This is Chapter 73 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Justin Taylor, Lindsay Peterson, Gus Peterson-Marcus, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian gets a call. Pittsburgh, May 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit.
"Now I told you so you ought to know,
It takes some time for a feelin' to grow.
You're so close now I can't let you go --
Oh -- and I can't let go,
For you are a magnet and I am steel..."
The loft intercom buzzes.
"That must be Gus and Lindsay," I say, walking over to the door. "Come on up!" Then I roll it open and wait for the elevator.
"Daddy!" Gus cries as he steps out and catapults himself against my legs. "Daddy!"
"Hey there, Sport," I say, gathering him up in my arms. "You're getting to be a big boy, aren't you? I'm going to have to work on my upper body strength if I want to pick you up from now on."
"He's exactly the perfect weight for his height," Lindsay says in her pompous 'teacher' voice.
"I'll remember that when I need to go to Dr. Dave to fix my fucking back," I say, setting Gus down.
"Don't forget your daughter, Brian." Lindsay holds the baby up for me to kiss. Charity's skin smells like milk and baby powder.
"I guess I'm really a father," I marvel.
"Was there ever any doubt?" Lindsay replies. "Gus, don't forget your backpack," she reminds him.
"Oops," he laughs, running back into the elevator to pick it up. "All my stuff," he explains as he marches into the loft.
He's such a fucking little man that it makes me smile.
"Dustin!" Gus says as he sees Justin and runs to greet him.
"Hey, Gus!" Justin grins as he hugs Gus tightly. "Can you say 'Justin'?" He comes down hard on the 'J.' That's the hardest letter for Gus to pronounce.
"Jus-tin!" Gus says tentatively. "JUS-tin"!
"Perfect!" he praises. "And nice to see you, too, Lindsay."
Lindz blinks and then glances at me as if to say 'What the fuck?' "Why... hello, Justin. I'm a little surprised to see you here."
"Why should you be surprised?" I interject. "Justin's my partner. Where else would he be?"
"But I thought that you said...?" Lindsay hesitates. "Never mind. Are you boys planning a fun weekend?"
"Nothing but fun, fun, fun at Kinney Central," I drawl. "Tonight we're going to eat at the diner. How's that, Sonny Boy?"
"Yay! Diner!" Gus squeals. "Lemon queers!"
Justin cracks up at that. "Yeah, Gus. Plenty of lemon queers at the Liberty Diner!"
Lindsay rolls her eyes. "It's clear who his father is. And it's getting clearer by the minute. Yesterday he called Mel a bitch."
"A bitch, huh?!" I say, smiling proudly. "My son has a mind of his own. Bravo, Gus!"
"I didn't think it was the least bit funny, Brian," Lindsay grouses. "And neither did Mel. She didn't want me to bring him over here today because she thinks you're a bad influence."
"So what the fuck else is new?" I snort.
Lindsay frowns at me. "See? That's part of the problem, Brian. The kind of language that you use around Gus isn't appropriate. He's extremely impressionable and wants to do everything Daddy does."
"And that's a bad thing?" I ask. "I'd think a strong male influence is exactly what a boy who is being raised in the Land of the Lesbians needs."
"I can imagine what Mel would say if Gus came out with that little phrase!" she says. "But I pointed out to her that we'd already agreed that Gus could stay here -- and that you were leaving for Los Angeles next week, so this was your last chance to spend time with him."
"The Big Bad Wolf blows town, leaving the Pitts safe for dykes and their progeny," I say. "But I'll be back! You're not getting rid of me that easily."
"And I'm going, too," Justin adds. "Maybe Gus can come out and visit us this summer? You remember Daddy's house in L.A., Gus? With the swimming pool? And the ladies who made all that good Mexican food? Remember those great tacos?"
"Yeah!" he crows. "Tacos!"
"He's too young to go out there alone," says Lindsay, looking worried.
"Who said anything about going alone?" I never considered bringing Gus out to the West Coast this summer, but if it bugs Lindsay, and by extension, Melanie, then it sounds like a wonderful idea. "Justin and I will come and get him."
"Let's discuss this another time, Brian," Lindsay says through gritted teeth. She glances over at Gus, like he's going to hear us and go tattling to Mel. Which is ridiculous.
I love putting Lindz on the spot. She's getting to be almost as much of a fucking self-righteous bitch as her partner, so she needs a little shaking up. After all, Gus is my son and Charity is my daughter. I may have given up my parental rights to Gus, but I've been supporting him ever since he was born -- and I have the written proof if there's ever any question. But with Charity I'm not giving up anything -- period! I learned my lesson about that. Yes, I sacrificed my rights to Gus and Lindsay and Mel got back together, but I still feel I've lost out, legally and emotionally. And I'm not going to let it happen again.
"You know what'll be fun?" Justin says to Gus. "I've got some big sheets of paper in my studio. Why don't we go down and make a painting for your mommies? Remember when we went to my life studio? And all the students were painting? Would you like to do that? Make a big picture?"
Gus's eyes get huge. "Yeah! Big picture!"
