This is Part 4 of Chapter 84 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Landslide -- Part 3", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney.
Summary: Brian tries to explain things to Justin. August 2002.
"Waiting for a bus?" Brian is standing in front of me.
I should have known that he would sense that I was here, even in the dark. He can find me, like radar. The connection is too intense -- even now.
"No. Just waiting." I can see that he's wearing his dark green Prada suit. The one that makes his eyes look like glowing emeralds.
He sits down next to me, but I can't look at him. "Long time?"
"Long enough. And not long enough. I guess it will never be enough. Right, Brian?"
"What do you mean?"
"Four days? Or was it five? Five days when I was actually happy. Actually felt loved. Because we were together. I guess I can't expect any more than that, can I, Brian? But it was nice -- while it lasted. And I could try to accept it -- if I could only understand... if I could only...." But I can't say anymore. I can't stop one stray tear from escaping. Can't make any sense of my own feelings. I can't make sense of the fucking world. And NO ONE in the universe can make sense of Brian. Or Ron. So why even try?
"Justin, I... I'm sorry about tonight. About... dinner...."
"You mean about blowing me off once again, Brian? And Sir Kenneth and Hugh, too? What difference does it make, right? Not that I would be worried about you or anything! I mean, the last time you did this you were only in jail. So, why would I wonder where you were, or get worried, or anything? Because you had other things to do, didn't you? Other IMPORTANT things, I'm sure."
"I know! I should have called. I should have let you know... that...."
"Don't bother, Brian. I wasn't worried at all. Not for a minute. Because Rowan told me where you were. He was very, very clear about who you'd gone off with. I mean, why should I be surprised? I'm not really surprised, I guess. What goes around, comes around, isn't that what they say, Brian? Isn't that the truth?"
But he doesn't say a fucking word. Nothing.
"I guess that's as much of an answer as I should expect to get from you, Brian. No apologies, no excuses, isn't that it? Except I thought you'd changed. You SAID you'd changed. I see just how deep that change was. And how much of what you tell me is just talk. Just words. Meaningless. Like you've always said they are. Meaningless words."
Brian sits quietly next to me. He doesn't really have anything to say. What CAN he say to explain everything to me? Or anything? It's just more words, right? More fucking words!
Then he holds his hand out -- but I don't want to take it. Not now. Not ever...
He keeps holding it out. Open. Empty.
"It's your call, Justin.," says a voice. It sounds like Brian's voice, but it's somewhere in my head. "It's your call. Which way will you be more fucking miserable? With him -- or without him?" But I already know the answer to that one -- because I've already lived it once. Lived it and survived. Lived it to get to this point... The point of knowing what I want. What I can take. And what I can't....
The hand is still there. It trembles ever so slightly.
And I do take it. His hand closes tightly on mine. The hand with the brass slave bracelet on it.
"Justin, I think that you're the only person who might actually understand all this. Or the only one who would even TRY to understand it. Because everyone else is going to say that I'm insane. And maybe I AM insane for what I'm doing. I don't know. I only know that it's what I have to do. And that the only reason WHY it's going to work at all is because you WILL understand. Because you CAN understand what I'm going to do. What I've done already, even. Because you did it yourself -- in a way. And for the same reason."
"I did?" What is Brian talking about? What does he mean, I did it?
"Yes. You and Kip. How you saved my job. My ass. My stupid pride. You put yourself on the line for me. And you never asked for anything in return."
"Brian, I never wanted anything...."
"Just shut up -- let me say this. Because THIS is the payback. This is MY turn! It's about those tapes of us. Those videos. And how I want them and how I'm going to get them." He stares straight ahead into the dark.
"But Brian -- it doesn't matter!" I want to yell it, but the words come out in a whisper. "I don't care about the... videos. I don't! Besides... it's not worth it to... to go with Ron... Not for any reason. But especially not for... me."
"But it is. It is worth it!" Brian declares. "And I can do this. I'm doing it for YOU -- for US! It won't hurt me, Justin. I've done it before. I've always lived my life on the edge. This isn't even CLOSE to the edge for me. It's almost old hat. I know Ron's game. I know his ways. It's a battle of wills." His eyes glance over at me. "And I think my will is the stronger one. Because this is something I have to do -- for my own peace of mind."
"Peace of mind! Brian -- how can something like that ever give you -- or US -- any peace of mind? It's tearing MY mind apart just thinking about... about...." I can't go on with my words -- or my thoughts.
