This is Page 2 of Part 2 of Chapter 111 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "The Junketeer -- Part 2", the previous page.
"What the fuck do YOU want?" Ron hasn't changed his usual welcome way of greeting me.
"Your script. I'm returning it."
He snatches it out of my hand. "You're quite a speed reader," he says, turning his back on me and stalking back into the room.
"It's the same fucking screenplay I've been reading for the past six months, Ron," I say, following him into the suite and shutting the door behind me. "With a few commas changed around. I don't need yet another copy of 'Red River.'"
"Fuck you, Brian. If you don't want to do the picture, then say so. I don't need to beg YOU to be in my fucking movie. After 'The Olympian' opens I can get anyone I want. And I mean ANYONE!"
"I know that. That's why I'm telling you that I've decided to do the picture."
Ron stops and turns around, gaping at me. "You have?"
"Yup. I've been planning to do it all along, Ron. I've got the final contract downstairs. Lew sent it for me to look over. Principle shooting begins the end of May, right?"
"Right." Ron frowns. Like he's expecting some kind of trick.
But there isn't one. I want to work with Clint Eastwood. I can ride a horse. I want to do the part. No trick at all. "May is good for me. I don't exactly have a full dance card." Which is true. I haven't committed to any other projects -- yet. Lew advised me to wait until AFTER 'The Olympian' opened and the reviews came in because then I can get more money. So Lew said, and Jimmy agreed with his recommendation. "So, my schedule is pretty open for the foreseeable future. Besides, I'd be a fool to turn down a big budget Western with Eastwood and a hot director," I say, following Ron over to the minibar.
Ron snorts. He looks more than a little disheveled. His shirttail is untucked and his pants are hanging on him like he's lost weight and nothing fits quite right. Nothing. "I don't need that kind of crap from YOU, Brian. Leave the ego stroking to Jimmy," he says, bitingly. "Or whatever kind of stroking you two are doing lately."
"Which is no kind, Ron. And you know it."
"Why aren't you staying in his suite? Jimmy acts like it was his idea for you to be down the hall, but he can't fool me. What are you playing at with him, Brian?"
"Nothing, Ron. I'm not playing with Jimmy in any way. And I don't plan to, either now or in the future."
"Sure. Tell me another one." I watch as Ron pours himself a large scotch from the minibar.
"Since when do you drink doubles at 1:00 a.m., Ron? And you were drinking at dinner, too. That's not like you."
"Oh, it isn't? And how the fuck would you know what is like me and what isn't, Brian? Why would you know -- or care?" He says it so bitterly that I flinch.
"I'm just asking, that's all," I answer. "Why would I know? I only lived with you for the better part of a year. I know what you're like and how you think, Ron, so don't pretend that I'm some stranger who just walked in here and doesn't care about what happens to you. Because I do care -- no matter what you might think."
"Yeah. Right, Brian," he says, taking a large slug of the scotch. "And I notice that you're on the wagon. Is that part of your 'new leaf'? Or maybe some new fad religion or political philosophy that you're trying out? Kind of like when you came back to L.A. after the summer." Ron bolts down some more of his drink. "I may be dense, but I finally figured out what you were doing. Yes, you managed to throw me off my guard for a while with those filthy clothes and all those stupid lines you were spouting, Brian, but you just couldn't keep it up. I only wish I had a photo of you in that street person get-up you wore into LAX. You could use that in your audition portfolio to show how you can fucking play sleazy characters. I mean -- sleazier than your usual character."
"I'm sorry, Ron. Really. I...."
"No apologies and no excuses, remember? And no fucking regrets! That's YOUR little motto, isn't it? Right. You didn't mean any of that crap, Brian. It was all in good fun. You were just fucking with my mind, that's all. Tell THAT to your fucking lawyer in the polyester leisure suit! That snake with the copies of MY video tape of the two of us in his office safe!"
"Don't start that, Ron. Please," I ask. "And it was YOU and your other video tapes that started it all."
"I never would have used those tapes, Brian," he says, toying with the glass of scotch. "I'm not stupid! It would have been the end of MY goddamn career as much as yours or... Justin's. I wouldn't have done it."
