This is Part 3 of Chapter 4 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Lost Boys" -- Part 2" , the previous section.
"After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy."
I had a word with Dr. Finer on my way out. He shook my hand and seemed pleased when I told him I was coming back tomorrow.
"Perhaps now I can make a little leeway with the boy. The sooner I can get him talking and at least acting in a normal manner, the sooner I can get him out of this place."
I was afraid to ask the great question hanging over all of us: so where will he go after he gets out of here? Back to the parents who have already rejected him? Into foster care? Into another institution? Of course, I didn't mention Brian's 'friend' in New York. I'm certain that Dr. Finer wouldn't view an older lover as any possible alternative for a troubled teenaged boy. But, obviously, I was looking at it from another perspective entirely.
When I walked out the front door my Viking was leaning against a car, smoking.
"Wanna go for a drink?"
Well, what did he think?
Rick -- he turned out to be more German and Polish than Viking, but no matter -- was working as an attendant while studying to be a physical therapist. It was a field for which he was innately talented.
"A lot of these kids are just a little confused, or they screwed up one way or another and their parents can't deal with it. But your nephew -- someone messed him up bad. Anyone who'd do that to a kid is a sick fuck, lemme tell you."
"It makes me sick to think about it."
"So, what's the deal with the parents? I mean, how many kids they got that they can afford to toss this one on the shit pile?"
"Just two. A daughter a couple years older. I think that they believe if they ignore the situation, then it will go away all by itself."
"You mean, like that kid might have gone away for good? Weird. Really weird."
"The father -- he's one of those Jekyll and Hyde types: a great guy in crowd, life of the party, charm the wings off a bird. I'm sure his buddies down at the union hall think his shit doesn't stink. But at home...."
"Definitely. And a brawler. The kind who saves his best punch for the wife and kids. Now that Brian is almost a man, he's taking most of it -- Hell, he's already more man than his father will ever be... that might be why he's getting it...."
"Cripe, that's screwed." Rick lit another cigarette and then passed it over to me. He had a tiny efficiency apartment, but the bed was certainly big enough.
I got home just as Deb was getting ready to serve dinner.
"Well, I wondered where you'd gotten to," she motioned me into the kitchen. "Michael! Could you take out the trash and then get washed up?" I heard him yell something from upstairs.
"Did you, you know, see him? I didn't want to say anything in front of Michael."
"Yes, I saw him. Talked to him. Gave him the books and the pastries. The doctor said I could come back tomorrow and talk to him some more." I paused, unsure of just how much to tell her. "He doesn't look bad. Thin, but that can be fixed. A regular diet of pasta should do the trick."
Deb looked hopeful. "That's great. Did they say anything about when he can get out of there?"
"Well, it would help if his parents were showing an interest -- like showing that he's got a place to go to when he's released."
"Are they being pains in the ass?"
"The doc doesn't know, since they haven't come to see him or contacted him or any of the staff since he was dumped there."
The look on Deb's face said it all. "Well, then he's coming here! Who do I see? What papers do I have to sign?"
"Debbie -- it isn't that simple. You have no relationship with him and he's got two perfectly good parents...."
"Yes, I agree. But it's what is legal and not what is right, let's face it."
Michael came down the stairs and gathered up the garbage, ending the conversation. However, I couldn't stop thinking about what Deb had said: the kid had to go somewhere and it didn't seem as if his own home was going to be an option.
After dinner Michael trudged upstairs to do his homework -- or, rather, to struggle with it. I followed him up and closed his door behind me.
"How's it going, Mikey?"
He was sitting cross-legged on his bed, a textbook open in front of him. "Same old thing. I'm just plugging away."
"You know that I saw Brian today."
His face went through an array of changes before it settled on a look of mild disinterest "Oh? How is he doing?"
"How do you think?"
Michael bit at his lip and blinked. "Pretty bad, I bet," he said softly.
"Yeah, but he's getting better. I gave him the comic books."
"Really? Did you really? I picked ones where the hero is in a real tough jam and it seems hopeless -- but then they use their super-powers to defeat all the forces of evil and kick their butts!" He smiled at me. "I thought those would be, you know, kind of inspirational. When I read them they make me want to go on with things... even if I think there's not much to go on for...."
