This is Chapter 62 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, featuring Jennifer Taylor, Michael Novotny, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Where the truth lies. April, 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit.
"The sun comes up,
I think about you.
The coffee cup,
I think about you.
I want you so
It's like I'm losing my mind.
The morning ends,
I think about you.
I talk to friends,
I think about you
And do they know?
It's like I'm losing my mind...."
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"Justin? Are you all right?"
I'd be better if you didn't keep knocking on my fucking bedroom door!
"I'm fine, Mom," I call out. Now go the fuck away.
"Honey?" she persists. "Do you want something to eat?"
"No. I'm not hungry."
But she won't give up. My mother never gives up. "Justin, will you open the door? Will you talk to me? Just for a few minutes?"
It's inevitable. She's never going to go back downstairs until I talk to her.
I get up and go to the closed door, standing there for a moment, wishing that she'd leave me alone.
I should have gone somewhere else, but it would have been the same -- or worse -- wherever I went. To Daphne's. Debbie's. Vic and Tim's. Emmett's. They'd all want to know the gory details. They'd all want to watch to see if little Justin was going to freak out. Break down.
Poor Little Justin.
Well, fuck that!
I pull open the door forcefully. "WHAT?" I hear myself yell right in her face.
She's startled. She gapes at me like she's never seen me before. Then she recovers and gives me a tight, forced smile. "H... how are you doing, darling?" she says. "Would you like some soup? Or a sandwich?"
"I already told you I wasn't hungry," I tell her, rubbing my eyes. "And I meant it. If I was hungry, I'd come down and get something to eat. So is there anything else you want?"
She sighs heavily. I know what she's thinking: Poor little boy! Poor Justin!
Jesus! I hate it when people treat me that way!
I... HATE it.
Mom's face is full of concern. Full of pity. Well, I don't want her concern and I don't want her pity! I'm sick of people being so fucking 'concerned' about me! It's just like after I was bashed. They treated me like a fucking infant. Like I was incapable of rational thought. Incapable of doing anything for myself. Mom, Debbie, my physical therapist, my neurosurgeon -- everyone!
Except... Brian. Brian was the only one who treated me like I was still whole. Like I still had a fucking brain. Like I was a man. Only Brian.
"I thought you might want to talk, honey. You know -- about... things."
I know she means well. I understand that. But I don't want to talk about 'things' with her. I don't want to think about 'things'! Not now.
That might really make me lose my fucking mind!
"Not now, Mom," I tell her. But what I really mean is not ever.
Mom nods like she understands, but I know she doesn't. "All right, Justin. But if you want anything, just call me. Or come downstairs. I'm making meatloaf for dinner. You've always liked my meatloaf."
I close my eyes and shake my head. "I said I'm not hungry. I have some work to do for class, so if you don't mind?" I put my hand on the door, ready to shut it. To shut out her careful concern.
"I'll leave you to your work, then." She smiles, but it's another tight smile. A fake smile. A 'Poor Little Justin' smile. I don't smile back. I don't need her fucking pity. I don't need her fucking smiles!
I close the door. I'd lock it if I could, but none of the doors in this condo have locks. Except the bathroom. That has a lock. Maybe I'll lock myself in there. Get some privacy. Be really alone.
I could lock out the fucking world.
Locked out. Like I already am.
I can't think about it. I won't think about it.
I go back to my desk and sit at my old computer. I need to write a paper for my Art History class, but none of my books are here. They're in my studio. Which is in Brian's building.
He took my fucking keys away.
My good computer is there, too. All my art projects are in that studio or on that machine. Which means I have to go back there. I have to get the rest of my stuff. If I'm going to finish all my classes and complete this semester, I'm going to have to go back and face Brian. Again. And soon.
I have no choice. Class ends in a week and then I have exams.
And I'm not going to fuck up this whole semester! I'm not.
I'm sure Mom expects me to fuck up. Everyone will expect that, once they hear what happened to Poor Little Justin. Once they know the truth. Once they realize that....
Fuck it. Just FUCK it!
I need to focus on this paper. Not think about anything else. Just write it. Just finish it.
Everything that isn't already finished.
"Brian!" Mikey cries when he sees me. "What the fuck are you doing here? I thought you e-mailed me that you wouldn't be out of Springhurst until next week?"
Michael comes around the counter and puts his arms around me. Hugs me. Tightly.
But I don't hug him back. Instead I stand, like a fucking tree, with my arms at my sides. It's strange to have Michael hug me. Touch me. Because I don't feel anything. It's like there's a barrier between me and the world. It's like my body, my mind, my whole being, is encased in glass. Nothing can touch me. Nothing.
"What's wrong?" says Michael, pulling back and looking at my face. "What happened?"