"But I couldn't take that chance, Ron. I couldn't. And you know why. Because of Justin. Because I love him and I was trying to protect him. Whatever is the matter with the two of us, HE isn't to blame."
Ron goes over and sits down heavily on the sofa, setting his now empty glass on the table in front of him. "I know. I probably would have fucking done the same thing to protect someone I love. Or worse. I might do all sorts of things, Brian. Like go down and face a fucking drug dealer and risk my life and my career to score some dope. Or try to get my fucking hands on some sleazy pimp so I could kill him. Or... Oh, I don't know what." He looks up. "So. How about a refill? And one for yourself?"
I stare at him. And then I back away. "How about some coffee, instead?" I say, walking to the minibar.
"At this hour? I'd rather have the booze -- and so would you."
"I don't think so." I bring back two glasses with ice and a bottle of Evian. "Here. Drink this instead. It'll help flush out your system."
"Dr. Brian, the hangover expert," he says. But he takes the glass.
"There's no one who knows the ins and outs of a hangover better than me." I sit down next to him on the sofa.
Ron sips the water and I look him over. His eyes have that bleary look I'm all too familiar with in myself. He's been drinking regularly and steadily. And he's not used to it, not like I am. Or at least like I was. Drinking is taking a deep toll on Ron. Maybe it's because of his birthday. Just the thought of being forty years old makes me start freaking out. I'd drink, too. But I know it's more than just that. Much more.
"So, where's Blondie?" he says. "I thought he'd be trailing after you like a little Cocker Spaniel. I know he was with you in England. And don't try to tell me he wasn't. I have my sources."
"Only for a few days, Ron. After I got mugged Justin came over to take care of me and help me fly back home."
"Mugged?" Ron almost shouts. "Still sticking to that story, Brian?"
"Why shouldn't I, Ron? It's the truth." Or one version of the truth.
"It's bullshit, Brian! So don't even try to lie to ME!" Now he stares directly at me. "What was it? A trick that went wrong? Where were you that you shouldn't have been? Looking for a little rough trade to alleviate your boredom? London isn't a good place for that. All those fucking skinheads. They'd just as soon murder you as suck your cock."
I don't answer. I don't have to. I figured that Ron would understand what really happened the minute he heard about it, just like Justin understood. They both know me too well.
"You could have gotten yourself killed, Brian. I hope whatever you were looking for was worth it." There's a mocking edge to his voice.
"It wasn't," I answer softly. "Not worth it at all. And I'm finished with that stuff. For good. It...." I have to stop. I can't talk about this to Ron. I can't. Not to anyone but Justin.
"Wasn't Dorian giving you sufficient satisfaction over there? I know you were fucking him, so I guess he just wasn't enough, either. But then no one is, are they? No one guy will ever be enough for you, Brian." Ron sounds so bitter -- and I guess I don't blame him.
"I'm trying it with Justin. Seriously."
"Sure you are, Brian. We'll see how long THAT lasts. You can't be faithful any more than an alley cat and you know it. And the kid knows it, too." Ron blinks, like he's got something in his eye. "I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. And since he isn't here this week I can't imagine that you aren't taking advantage of Jimmy. He's more than willing to be a 'tension reliever' for you, Brian. You've used him that way before -- and he's used you, too. I can tell HIS frustration level is WAY up on this trip, especially since Tess is getting on with her own life separate from Jimmy's. No wonder Jimmy was so snippy at dinner. He might be forced to resort to fucking Peggy."
"Don't make me laugh, Ron! Or make me ill."
"Peggy IS his personal assistant, after all," Ron shrugs. "She does what's required -- even that. In fact, she'd probably LOVE to fuck Jimmy. It's probably all she dreams of, since she doesn't seem to have any other life except serving his needs, no matter what."
"That's disgusting, Ron. The woman is... she's... just NOT fuckable! Even by a desperate straight guy!"
"To each his own. And speaking of fuckable -- how long are you going to pass this new blonde off as your 'girlfriend'?"
"I'm not passing her off as my girlfriend! And I wouldn't, no matter what the studio might like me to do," I maintain. "Cynthia is doing me a favor here. She's a life saver, Ron. And I... I really need someone to help me. I'm not exactly up to snuff yet, physically."