"But Michael -- you always have your mother. And me, too, even if I'm not near-by all the time." I reached over and took his hand. I could tell he was a bit uncomfortable with my touching him, but I wanted to make a point. "You can't be afraid to be close to those you love -- I'm not afraid to be close to you, no matter what some people might think. There's nothing unmanly about caring for your mom -- or me -- or anyone else. Nothing sissy about showing your emotions, good or bad. And nothing wrong with being afraid sometimes."
"I can't see Captain Astro or Superman letting things get to them the way I do. I having their mom always have to fight their battles for them. Or their uncle... Or....."
"Their best friend? Don't they?"
"I know that Brian has always sort of taken care of you -- and I don't just mean about the homework. About a lot of things. Do you know what I'm saying. Michael?"
"Sort of," he whispered.
"Life isn't always easy for boys like you. Not easy at all. Not even easy for a man, if it comes down to it. But it's hard to face things completely by yourself, especially when people who should care what happens to you turn their backs."
"But you or Ma would never do that...."
"I'm not talking about us, Michael. Or only you."
"Oh. I know what you mean." Michael closed his textbook and looked at me. "You should spend some time over there. It's like... like no one ever says what they mean. And something is always going on underneath everything. Like something is going to explode and you're going to get caught in the fall-out. So, every time you leave there you feel like you're escaping some war. And you look back -- and everything is quiet. Until you see all their faces." Michael squeezed my hand.
"You know that now you are going to have to take care of him, don't you? If you don't want him to get lost in that 'war'?"
"But I couldn't! I can't fight back like that! I'm not strong. And I'm afraid, too."
"But you are strong. Stronger than you know. And he's going to need you -- because his parents aren't going to do it for him." I stopped, uncertain of how much I wanted to tell him. "They have pretty much left him on his own, Michael. And it looks like that will continue in the future. He will need you -- us -- if he's going to survive. I'm not even sure where he's going to go after he leaves the hospital."
"Can't he come here? His parents won't care!"
"Your mother already suggested that, but it might not be allowed. He may have to go ... away somewhere. I don't know."
"We can think of something, can't we, Uncle Vic? We have to!"
"Superheroes to the rescue?"
"No. Just friends."
I sat up late that night, smoking and trying to think. My mind kept wandering to Rick, my blond Viking, and I suddenly flashed on another blond -- an old friend from long ago and beyond. Yes, it was late, but I got up and made a phone call.
"There were odd stories about him, as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so they should not be frightened."
"When ladies used to come to me in dreams, I said, 'Pretty mother, pretty mother,' But when at last she really came, I shot her."
"My name is Victor Grassi and this is Father Tim Reilly."
"Why Father, come in!" The woman looked right through me to Tim's collar and we were in the door of the War House.
"Mrs. Kinney, I'm here about your son, Brian," I tried to sound as official as possible. If she thought I had something to do with the hospital without me having to say anything -- well, then it wasn't really a lie, was it? But I knew for certain that if she thought I was Debbie Novotny's fag brother I'd be on my ass on the front lawn in two minutes flat.
"Yes," said Tim. "I run a residential program for boys here in the city. Some are runaways, some have been in trouble with the law in some minor way...."
I caught his eye: Easy, Tim, don't push that angle too hard.
"Anyway, I heard about your son being in the Kensington-Welsh Center and I felt he would be a good candidate for my program."
She frowned. That cold look went right into me. "Why would you think my son is in any way redeemable, Father? I don't think he is -- and neither does my husband."
"Mrs. Kinney, I think everyone is worthy of saving. That's my job." He smiled. Tim had a killer smile, I must admit. Even this woman had to succumb to it. "I've looked in to his records and found that your son is an honor student, never been in trouble with the law, doesn't seem to have a history of drug usage, and is well thought of by his teachers and by his doctors at the Center." Tim was stroking the record a bit, but it was for a good cause. "As I said, I think he's an excellent candidate. As soon as he's ready to be released, I'd like him to come and stay for the remainder of the school year and into the summer. If he shows good attitude and keeps up with his studies, then he should be ready to return to his regular school and finish his senior year with his class."
Mrs. Kinney looked dubious.
"I've already spoken to Dr. Finer, who is in charge of his case, and he thinks it is a good idea -- if you and his father agree to it." Tim looked at me sideways. "Of course, the fact that he comes from such a good and prominent Catholic family is in his favor. That way I know that he has had the kind of solid background and spiritual training that he'll need to succeed at Saint Lawrence House. I can see he's gotten that here."
