This is Chapter 1 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Daphne Chanders, Wade Anderson, Alan Wray, Shayla, Eric, Peter, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin goes to a student mixer with Daphne and Wade. Pittsburgh, January 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.
"Wade's been bugging me to take him over to the mixer at the GLBT on Wednesday night," says Daphne, as she finishes her hot chocolate. We're sitting in the Liberty Diner on Monday afternoon. Daph and I have made an agreement this semester to meet at least once a week just to catch up. Since I'm back at PIFA and Daphne is a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon and we aren't hanging out regularly, we have to make the time to get together. But classes only started a week ago and with my tight schedule it's already getting difficult to find any free time apart from my school work and my creative projects.
"Yeah, what about it?" I say, absently. I'm scribbling on a page of my sketchbook. I've been concentrating on the way I want my 'Warhol Variations' pieces arranged at the Warhol Museum. I want them to flow in exactly the right order and I don't have that figured out yet.
"So, Justin, do you want to come along? With me and Wade? We went last week and it was totally fun!"
Daphne has been nudging me to go out more, but I'm really not in the mood. Last semester I was just too fucking busy. Between getting my 'Bringing It All Back Home' piece ready for the Austin Gallery showing, keeping up with my classes, and doing other things -- mainly away from the Pitts -- we didn't spend a lot of time together and I feel bad about that. She began hooking up with Wade to hit the gay clubs, just to dance. It's a mutual need pact -- Wade needs Daphne to drive him places, and Daphne needs Wade to fag hag around with since I'm not available. But I'm not really interested in that scene anymore.
"Huh?" I look up from my sketchbook and sigh loudly so that Daph will get the message. "What the fuck is the GLBT?" I ask. "No, wait -- you mean the gay student group at Carnegie Mellon? Daph, you aren't gay and Wade isn't a student at Carnegie Mellon! Wade is still in high school! So why do the two of you want to hang out at their mixer?"
"Why? Because it's full of hot guys, that's why!" says Daph, like I'm the densest thing she's come across all year. And maybe I am. "They don't care that Wade is in high school!"
"That's because they don't know!" I snort.
"They know," Daphne replies. "They just don't CARE, Justin! The college guys all think Wade's cute!"
I shake my head. "Wade is getting to be a total slut, you know that don't you, Daph? And what about Ted? What if he found out that his twinkie boyfriend is sucking more cock than the guys on Ted's own website?" Yeah, it's true -- ex-virgin Wade is making up for lost time in a very big way.
Daphne shrugs. "I don't think Ted can keep up with Wade. And if Ted can't keep up, then he shouldn't be surprised that Wade is running all over town, doing every guy he sees!"
I grimace. "Maybe Ted can't keep up, Daph, but that doesn't mean you should be encouraging Wade. He's just a kid and he's going to get into trouble!"
"Come on, Justin! What's the harm? Wade is 18 now and he's just having a little fun!" Daphne smiles wickedly. "I seem to remember what YOU were up to when you were 18, oh so many years ago. So give the kid a break!"
"It was different with me, Daph," I remind her primly. "I was in a real relationship."
"Oh, really?" Daphne rolls her eyes. "It was no different, Justin! You were 18 and horny -- just like Wade! And at that point, any 'relationship' that you were in was only in your mind! So, are you going with us or are you going to stay home and brood?"
"I don't brood!" I insist. "I'm busy! It's the beginning of the semester, I just made up TWO final exams from last semester, and I have a ton of new work to do already! Not to mention getting my Warhol project ready for the Museum."
"You used to be a lot of fun, Justin," Daph snipes. "Now you're a big, fat drag."
I close my sketchbook. It's obvious that she's not going to let me get any fucking work done until I agree. "If it will keep you two out of trouble -- okay. I'll go. I'll be your queer chaperone at the GLBT mixer. But don't expect me to go with you every fucking week!"
"We'll see about that!" Daph smirks. "I'll have you back at Babylon next, shaking your ass!"
"I don't think so," I reply. "Been there, done that." I open up my sketchbook to another page and put a few finishing touches on the superhero prototype I've been working on for Michael's projected comic book. Funny, but every superhero I draw comes out looking like the same person. Always.
I guess Daphne is sort of right. I do need to get out a little bit, if only to clear my head. I don't want to end up being a hermit all winter, just sitting in the loft and moping around. But student mixers seem so juvenile. Maybe I'm jaded, but that's how I feel. I just don't think that I have a lot in common with the people I meet at these events. Wade is much more comfortable at college parties than I am -- and he's not even in college yet!
