This is Chapter 22 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Justin Taylor, Dorian Folco, John Henry James, Patrick Swayze, Avi Massarsky, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Semi-smackdown. Arizona, June 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"I met you before the fall of Rome.
And I bet you to let me take you home.
You were wrong, I was right,
You said good-bye, I said good night.
It's all been done,
It's all been done,
It's all been done before.
I knew you before the West was won.
I heard you say, the past was much more fun.
You go your way, I'll go mine but I'll see you next time.
It's all been done,
It's all been done,
It's all been done before.
If I put my fingers here and If I say I love you dear,
and if I play the same the three chords will you just yawn,
and say, Ah, I hate it.
It's all been done,
It's all been done,
It's all been done before..."
This is truly the fucking week from Hell!
I mean it.
Dorian told me to forget about coming to the set on Monday morning. He told me I should take it easy. Relax. Stay in bed. Rest my ankle. Take time to heal.
"Brian? What are you doing?"
"Going to the set."
We got up well before dawn to drive in from Tucson. Once back at the RV, I have some juice, while Justin looks through the mail for Gus' Father's Day card and also checks his e-mail.
"I'll print out these pictures of the kids," he says. "Look at Gus in this one. Look at the face he's making. He looks just like you."
"He should be so lucky!" I sniff. And then I start to change my clothes.
"Oh, no you don't!" says Justin. He gets out of his chair and grabs my arm. "Sit down! You aren't going anywhere!"
"I'm going to the set. I'm going to work. They might need me! We only have a few more days at this location. I'm already late."
"Forget it! Get into bed!" He gives me a push and must have caught me off-balance -- there's no way he could really knock me over on his best day! -- because I fall back on the bed with a thud.
"Ouch!" My ankle twists under me. "Shit! That hurt!"
"Brian? Are you okay?" Now he's all concerned!
"No. Help me up." I hold out my hand.
"I'm going to the set! Either you can help me or you can hinder me. Which is it going to be?"
He makes that face. That I-want-to-kill-Brian-but-maybe-not-today face. And he holds out his hand and pulls me to my feet. Then he marches over to the trailer phone and makes a call. "Avi? Could you send transportation over to take Mr. Kinney to make-up? I know what Mr. Folco said. Yes... I know. But he's going. Thanks." Justin puts down the receiver. "They'll be here in five minutes."
Justin gives me a disgusted glance. "I don't know why you're thanking me for helping you kill yourself! I need to have my fucking head examined!"
"You're being a good personal assistant. Now help me find a pair of shoes that won't fuck up my ankle worse than it already is."
In the end we can't find a pair that isn't hell on my foot, so I put on a pair of Justin's too-small flip-flops. "No one better see me in these hideous things!"
"I'm sure the paparazzi are lurking outside the trailer, waiting to get a photo of you in inappropriate footwear!" He glances out the window. "Avi's here with the Jeep. And I'm going with you."
"I don't need a fucking babysitter!" I retort.
Justin stares at me with that disgusted face. "I won't even answer that. I'm going with you. Period. End of story!"
He's a stubborn little shit.
Dorian is waiting for me at the make-up trailer. He has a disapproving look on his face, too. "Brian! Go back and get some rest! I told you that you aren't needed today!"
I ignore him. "And I think I need to be on this set. I'm the star and I say so."
"And I'm the director!" Dorian returns. "I out-rank you!"
"Ta ta, Dorian." I ease myself into the make-up chair. I'm the only one there -- everyone else is already on their way to the set. "I'll see you in a few minutes."
Dorian turns to Justin. "He's the most infuriating person! I think you deserve a medal for putting up with him!"
"He does it because he's addicted to my cock," I comment. The make-up woman stifles a laugh.
"Shut up!" Justin orders me. "I'll talk to him. We'll see you outside," he says to Dorian, who shakes his head and leaves. "You love causing trouble, don't you, Brian?"
"Listen, twat. I don't want anyone to say that Brian Kinney fucked off a day of shooting because his foot was a little sore." The make-up woman is hovering next to me, hesitating, so I motion her nearer. "Go ahead. I didn't shave this morning. I wasn't sure what scene we're doing." Justin gives me another look because I've changed the subject, but in the end it's all about work. That's the important thing -- the work.
