This is Part 3 of Chapter 84 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Landslide -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Hughie Marsh, Kenroy Smith, Rowan Conley, Ron Rosenblum.
Summary: Now Justin has to face Brian's deal. August 2002.
Cambridge was unbelievable. Like a big, beautiful movie set, with all the colleges and the river running behind them and King's College Chapel, which, with all that stained glass, is like being inside a box full of colored light! I can't imagine what it must be like to go to college here -- the bookstores, the pubs, the stores selling scarves and college gear, the tea shops, and everything caters to the student. Some of the colleges are five hundred years old! Think of living in the same room as Lord Byron! It's probably the same bed, though. Maybe even the same sheets!
The art exhibit was good. Hughie's professor introduced us to a lot of the artists and everyone stood around drinking sherry and talking about the art 'scene.' Gossiping, really. Some of the people seemed to think I was Hughie's boyfriend and I was surprised when he didn't correct them. I thought everyone in the world knew about his relationship with Sir Ken, but I guess not. It felt sort of weird to be 'with' Hughie like that. But I just went with it. What the heck. I got a free lunch and the whole afternoon to walk around the colleges and see the Fitzwilliam Museum.
It's getting late by the time we get back to London. Kenroy is driving, of course, and he has Hughie and me in stitches with his stories of working as a bouncer in some tough clubs all over London. He was also in the British Army and served in the Gulf War. He's a really interesting guy. Hughie kept saying, "I didn't know that!" -- and Kenroy has been driving Sir Ken and him around for almost a year. I guess it never occurred to Hugh to talk to the 'driver.' The divide between who is a 'servant' and who is 'served' just kills me. I'm sure some of the artists who were flirting with me this afternoon would have cut me off cold if they knew I used to be a mere busboy!
We stop to pick up Sir Kenneth, but he's not ready. While we are waiting for him, I call the suite. There's no answer, which is odd. I assume that Brian is taking a shower or down getting a paper. I try his cell and find that turned off. That's when I get concerned.
A little while later Sir Kenneth is STILL not ready, so I tell Hughie that I want to go back and get Brian. Then we'll pick them up afterwards and go to dinner. I sit up I front with Kenroy as we drive from Chelsea up to Holland Park.
"A bit worried?" asks Kenroy.
"Not at all," I lie.
"I'm sure everything is lovely."
I go up to the suite to get Brian. But the room is empty. The bed is all unmade and there are clothes lying around. Brian's new smoky grey Gucci suit is draped across the back of the couch, all rumpled, and his blue Armani is tossed on the chair, as if he was deciding what to wear quickly and left the discards where they fell. I hang the suits back up. His blue robe is on the floor and I pick that up, too, shake it out, and hang it on the bathroom door.
Then I go back downstairs. Kenroy Smith is standing by the Rolls. "No luck?"
"I can't understand it. Where would he go?"
"He left. Almost an hour ago." Rowan, a cigarette in his hand, emerges from around the side of the hotel where the employees' door is. It's almost as if he's been waiting there for me.
"Go where?" I ask him. "He knew we were coming to pick him up for dinner."
Rowan has an odd expression on his face. "I thought you'd left town."
I blink. I don't want to say outright that I've just been avoiding HIM. "No, I've just been very busy. You know, leaving early and then I'm out all day. Just trying to escape all the commotion around here."
"Hmm." Rowan tosses his cigarette into the dirt and stamps on it, like he's pissed off at something. Me, probably. "I wouldn't wait 'round for your boyfriend. He won't be coming back any time soon."
"What do you mean by that?"
"He left. With some fella."
"Left? With who?" The only person I can think of who Brian might leave with is Dorian. Maybe there was a problem at the studio. Or there's Gerry Milton. Except Brian wouldn't go anywhere with him. Unless it was some emergency. "Was the guy short and dark? Or kind of chubby and starting to lose his hair?"
"Naw," replies Rowan. "Neither of them. American. Tall, but not as tall as Brian." The way Rowan says his name sounds so weird. I've never heard Rowan refer to Brian as anything but 'your boyfriend' or 'the tall fella' -- never by his name. It sounds creepy. "Dark, curly hair. Intense eyes."