When I get back to the loft there's a message on the machine from Emmett. "Hey, Baby! I'm just checking in," he chirps. "You didn't get back to me about coming over and watching the Golden Globes last night. Now, before you delete me, I just want to tell you that I taped the show. In case you wanted to see it. I mean, whenever you want to. So get back to me, Baby. Bye-ee."
I know that Emmett means well, but he's always grilling me about stuff that I can't and don't want to talk about. I hate avoiding Em because he's such a good friend, but when he starts trying to get me to 'open up about my feelings' and 'just have a good cry' -- excuse me, but Emmett doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about! And I can't go into detail for him. So I'm stuck between a rock and a fucking hard place.
Besides, I did watch the Golden Globes Awards. And I did tape the show. Brian wasn't there, of course. But Jimmy stepped up, smiling broadly as he accepted his Best Actor in a Drama statue for playing Guy in 'The Olympian,' while they flashed a shot of Tess clapping proudly. Jimmy also ran on stage and accepted Ron's award for Best Screenplay, giving a rambling, tearful speech that they eventually cut off. I'm sure that if Brian had won, Jimmy would have grabbed his award, too. But Brian lost. Of course. And 'The Olympian' lost Best Picture and Ron lost Best Director. It figures. I watched the whole thing by myself in the loft and imagined what it would be like to be there with Brian. I know that Brian says the Golden Globes are a crock, what he calls a 'blow me' award for favors given and services rendered, but it still would have been amazing to have been there.
I've been dodging calls from a lot of people besides Emmett lately. Diane's series premiered last week right before 'All American Dad' and won the time slot, so I guess it's a hit. I called Diane at a time I knew she'd be out of her condo and told her how happy Brian and I were about her show. Now she keeps calling, wanting to speak to Brian, wanting to know when we are coming back to L.A. I'm sure she knows something isn't right. And she'll especially know now since Brian and I didn't turn up for the Golden Globes. The only reason the studio offered as to why Brian wasn't there was the vague 'prior commitment.' Yeah, commitment. Funny word, that.
Sighing, I delete Em's message. Then I make myself something to eat and spend the time until I go to bed doing homework and roughing out sketches for Michael's comic book. It's quiet in the loft and that's the way I like it. I'm getting to be just like Brian -- holing up in my Fortress of Solitude and making occasional forays out into the cold, harsh world. That gives me a few ideas for our superhero's lair. I basically draw the loft and add some Futuristic details. I also make it a penthouse on the very top of a skyscraper, the better for our hero to fly from place to place without being seen by mere mortals. I even give our hero a lot of white Italian furniture and Phillipe Starck appliances. And, of course, a huge bed under the restorative blue rays that regenerate his superpowers. I can't help sketching our hero under those lights, making love to his blond sidekick. I probably won't show those drawings to Michael.
After a full and tiring day of classes, on Wednesday evening I drive the Jeep over to pick up Wade at his house. This mixer is the last place I want to go tonight, but I promised Daphne and Wade is expecting me.
It's a very cold but clear January evening. I can't believe that Mrs. Anderson is letting her son go out to college parties on a school night. But when I ring the doorbell and Wade's mom comes to the door, I realize why she's letting him go -- and why Wade and Daph really wanted me to go with them to the mixer tonight.
"Justin! Hello!" Mrs. Anderson has a broad grin on her face. "You look so nice!" I'm wearing a pair of grey wool trousers that I got in London, a blue Marc Jacobs sweater, and a black Hugo Boss leather jacket that was left behind in the loft, so I think I look pretty good. At least Wade's mom has some fashion sense, because Wade doesn't have any at all!
"Thanks, Mrs. Anderson," I reply, uncomfortably. Mrs. Anderson is always so happy to see me that it makes me feel like a fucking liar.
"Wade is all ready. I hope you boys enjoy the movie tonight," she says.
"Oh, the movie. Yeah, it should be good." I am SO going to fucking murder Wade! His mother thinks that I'm his boyfriend -- his ONLY boyfriend -- and for some crazy reason she likes me. She more than likes me. She believes in me. In other words, she's trusting me with her 18 year old twinkie son. And I'm taking him over to a mixer where he can hook up with a bunch of hot college queers and suck his brains out. I feel like a major creep!
Wade rushes down the stairs, pulling on his jacket. He's obviously NOT dressed for the movies in a pair of extra baggy jeans that barely cover his ass and a purple crop top that says 'Juicy Fruit' in glitter across the front. He bought that top at Torso with his allowance money.
