This is Page 2 of Chapter 73 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "Magnet and Steel".
Justin makes waffles for breakfast. He lets Gus stir the batter a little before he pours it into the iron.
"When the fuck did we get a waffle iron?" I ask, watching the two of them play chef.
"About a year ago," Justin laughs. "Don't you ever look in your own kitchen cabinets?"
"What for? I know what's in there," I say. "At least I thought I knew. What else are you hiding? Your Grandma's good china?"
"If I ever need to hide anything from you, Brian, I know exactly where to put it!" He and Gus nod at each other, grinning. Conspiring against me. "Gus and I make waffles whenever he comes over to stay. So, you want maple syrup on yours? Or strawberries and bananas?"
"'Nanas!" cries Gus.
"I know what you want," says Justin to Gus. "You always wants strawberries and bananas. Now I'm asking Daddy."
"Please," I beg. "Never call me 'Daddy' again. It makes me feel about a thousand fucking years old when you say it. Not to mention conjuring up pictures of old perverts bouncing young blond boys on their knees. I'm not quite there yet, twerp!"
"Sorry," he grins. But he's not the least bit sorry. He's enjoying this immensely -- and so is Gus.
"And I'll have HALF of a waffle. With just a little powdered sugar." I reach for the coffee and pour myself a large mug, adding plenty of sugar to that, too. "What's on the agenda for today?"
"You promised you'd pose for us," says Justin, raising his eyebrows. "Remember?"
"I thought you and Gus would get that painting stuff out of your system last night," I reply. "You spent almost two hours down there getting covered with paint."
Justin gives me a what-the-fuck look and puts his hands on his hips.
"What?" I say. "What's that face for?"
"Get that 'painting stuff' out of my system?" he shakes his head. "Earth to Brian! Some days I'm in my studio for most of the day -- and also half the night if I'm working on a project!"
"I meant Gus, not you." Jesus! Like I don't know Justin is an artist. Like I have to be reminded at this point in our relationship!
"I think Gus might be an artist, too, someday," Justin adds, placing a waffle on a plate and covering it with sliced strawberries and bananas in some kind of sweet red sauce. "After all, Lindsay is an artist, and you're a creative person. It makes perfect sense that Gus might have some artistic talent. And he wasn't the least bit bored working in the studio, were you, Gus?"
"Nope!" he says. Justin places the plate in front of him and he digs in. He really demolishes that waffle, covering himself with red sauce in the process.
Justin pours more batter into the waffle iron and makes one for me. He plates it and sprinkles some powdered sugar and cinnamon on top with a distinct flourish.
"That doesn't look like a half," I admit. "If only it wasn't stuffed with carbs and sugar."
"Just eat it," he orders. "You can work off the calories at Cowboy Camp. Then you'll be praying for someone to make you waffles!"
"Christ," I sigh. "Fucking Cowboy Camp. You're right. Dorian will have all of us living on nothing but beans. I can feel my stomach rebelling already."
"Maybe it's a good thing I won't be sharing a sleeping bag with you." Justin wrinkles his nose. He makes a plate for himself and sits down at the counter on the other side of Gus.
"It won't be so funny when I'm out there in the fucking middle of nowhere -- with no toilet in sight!"
"I thought that was the whole point?" Justin says. "Getting into the character. Living just like a real cowboy."
"I'll be spending as much time as possible in my air-conditioned trailer," I say, finishing my waffle. It was good. Very good, actually. "And so will all the other actors, believe me."
"Cowboys?" Gus pipes up, his eyes wide. "Gus a cowboy!"
"Maybe next time, Sport," I tell him, taking a paper towel and wiping syrup and other waffle remnants from his face and hands. I'm reminded that Justin and I will be leaving Pittsburgh soon with no clear idea of when we'll be back. And only a faint hope that Lindsay and Mel will let Gus come out to L.A. to visit us. I push back my plate and stand up. "So, where do you two want me to pose?"
"You really want to?" Justin asks as he takes Gus's plate to the sink.
"Why not?" I reply. "You two can immortalize me. Give the Mommies something to remember me by, right Gus?"
"Right!" he exclaims. He reaches for me. Wraps his arms around me.
I love Gus, but this is always hard for me. I detest sentiment and nothing is more sentimentalized than the love of a child. Or for a child. I guess that's why I sometimes hesitate slightly when Gus shows so openly how much he loves me. That deep down inside I'm afraid to let myself show that I love him.
That's fucked up, I know. Gorowitz would stare me down and order me to face that fear. Which is really a fear of rejection. I know that. You give someone your love, unconditionally, and then they turn around and reject you. Or use that love against you. But I can't assume that Gus is like my Old Man. Or like my mother. Not everyone is out to screw you over, Kinney, especially not a three year old. Remember that. Don't reject him because you're afraid one day he'll reject you. Don't be a fucking asshole.
