This is the ninth chapter in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Open Lines" , the previous chapter.
The narrator is Michael Novotny, and features Deb, Justin.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Pittsburgh, February 2002. An unlikely couple moves in together.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"I thought I'd send this Scorpion Head comic to Hank. It's a special edition -- I'm sure he doesn't have it." I showed Ma the comic, sealed in its plastic bag. I had special-ordered one for myself and when I saw it I knew I had to send it to my ex-almost-step-son.
"Oh? Hank? David's kid?" It was a slow afternoon and Ma had plenty of time to lean over the counter and talk for a while. I'd sort of been avoiding the diner since that little... um... disagreement between Justin and Ted the other day. But I missed hanging out there. And, even more, I missed talking to my mother. Call it crazy, but it was true.
"Yeah. He's been e-mailing me a lot lately. I told you he's having a lot of problems with David and mom and the whole situation there in Portland. So, he's been e-mailing me to kind of vent about stuff."
"Whatever you do, don't encourage him to say bad things about his father -- no matter what your personal feelings might be."
"Ma, I'd never do that! Jeez, I'd never try to turn Hank against David. I want both of them to be happy. Even if it doesn't involve me." I really didn't have any bad feelings toward David -- most of the fault for the failure of our relationship I put not on him, but on myself.
"You're a sweet boy, Michael."
"Yeah, a sweet doormat, that's me."
"Oh, Michael!" She gave me one of her 'you're my little man' looks. I hate that.
"Well, that's what I feel like a lot of the time. And now this whole stupid thing with Ted and Emmett. Ted is so fuckin' stubborn -- and Emmett just defends him! It's one thing to be mad at Brian -- but this is beyond having anything to do with Brian!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! It's not about Brian. It's about Ted -- and Ted knows it."
"I just don't know how you and Emmett can be roommates and not speaking to each other."
"Well, Ma, it's been a strain. In fact, I'm not staying at the apartment anymore. I got some of my stuff and moved out today...." She started to open her mouth to protest, but I held up my hand. "Just temporarily, until we can work out some of these issues. Especially the issue over Ted."
"I wish you would tell me these things ahead of time, Michael! What if I was looking for you and had to get hold of you? I don't even think I have Ben's number. What if there was an emergency with Vic or something?"
Here was the part I was dreading. "Actually, I'm not staying at Ben's place either. He's in the middle of classes and is working on his book and everything -- it just isn't convenient for me to be there all the time...."
"So, are you going to tell me where in hell you ARE going to be living, then, young man? Or do I have to hire a detective?" She leaned up close to my face. The third degree.
"At the loft. I'm staying with Justin at the loft."
"What? Are you nuts? What are you staying there for?"
"That was the other thing I wanted to tell you."
"I'm listening." She stood back and folded her arms.
"Remember you were worried about Justin quitting his job here...."
"Damn right I'm worried about him."
"Well, don't worry -- because he's working for me."
"For YOU? Sunshine is working for you?"
"Yes. At the store. He's already got my accounts halfway straightened out -- and they were a big mess, let me tell you! I was starting to worry about how I was going to fix things before taxes were due. Justin's doing all that."
"Justin is? Sunshine?"
"Yes, Ma. Remember, he was almost on his way to Dartmouth as a business major? He knows more about this stuff than I ever could. Plus, he's going to get my computer database in order and put up a website so I can sell my comics online. And he can do it without missing any of his classes, because he can work on his own time."
"Shit. You two have it all figured out, don't you."
"And I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out a way to get him back here at the diner."
"Let's face it, Ma, he was wasting his talents busing tables."
"You just make sure he doesn't neglect his artwork and his school projects working on your shit!"
"Okay, then." She went over to the other counter and got out a box. "I'm sending some food home with you -- because I know definitely that you two won't eat correctly when you are up there in that loft playing around with the computers. How about some sandwiches? And lemon squares?"
"Sounds good, Ma. And we aren't 'playing around'! We're working."
"I don't care what you call it." She put the lemon squares into the box. "But the sooner you make it up with Emmett and move back in with him, the better I'll like."
"Ma, what difference does it make where I'm living? Whether it's the loft or Emmett's or your house, really what does it matter?"
She came over and frowned, pointing her finger right at my nose. "Because that fucking loft has a bad vibe to it! The vibe of you-know-who! And that's not good for either you OR Sunshine. I'll love to see both of you out of there and that place fumigated. Or, better yet, leveled to the ground and covered over with lime!"
"I'm just sayin'...."
I took the food -- which was actually pretty welcome. The fridge at the loft was usually depressingly empty. Which was why Justin had spent most of his eating hours at my mom's house.
It seemed really weird to ride the elevator up and know that Brian wasn't going to be at the other end. I shoved the door open and Justin was working away at his fancy 'art' computer -- doing some project. He can just spend hours on the thing and go and go and go. Eventually his hand gets really tired. You can tell by the way he holds it. But he'll never admit that's the reason he's taking a break.
I had my bag with some of my shit in it, so I went into the bedroom and hung up some of my shirts. This is sure not the way I ever dreamed I'd be hanging up my clothes in the loft. Jeez! It's really weird the way things work out.
"If you want me to sleep on the couch, it's all right with me. I used to end up falling asleep on the couch half the time at Emmett's."