"It's for the future, Justin. OUR future peace of mind. Because I don't want Ron or anything about him hanging over our heads. Ever! And I won't be able to go on knowing that he's got something on YOU. I don't give a fuck about the videos he has of me. It doesn't matter, as long as they get my good side." Brian stops and holds his chin up a little, as if demonstrating his good side. Which is bullshit because all of Brian's sides are good. "But it's a different story when he has videos of me AND you. That I can't allow."
"I told you, Brian, that I don't care! I DON'T! I... don't...." But that's the fucking thing -- I DO care. I DO care that Ron has those tapes. And Brian knows it, because he saw me that night, after Ron showed the tapes to me. He saw me, hiding behind the bar next to the pool, puking my guts out with anxiety. And he knows the truth.
He squeezes my hand, which has gone so cold. "I'm a control freak, too, see? Just like Ron. We have that factor in common. Among various other sick obsessions and delusional fantasies. But the bottom line is that I don't want anyone else viewing your ass on their TV. Unless it's in a big budget motion picture and you get paid plenty for it. Right?"
Brian pokes me gently to make me laugh. But I can't see anything funny in what he's planning. What he's already decided. What he's already done. "Don't, Brian. Please. I told you before... I don't care about the fucking tapes. Let Ron have them!"
"But I care, Justin. Besides," he sighs. "It's a done deal. That's all there is to it, Justin. Signed and sealed. All that's waiting is the delivery -- on the first of September."
I swallow. The first of September. A month from now.
"Come on." He grips my hand as he pulls me into the hotel and up in the elevator. Inside the door of the suite, he tears off his suit coat and tosses it on the couch. He's so calm and determined that I don't know what to say or do. Or he's just acting composed for my benefit. To try and make me calm. But how can I be when I'm so close to the edge myself?
Living his life close to the edge. That's Brian's way. Daring. Testing. Skirting disaster. But that's not my way. I don't know if I can endure this roller coaster. I don't know if I can make myself stand by and watch Brian do something that I know is killing him inside! And I know it is. It has to be. Because that's what it's doing to me....
I look at the big bed under the tent, the way the sheets are tumbled and ripped at and think of Brian's words -- "It's a done deal. That's all there is to it." And I know that I'VE caused this, somehow. Brought it all about. Just like I ruined everything in my alternate life -- ruined US. I've done it here, too, in a different way. But the result is the same. I'm going to lose him.
Brian goes into the bathroom and I hear the water in the sink turn on. He's splashing his face, probably trying to shock some feeling back into himself. I squeeze my eyes shut and sit on the edge of the bed, trying not to think about what went on in it. Trying not to think about what I'm going to do tomorrow, or a year from now, when all I want to do this minute is disappear.
"What's the matter?" Brian is looking at me. He has his shirt off and the little heart charm is glittering on its gold chain, resting against his chest.
"Nothing. It's the end of the story -- that's all."
Brian sits down next to me on the bed. "Not the end of the story. Not the end at all."
"No? What would YOU call it, then?"
"How about a hiatus? Or an interruption? You can insert any word you want there, Justin." Brian runs his hand through his hair, as if trying to pull the right word out of his brain. "I have to go back to Los Angeles anyway. That's just a given. I have promotion work to do for 'The Olympian.' Like interviews. Jimmy and I will probably have to go to New York, maybe even some other cities, on these press junkets. Do the round of talk shows. 'The Tonight Show'! Regis! Conan! Maybe even 'The View'! I'm ready-made for those women to swoon over, don't you think? It's all the boring Industry shit you have to do when you have a major film with a major star like Jimmy in it. Then Jimmy and I will come back to L.A. for the premiere in November."
"I guess that's where I'll get to see you, then," I say. "I can stay up and watch you on 'Letterman.' I can video tape all your appearances." Yes, it all comes down to the fucking videos. Always.
"I have a lot of unfinished business out in California, Justin. Not the least of which is to decide whether or not I'm going to continue with this career -- or fucking forget about it."
"You have to continue!" I assert. "You're such a wonderful actor!"
"Spoken like a true fan who has never seen me for even a moment on screen!" He actually smiles.
I look up at him. "I just KNOW that you're wonderful. I don't need to see it on the screen."
"Too bad so much of my best acting is going on OFF screen." He pulls my face up to his. "You're the only one who has ever had any fucking faith in me. And that means everything. Nobody has ever cared about me or believed in me like you have. Nobody. Not my fucking family. My friends. Even Mikey.... He has his own view of what I am -- what I should be. But that's HIS vision. Even Lindsay has her idea of what I should be, how I should behave. They all say they want me to change -- but they don't mean it. They don't believe that I CAN change. That I can be anything else but just a shallow fucking asshole. But you never saw me like that. Even when I couldn't see it myself."