After I get into make-up and costume -- with a larger size boot on my lousy left foot -- Justin and Avi are waiting for me outside with the Jeep.
"Are you sure about this, Mr. Kinney?" Avi asks. "I can drive you back to your trailer."
I gingerly climb into the Jeep. "Fuck that! Take me down to the set!"
And there, on set, big as life and twice as hot, is the main reason I didn't want to miss today's shoot.
John Henry James. Just arrived in Arizona and raring to go.
The bastard is at least 6 foot 4, with shoulders on him like a fucking bull. He was a professional football player and he looks like he could have been the entire team. And now he's being groomed -- that's the word the studio uses -- as a new star. An action hero. Sort of a Jim Brown-meets-Billy Dee Williams-meets-Wesley Snipes. James just finished wrapping a low-budget potboiler up in Canada. The buzz is that it's a piece of crap, but that it's also going to be a huge hit. Which is why the studio wants him in 'Red River' -- to test him out with a major cast. To see how he looks. How he handles himself.
Word is that John Henry James is as arrogant as hell and thinks he's the Next Big Thing. And maybe he is.
But this is MY picture. Well, mine and Eastwood's. Two stars is more than enough. We don't need someone coming in with five lines and thinking he's the new shit. The guy is fucking hot, I can't deny that. Hot like a big, beautiful side of beefcake. But he's not taking over this picture. No fucking way!
"Bri!" cries Pat, rushing over and slapping me on the back. "How the hell are you doing?"
"Not bad." I hear Justin snickering behind me. "I'll survive."
"I didn't expect to see you today," Pat admits. His eyes go over to where John Henry James is talking to Eastwood. James is playing Bunk, one of the cowboys who rebels against Dunson's punishing regime. When Dunson orders them hanged, my character, Matt, steps in and takes over the cattle drive, displacing his stepfather as the boss. That's when Dunson swears to kill Matt, setting up the big confrontation that's the climax of the film. The part of Bunk isn't a large one, but it's pivotal to the plot. And I'm sure John Henry James is planning to make the most of it.
"I see we have some new meat on set," I say to Pat.
He guffaws. "He's been strutting around all morning, feeling his oats. What do you say, Bri? Should we make him eat a mess of calf fries?"
"Why don't you go over and suggest it to him?" I give Pat a nudge.
"You must be joking!" Pat's eyes widen. "And get run over by that freight train? I might be a ballet-dancing redneck from Texas, but my mama didn't raise no fool!"
"Gentlemen!" Dorian calls through his megaphone. "Shall we get some work done this morning?" Then he nods at me. "Welcome back, Mr. Kinney. I hope your ankle is better today."
I stick out my left leg. "Right as rain."
But at that moment the rain is pouring and thunder rumbling and lightning flashing. That's what my goddamn ankle feels like.
But I plunge ahead. One fucking day at a time. If I can make it to the end of this day, the end of tomorrow, the end of this week, then we'll have a few days off while they move location to Marfa, Texas. That's where we're doing the main wagon train sequence and the exteriors of the town where the cattle drive ends. That's also where the infamous Burr Connor is due to join the shoot. Until the end of June in Texas, then back to L.A. to finish the interior scenes. Then 'Red River' should wrap. With luck I'll have a couple week's break before principal shooting begins for 'The Eastern Front.' From everything I've been told, that film will take an entire year before it wraps.
A whole fucking year! That's a challenge. A marathon. The hardest challenge I've faced yet. I'll be shooting all over Europe. Doing action. Doing romance. Doing some heavy-duty acting -- or what I do that passes for acting. It's fucking World War II! Lots of sets, lots of costumes, a huge cast -- and I'm going to be at the center of it.
And I'm scared shitless.
"Brian?" Dorian says. "I think we'll mainly do close-ups and reaction shots for you today. Would that be satisfactory?"
"Sure," I tell him primly. "You're the director."
Dorian knows very well that I can't really walk and even riding will be difficult for these first few days back, so he goes out of his way not to call attention to that fact. He has me working with Pat and Eastwood, doing inserts and keeping me away from any kind of cock-fight with Mr. John Henry James until the end of the week.
Those are the final scenes we film in Arizona. On Friday. We need to get them today. Action. Cut. Print.
"Kinney," James says as we come out of make-up that last day. I'm walking better. Still a little stiff, but managing. We're filming the scene where Bunk and his sidekick are almost hanged -- until I intervene. "Haven't gotten a chance to talk to you much this week."