"No problem. The bed is big enough for -- well, for a crowd, let's face it." He laughed shortly, but it wasn't a humorous laugh. "Really, I'm kind of glad to have someone here. It gets a little creepy at night."
"You mean, like it's haunted?" I was starting to feel little goose bumps on my arms.
"Yes, a little. Not a bad kind of haunted, like something evil. But... I don't know... so many memories in here." He shrugged. " If you get scared in the dark, just give me a poke."
"Right, I need you to protect me from the dark! I'm not a complete wimp, you know!"
He stuck his tongue out at me. "Well, you can snuggle up to me any time -- and I promise I won't molest you while you are sleeping."
"Ugh -- Please. Save me from that image!"
It felt okay to be joking around with Justin. Since I wasn't speaking to Ted, and Emmett and I are barely civil to each other, I've just sort of turned to Justin for lack of an alternative. But we actually get along pretty well. I guess I had spent so much time resenting him that I never paid much attention to him as a person. There's a big difference in our ages, of course, but I admit I'm not the most mature guy in the world and Justin is a lot more sophisticated than most nineteen year olds, so I suppose things even out.
He can't understand my obsession with comic books and I don't 'get' his avant garde art fixations. But he did show me some Warhol things and other stuff from the Fifties and Sixties that use a lot of comic images. I thought they were pretty cool. We even made a plan to go over to the Warhol museum next weekend. So he's 'educating' me. And I gave him some of my favorite Captain Astros and Batmans to look at, especially some of the Frank Miller stuff that's really dark. Justin does some good caricatures of people and you can see that he can draw as well as a lot of professional artists who do comics. He was definitely interested and could see that they were 'art,' too. So, I'm also educating him.
My mom, as usually, gave us much more food than we could eat. But that just meant more leftovers for the next day. Of course, we ate the lemon squares first.
Justin tapped away at the keyboard, while I spread out my catalogs on the diningroom table. If we were going to go to a website, we'd have to specialize in a certain kind of comic, or cater to a certain kind of collector. That way, our site would have an individual identity to make it stand out from other comics websites. Maybe just specific characters? Or a specific era, like the Seventies or the Sixties? Or just really rare collectibles? Maybe even get into some of the Japanese anime stuff -- that was selling pretty well and might do good business on the internet. It was fun to make notes and imagine where I could take this. With Justin's help, of course.
About midnight, I packed it in.
I stood next to the bed, unsure about which side to take.
"Hey, do you have a preference? It doesn't matter to me which side I sleep on, but I don't want to take over your space."
Justin stood up and stretched. He walked up onto the platform and pointed to the side nearest the closet. "Why don't you take that side. I'll take the other. That way... if the phone rings or anything, I can get it and not bother you." For some reason Justin had moved the phone, which used to be on the desk, over to the bedside table.
I got in bed and was out almost as soon as I put my head down.
Suddenly, I started up out of a sound sleep. I looked around, but didn't see what woke me up.
I looked at the clock. It was a little after 1:00 a.m. and Justin was still banging away at that computer. It seems that once he's on a roll on something, he just doesn't let it go.
I flipped over and was just about to doze off again when the phone rang and scared the shit out of me. The ringer was turned up so loud it sounded like a fire alarm.
"Michael! Wait!" I heard Justin say, but I reached over and picked it up.
"Hello? Hello?" There was no answer.
"Michael -- give me the phone!" Justin practically leaped into the bedroom and was trying to grab it away from me.
"Just a minute -- I think it's a wrong number." I held it back to my ear. "Is there anyone there? Hey, if this is an obscene phone call I'd like to hear something good or you might as well hang up." I looked over at Justin, who was kneeling on the edge of the bed, shaking his head. "Hey, Justin, if it's a good obscene call, we ought to invite him over, huh?"
Then someone on the other end spoke. "I'm sorry. I... I must have dialed the wrong number... I mean... I won't bother you again. Good night."
"No problem at all. 'Night." I set the phone down.
Justin stared at the phone and then looked up at me. "What did he want? What did he say?"
"Just a wrong number. He said he wouldn't bother us again."
"You mean, the person actually SAID something?"
"Yeah -- he said that he must have dialed wrong."
Justin looked relieved and gave a little smile. "Well, that's good. That's okay." He walked back, shut down the computer, and began turning off the lights around the room. "I think I've had enough for tonight. I'm really beat."
"It's about time. My eyes would be aching from staring at that screen all night." I rolled over and buried my face in the big pillow. It seemed so odd to be there, in that bed. In the loft. Smelling those dark blue sheets, as if I could still detect their former owner.
I felt Justin get in the bed and sigh loudly.
I turned over towards him. "You know, when you said this place felt a little haunted, I didn't believe you. Now I know what you mean."
"You should be here by yourself. Then you really think you hear some strange things."
"Yeah," I said. "Strange. Like just now."
"What do you mean, Michael?"
"Well, that wrong number...."
"Yes?" Justin was very, very still.
"It must be because I'm here in his place, in his bed, but... the voice -- I mean, it sounded just like Brian. Isn't that weird?"
But Justin didn't say anything.
Continue on to "Sugar Daddy" , the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, May 2002
Picture of Hal Sparks and Sharon Gless from Showtime.
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Updated May 12, 2002