So I put my arms around him. Lift him up against me, his little arms clinging to my neck, his breath against my cheek. I feel the reality of him. The reality of us.
"Come on," I say to Justin. "Let's go do some art."
We're sitting down to some take-out Chinese food -- sweet and sour chicken for Gus, spicy bean curd for me, kung pao shrimp for Justin -- when my cell vibrates in my pocket.
I look at the number. "Hang on," I say to Justin. "I need to take this. Business."
Justin frowns, but he doesn't question me. He and Gus are watching something on the Disney Channel while we eat. Justin picks up a piece of shrimp in his chopsticks and feeds it to Gus. I walk up into the bedroom and take the call.
One advantage of having fucked every bartender and bouncer in this lousy burg is that you have contacts everywhere. You have an eye in every gay bar and club in town. So I knew that if he showed up in any of them, I'd find out about it.
"Where are you?" I ask.
"Pistol," comes the voice. I know the guy. Mid-twenties, dirty blond hair, buzzcut, tattoo of a Celtic cross on his right arm. "He just came in. Alone. Looks like he's settling down to get himself pretty drunk."
"You know he's underage, don't you?"
"No shit!" the guy snorts. "He's got a fake ID, like half the college guys in here. So call the cops, Kinney." The guy pauses. "What's my reward for tipping you off?" I can hear the suggestion in his voice.
"A hearty handshake," I reply. "I'll be right over."
I change my shirt and put on my boots. Nothing too fancy. I'm not cruising tonight. I'm taking care of business.
But one more thing needs to be taken care of before I go.
"Justin," I begin as I walk down the steps from the bedroom. "I need to go out. Just for a while."
He looks up at me. Sees that I've changed my shirt. Gus glances around, but then turns his attention back to Disney. But Justin's eyes never leave my face.
"Where are you going?" he asks softly.
"Out," I say shortly. "I have to do something. Something important. Then I'll be right back."
Justin looks at me closely. "Brian, what do you have to do right now? Tell me."
He obviously has an inkling of where I'm going. And who I'm looking for.
"This won't take long. Really. Trust me on this." For a moment I'm afraid he's going to stop me -- or insist that he go with me. But he only nods.
"All right," he says slowly. "Don't be gone too long. And be careful."
I walk over to the sofa and lean down. Kiss him. "I will." Then I ruffle Gus's hair. "Be good, Sonny Boy. Take care of Justin, okay?"
"'Kay, Daddy!" Gus grins up at me.
I walk out without looking back. Take the elevator all the way down. Get the Jeep out of the garage. And drive to Liberty Avenue.
Pistol is on the edges of the Gay District. It's beyond Babylon and Boy Toy, but not as far down as Meathook and the Apollo Baths. I used to spend a lot of time at Pistol when I first started to frequent Liberty Avenue. It draws a younger crowd than Woody's. A more upscale crowd. An edgier crowd. A lot of college boys. Young lawyers. The future movers and shakers of Gay Pitts. In other words, a lot of hot guys. That's what attracted me to it. And, to be truthful, if the pickings at Woody's were slim and I wasn't in the mood for the noise of Babylon, I'd head over to Pistol and see what was available.
But Michael never felt comfortable there. Pistol is not a comfortable place. You can't sit back and put your brain on hold there. There's no dart board. No pool table. The guys watch sports on the cable TV and make bets. They scope each other out. An insecure guy like Mikey would be dismissed immediately. Emmett, too -- no queens at Pistol. And Ted would be laughed out of the place. Anyone who isn't a snotty, arrogant asshole doesn't fit in. You can see why it used to be my territory of choice. But not for long.
One night I dragged Michael there and some guy made fun of his Captain Astro tee shirt. Yeah, I had made fun of it myself many, many times, but I'm his best friend. I'm allowed to tease Mikey because he knows I'm not out to hurt him. But this guy wanted to hurt him. Wanted to mock him. Wanted to make him feel small. I told the jerk where the fuck to get off and we left. That's when I stopped hanging out at Pistol.
But now I'm back.
The bartender on duty sees me and smiles. He's my contact. His shirt is off and I see the Celtic cross tat on his arm. He was a hot fuck. Good mouth, too. "Hey, Kinney," he says. "Nice to see you again. You really look great!"
"I know," I reply. But I'm not there for chitchat. "Where is he?"
"In the corner."
My eyes follow his and there's my target. Dylan Burke.
He's alone. Of course. All his playmates are a little pissed off at him right now. You get that way when a guy gives you a sexually transmitted disease and then refuses to own up to it.
As I was driving over here I ran through all the possible things I could do to Dylan Burke. All the ways I could mess him up. Damage his smug face so no one will ever want to look at him. Break his arm so he'll never play baseball again. Twist off his dick so he can't fuck anyone over anymore.