"I've been focusing," I say shortly. And I am. I have some heavy dialogue in this scene, both with James and with Eastwood. The big confrontation that leads to the break between Matt and Dunson. I don't want to blow it.
"You nailed that scene with Swayze yesterday," he continues. "You do a lot of rehearsing?"
"A little," I shrug. I'm very aware that James and I haven't done any rehearsing at all. But he never approached me and Dorian never suggested it. I'm ready to go cold -- if he is.
"And with the Big Man?" James glances at Eastwood, who is coming out of the wardrobe tent, adjusting his hat. Eastwood puts a lot of stock on the tilt of his hat. "You rehearse a lot with him?"
"No. Clint likes to be spontaneous. He feels the freshest with the first few takes, so you have to be ready to go." I pause. I can feel the raw heat of James' huge body right next to me. The guy is sexy, that's for sure, but straight guys with attitudes aren't my thing. At least, not anymore. "I go over my lines with my partner the night before. I like to be word perfect when I get to the set."
"Your partner." James's dark eyes go to Justin, who's been shadowing me closely all week, making certain I don't fuck up my ankle any worse than it already is. He and Avi are perched out of the way, but always visible. Always ready in case I need anything. "Oh, yeah. The kid."
"His name is Justin," I reply. "Excuse me, but they need me on set."
It isn't exactly a face-down, but it's close. He looks down at me -- slightly down, I'm no Tom Cruise, after all! -- and I see his fucking chest puff up. He must have done this during football games. The smackdown. Psyching out your opponent. Trying to out-macho him. Strutting your big, bad stuff.
Psych away, Mr. James. I can take it. I've been playing that game with guys since I was 13, except for a different reason. And I think I've had the better of it. Hey, make love, not war, baby. I'll put my big-bad stuff up against this tasty side of beef any day of the week.
The scene goes well. To tell the truth, the whole week goes well, better than I'd ever hoped. This week was more about actual acting and less about galloping around the desert like a fool, trying not to fall off my horse. When we get to Texas, then the bigger dramatic scenes will kick in. The stunts are pretty much over, thank God. But the real, vital work of the film, the acting, will begin in earnest.
"You did great today," says Justin as we get ready for bed. Tomorrow we're getting up early and flying to Texas. One of the drivers will bring our RV, with Justin's car in tow, in a caravan with all the other trucks and trailers over the weekend. But the great thing is that when we get to Marfa we'll be in a hotel. We'll still use the RV during the day, but we won't have to live in it anymore. We'll have a real bed, a real bathroom, and fucking room service! Total bliss!
"Thanks," I sigh, stretching out on the bed. I feel like I accomplished a hell of a lot. I did some real acting this week -- the first I've done on this shoot -- and that feels good. But as for feeling good in other ways... I'm fucking exhausted. And I ache all over in a way that even the Jacuzzi can't erase. "Can I have a pill?" Justin keeps the supply of Percocet in an envelope in his suitcase.
Justin doesn't give me shit about it. He knows I wouldn't ask if I didn't really need it. "Just one?"
I nod. "One's all I need. And after this week, I think I'm finished with the things."
"Your ankle is still swollen," Justin points out.
"Not much. I can tough it out."
Justin gets the pill and brings it to me with water. I pop it and suck down almost the entire bottle of water. Arizona is so dry, I'm always parched. I go through gallons of water, but I'm still on the verge of dehydration half the time. I've also lost some weight. The wardrobe people have mentioned it, but there's nothing I can do. I'm working my tail off in one hundred degree heat and it's too hot to eat much.
"Are you okay?" Justin asks.
"Of course. I'm fabulous."
Justin turns off the light and we lie there quietly. "I heard you talking on the phone with Leslie this evening," he finally says.
"You don't have to lurk behind the door when I'm on the phone. If you want to know anything, just ask."
"Was it about the 'Eastern Front' shoot?"
"Oh." And he doesn't say anything more.
There it is. The big pink elephant in the room. That long fucking shoot. That gigantic fucking picture.
Once I start on it, I'll be gone most of the next year.
Another fucking year when we'll be apart for months at a time.