Ron reaches over and touches the right side of my face, very gently. "This must have been a bitch of a gash."
"It was," I say, shaking him off. "But it's better now. When I showed up for the Woody Allen shoot, I thought they might toss me back out the door into the street. But they covered it right up with make-up. No problem. But it was... nasty."
"You really did get knocked around, didn't you, Brian?" Now he seems concerned. Even anxious. "How bad was it?"
"I don't want to talk about it," I say, flatly.
Ron keeps staring at me intently. "What really happened, Brian? Tell me!" But I shake my head. "What did that goddamn limey do to you?"
"Those limeys, Ron. There were two of them. And that's all you need to know."
"Fuck!" He stands up and goes over to the bar again. He pours out the rest of the Evian water into the sink and refills the glass with more scotch. Then he sits back down very close to me. There are tiny lines all around his eyes that were never there before. This whole project is obviously wearing on him. And the state of our 'relationship' certainly isn't helping matters. I've never seen Ron so tired and so... empty. "I wanted to go over to London the minute I heard about it. But I couldn't leave town because of the fucking picture! I should have been there!"
"And done what, Ron?" Just like Ron to think that he can ride to the rescue every time I get into trouble.
"I... how the fuck do I know, Brian?" Ron says, gripping his glass. "Something. I could have done something!"
But I shake my head. "No, Ron. There's nothing you could have done. I was my fuck up and it's... my problem to deal with." Mine and Justin's, I want to add. But I don't. "And now Cynthia is babysitting me."
"Cynthia has worked for you for a long time, hasn't she?"
"Yes. She was my administrative assistant at Ryder Associates."
"I remember talking to her on the phone," he says, leaning back on the sofa and stretching out his arm behind me. "And those messages she used to leave at the house when you first came out to Los Angeles. I wanted to delete every fucking one of them."
"I know you did," I admit. "You wanted to delete Pittsburgh completely. But you can't delete an entire life, Ron. Even though you might want to."
He doesn't answer that. "Cynthia seems... loyal."
"She's more than an employee. In fact, she's not really my employee anymore. She's doing this more as a friend. Justin asked her to. I don't know if I could get through this whole circus without her help. She's the ultimate enabler -- but in a good way."
"Is that what she used to do for you before at Ryder? Enable you?"
"Yes," I say. "She enabled me to get rid of the shit and deal with what was important. Enabled me to function when I was hungover. Enabled me to keep up my facade when I was falling apart after Justin got his head bashed in...." Ron winces. "And enabled me to work a few fucking miracles when I was at my best -- which was more of the time than you'd think, Ron. Much more of the time. Because I was good at what I did. The best. Even when I was fucked up. And Cynthia helped me -- always."
"I... I never doubted that, Brian. I know you were good at your job. I watched how you handled those idiots in the studio publicity department when they didn't have to clue how to market 'The Olympian.' I saw what you could do," Ron says, seriously. "I saw a little of what your life must have been... before."
"Before?" Now I smile. "I thought I didn't exist before YOU re-invented me in L.A., Ron? You know, when you tried to wipe out everything that happened in my life between the Bowery and the Carnegie Mellon Film Festival. When you tried to recreate a scared, sick kid who was totally dependent on you -- and then mold him into your perfect 'star' for your perfect film. That was your fantasy, Ron. And fuck me if I didn't fall right into it!"
"I didn't do that, Brian! I never tried to change you! And I never tried to deny that you had a... a life before I knew you. Didn't I welcome your son and his mother into my home? I only wanted you to find yourself, Brian. I only wanted you to become something important! The way you deserve to be! And now you ARE important! You ARE a star! And your old life back in Pittsburgh," he says it like it's a dirty word. "That life could never compare with what you have in L.A.! What you have with ME! It was nothing!"
I shake my head. "But I DID have a life before you, Ron, even if you think it wasn't anything at all. And I had a pretty successful life -- at least outwardly. I had more money than I knew what to do with. I won awards for my work. I had my loft and my Jeep and my clothes and all the tricks I could handle, whenever I wanted them!"
"But were you happy, Brian?" he says. "I don't remember that a happy, contented person left Pittsburgh with me almost a year ago. I remember a deeply unhappy and confused person. I remember someone who was trying to escape that 'successful' life. Someone looking for a major change. Someone looking for someone to love."
