This is Chapter 51 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Tim Reilly, w/Jennifer Taylor, Marshall Meyers, Emmett Honeycutt, Ted Schmidt, Dylan Burke, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin returns to Pittsburgh -- and the rest of his life. Pittsburgh, March 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Goodnight, bless you,
Let angels possess you,
You'll make dreams of another life.
Don't think it's too much
To close eyes and leave us,
In strange places we come undone.
And the building blocks
Sometimes have to crash,
Not meant to last
Like a mother's love.
It's real life, it's all true,
You know how I'll miss you,
In quiet moments I'll come undone.
And the building blocks
Sometimes have to crash,
Not meant to last
Like a mother's love...."
I walk into the loft on Tuesday evening and drop my suitcase on the floor.
It's so quiet in here. Brian's hardwood floors look beautiful, but they are cold and unyielding. My footsteps echo in my head like thunder as I make my way across the room. I step up to the bedroom and strip off my clothes. Lie on the bed. Close my eyes.
I don't want to think about anything.
What is there to think about?
My fucking future? Or my fucking past?
Every time I try to sort it out my head begins to pound.
I'll wake up over and over again tonight. And tomorrow night. And probably every night for the rest of my life. I can get through the days okay. I have class and work and things to think about.
But it's the nights that terrify me. When I'm alone. When there's no one there to hold me. To shield me from the darkness that closes in tightly like a noose.
The nights are completely dark even when I turn on every light in the fucking place.
Because the darkness is inside me. It's deep in my head.
And I can't get rid of it.
"Hey," I say, gripping the phone in my hand. I've tried keeping busy by straightening the place up a little and doing some laundry, but I can't avoid this call any longer. "It's me. I'm home. In Pittsburgh."
"Justin!" my mother replies happily. "How are you, darling? I wasn't expecting you to hear from you tonight. I thought you and Brian planned to be gone a few more days and then come back this weekend? Why, you were barely out in California at all!"
"I know," I say. "But I needed to get back."
Unfortunately, my mother knows me too well. She hears something strange in my voice. She can always tell when something's not right. "Justin, what's wrong?"
I don't say anything. Then she really knows.
"Honey, is it about you and Brian?" Then she sighs when I won't answer. "Justin, this is getting ridiculous. Every time you two have an argument you refuse to talk to me about it."
"We aren't arguing, Mom," I say blandly. "For once Brian and I are in total agreement. It's over. I've left him."
She sighs again in a way that tells me she's heard it all before. "Don't say that when you know you don't really mean it, Justin. And I know you don't. You may be here and Brian may be in Los Angeles or wherever he is, but you haven't left him. Maybe you're mad at him, but you haven't left him!"
"Think whatever you want to, Mom," I say. I never should have called her.
"Are you in the loft right now, honey?" my mother asks. "Are you planning to stay there, in Brian's place? Are you going to drive Brian's Jeep? Use Brian's credit card to buy gas and pay the bills?"
She pauses, waiting for me to answer. I don't answer. I can't answer.
"Then you haven't left him," she concludes. "Your silence says more to me than anything else." Her voice takes on a stern edge, like she's lecturing a willful child. "You know, Justin, you have some money of your own that you inherited from Ron Rosenblum. You could call that lawyer and draw on the trust to rent your own apartment, get your own car. Isn't that what that money was intended for? So you could be independent? If you really want to convince me that you and Brian are no longer together, then get your own place and stop being so dependent on him! When you do that, that's when I'll believe that you've actually left him -- at least physically."
"Thanks a lot, Mom," I say, coldly. "Thanks for your unconditional support!"
Fuck! I think of when she basically handed me over to Brian after Dad attacked him and I said I was never coming home again. That's what I wanted at the time, but still... she's my mother! It's so fucking clear that she thinks I can't handle my own life. And maybe she's right.
"You want me to come over to your condo with all my stuff, Mom? Because I'll pack up and be over there in an hour if that's what you want!" I'm almost shouting at her over the phone.