Finally, she smiled. It was a tight-assed smile, but a smile nonetheless. "Perhaps you can show me some material on this place, Father."
"Certainly, my dear lady...."
" ' Keep back, lady, no one is going to catch me and make me a man.' "
"The birds were flown."
"But I don't want to go to any fucking Catholic prison that my parents picked out for me. I'd rather stay here in the Cuckoo's Nest."
"Brian -- we have worked out this deal to get you out of here, so don't screw it up! It isn't a prison, it's just a group home. No locks, no bars. But you have to keep up your studies -- your teachers will provide the material -- and you have to keep on the up and up."
He pouted at me. It was actually a rather fetching pout, but that's another story.
"I'll go nuts with a bunch of holy hypocrites in my face day and night."
"It isn't like that. Father Tim isn't like that. I've known him since we were in elementary school together. His younger brother died of an overdose when he was only fifteen and Tim has dedicated himself to helping kids with similar problems."
Brian shrugged. "What's the alternative? Staying here?"
"Or going home?" He made a face. "It won't be bad, I promise. And after you've proven yourself there, you can go home on the weekends -- or you can go to Deb's, if you'd rather. I already squared it with Tim. He's, ah, met your parents and understands the situation." He made another face. "Brian, he's on your side. I swear. How could he not be -- after meeting them?"
"Now then, bullies," he said briskly, "Six of you walk the plank tonight, but I have room for two cabin boys. Which of you is it to be?"
Tim and I worked out the details with Dr. Finer, who was more than happy to be relieved of his frustrating young patient. Although he was now talking and interacting (so Rick had informed me), he'd also instigated a strike over bad food and conditions in the dayroom, including a television that didn't get cable and a ping pong table with paddles but no balls.
It was time for me to get back to my job in Cleveland and I was certain that things were beginning to work out for Brian. He'd even agreed to let Michael come with Father Tim when he picked him up from the Center. He no longer seemed so afraid that he would somehow ruin his friend's life just by his presence in it.
I came by to say so long before I drove back to Ohio.
"I know that Michael knows about... the drugs and shit, but... does he have to know about the... the other stuff? Because I don't want him thinking about that... You know, have that image of me in his mind, even if it is true."
"Why, what other stuff?" I said, smiling. "I don't even know what you're talking about. There is no other 'stuff,' is there?"
"No. Nothing." Now he smiled. "Thanks."
"But I don't think there is anything you could do to change the image he already has of you in his mind, and you know that."
"I know," he said, in his quiet voice. "But there's another thing that I worry about, too. Another thing that makes me really wonder if I'm crazy. I thought about it a lot in here, but I could never talk to Dr. Finer about it... because it's... well, maybe you might understand, Vic, because...."
"Because I'm a queer, too?"
"Yeah. I guess." He kicked his feet against the leg of the table in the breakroom where we sat one last time. "It's just that, when I was in New York and everything was happening -- they keep trying to get me to admit that I was 'traumatized' -- that's the word he keeps coming down on -- by my 'ordeal' with all the tricks and everything. But the trouble is -- I don't feel all that traumatized. I mean," he leaned close to me. "If I hadn't have needed the money, I probably would have done most of them for free. Even some of the scarier guys. And I know that makes me some kind of freak. Some kind of sick freak...."
"Brian, all it makes you is a gay man. Not a freak, but a highly sexed and very horny guy. And I say that as one myself."
"Really?" He looked unsure. "I mean, even in here I... feel like I want to do... stuff. You know what I mean?"
"Who is hot here?"
"Well, Rick, the blond attendant."
"Ha! I've already done him!"
He stared at me. "No shit?"
"No shit. I did him the first day I came to visit you. And what do you think of that?"
"I think you would have been a success doing my job in New York, that's what."
"Honey, I already have been and probably will be again if I can line up another job there. I mean, working in the food industry, of course."
"Of course." He looked off into the distance. "I guess I can't be afraid anymore. Of being what I am and what I have to be. But it's hard. Still very hard."
"But you aren't alone. Always remember that. And then you won't be."
"... and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless."
End of "Lost Boys." Continue on to Chapter Five: "Two Virgins".
©Gaedhal, May 2002
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Updated May 2, 2002