And my insides twist all around. Because Ron is right. I WAS unhappy and confused. But he's wrong to think that I didn't have someone to love. I did. I just couldn't face that fact. I couldn't be honest with Justin and so it was simply easier to leave. I swallow. My throat is very, very dry. "But at least I had friends in Pittsburgh," I say. "Real friends. People I trusted. Not go-fers or ass-kissers. Yes, I DID have a life before you. And I'll have a life again after you, Ron."
"Think again, Brian," Ron says, so quietly that I have to lean closer to hear him. "You need me. There IS nothing after me. Nothing, Brian. Believe me."
"Don't keep up that crap, Ron. YOU think again." I have to sigh because this is getting old. "Why can't you just move on? Fucking let it go? Haven't I done enough to... I mean, what else do I have to do to convince you that it's over? Finished. It really is. Accept it, Ron, or you'll drive yourself nuts."
But Ron is unyielding. "I can't accept it, Brian. Because I don't believe you. I just don't. It's YOU who keep coming back," he says. "YOU came down here tonight. YOU decided you want to do 'Red River.' I didn't force you. I didn't twist your fucking arm! Because I don't have to twist your arm, Brian. You keep coming to ME."
Ron just doesn't understand! "It's because I'm trying to be adult about this, Ron. I really am. To keep it all about business and what is good for both of us, professionally. I want to make 'Red River' because it's a great project and it'll be good for my career. And you're a talented director. I've never denied that. If I'm good in 'The Olympian,' then a lot of it is due to you. I'm willing to admit that. But you should admit that some of it is due to ME, too. It's my ass up on the screen and it's me who has to face all these morons who ask me what it's like to 'play' a faggot and then snicker at me behind my fucking back!"
"They're fucked, Brian! Idiots like that don't matter!" And I feel him touching my hair, smoothing it down.
"Yes, but I STILL have to do it!" I say. "And I don't have that luxury of sitting back like you and being so fucking superior all the time. Because I've sold out my goddamn principles for YOUR movie, Ron! I've pretended to be something I'm not because I want 'The Olympian' to be a success. But I don't have to take grief from you, too, while I do it. We CAN keep things on a professional level because we have to. There's all this publicity for the picture and then the premieres in L.A. and London. And I know that you'll be there and I'll be there and I don't want to spend the next goddamn month walking on eggs, afraid to step too hard because something is going to break! It's fucking ridiculous. It doesn't have to be like that, Ron. YOU don't have to be like that."
"I don't know any other way to be, Brian." He has his hand on my neck, rubbing it slowly.
I feel all the tension draining out of me. Suddenly, I'm fucking exhausted. It's 2:00 in the morning and I have a full schedule tomorrow. "That's bullshit, Ron. You can be a professional. Like you've always been. You lived for years, you worked, you created -- all without knowing that I was alive. And you can do it again. If you want to. We CAN work together and co-exist and not be in a... a personal relationship -- or have this weird aura hanging over everything we do. You can do it and I can do it. You're just being stubborn."
"I wasn't living when you weren't in my life, Brian," he says, firmly. "I was existing. There's a difference."
"Come on, Ron!" I say, closing my eyes.
"It's true, Brian."
"Then that's YOUR problem, Ron, and not mine," I sigh. "Your sickness. Look at yourself. Look at your fucking life! You have everything you've worked for -- everything you've always wanted. And you'll have even more after the picture comes out. You already know that the picture is great. And you know it's going to be a hit. Jimmy knows. The studio knows. And it's all because of you. You can write your own fucking ticket in Hollywood. Do all the projects you've dreamed of. Get all the best tables in the best restaurants. All that shit that means so fucking much to you, Ron. And you'll have guys tripping over themselves trying to get at you. It's already happening -- and don't tell me that it isn't, because I know better."
"Yeah," he says. "Guys who are only interested in me for what I can do for them. How I can make THEM a star -- like I did with you, Brian. But I can't do that. Because they aren't YOU. There's only one guy who ever looked at me, wanted me for myself. Before, when I had nothing and was nothing. And that, again, is you, Brian. So, fuck that. I only want YOU. Fuck anyone else."