"Shit! Ron." I whisper. I look at Kenroy, then back at Rowan. "But... but why would Brain leave with Ron?"
Rowan shrugs. "Don' know. But they looked pretty cozy."
That makes me stand up straight. "Cozy? What the fuck is THAT supposed to mean?" I bristle at Rowan.
His eyes narrow at me. "Take it any way you will, Justin." Then he smirks.
I stare back at him. "No fucking WAY!"
Rowan shrugs again. "I saw the man go into the suite. And I saw them both come out. They were in there over an hour. The other fella had his arm around Brian as they went. You draw your own little picture, Justin. If you're able to."
I feel my face go deeply red. "Fuck you, Rowan!"
He blinks hard a few times. "Sorry," he mumbles. "I'm just tellin' ya."
There's a bench in front of the entrance to the Chatterton. You can sit there, just to the side of the walkway, and watch the street, the people go by. I drop down on that bench, trying to think. Trying to get a handle on what is happening. Kenroy and Rowan wait there with me for a while, until Kenroy decides that he better pick up Sir Ken and Hughie.
"They must be wondering what happened to us," I tell Kenroy. "I should have called them to let them know we... wouldn't be coming."
"I'll call Sir Kenneth from the car. Don't trouble yourself, Justin."
"Thanks. I appreciate it, Kenroy."
Rowan and I watch him pull the Rolls away. "I'm going to ride around in a car like that some day," says Rowan. Typical. He's always looking at material things. Never anything really important.
"Go for it, Rowan. Go for the cash. Why the fuck not?"
"I'm planning to -- if I could only catch a piece of luck." Rowan sits down next to me on the bench. "Are you really leaving soon?"
"Tomorrow, supposedly. But I don't know what's going on now."
"Who's that other fella when he's at home?"
"Ron? He's a film director. From Los Angeles."
"Knows Brian pretty well, I'd say."
"Yeah. He's known him a long time. Since Brian was younger than me. Brian lived out in California with him until just recently." It sounds so matter of fact as I say it. Not like it's the defining fact of my fucking life!
"Now THAT'S a bit of luck for him. Big house?"
"Not so big for Beverly Hills, but a nice house. A couple of fancy cars. Two maids. But I wouldn't call it lucky. Brian was miserable there." And he was. I know he was. I saw him when he came back to Pittsburgh that first time, when he was barely hanging.
"Miserable? Why? That chap has money!"
"Brian has his own money, Rowan. He wasn't with Ron for the money."
"Then why was he with him?"
That's the thing. I don't know. And I don't know why he's with him right NOW! It's something I can't explain to Rowan if I can't explain it to myself. So I tell him the truth. "Loves him, I guess. Or used to. A long time ago."
Rowan reaches over and starts squeezing my hand. "He's an arse, then. You could do better."
I take my hand away. "I don't want to fucking hear about it, Rowan."
We sit for a long while, in silence. Every time Rowan tries to start the conversation up, I cut it off. I don't want to hear his take on Brian. Or about what a good friend Rowan is.
Finally, Rowan has to leave. He has another job at a pub up in Finsbury near his home and he's already late. "The barkeep will have my head on a plate!" he jokes. But I don't laugh. "Maybe I'll see you tomorrow, Justin -- before you leave the hotel?"
"Maybe," I say. I don't really care whether I ever see Rowan again. Maybe that's harsh, but he's the last thing in the world on my fucking mind!
I sit for a long time on the bench in the dark, thinking. I try to call Diane a couple of times, but I only get her machine. I leave a brief message the first time, but afterwards I just hang up. I keep thinking I should go back to the room, or walk up to the corner and get something to eat, but my feet won't move. So I sit until I become part of the furniture. People go by me into the hotel, never even noticing me. I'm not noticing me, either. I'm not even really there anymore. I'm somewhere far away.