I inhale sharply. "So -- how's the Doc?" I turn away from him and wander over to a display of comic books. Act like I'm interested in them. Acting -- what I do best.
"He's fine," says Michael, his forehead wrinkling with worry. He's going to get permanent lines there if he doesn't watch out. "Now tell me what's wrong!"
"You ever see Ben anymore?" I ask, not looking at him.
That stops him cold. "No," Michael says quietly. "I never see Ben. What would be the point? It's... it's over."
"Yeah," I reply. "When something's over, it's really fucking over. You know what I mean? Forget and move on, right?"
Michael walks back behind the counter and slumps on his stool.
Mentioning Ben was a low blow. But I meant to hurt him. Wanted to hurt him. I'm a fucking bastard. I guess I always will be. I thought I could change. Find some other way to be. But I was wrong. There is no other way. So I'll do what I came here to do. What I have to do.
Find out the truth.
Because I know that Michael knows it.
There's only one other person in the store, a nerdy guy in his late 20's. He finally comes to the counter and buys a pile of comic books. Michael rings them up and puts them into a paper sack. "Thanks," he says, handing him the sack. "The new 'X-Men' comes out next week."
"Great," says the guy. "I'll be back then."
He walks out the door and I follow him. I lock the door behind him and pull down the shade.
"Hey!" says Michael. "What are you doing? I'm not closed yet!"
"You are now," I inform him. "I don't want some moron coming in here and asking for a copy of fucking 'Wonder Woman' when I'm trying to talk to you."
Michael pales. "Talk to me? About... about what?"
"You know what, Michael," I reply, my voice like ice.
"No, I don't." He takes out some invoices. Shuffles them around. Then he opens a comic book and pretends to thumb through it. Anything not to look at me. "I have a lot to do right now, Brian."
"Yes, you have a lot to tell me. Right this minute." I step up to the counter and lean across it. I look him right in the face so he can't ignore me. "You knew, Mikey. And you've known for a long time. I want to know how long. I want to know everything!"
"Everything?" He still can't meet my eyes. "I don't know what you mean."
"I came home last night from Springhurst," I tell him. "I left early. I wanted to surprise Justin. People always say that everyone loves a surprise. That surprises are so much fucking fun! Remember your 30th birthday party, Michael? When I invited Tracy from the Big Q and outed you? Was THAT a fun surprise?"
"No," he whispers. "It wasn't fun at all."
"And it wasn't meant to be," I say. "It was meant to be a slap in your fucking face! A wake-up call! Yeah, it was a wake-up call, all right. A wake-up call to remind everyone I knew what a fucking asshole I was!"
"I don't blame you for that party, Brian," Michael says, biting on his lower lip. "You did what you had to do. And... and everything turned out okay. David and I got together. And we're back together now. So... so it's all good." He takes a ragged breath . "Right? It's great."
"Great, huh?" I nod. "Yeah! Everything's so fucking great! Well, last night was another wake-up call. This time it was for me. Maybe that's what was meant to happen. For me to get that slap in my fucking face, too. My turn. When I walked in and saw HIM there. That guy. I... I had no fucking idea. No one warned me." Michael looks me in the eye for the first time, his face stricken. "No one."
"Brian, I'm sorry!" he bleats. "I never thought you'd walk in on... on Justin and Dylan!"
"Justin and Dylan," I repeat. As I say the names they have no meaning. Like I'm saying the names of two total strangers. That's how numb I am. Encased in glass. Safe behind that brittle wall. "So you really did know everything, Mikey. You even know that guy's name. What else do you know? Tell me!"
Michael swallows. "Nothing! I swear, Brian."
"Don't fucking lie to me!" I hear myself shouting at him. "I'm sick and tired of people lying to me! Why does everyone lie to me, Michael? What is it about me that makes people not want to tell me the fucking truth? Even my lover? Even my best friend?"
"How could I tell you?" Michael gasps. His face is twisted. "How could I do that to you? How could I... hurt you? I couldn't!"
"You couldn't hurt me? So you just waited for it to happen. Waited for me to stumble on the truth, all by myself. And I did." I shake my head. "So, how long have you known?" I demand. "That's all I want to find out. Tell me that much, Mikey. Then I'll get the fuck out of here."
Michael clutches at a comic book that was lying on the counter. Batman. Superheroes are always full of secrets. Secret identities. Secret powers. Secret lives. Just like queers. I guess that's why Michael is so obsessed with them.
"Since Justin's opening at the Warhol Museum in March," he mumbles. "I've known since then. Justin had been acting... I don't know -- weird. Distant. I knew something was the matter, but I didn't know what. I never imagined that... that it was another guy. Never in a million years! Justin was always so... so in love with you, Brian."
I wince. Past tense. But he's right. Was. That's the key word.