"It's not what I want," she replies. "Besides, what I want for you isn't the point, honey. It's what you want for yourself. You have your own key. You can come home any time you want to." Then she pauses. She knows I won't go over there. She knows I can't leave the loft. I tried before and I couldn't. I kept coming back. It's my home. Brian is my home. I can't fucking leave. And she knows it.
"You'd love for me and Brian to break up for good!" I snap. "That's what you've been waiting for ever since you found out that I was seeing him! Admit it!"
"Justin," she says, her voice weary. "I only want what's best for you. I only want to see you happy. That's all I want."
Happy? That's a laugh! Who the fuck is really happy? Who? Show me who!
But the anger bleeds out of me, leaving me deflated. "I know you do, Mom." I feel empty inside. So fucking empty. "It's only that I can't take it anymore. I... just can't. I need time and distance from Brian to decide what I'm going to do now. But... but I think this is really the end. Really... the end." And that's when my fucking voice breaks.
"Don't take this the wrong way, honey," she says, softening. "But maybe this IS all for the best. It seems that you and Brian can't make things work no matter how hard you try. I know it isn't your fault, Justin. You've done your best. But Brian has so many problems and so much baggage in his life. You're too young to be spending all your time trying to fix a man who, let's face it, is so very, very damaged. I worry about you, darling. I often think that if you were with someone younger -- someone your own age -- it would be so much easier for you. I think you'd be happier, Justin. Then you could enjoy yourself and not... not have to feel that your life is always in turmoil."
"My life is not in turmoil, Mom," I whisper. Lies sound so much better when you whisper them.
I wonder what would happen if I were to bring Dylan to her condo? She'd probably be fucking thrilled. She'd look at Dylan and see everything that she thinks I need. Someone my own age. From a family she knows -- or used to know. Another college student. Someone who's athletic and good-looking and who puts on a great show of being the perfect boyfriend. Yeah, Dylan would turn the charm on my mother and she'd eat it up. And the whole time she'd think, "Thank God! He's so NOT Brian!"
"It's... it's something you can never understand, Mom. But don't say bad things about Brian. He's not the only one who... who fucked up. Not by a longshot."
"You don't need to defend him anymore, Justin," she returns. "But I'm also not going to push you to tell me what happened that led to this decision. I know that's useless. I only want you to know that I'm here if you need me. You always have a place here. I wish you'd reconsider and come stay with me and Molly, at least for a little while. But it's your call, honey."
I think about when I stayed in her condo over Christmas after Brian pushed me off the cliff following Ron's death. Did he do it again at the Oscar party? Did he push me off the cliff? Is that what it was with Jimmy? The last straw? So that I would leave and not have to watch him self-destruct? Well, then it worked. It worked like a fucking charm!
"I'll talk to you later, Mom," I say. I only want to end this call.
"I love you, Justin," she says. "Remember that."
But I don't say anything in reply. What can I say? She would never believe me, anyway.
I get up and go to class on Wednesday but I don't know why I fucking bother. I can't concentrate on anything. I only sit and stare into space or doodle in my notebook. I don't even draw anything that makes sense. Just swirls and boxes all around the edges of the paper.
I'm afraid to draw a face. Because I know whose face it'll be. And it can't be. It can't. Not anymore.
I'm walking across the Quad when Marshall catches up with me. "Justin! I saw you on TV! You looked so great. And Brian, too."
"Hi, Marshall." I know I don't sound too enthusiastic, but I don't really want to share my personal life with Marshall. Or anyone. "Emmett told me he was taping the Oscar show for me. And Leslie, Brian's personal assistant, taped it, too, for his video collection. She tapes all of Brian's television appearances."
"I saw that Brian is going to be on 'Letterman' tonight!" says Marshall. "How come you're not in New York with him?"
"I had some things to do," I say vaguely.
"Oh. Well maybe I could come over and watch it with you tonight?" he asks hopefully. "We could make some popcorn. I'll bring a six-pack of beer if you want me to." Marshall is so fucking excited by all the Hollywood bullshit. I guess I can't blame him. I got excited by it, too -- until it all blew up in my face.
"Maybe another time," I tell him.
"Is everything okay, Justin?" Marshall asks with concern.
"Jet-lag," I reply. "Only jet-lag."
