, that's for sure."
"It sounds like he wasn't sure if he wanted me to come to his party," I say, uneasily.
"I think that's just his absent-minded-professor persona."
"Maybe he doesn't like me. He's a friend of Ron, after all."
"He barely knows Ron. Doing that bit part in 'The Olympian' was strictly business. And he likes you fine, so don't sweat it."
"Would you really not go to the party if I wasn't invited, Brian?"
He turns toward me. "Yes, I brought you all the way London in order to lock you in the hotel room and go off to parties alone. Don't be so paranoid, Justin." He cuffs me gently on the side of my head. Of course, this again brings up the issue of why he DID bring me -- but I don't want to get into that in the elevator.
The elevator stops and we go down the hall. There are only a few doors and the numbers are on little brass plates, just like the name plate on the outside.
"That should be easy to remember."
The bellman opens the door with a plastic key card and then hands it to Brian. He hesitates for a moment, and then reaches into his pocket and takes out another card and hands it to me. I guess that makes me official.
The room looks like something from a harem or a porno film. There's the hugest bed I've ever seen in my life in the middle of the room, covered with what looks like a big circus tent. Big pillows are thrown all over, on the sofa and on the floor, and on a chaise-lounge-like chair by the big windows. Brian and I take one look around, look at each other, and almost burst out laughing. But we wait until the man has deposited our suitcases and gone out the door. Then I dive into the middle of the bed and roll around laughing. Brian stands next to it and laughs, too. I try to pull him down on top of me.
"I have to unpack!" he says, slapping my hand.
"You didn't tip that guy!"
"You don't tip in a place like this. Gratuities are included in the bill. Which will be a doozy, I'm sure. Luckily the studio is picking up the tab."
"Oh." I hop off the bed and scout around the room. I look out the tall windows. "There's a big garden back there."
"Oh, yeah? I wonder if we can go out there?" Brian comes and stands next to me, gazing out.
"There are some people sitting out there. They must be guests, too."
"Open the window and let some air in here."
It's warm and sunny and a breeze comes in when I throw open the panes. "I thought it rained here all the time. The weather is beautiful!"
"It usually does. But it IS July, after all. Even England has a summer." Brian pulls off his tie and kicks off his shoes. Then he plops down on the bed. "What do you think of this thing? Do you think this tent will fall down on top of us in the middle of the night?" He looks up at the billowing material hanging overhead.
"Since this place is just like a harem, maybe I should get some of those puffy pants and a slave bracelet?" I say, bouncing down next to him. I sink down about three inches into the heavy quilt. "Do you want me to do a dance?" I lean over and start to undo the buttons on his shirt.
"A fucking slave bracelet, huh? Would that mean that you'll finally do what you're told?"
"It depends on what you are telling me to do."
"That's NOT the way it works! You're supposed to just DO it!"
"Then I'll have to think about it."
"Christ!" he says, groaning. "Just take a nap now -- or else the jet-lag will catch up to you tomorrow. Then you'll be too tired to sightsee!"
The minute Brian says this I realize just how tired I really am. I fall back on the big, squishy pillows and start to drift off.
"At least take your SHOES off! Jesus...." Brian mumbles as he struggles to undress me. But I'm a dead-weight by now. The last thing I remember is the fluttering of the long white curtains in the tall windows.
"I think it's time to get your butt out of bed."
I open my eyes and Brian is standing over me, tugging at the covers. It's still daylight out.
"What time is it?"
"3:00 p.m. Come on -- we can still get out and see some things and then eat before it's time to crash again." He's already washed and dressed in something more casual. His really faded blue jeans and a soft denim shirt. His hair is still damp from the shower.
I roll myself off the big bed and stumble into the bathroom. There's a large, old-fashioned bathtub, but also a modern shower stall. All the fixtures are gold with antiquing on them and the mirror over the sink looks like something from a French movie.
"What would you call this style of decor, Brian?" I say, as he comes into the bathroom and checks his hair in the mirror.
"Just what Sir Ken suggested -- Early Whorehouse."
I pull a big towel off the rack. "I don't mind -- but it is kind of over-the-top. What's the Dorchester like?"
"I've never been there, but it's mainly famous for all the movie stars that used to stay there in the old days. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Liberace. That kind of thing. Right up Ron's alley. But like I told Sir Ken -- it's crawling with press and tourists. And I've got enough anxiety about this whole project that I don't need to feel like I'm on display every time I leave my room."
"Not to mention that you are traveling with a twelve year old boy."
He stares at me. "Twelve? I'd say you were at LEAST fourteen!"
"But, Brian, isn't that what some people think? That I look too young to be hanging out with you? Like those looks we got in the airport?"
"Fuck 'em. We don't have to justify anything to anybody."
I examine myself in the mirror more closely. "Maybe I should dye my hair darker. Or grow a moustache?"
Brian bursts out laughing and can't stop. "A WHAT?"
"A moustache. That might be very European. And I'd look a lot older."
"The day you can grow a moustache is the day I start liking pussy. In other words -- neither are EVER going to happen."
I compare myself to Brian in the mirror as I stand next to him. "You never know."
"Get in the fucking shower so we can get out of here!"
A half-hour later we are going down the main street near our hotel.