"No. Fuck the way you're behaving, Ron! Grow up. Because I'm trying to," I breathe. "Things are completely different than they were in 1988. You're not the same person and God knows that I'm not the same person. It's hard, but I'm trying! Trying to learn from my fucking mistakes. I can't just let things happen to me anymore. I have to take control of my own life because if I don't it's going to destroy me!"
"Don't say that, Brian!"
"I'm just telling you the truth! I was almost killed in England and that's made me take stock of everything. Of what I believe and how I behave. Of what's important to me and what doesn't matter anymore. Even how I think. How I react. Because I can't just go along the way I was. I... can't. I...." I have to stop and close my eyes for a moment. "And I'm trying to have a civil working relationship with YOU... even if you... you love me or hate me or BOTH for everything I've done to you! Because Hollywood is a small town, as you well know. If we have to work together in the future or even just be in the same room, it doesn't have to be a nightmare. It doesn't. It can be all right. And maybe -- someday -- we can even be friends."
"I wondered when I'd hear that 'let's just be friends' bullshit from you, Brian," he says, sarcastically. "I knew you'd pull it out eventually."
"It isn't bullshit, Ron," I reply. "It can happen. It can be the truth. I still like you. I'd like to be friends with you."
Ron's eyes are burning into me. "I don't WANT to be your fucking friend, Brian! Jesus!"
"Why not? Why do you have to obsess about a relationship that is OVER? Can't you be satisfied with your talent, with your success? Be fucking happy with it! I want you to be!"
"You know I can't. And you know WHY I can't, Brian."
"It has nothing to do with ME, Ron. Can't you see that?"
"It has EVERYTHING to do with you, Brian. Everything in my life has everything to do with you! It always has -- and it always will, as you are so fond of repeating."
Where have I heard THOSE fucking words before? Just like when Ron keeps bringing up that 'no apologies, no excuses, no regrets' slogan again and again. Yes, hearing my own garbage catch-phrases parroted back at me by Ron is always so much fun. "That's a convenient excuse for not even trying, Ron. But I'm not biting. I won't be your excuse. Not anymore. I refuse to be."
I lean my head back into Ron's hand, as he stokes my hair, my head. As crazy as it is, there's something reassuring about his presence, even though this conversation is going nowhere and now I'm so very tired. And tomorrow is that 'Regis and Kelly' show, which I'm dreading. I'm afraid it will be insufferable. Poor old Regis looks like the kind of guy who panics at the mere thought of queers -- and I know he'll be looking at me like I'm going to try to kiss him right on live television. Maybe I should just do it... just go for it. Fuck everything else.
"Why are you smiling, Brian? Am I THAT amusing?" says Ron.
"Just thinking of the television gigs I still have to do. And what Regis would do if I went on his show tomorrow and gave him a big, wet kiss in front of all the ladies."
"Hm," sniffs Ron. "He might like it. Especially if you slipped him the tongue. Didn't he go to Catholic schools and all that? All those priests. You two guys could compare notes."
"Very funny," I say, yawning. I should get up now and go back upstairs and get some sleep, but I don't have the motivation. Then Ron launches into some anecdote about the asshole who is in charge of print publicity for 'The Olympian' on the East Coast and how he is fucking things up. That's always Ron's mantra -- how someone is fucking him over. But at least he's not ragging on me for once. I feel myself dozing off as Ron drones on and on about this guy and about the way he's botched up some arrangements for the picture.
"Brian?" I hear Ron's voice cutting through the fog.
I start slightly. I must have really fallen asleep. I'm lying on the sofa with my feet up and my head in Ron's lap. I don't open my eyes and pretend to be still asleep. "Brian? Get up and come into the bedroom. We'll be more comfortable there. Brian?" Ron prods me slightly, but I don't stir. I'm not THAT dumb. I'm not going that route again. Not now. Not ever. I let myself go limp, immovable. "Brian?"
I hear him sigh and lean back against the sofa. And I only close my eyes tighter and feel myself falling. Falling backwards again, into a deep, deep sleep.
Continue on to "The Junketeer -- Part 3", the next section.
©Gaedhal, March 2003.
Updated March 20, 2003.