Marshall nods and we make plans to meet for lunch tomorrow. Then I go on my way.
On my way. But what way? Where the fuck am I going?
I don't know. So I go home. To the loft.
Emmett calls me around 9:00 to ask if I want him to tape the show tonight.
"It's okay, Em. I can do it myself." But I must sound weird because he keeps asking me if I'm okay. "Yes, I'm fine!" I snap. "Really fine!" I'm sick of people asking me if everything is fucking okay! Because it's not okay. And won't ever be okay again. But that's none of anyone else's fucking business!
"All right, sweetie," says Emmett, backing off. "Do you want me to come over and watch it with you?"
I know Em means well, but the last thing I want is for him to come over and interrogate me.
"I'm tired," I say bluntly. "How about another time?"
"I'm meeting Teddy at Babylon tomorrow night," Em keeps at me. "Thursday night drink specials! Cosmos at half price! How about it, baby? You can give me a ride and save me the bus fare!"
I take a deep breath to tell him no. But instead I say yes. I don't know why I say yes, but I do. I guess I need to get out of the loft. Be with some people. Begin my new life. Justin Taylor, college boy. Young and single and having fun! Whoopee!
"That's great, hon!" Em exclaims. I can almost hear him grinning over the phone. "We'll shake our tail feathers!"
"But not too late, okay, Em? I have class and a lot of work to do this weekend." Yeah, I need to work on the logistics for my video project if I'm actually going to do it. And I still want to do it -- even if I might have to make a few casting and location changes.
"I'll get you home and tucked into bed nice and early," Em crows. "I wouldn't want Brian to kick my ass for making you miss class. Only he's allowed to do that!"
"Right," I say quietly. "Only Brian is allowed to do that."
I hang up with Em and then sit for a long time, clicking from channel to channel, waiting for 'Letterman' to start. I try to shut out every thought except what I'm doing. Which is nothing. I'm on my way to becoming one of those people who doesn't really live, but who only exists. Watching the tube. Shutting out my own thoughts. My own feelings. Letting the images and sounds wash over me.
About five minutes before the show begins I put in a video cassette to record it. Brian looks beautiful, as usual, but he seems detached. Disembodied. I wonder if he's stoned? Probably. And why shouldn't he be? What difference does it make. It's his life, after all.
Jimmy makes a bunch of lame jokes and Brian adds comments that were obviously written for him to say. And he says them. The audience laughs and applauds, just like they're supposed to. Then Chuckie Ranger comes out and does his usual act. Making fun of goofy white people. A couple of jokes about Bush. A couple of jokes about Jimmy. A couple of jokes about the band. He pretty much ignores Brian, except occasionally giving him a strange look. That's funny. Chuckie Ranger, the 'fearless comedian' seems afraid of the big bad fag sitting next to him.
I think about Jimmy calling me in the middle of the night from Toronto and bitching about Chuckie Ranger stealing all of his scenes and treating him like shit on the set. And then Jimmy jerking off before I was able to hang up. I felt sorry for Jimmy then. Now I hate him. Hate his smug smile. He and Brian are probably fucking like monkeys in New York. I hope Brian enjoys it. What the fuck does he care? He doesn't, that's obvious. Brian doesn't care what hole he sticks his dick into or what mouth sucks him off. Jimmy is as good as anyone. It's all the same.
I was fucking crazy to think that Brian ever saw me as anything special. That was my fantasy. My hallucination. My hope. But now I understand the reality. I was never anything but a body. Brian's stalker. The trick that wouldn't leave. Never anything more.
When the show goes off I pop out the tape and label it. I don't know why. Force of habit, I guess. I'll never watch it again. Then I turn off the television and go to bed, praying that I don't have any dreams.
Never any more dreams.
Babylon looks the same. Sounds the same. The same music. The same Thursday drink specials. The same guys. Emmett and Ted are leaning against the main bar, as usual. Yeah, everything's the same.
Ted looks bad. His eyes are hollow and he's thinner than I've ever seen him. He looks old. Old and wasted. I never noticed before how wasted. I've heard a rumor that he's been partying with a bunch of tweakers, but I didn't believe it because he OD'ed shortly after I met Brian and vowed never to touch drugs again. But now that I see Ted, I can almost believe he's on crystal.