"I don't know what other people saw, Brian. But I only saw you. That's all I wanted. And the only place I ever wanted to be." Yes, I think. That's my fucking curse. My fucking Fate!
Brian puts his arm around my shoulder, hugging me to him. I can't help noticing that he has some marks on his arms and his shoulders. Marks that weren't there this morning. "Plus, you know that you have to go back to school, Justin. You have a full year of work ahead of you at PIFA."
"I don't care about that!" I keep looking at his body, shuddering. I can't see anything else. Ron's fucking signature!
"Listen!" he says, his cheek against mine. "You HAVE to care! What is everything we are trying to do together all about then, if YOU don't care about your own future? About your own talent and your art? After everything you've been through? What have you struggled to get better for? To get your hand back in shape for? You have to care. Because I care." He strokes down my arm and fingers my slave bracelet. "Besides, if you don't do well this year at the Institute, then no one will offer you a summer internship at that animation studio! Then there will be no reason for you to come out and spend the summer in Los Angeles!"
"And stay with you and Ron?" I say, my bitterness bursting out, along with another acid tear.
"Hey!" Brian's voice is sharp. "It's NOT like that! I made a deal with him that I would go out there until the first of the year. That's three fucking months! Nothing at all! After that, I'm free and clear. No obligation to Ron or his film or anything else. I'll live in my own place. I already have my own agent. I'll get some more parts. Maybe I'll become a spokesmodel for that French anti-ageing shit. I could be the 'before' picture -- and they can get some young twink to be 'after.' What do you think?"
What he says sounds reasonable -- to a point. But I have to be honest with Brian. "I know you have the best intentions -- MY best interests in your heart when you say you are... are going back to California. I know that you think you are doing it for US! Or that you THINK you can control the situation with Ron."
"Justin, I CAN...."
"Brian! You can't control him! You think you know Ron -- and you do know him -- in a way! But you can't distance yourself from him the way you think you can! I've seen you two... together. You're too comfortable with Ron. Too...." I have to stop, because I can hear their conversation too clearly, see them together too clearly. "Brian, it scares me when I think about how easy it will be for him to take advantage of you! For Ron to use your emotions, your memories, your past -- use it to manipulate you. And he WILL!"
"Justin, I can handle Ron! I CAN! He has NO fucking power over me anymore!"
Brian always seems so knowing, so worldly, but I see how when it comes to feelings, to relationships, he's a complete innocent! He has NO fucking clue! "Because I think that Ron will figure out a way to make your 'deal' last longer! THAT'S what I think, Brian! He'll trick you! He'll... do something to convince you that... he's right! He will! He can be so fucking persuasive -- he can make people do... things they would never do in a million years. And there's NO way that once he has you that he's ever going to let you go, Brian! Ever."
"Justin, he won't trick me. I won't be a prisoner. Ron isn't going to have me locked up in a little room somewhere. He'll be so busy with the film he probably won't even notice whether I'm there or not!"
I just stare at Brian. He really believes what he's saying! The idea that once Brian gets out to Los Angeles that Ron will hardly notice him is laughable! I only wish that I was able to laugh about it. "He'll notice, Brian," I tell him. "Ron's obsessed with you. He'll know where you are every fucking minute! He knows everything that is going on HERE in London! It's like he has eyes watching us wherever we go." And I feel those eyes from the poolhouse all over me once again.
"You can say what you want, Justin, but you won't change my mind about going -- or weaken my resolve," he says in that hard-headed way. "I've made NO promises to Ron other than to be out there and to cooperate with him about the film. As soon as I can, I'll find somewhere else to live. I'll only stay in Ron's house for as long as I absolutely have to. Diane will help me out. I'll even move in with HER as long as I don't have to sleep in the same bed with her! I just have to distance myself gradually because I don't want to completely piss Ron off until I have those videos. And I WILL get them. All of them." His voice is steely and he grips my wrist. "Now, more than ever. Because I won't let him have ANYTHING on YOU. Not anything!"
I cringe at the way he says 'all of them.' I think of that night in Ron's office. The way he gently pushed my head down.... "Brian... I... I should have told you before, but there is another video. Another one... with me in it... I...." I stop, unable to get the words out.
Brian takes a deep breath. "You mean the one of you and Ron? Together?"
I stare at him through wet, blurry eyes. "You know? About that other video? The one...."
"Yeah, I know," he says, so gently. "Ron told me all about it."