"Are you up for a walk?"
"Sure -- especially after sitting so long on the plane."
"Okay then." Brian takes out a booklet and hands it to me. "Here's some maps. I have the hotel location circled, so if you get lost, just hail a cab and show it to him."
We walk a way up the tree-lined street. It really IS a gorgeous day.
"Now the frustrating thing about London is that the streets keep changing their names. For instance, this is Holland Park. But a block or two up here it changes to Notting Hill Gate. Then it changes to Bayswater, then to Oxford Street, and so on all the way across the city. But you're STILL on the same fucking street! You could spend an hour looking for a certain street and never know you're standing right on it! So don't suffer from the American Man's Disease of never looking for help when you're lost. Use the fucking map. Or ask someone. Otherwise, you'll walk in circles."
I nod. "I will."
"Tomorrow I'll take you on the Underground and show you how that works. It's pretty simple to figure out -- and cheaper than taking a cab all the time. You can get a pass that's good for a month and ride all over town."
"What about just calling Kenroy Smith to come and pick me up?"
"You really ARE getting used to the high life, huh? You don't need a fucking Rolls to take you up to the corner. Walk or use the subway."
Brian looks at me with a fiendish grin. "I haven't forgotten that slave thing. I'll get you to obey me yet."
"I'm afraid. I'm VERY afraid!"
"Yeah -- you're too interested in that sort of thing. Well, watch these Brits. Some of them are a little TOO fond of dressing someone up as a schoolboy and whipping his behind."
"I should have brought my old St. James uniform!"
Brian only shakes his head. "You are the most incorrigible twink!"
We walk up into a shopping area. Notting Hill Gate. We stop at a cafe and have a drink before continuing on, into town. Eventually, we pass a massive complex of buildings.
"Really? A real palace?" I look through the iron gates. "Who lives there?"
"I'm not sure who lives there now, but it was where Princess Di lived. That's where the people left all those flowers and things when she died."
We walk over by a large pond. A lot of families are strolling around, little kids running up to the pond and shrieking, old people sitting on benches around the water.
"This is Kensington Gardens. The Peter Pan statue is around here somewhere. I used to go there a lot. By myself. It was a quiet place."
There is a maze of paths and walkways through the trees and we wander around for a while until Brian finds the statue. "I used to sit right there." He looks at the statue a long time, thinking. I want to ask him what he's thinking about, but his face is all closed off and I'm afraid to try to push my way in.
"Let's go," he says, finally, tugging my hand.
We come out through some gate into a busy street. "Now this is the same street we were on before, but it's Bayswater now. And the Gardens become Hyde Park. Got it?"
"I think," I say, consulting my map.
"You'll figure it out."
"Hey! They're having an art exhibit!" I say, excitedly. Along the iron fence of the park artists have set up tables and hung their pictures and crafts up on the rails. "This is so cool!"
"See, you can come to London and be a starving artist and sell your drawings right here."
"I could!" I say.
"Just remember the 'starving' part while you are fantasizing."
We walk up and down, looking at the different displays. I talk to a few of the artists. Most are British, but there are also a few Americans, some Europeans, and one African man with some beautiful carvings of animals and masks.
One younger guy has a display of photographs. I stop and look at these. They are really mundane subjects -- trees and buildings and dogs and trashcans -- but the angles and colors are unusual.
"I really like your photographs."
He has reddish hair and blue eyes. He checks me out. "American." It's a statement, not a question.
"Are you a photographer, too?"
"No, I just have a little automatic camera." I take it out and show him.
"You should get a camera you can work with. Something like a single lens reflex camera. There's lots to take pictures of in London."
"You don't sound English at all."
"I hope to fuck not! I'm Irish. But I live up in Finsbury now."
"Hey, my friend is Irish. I mean, Irish-American." I look around for Brian, but he's down a way, looking at another display.
"Maybe we'll come back later," I say, but I run to catch up with Brian.
He is sorting through some jewelry on a table. A woman who looks just like a gypsy is arranging things, while a hippie man is bent over a work-bench, making something, twisting long pieces of metal together.
"I wondered where you got to. Find any artists to run off with?"
I punch his upper arm. "No, just talking to some guy."
"Here," Brian says. "Stick your arm out."
I let him stretch my right arm. The gypsy woman smiles as the hippie holds up the piece of jewelry he's just finished making. Three different shades of brass, braided together. He hands it to Brian, who slips it up my hand and over my wrist.
'There's your slave bracelet," he whispers. "Now you HAVE to obey me!"
"Is this really for ME?"
"No," Brian dead-pans. "I bought it for Sir Ken -- you're just modeling it." He looks at the hippie and his woman and shakes his head. "Little twat."
Of course, I press myself up against Brian right there on the street, kissing him as hard as I can. But the artists don't seem to mind. And the tourists just walk around us. Brian lifts me up, just off my feet, and spins me around until I'm dizzy. But I was already dizzy long before that. Dizzy just looking at Brian. Being with Brian.
Later, after we eat dinner on Oxford Street and take a cab back to the Chatterton, I get dizzy all over again, in that huge, soft bed. This time, with my slave bracelet firmly on, I do everything Brian says. And more.
Continue on to "In the City -- Part 2", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated August 2, 2002