He wants to go with me. He won't say it, but he doesn't have to. I know Justin too well. And the truth is that I want him to come with me. I want him to be there. But it isn't about what I want. It's about what's best for him. He's a fucking artist, but he needs to finish his education. That's the most important thing right now. Once he's done, he's a free man. But that degree -- it's indispensable. I know it is. My degree from Penn State was my ticket out of my fucking family. The thing that gave me equality with all the assholes who had looked down at me because I was from a working class family. From the Pitts. A Mick whose parents were both fall-down drunks. The first person in the Kinney family to go to college, let alone finish it. I know it doesn't matter now. Actors don't cruise on their education. No one wants to know what your major was at an audition. But in the real world it matters. I want Justin to have that piece of paper under his belt. That's something no one can take away from him. Ever.
"I want to be with you," says a voice in the darkness.
"I know you do."
And that's that. There isn't any way to get beyond this tonight. If we talk about it, we'll have a stupid argument and I don't need an argument right now.
"Big day tomorrow," I say, rolling him over and reaching for the condoms and lube.
"Big day," he replies as he spreads his legs.
I know it's a dream. It's too bright and too fuzzy at the same time. Something askew about it. I feel disembodied. Participating and watching at the same time.
Blue ocean. Endless beach. White buildings and stone stairways, stone roads. Lemon trees.
I've never been there, but I know that's where I am. I've read about it and seen enough pictures to recognize the place. Or what I imagine it's like. The perfect Mediterranean setting. One of the premiere queer destinations. It's a place I've always wanted to go. Beautiful weather, beautiful scenery, beautiful men. Perfection.
Maybe next winter. Maybe over Christmas. I should have some time off from the 'Eastern Front' shoot for a holiday break and Justin will be off from PIFA, too, so we could go then. Hang out on the beach all morning, fuck all afternoon during the siesta, eat some paella, then dance all night.
But in this dream I'm here alone. On the prowl. Brian Kinney, predator.
The men are dark. Dark hair, dark eyes. And everyone is dressed in white. The breeze smells like lemon. I can feel the heat of the air, the mist of the ocean. I'm in heaven.
Or I should be.
But something is wrong. I don't know what. Something. I'm tired. I feel a pain inside. In my heart. But also somewhere else. I'm confused. I don't know why I'm here. I don't know what's wrong. But it's something deep. I've made a decision. I can't go back.
Beautiful men. And wine. A lot of wine. I'm off the wagon, obviously. And I'm drugging, too. Taking anything and everything I'm offered. Coke, E, Special K, smack. Another slug of wine from a dark bottle. A shot of whiskey. Whatever they have.
Why am I dreaming this? I don't have a fucking clue. But I know it's a dream.
Something that is going to happen. Or might happen. I don't know which it is. A vision of the future? Or a warning?
I'm high. Very, very high. And tired. It's midnight. I'm fucking a faceless man. His body is hot. The sand is hot. The surf as it splashes over our bodies is cold and bracing. I come hard, but it hurts. My balls ache. It fucking hurts. Hurts like a bastard.
I'm walking on the beach. There's no one in sight. I strip off my white cotton shirt and take off my white linen pants, dropping them in the sand. Then I walk into the water. It gets deeper. I keep walking and then begin to swim. Swimming into the darkness. Swimming until I'm too exhausted to swim anymore. And that's when I let go.
The last thing I think of, the last thing I see, is Justin's face in my mind. And then the water takes me.
"What?" he says. "Are you all right? Brian?"
I sit up and look around, my heart pounding. We're in the RV. The air conditioner whirs, but everything else is silent.
"I'm fine. Bad dream. Go back to sleep."
"Do you want to talk about it?" He strokes my shoulder gently. So very gently, like you'd comfort a child. But I'm not a child. I've never felt less like a child in my life.
"No. It's late."
"Are you sure?" I can feel his breath on my skin.
"Yes." I settle back against the pillows and Justin curls up next to me like a cat. "I said I'm fine. Everything is fine."
Except for a chill that goes through me like an Arctic wind. But I don't know why.
Fuck help me, I don't know why.
"Alone and bored on a Thirtieth Century night.
Will I see you on 'The Price is Right'?
Will I cry, will I smile,
As you run down the aisle?
It's all been done,
it's all been done,
it's all been done before."
Continue on to "Inescapable".
©Gaedhal, July 2008.
Posted July 29, 2008.