I can't think. I can't fucking think! "Brian, I... I didn't mean for it to ... it just happened! And I...I didn't want to do it!... I just... I was watching the film of you and Ron and then... it happened! I don't know what I was thinking, but before I could... I could...." I'm stumbling so badly. He must detest me now. Because I detest myself.
"Stop!" He puts his hand over my mouth and pulls my face around to meet his. "It's not your fault. Nothing is your fault. If anyone is to blame, it's me for letting you get into that situation. For leaving you alone with Ron for even a minute."
"Then, you don't hate me?"
He just looks at me so fucking sadly. "I don't hate you, Justin. I could never hate you, no matter what you did. No matter what happens." He pets my hair slowly. "And who would know better than me just what Ron can get you to do? How things can happen before you even know it. He fucking set you up, Justin, just like he set me up. Because he can't stand not having control. That makes him a great director. It also makes him a miserable and lonely human being." Brian says with no anger, just regret.
"You still love him, don't you?" And that, more than anything, is something I don't understand -- and can't accept. Ever.
Brian shrugs. "Probably a part of me does. From a long time ago. The things I remember. Maybe I'm only idealizing it all now, but I can't help that. I feel like he saved me. He really did. I would be long dead now if I hadn't met him and gotten out of that pit. If not from the drugs, then from too many scuzzy johns who insisted on doing it raw. That's the fucking irony of the situation!" Brian's lips press together grimly. "And that's also the reality of the situation. Ron was always a bit controlling, even back then. He was driven by something I certainly didn't understand. But he rescued me, Justin. Taking me off the street and away from good old Stan. Feeding me. Buying me clothes. Caring about me. Showing me more affection than my own father ever did! I mean, fuck me! I felt like he loved me. He DID love me, I know he did! It was only later that everything went wrong. Too much time had gone by. Ron was different. I was different. Then it all fucking fell apart."
I shudder and Brian feels me trembling. I keep thinking of that dream I had. The snowy streets and me in the worn sneakers, the thin leather jacket. And Brian in the long winter coat. Like Ron. Wiping at my face with the clean, white handkerchief. Brian pulls me in tighter and tries to rub the goosebumps off of my arm. "Are you cold?"
It's warm in the room, but I'm cold inside. "No," I lie.
"So," he continues. "I feel I owe Ron SOMETHING. But I don't owe him my whole fucking life! He says that he's only doing these possessive things because he loves me -- and I believe that he does in his own weird way. But it's a sick kind of love. An obsessive kind of love. That's not what I was looking for when I went off to California in the first place. I was looking for something pure and unspoiled -- the way I remembered feeling when I was sixteen. Like I was taken care of. Maybe it wasn't perfect. Maybe I was idealizing, but it was SOMETHING. The closest fucking thing I ever had to a relationship with anyone! I thought.... But I couldn't recapture that. And I was so wrapped up in my OWN problems and fears and obsessions that I couldn't see that I already HAD that pure and unspoiled love. And I left that love sitting in the loft while I flew headlong into disaster. I didn't understand then what I had -- I wasn't mature enough to understand it, I guess."
"It's no big deal," I tell him. Even though it IS a big deal. The biggest deal in my life.
"But it IS a big deal, Justin," he repeats, mirroring my own thoughts. "I had to go through all that shit to be able to recognize what love IS. To understand that even I am capable of feeling it. Even me! Maybe THAT'S what your 'vision' was trying to tell us -- that if I had just gone on in my same stupid, blind, don't-give-a-fuck way then I would certainly have driven you away. And because I couldn't learn anything in order to see the truth I would have fucked everything up, Justin. Not YOU. But ME fucking it up! And you would have been right to escape from that nightmare, because you deserve more than that. You would have been so right to go off with someone who can give you what you dream of...."
"That WASN'T a dream, Brian -- that was a nightmare!" Just like THIS is a nightmare. No matter what I do, my life seems to end the same way. Screwed up. Fucked up!
"Only because everything is so different now. I'm different now. I've changed. I really have! I've lost that defiant, no apologies, no regrets attitude I had. I've also lost some of my confidence and a lot of my fucking bravado! But I've gained a little self-awareness -- I hope. A little understanding of what's really important. Enough to know that..." He pauses and looks away for a moment, then puts his forehead against mine, catching my eyes in his. "Enough to know I love you and probably always have. From that first night. That's why I was always so desperate to get rid of you -- and yet I kept coming back, even more than YOU kept coming back! I couldn't help myself. So, it must be Fate, right?"
Brian says those words again. I love you. He doesn't hesitate, either. It's like he really does mean what he's saying. And yet -- the words sound to me like the tragic ending instead of the beginning of a beautiful story.