The workers in the basement kitchen have a tape or CD player and I listen to their music through the open window as they're washing dishes or cleaning up or whatever they're doing. They're listening to Fleetwood Mac and Jackson Browne and a bunch of 1970's music. Not the kind of punky music Brian listens to from that era, like Lou Reed, or the Clash, or the Ramones, but softer, sappier stuff. The kind of music Brian would make fun of. But as I'm listening to the words of the songs, the music is beginning to get to me. 'Running on Empty' -- that's the way I feel! 'The Pretender' -- that's Brian, yes. But the one that almost pushes me over the edge is new to me:
"I took my love, I took it down.
I climbed a mountain and I turned around.
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
'Til the landslide brought me down.
O, mirror in the sky -- What is Love?
Can the child in my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I don't know....
Well, I've been afraid of changing
'Cause I've built my life around you.
But time makes you bolder,
Children get older --
I'm getting older, too.
So, take my love, take it down.
Climb a mountain and turn around.
If you see your reflection in the snow-covered hills
Then the landslide will bring it down."
I don't completely understand what the woman -- Stevie Nicks, I guess -- is singing about, but I can feel that landslide. Feel everything that I was so sure about yesterday disintegrating under my feet and burying me. I'm alone and there's no reason to hold back what I'm feeling any longer. The tears, mainly. I don't have to pretend for Rowan that it doesn't mean anything to me. Crying for what was and is now over -- so soon. For what could have been. And I keep thinking that I'm too young to be so full of fucking regrets.
Sometime after 10:00 p.m. a big sedan pulls up in front of the Chatterton. Two people get out of the back. I know it's Brian even before I hear them talking. I know his shape, his vibration, even in the pitch darkness.
Ron is leaning over to him, whispering. Always whispering. Ron has a soft, hypnotic voice -- when he wants to. Other times it's sharp and harsh, his New York accent grating on you. But right now it's that soft voice. The seducing voice. The one that can pull you in and make you do things before you even know what is happening.
They come halfway up the walkway and stop. The voices are low, but I can hear almost every word. Holland Park is quiet, like the countryside, and the Chatterton is quiet now, too. Even the kitchen workers have turned off their music and gone home.
"Have a good flight. Give my regards to Carmel and Maria. I'm sure they'll be thrilled to see me." Brian's voice. There's an edge to it, but it's hard to tell just what it is when you can't see Brian's face.
Ron laughs -- he fucking laughs! "They'll be thrilled about your return engagement, Brian. I'll tell Maria to stock up on oatmeal."
Return engagement. There is no mistaking THAT. Brian is going back to California. With Ron. No doubt at all. More mute tears run down my cheeks and I wipe at them with the back of my hand.
"You would. Oatmeal! You're just trying to fucking KILL me!" Brian says something too low to catch, then, "Carmel will be dancing in the streets, I'm sure."
"Don't be silly, Brian. Carmel loves you. You know that. She just enjoys sparring with you, like you do with her."
"She'll probably put poison in my guava juice." Brian barks out a cynical laugh.
"And I'll have the Mustang tuned up for you. No one drove it all summer."
"You mean you weren't out cruising for hot guys, Ron? What's wrong with you?"
"I've been working my ass off all summer, Brian! You know that. Besides, there's only one hot guy for me...." There's a silence. It seems like a long silence. And I hold my breath because I know that the silence means that Ron is kissing Brian. It's really only seconds, but it might as well be forever.
"Goodbye, Brian," he says. But there's no answer that I can hear. Ron walks back to the big car and gets in the back. Brian watches as it pulls away, then heads for the hotel entrance.
If I just sit here quietly, maybe he won't feel my presence here. He'll just walk right by me and into the Chatterton without stopping. Then I can go up to the corner and catch a taxi. I can go back to Sir Ken's house in Chelsea. He'll let me stay there until I can retrieve my suitcase and get a flight home. I have my return ticket in my bag. I can fly out of this city and out of this nightmare. All the way back to Pittsburgh.
And that will be the end of it all.
Continue on to "Landslide -- Part 4", the final section of the chapter.
©Gaedhal, September 2002
Picture of Randy Harrison from Showtime
Updated September 13, 2002