And then there's Emmett. He's wearing a shiny light green shirt that's open to the waist and a tight pair of dark green pants. He's sipping a half-price Cosmo and bouncing to the music. I notice that his hair is thinning and all spiked up in front to try to hide that fact.
Why am I suddenly seeing all the imperfections of my friends? I never used to be cynical like that. I just accepted people as they were. So what are Emmett and Ted seeing when they look at me? Can they tell that something's wrong? That I'm not really here? That I'm not really anywhere?
No. I'm sure they don't. They see the image I'm projecting. Young and having fun! That's Justin Taylor. That's what my mom said. That's what everyone expects.
Emmett grins when he sees me. "You look fabulous, sweetie!" he cries, giving me a hug. "Is that a new shirt?"
"No," I say, smiling back. But I don't feel anything behind that smile. In fact, I don't feel anything at all. And I need to feel something. Anything. "I've had it for a while."
"Well, it looks beautiful on you," Emmett orders me a Cosmo and shoves it into my hand. "Drink up! Then we can hit the dance floor. I hope you're ready to shake your celebrated booty?"
"Sure," I nod. I drink the Cosmo fast. Too fast, because it goes directly to my head. Finally I'm feeling something. Then I order another. And drink it immediately. Now I'm getting drunk. At least when you're drunk you know why you're numb.
Emmett notices as I signal to the bartender for another drink. "Baby, why don't we take a little turn around the dance floor before we both get too sloshed, okay?"
"Okay," I say to Em. I bolt down the third Cosmo. "Why the fuck not? Let's do it!"
We make our way out to the dance floor. Thursday nights are usually crowded. Between the drink specials and the guys who want to start the weekend early, the place is packed. I'm sweating bullets and Em and I haven't even started dancing yet.
But once I start to dance I lose myself in the moment. The music. The lights. The heat of the bodies around me. I take off my shirt and tie it around my waist. My head is throbbing in time to the rhythm. I forget that Emmett is even there. I forget that anyone else is there.
Someone touches me.
I open my eyes and see a shirtless guy. He's fucking hot! Dark curly hair. Dark eyes. A tattoo of a sunburst on his left shoulder. Another tattoo of a barbed wire design around his right bicep. He leans in and runs his hands up and down the sides of my torso. Fondles my chest. My nipples. I shiver. It feels good.
Emmett moves in and tries to push him away. But I shake my head. "I know what I'm doing!" I tell Emmett. And he steps back, frowning.
This is what I need. Someone nameless. Faceless. Nothing more than a body. Someone I'll never see again and don't ever want to see again. I don't need to think. Don't need to care. This is so fucking easy! And it feels so fucking good.
The dark-haired guy takes out a small tab and offers it to me. I stick out my tongue and he puts the E on it. Yes. That's what I need. I close my eyes and picture Brian getting sucked off. By Jimmy. By me. By anyone. It doesn't matter. It never matters. That's what I want. For it not to matter. Never to matter. Like it doesn't matter to Brian.
The hot guy pulls my shirt off from around my waist, and then slips his fingers down the back of my pants. Grips my ass under my briefs. My ass is damp with sweat. With the heat of my whole body. He slides one finger along my moist crack. And then into it.
"Hot," he whispers in my ear. "Nice hot ass."
"You like it?" I hear my voice say. I know it's my voice, but it sounds far away. Where I want to be -- far away. I can feel the E working its way into my head, into my being. Helping me let go.
"Fuck yeah," he grunts. He cups my cock through my pants. I'm hard.
He leads me off the dance floor. To the backroom. It's been a long time since I've been in here. Too long. It smells like sweat and come and poppers. A familiar smell. A Brian-like smell.
The guy pushes me against the wall, facing away from him. I feel him pulling down my pants, my briefs, then shoving his fingers into my hole. This has never happened back here before. I've been sucked off in the backroom before and even fucked a couple of guys, but never... never this. Not even with Brian -- at least not here in Babylon. Not in front of all Gay Pittsburgh. But what the fuck does it matter now? The whole world saw Brian fucking me on the front page of a million tabloids, so what the fuck could it matter if everyone in Babylon sees me get fucked? Right here. Right now.