"But when that guy walked into the room, I knew something was up," Michael continues. "Justin almost freaked to see him there. Dylan Burke, that's his name. He's a student at Carnegie Mellon. A baseball player. I... I Googled him and found out that much. He's one of their star athletes and has a scholarship."
I don't say anything. I don't need to know this. I don't need to know what a star this guy is. What a fucking prize. How much better for Justin he is than I am. Fucked up me. Why would Justin want a fuck-up like me? When he could have... something else. Someone younger. Someone better. Why the fuck not?
"Anyway, Justin pushed him out of the gallery. So I followed them." Michael licks his lips nervously.
"And?" I prod.
"They went into a... another room. It was dark, but I... I could hear them." Michael stammers, his voice getting softer. "That's how I knew for certain that... that they were...."
"That they were fucking in there. In the museum," I state for him. It's a simple fact. So obvious. "And it wasn't the first time."
"No," says Michael. "It wasn't the first time. I don't know how long it's been going on. Maybe a long time. Maybe even since last fall. But... but I've heard about them from other guys, too. They've been to Babylon together. And the diner. Emmett's seen them a bunch of times. And... and...." Michael grimaces.
"And what?" I feel my heart pounding. "Tell me!"
"They go to the backroom. Emmett's seen them in there." Michael's face hardens. "And Justin... he doesn't only let Dylan fuck him. He... he...." But Michael stops.
"What?" Now I'm shouting. "WHAT?"
Michael looks up at me. "Apparently Justin likes to take on all-comers. It's... it's like a joke on Liberty Avenue. Justin and as many guys as can line up behind him."
I think about what Dylan Burke said to me: "You think Justin saves his ass for you? He's a real slut for a nice fat dick! And I'm not the only one who knows it! Ask around. Check the backroom of Babylon! That'll open your fucking eyes! You'll find out the truth. Live and learn, Kinney."
Yeah, live and learn. But not this. No. Not Justin.
It's one thing to hear shit like that from a bastard like Dylan Burke and another to hear it from my oldest friend. Lies. It has to be! "Now I really know you're lying, Mikey! Because that's not just a lie -- it's a FUCKING lie!"
"I'm sorry, Brian," he whines. "I didn't want to tell you. I didn't. You made me."
"I can't stand here and listen to this shit anymore." I go to the door and unlock it.
"Brian!" Michael calls after me. "Don't go!"
But I walk through the door. I can't look at him. I can't listen to him anymore.
The bright sunshine hits me in the face like a sock in the jaw. It's the end of April. A fucking beautiful day.
And I know that I'm losing my fucking mind.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
What the fuck does she want now?
I get up and open the door. My mom is standing there with a scared look on her face. I get a flashback to when I came home from the Rehab Unit. That same scared face, waiting for me to go into a fucking rage. Waiting for me to lash out at her. At Molly. At everyone.
I suddenly feel so tired.
"Justin, there's someone here to see you," she says.
For one brief second I think that Brian's come here. Come to take me home. But that hope fades as fast as it came. I know it isn't true. It'll never be true. Never again.
"A friend of yours, honey." She smiles slightly. "If you want to see him?" It's half a question and half a wish.
I run my hands through my dirty hair. I haven't slept or showered or changed my clothes since I left the loft last night. I'm a fucking mess. But who cares?
"It's not Wade, is it?" I ask. "Because I don't want to see Wade."
"He says he's from school. He says he needs to talk to you." Mom nods at me encouragingly. "I know you don't want to confide in me, darling, but you should talk to someone. You need to talk to someone."
"Okay!" I say, mainly to shut her up. It's probably Marshall. He knows where my mother lives and he'd be worried about me if he found out that I wasn't at the loft anymore. I follow Mom down the stairs and into the living room.
And see Dylan standing there.
"Just!" he says, moving towards me. Grinning at me. His teeth look sharp. Wolfish. "I knew I'd find you!"
I step back. Away from him. I can't believe he's got the fucking nerve to come here -- to my mother's condo!
"What are you doing here?" I ask, still stunned. "How the hell did you know where I was?"
"I asked at the Institute," says Dylan, so pleased with himself. "A guy in one of your classes gave me this phone number and I found the address online."
"Get the fuck out, Dylan," I breathe. "I don't want to see your fucking face."
"I want to explain," he insists. "It wasn't my fault! It was Kinney! He walked in and... and I didn't tell him anything, Just! I fucking swear I didn't! He immediately jumped to a bunch of fucking conclusions! What could I say? Kinney's crazy! You know he is. He went nuts! I thought he was going to kill me!"
"That would have saved me the trouble," I tell him. And I mean it. Fucking Dylan! And what he's done to me. I could strangle him for that. And for what I've done to myself? I'll be paying for that for the rest of my pathetic life.