"Maybe Daddy will pose for us." Justin winks at me.
"Daddy's picture!" Gus says, getting excited. "With paints!"
"That sounds messy, Justin," says Lindsay, working her spoiled sport magic once again. "Those are new pants he's wearing."
"They're only watercolors," Justin explains. "They'll wash right off."
"The boys can paint in their underwear," I propose. "And I'll pose in my underwear, too." I leer at Lindsay. "Melanie will probably want to hang THAT portrait in the living room!"
"You're impossible, Brian!" says Lindsay, finally laughing. It sounds good to hear her laugh.
"I was wondering when you'd regain your sense of humor," I chide. "Really, Lindz -- lighten up!"
"I'm trying to, Brian," she sighs. "But it's hard sometimes...." She lets the rest of the sentence hang. Raising two kids, one an infant, and dealing with Mel, too -- that's hell enough for any adult. So I guess I should cut Lindsay a little slack. "I suppose I should be getting home and starting dinner." But she doesn't really seem in any hurry to go.
"Listen," I say. "Gus'll be fine, you'll be fine, we'll all be fine! And Justin and I will take good care of Sonny Boy." I gently guide Lindsay to the door. "Scout's honor!"
"You were never a Boy Scout, Brian," she reminds me.
"I never WAS a Scout, but I've been IN various Scouts in my formative years, and a few Scoutmasters, too, so that qualifies me."
"You're only encouraging him, you know," Justin advises.
"I know," Lindsay says, shaking her head. "I better get going. Gus, honey! Mommy and Charity are going now!"
Gus runs over and kisses Lindz goodbye, then his sister. Then I kiss Lindz and the baby goodbye. Then Justin comes over to kiss the baby and say goodbye to Lindsay. It's a fucking never-ending ritual before she finally gets in the elevator and heads home.
"Jesus, that's why I prefer to be a hermit! Every little thing is a big production," I tell Justin. "Lindsay acted like she didn't want to leave!"
"Would you? With Melanie's smiling face waiting for you back at the Muncher Mansion?" Justin smirks.
I shudder. "Yeah, I guess not. Poor Lindz."
But thinking about Lindsay and Mel's fucked up relationship also makes me worry about Gus. He's getting older now and he doesn't need to be exposed to Mel's constant griping about me and tearing me down. And that's not the worst of it. I really believe that down deep inside Mel hates all men, not just me. The real problem is that the older Gus gets, the closer he comes to being a man, most likely a straight man. And straight men embody everything that Mel despises most, everything she blames for all her personal troubles, as well as all the ills of the fucking world! I don't want Gus to grow up in an atmosphere poisoned by that kind of hatred.
I suppose Melanie would say I'm a fucking hypocrite for feeling that way. She'd call me a heterophobe and a woman-hater and every name in the book. I admit that in the past I've had some difficulty dealing with women and straights, but I think I've gotten past that. Some of my most trusted friends, including Lindsay, Diane, and Cynthia, not to mention Deb, are women. And I'm even getting better with straight men -- sort of. Gorowitz would remind me not to generalize. Okay, Kinney, don't generalize. I still don't trust most straight men, but at least I don't hate them. Much.
Justin takes Gus down to the studio, but I beg off posing for now and promise that tomorrow they can paint me all they want. As soon as they're out of the loft I take out my cellphone and begin making a few calls. I have connections all over the Pitts and I'm going to use them. I put out the word and ask my contacts to get back to me as soon as the target is sighted.
I shut my cell. Now all I can do is wait.
Sometime during the night Gus leaves the air mattress and climbs into bed between me and Justin.
"Gus," I whisper. "What's wrong?"
"Monsters," he says, tearfully. It's always monsters. I thank the God I don't believe in that in his little life all the monsters are imaginary. If only it had been that way for me, how different my fucking life might have been.
"Quiet," I whisper back. "Don't wake up Justin." Justin is sleeping heavily, snoring softly with his mouth slightly open. Since he hardly slept a minute last night, it's a good thing.
"Okay." Gus curls up next to me. He's wearing Spider-Man pajamas and I can't help but think of Mikey. Even when he was in high school he used to wear a ridiculous pair of Captain Astro pajamas. I never stopped ragging him about those stupid PJs, but he kept wearing them anyway. He's stubborn like that. For all I know he's still wearing them. Yeah, I wonder what the Doc thinks of that? Probably not much.
"Are all the monsters gone now?" I ask Gus, just to be certain.
"Yeah," he nods. "Dey can't get here."
"No, they can't," I tell him. "The magic lights keep them away." I point to the neons over the bed, casting their glow over the whole room.
"No," insists Gus. "Daddy keep them 'way!"
Shit. There you have it. That's what it means to be a fucking father. Daddy keeps the monsters away. Except when Daddy's not around. And then what do you do? Who will protect you then, Gus? That's the question I keep asking myself.
He snuggles close to me and closes his eyes. He's safe in his little world.
Now I have to learn to be safe in mine.
Continue on to Page 2 of "Magnet and Steel".