I hear the guy rip the foil off the condom and then feel the guy's cock nudging against me. Seeking. Pressing into me. Yes.
"Hey you! Fuck OFF!"
An irate voice. My heart races. Brian. He's here. Like he was in that club in London. Come to rescue me. Come to claim me.
I look up. My eyes can't quite focus through the E, but there he is. Brian. His face dark and glowering with outrage. He comes closer.
But it isn't Brian. It's Dylan. He grabs the bare shoulder of the dark-haired guy and tries to knock him off me. But the guy slaps him away. "Get away, fucker!" he snarls.
"Justin!" Dylan pleads. "Come with me!" Dylan leans towards me. "Let's get out of here now."
I stare at him blankly. But Dylan doesn't matter. No one matters. It's only a fuck, right? Nothing more. "Fuck off, Dylan. Or wait your turn."
And Dylan steps back and watches as the dark-haired guy fucks me. As the guy ravages my ass, enjoying making it hurt. And I want it to hurt. I need it to hurt. That's the only way I want it. That's the only way I can feel it.
The guy comes. "Kinney's fucking twink," I hear him laugh. And another guy takes his place, thrusting his lubed and wrapped dick into me roughly. He comes much faster and pulls out clumsily. I wince but brace myself against the filthy wall, waiting. I don't even look at the next guy who fucks me. Or the next. Or the next. I only look over and see Dylan, standing there, watching. Watching me take on anyone who wants me.
And Dylan is the last one to step up. The last one to fuck me before I finally close my eyes and slip to the come-covered floor.
I'm just getting ready to leave for the day. It's Friday and Vic and I are going out for a pizza and then to a movie. Not a terribly exciting way to start the weekend, but a nice way. It's our little ritual. Then we go back to my apartment and watch television until it's time to go to bed.
The other night I turned on the 'Letterman' program and was surprised to see Brian on it. I don't watch a lot of TV, but I sometimes turn it on at night to fall asleep. Vic and I watched Brian on the Oscars last Sunday, but I didn't expect to see him again Wednesday night, co-hosting with Jimmy Hardy.
Brian really is a movie star now. It's hard to believe. I still think of him as a beautiful but troubled 17 year old boy. A lost boy whose parents didn't even want him. But so beautiful. Too beautiful.
And he's still beautiful. I felt a jump in my heart when I saw him appear so unexpectedly on my TV screen. I doubt that little jump will ever go away.
I hear a small cough and look up.
"Justin!" I say. "This is a pleasant surprise. I didn't think you'd be back in Pittsburgh yet. How was Hollywood? I was just thinking about seeing Brian on the TV last night. He's getting to be quite an important celebrity."
But Justin only stands there. His face is pale and his eyes are wide and blue. He doesn't say anything to me. His mouth opens and then closes, as if the words are caught inside. Trapped somewhere very deep within him.
"Justin, what's wrong?" I come around my desk. "Are you okay? Tell me!"
Justin almost collapses against me, hiding his head against my chest. "I... I need help, Tim," he gasps. "I need to talk to someone or I'm going to go crazy. If I... I haven't gone crazy already!"
"Justin, please sit down," I say gently, easing him into a chair. He's shaking violently and sweating, his pale face flushed red. "Everything will be all right."
"No, it won't," Justin whispers. He holds his head like it's hurting him. "It'll never be all right! I'll never be all right! I need to do something. Anything! I don't know what! But someone has to help me, Tim. Because I can't help myself anymore."
"Sleep comes when all is laid to rest,
That's when you'll find
What you're looking for.
Strange feelings you can't explain,
Wild forces you can't contain.
And the building blocks
Sometimes have to crash,
Not meant to last
Like a mother's love.
Peace comes when fear is laid to rest
That's when you'll find
What you're looking for."
Continue on to "The April Fool".
©Gaedhal, June 2005.
Posted June 10, 2005.