"And now it's too late," I say, simply.
"No! Not too late. Ron is leaving tomorrow. Period. He's gone! And I -- WE have until the first of September. And I plan to make the most of it. I have everything all mapped out. Where we're going. What we'll do. I've got the car reserved and we'll drive all over this fucking island! Then I'll take you back to Pittsburgh and we'll have some time together at the loft. In September you'll go back to school -- and I'll go back to my 'job' in California. Just like I would have had to do anyway. And we'll ride this thing out. Okay, Justin? Are you hearing me? Do you believe me?"
"Yes," I say, shakily. "I believe you." Even when I don't believe it. Can't believe it.
"Because you have to believe me AND trust me. If you can't do that, then it's all for nothing, you know?"
And I nod.
"Okay, then. I have one more day of filming left and then we'll go to out to the country for the weekend and then we can pick up that car and drive around a little, like I said we would. Go up and see the Lakes. Up where we don't have to think about reporters or Ron or anything unpleasant. Have a little break all to ourselves before we go back to the Pitts. All right? If you still want to? I mean, if you still want to put up with me?"
"If YOU still want to put up with ME... after Ron... after what I did... After...."
"Quiet! I'd have to be the world's biggest fucking hypocrite to judge anything that YOU did, Justin. If you could only know a fraction of the things I've done in my fucking life -- what I've had to do and why -- your hair would curl up in pretty little ringlets all over your head." He plays with my hair, twisting it in his fingers. I realize that it's gotten so long in the weeks we've been in England. "That might be nice, actually. A Shirley Temple effect. It might be cute."
"Stop that," I say, slapping at his hand. But my mouth must be curling up involuntarily.
"See?" insists Brian. "You can smile! You WILL smile again. If I can smile, then YOU should be able to. I'm the doom and gloom sayer, remember? Smiling is YOUR big thing -- Sunshine!" He tries to push me off the bed. "Maybe you might want to take a bath and relax a little? Fill that silly tub with the feet full of those big bubbles and I'll come in later and see if I can find you amid the suds."
"Sure," I murmur. "Whatever." I climb off slowly, trying to sound cheerful. Or at least less miserable than I actually feel.
Brian gets up and starts straightening up the messy sheets and duvet. "There's never a fucking maid around when you need one, is there? I guess that's me, then." I look away, thinking about Ron in OUR bed. I'm glad I didn't eat anything, because my stomach is rebelling like crazy.
I go into the bathroom and close the door and run the water hard so he can't hear me in there, breaking into tiny little pieces. And I stand there for a few minutes, leaning my forehead against the mirror, before I realize that Brian has opened the door and is there in the doorway, watching me.
"Stop," he says. "Stop now. Because if you don't -- then how am I supposed to cope? How am I supposed to do what I have to do? Because YOU are the strong one, Justin. So, if you really can't take it, can't accept it, please tell me now. Don't let me go ahead with this all alone. You have to be THERE for me in your heart, even when you aren't right next to me. Or you might as well abandon me to good old Ron and say, 'Go to Hell, Brian.' Because that's where I'll be going. You know that as well as I do." He comes over next to me and searches my face. "But I'll still get those videos. Even if you never fucking speak to me again! I WILL. Because I have to -- or I'll really have failed myself as much as I've failed you."
He reaches over and turns off the water. And then he leads me to the bed. He's smoothed it out and rearranged the pillows and turned down the sheet. And he sits me on the edge of it like a child and undresses me slowly, taking off my shoes and socks, unbuttoning my shirt, pulling off my good slacks, and slipping me under the covers like my mother tucking me in. Then he turns off all the lights in the suite, drops his dark green Prada pants on the floor, and gets in next to me.
"If you don't want to make love to me, I understand," Brian whispers. "If you NEVER want to do it with me ever again, I will still understand. But I'll never change my feelings, Justin. Not now. Not anymore. I only have room in my heart for so many people and I think I've used up my quota. So, it's you or nothing. All you have to do is decide if YOU can put up with ME. Because I'm no bargain. I'll cause you more fucking heartache than any ten of Ted's crummy old operas. You'll want to kill me in a million ways, a million times. But that's what you get, if you take me. If you want me."
I can't really answer, because to answer you have to be able to speak -- and I can't. But I turn over towards him. Move closer. It's the only thing I can do without breaking down. And I hold my mouth up to meet his in the darkness.
Continue on to "Champagne Supernova", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, September 2002
Picture of Gale Harold from Showtime.
Updated September 16, 2002