But faced with the reality of him I have to pause. He's tall and arrogant and stupid and careless, but seeing him sitting there, I realize that he's just a kid. Not even 21 yet. The same age as Justin. I think of all the fucking mistakes I made when I was his age. So many fucking mistakes. And I think about the people who were not forgiving. And then I think of the ones who were. Without the ones who were, I probably wouldn't be here today. I probably wouldn't be anywhere.
He sees me walking up to his table in that dark corner. His face is blank. He's already drunk. I know the feeling.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" His voice is soft. He's lost that insolent edge. He seems to have all but lost his spirit. His hand is wrapped around a bottle of Old Pitt. Clinging to it like it's his last friend. Which is probably true.
"Seeing what my rival looks like when he's down and out." I pull out a chair and sit down next to him. "It's not a pretty picture."
"So you've seen me," he rasps. "Now go away."
"Drowning your sorrows is never a good idea," I counsel. Now I feel like Julius Gorowitz. The voice of reason. The voice of experience. "Save drinking for fun. For having a good time with the boys. The minute you start drinking to forget, you're in trouble. You're too young to have that many regrets."
"Fuck off, Kinney," he whispers. "And tell Justin to fuck off, too! Tell him thanks for ruining my fucking life! That's what I get for... for...."
"For falling in love with him," Dylan snaps. "That's my reward. Now he's telling everyone that I gave him and a bunch of other guys the clap. And I mean everyone! Well, fuck him!"
I take a deep breath. "Dylan, listen to me. Justin hasn't told anyone. He only found out about it on Thursday and the only one he's told so far is me and my doctor."
Dylan meets my eyes for the first time. "I don't believe you. Everyone knows! Even my fucking coach knows! Someone sent him an anonymous letter saying that I had the clap and that I'd given it to two other guys on the team. He confronted the guys and they got tested -- and they had it. So he suspended me for the rest of the season! I was third in the batting line-up and now I'm out! Do you know what that means? I'm screwed, that's what! I'll probably lose my baseball scholarship for next year! And my place in the Summer League! That means my future is fucked!"
"Did you give it to them?" I ask bluntly. "And to Justin? And Marshall? And that kid, Wade, too?"
"I don't know," he says, staring at his bottle of beer. "Maybe. But I didn't know I had it. I swear I didn't. I didn't do it on purpose. I may do a lot of fucked up things, but I wouldn't do that." He looks up at me. "I know you hate me, but I'm not evil. I didn't mean to hurt Justin! I... I love him. I really do."
"Justin didn't tell anyone," I say. "And he certainly didn't have time to write a letter to your fucking coach. Use your head! Marshall only told him to get checked out two days ago. But Marshall got the word from Ethan Gold. If you're looking for someone who's spreading the news around, that's who I'd lay my bet on -- Ethan Gold."
"Ethan?" Dylan winces. "Shit! It figures. I never should have fucked him. But he was so easy! They were all so easy. They wanted it -- and I gave it to them. It was just sex! Is that so fucking wrong?"
I listen to Dylan and feel like I'm listening to myself at another time not all that long ago. A time when I was a lot younger and certainly a lot stupider.
"It is when you fucking lie about it," I tell him. "And when you give someone an STD and then don't fess up to it. There's nothing wrong with fucking or wanting to fuck a lot of guys. But when you tell someone you love him and make him think he's the only one... That's not right. If you're going to be a player, then be a fucking player, but at least be honest about it. And don't go after someone who is vulnerable." I stand up. I've said enough. I don't want to waste another minute giving advice to Dylan fucking Burke. "And if a guy says 'no' -- that MEANS no! Period."
Dylan huffs out a bitter laugh. "You think I forced Justin, right? He told you I fucked him when he didn't want me to. Well, that's bullshit! I never fucked Justin like that!" Dylan maintains, his eyes alive for the first time. "I know he thinks I did, but I... I wouldn't do that! I don't need to force guys to fuck me! They want ME!"
"You keep telling yourself that, asshole." I've tried to stay calm here, but now I'm getting angry. "But one day you're going to push someone too far. Too fucking far. And then you'll pay for it -- in spades. When I came here tonight all I could think of was ways to fuck you up. But now I know that I don't need to fuck you up, Dylan. Because you'll fuck yourself up better than I ever could. Which will be a waste, because you're talented and you're hot. You could go far. Maybe you could have been the guy who was the first out professional ballplayer, but I doubt it. Because you'll self-destruct. I guarantee it. And that'll be a sad day for all queers."
I turn and walk out of Pistol. It stinks in there. The guys smell of arrogance and heartlessness and egotism. I know the smell well. Because that used to be me.
But not anymore.
"With you I'm not shy,
To show the way I feel,
With you I might try,
My secrets to reveal,
For you are a magnet
And I am steel --
For you are a magnet
And I am steel."
Continue on to "Being Alive -- Part 1".
©Gaedhal, May 2006.
Posted May 25, 2006.