"Just," he says in a low voice. "I love you. You know I do. Maybe this seems really crummy now, but I think it's a good thing. Good for us."
"Good for us," I repeat in disbelief. "There is no 'us,' Dylan!" My voice is trembling. My hands are trembling. My whole fucking body is shaking. "I tried to be a friend to you. I let you stay at the loft after your roommate bashed you. And what did you do? You fucked me over! You told Brian about the roses, didn't you? You told him you were my boyfriend, didn't you?" Dylan squirms and looks away. "I asked you a question! Did you tell that to Brian? Did you tell him that we fucked? That you were living at the loft? That I threw his flowers away? DID YOU TELL HIM THAT?"
"Yes, I fucking told him that!" Dylan explodes. "It's the truth, isn't it? We HAVE been fucking! And I was living at the loft. And you did throw away Kinney's fucking flowers! Wake up, Just! That guy doesn't love you! You're a piece of ass to him. That's all you are. He's incapable of loving you -- or anyone else. You read that interview in 'The Advocate.' You know what he believes. It's all about fucking with him. It's not about love! Listen to me!"
"No," I say. "I won't listen to you. I'm sick of listening to everyone else. There are so many voices in my head, telling me what I'm supposed to do. What I'm supposed to think. Who's good for me -- and who's bad for me. I'm sick of it. So fucking sick...."
My mother's sofa is right next to me and I sit down on it. My legs feel shaky. The whole world feels shaky.
I look up and Dylan is standing over me. He touches my shoulder. Almost caresses it. "It'll be okay, Just. I'll take care of everything. You have that money you inherited from that director. We'll use it to get a place to live. And we'll buy a car. A used one. You don't need Kinney! We can do it -- together! WE don't need Kinney!"
I gape at Dylan. I can't believe him. He doesn't understand a thing. Not one fucking thing. He doesn't even seem to know what he's done to me. Or else he doesn't give a shit.
"You have no fucking idea what I need, Dylan," I tell him, my anger growing from deep inside me. "You have no fucking idea what I want -- or who I love! You think I love YOU? What makes you think that? Because we fucked? Well, if you remember correctly, that wasn't MY idea! I was drunk and I was high... and you...." I almost can't say it, but I make myself. "You fucked me, Dylan. Even though I didn't want to! Even though I said 'no'!"
Dylan frowns. "You're dreaming, Justin. That's not the way it happened! You wanted me. And I wanted you! Like all the other times we've fucked!"
"NO!" I hear myself screaming it as I stand up and confront him. "I DIDN'T want you! I never wanted you! Those other times... I was confused. I was fucked up. I was mad at Brian! And you took advantage of that, Dylan. You used me."
"I never made you do anything you didn't want to do, Just," Dylan says, defiantly. "So don't rewrite history just because Kinney threw you out! You never loved him! You only loved his loft and his money and his fucking fame! That's what you were in love with!"
"You're wrong," I answer. "I DO love Brian. I've loved him since the first moment I saw him. I know that sounds stupid and romantic and fucked up to you, but it's true. And it'll always be true. I tried to kill that love by fucking around with you. I tried to deny that love, but I can't. Jesus! I can't!"
"Just...." Dylan starts to say something else. But I'm sick of listening to him. Sick of looking at him.
"Get out!" I tell him, clenching my fists. "Get the fuck out of here! I mean it! If you don't get out of here right now...." But I can't talk anymore. The words choke in my throat. I realize that I really do want to kill Dylan. I want to smash him until there's nothing left. So I never have to look at his smug face again. Never have to think about what he did to me. Or what we did.
But I can't smash him. Can't kill him. I'm too tired. It's like my body is suddenly drained of all energy. All emotion. Except something deep inside of me, burning. Burning in my gut. In my heart.
Now I really know that I'm losing my fucking mind!
"You had better go," says another voice.
Both Dylan and I look around.
It's my mother. She's been here the whole time. She's heard everything that Dylan and I said to each other. She gazes at me and then at him, her face unreadable. What does she think happened? Or does she know, the way mothers always know, even if they won't admit it? She holds out her hand, as if showing the way to the front door. Dylan takes one more look at me and then walks with her out of the room. I hear the front door close firmly.
She doesn't come back into the living room. She leaves me alone.
Get used to it, Justin. Get used to it.
"All afternoon, doing every little chore,
The thought of you stays bright.
Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor,
Not going left, not going right.
I dim the lights
And think about you.
Spend sleepless nights
To think about you.
You said you loved me
Or were you just being kind?
Or am I losing my mind?
I want you so
It's like I'm losing my mind."
Continue on to "Solitary Man".
©Gaedhal, January 2006.
Posted January 12, 2006.