"Bye, Mom," he says, grabbing my arm and dragging me away from the front door and down the walkway. "I won't be late," Wade lies.
"Have fun, boys!" says Mrs. Anderson, waving cheerily. "Drive safely!"
Wade hops in the Jeep. He's bouncing up and down on the seat. "This is going to be great!" he crows.
"I wish you wouldn't use me to lie to your mother, Wade! It stinks!" I throw the Jeep into gear and we head off. I have to be careful because it's January and the roads are slick, as Wade's mom has so thoughtfully reminded me. Besides, I don't want anything to happen to the Jeep. I shudder, thinking of another Jeep in another state, another lifetime ago, lying on its side, totaled.
"Thanks for picking me up, Just," Wade coos. "You know, if you'd rather go back to the loft... you can call Daphne's cell and tell her that we have other plans."
"We DON'T have other plans, Wade. And I'm not taking you back to the loft!" I tell him firmly. Now I'm sorry I got myself into this mess. Never again!
"Why not? I know you must be horny. Admit it, Just!" says Wade, slyly. "And since you aren't seeing anyone...."
"Will you shut the fuck up, Wade! Who I am or am not seeing isn't anyone's fucking business -- especially not yours!" I say as I pull into traffic. "And don't call me 'Just'! It's annoying."
"Sorry, Justin," Wade whines. "You don't have to bite my head off. I was only offering!"
"Well, keep your hands, your mouth, and all your other orifices to yourself!" I warn him. "I'm sure you'll find plenty of takers at the mixer tonight."
"I know," he sighs. "But I'd rather have you."
"Keep dreaming," I retort.
At the Carnegie Mellon campus I scout around for a parking place. It's early in the semester and the dead of winter, so parking is virtually impossible, but I eventually find a space way out on the far side of campus. Wade and I trudge through the snow and meet up with Daphne at the Student Union. Then we head over to the building where the GLBT Hump Day Mixer is being held.
The minute we walk in the door I'm sorry I came. Every person in the place turns to gawk at me. Shit. This has been happening ever since I got back to Pittsburgh and I'm fucking sick of it! I see the heads lean together and the dish starting. I can hear the whispers all around. "Justin Taylor's here." "Where?" "Over there -- the blond guy in the blue sweater." "Brian Kinney in that movie..." "Did you SEE those photos?" "SEE them?! They're permanently attached to the wall next to my bed!" "You perv!" "I think he's cute!" "When that guy died...." "Aw, he's not so fucking hot!" "I bet you $50 I can pick him up!" "You're on!" Yeah, some of these guys could give Emmett a run for his money in the gossip department. I don't feel like dealing with it tonight. Or any night.
A skinny girl with a shaved head greets us. "I'm Shayla. I'm the vice-president of the CM-GLBT. You're Justin Taylor, aren't you?" At least she cuts right to the chase.
"Yeah, I'm Justin. And these are my friends, Daphne and Wade."
"Sure," says Shayla. "I remember you guys from last week. Hi, Daphne. And Wade. Snacks are over there and the music will start as soon as Terry gets set up. He's our DJ."
"Thanks," I say. Shayla stares right at me, but she also eyes Daph with some interest. Then two dykes walk in behind us and she turns to greet them. "I think good old Shayla is interested in you, Daph," I say in her ear.
Daphne smiles smugly. "Yeah, I talked to her last time. She's okay, but I made it clear she wasn't my type. I'm not into shaved heads!" she laughs.
"And you aren't interested in any dykes unless they come with a dick attached!" I huff. "You are such a fucking tease, Daph!"
Daphne groans. "Don't be a party pooper, Justin! And this is the best party on campus!"
"I'm hungry! Let's get some food!" Wade bleats, tugging at my elbow. Wade and his big mouth -- he's always putting something in it, whether it's food or cock. Wade is a fucking bottomless pit. He never stops eating. I don't know how the Andersons can afford him!
At the snack table Wades seizes a paper plate and begins piling on everything in sight. Daphne takes some fruit and cookies, while I put some salsa and a few tortilla chips on my own plate.
"Well, well, well -- Justin Taylor. Slumming, are we?"
I turn and see Alan Wray, a red-haired guy who always had a thing for Brian. I had a confrontation with Alan at Woody's once last year and threatened to kick his ass if he didn't take his fucking hands off my man! I've seen Alan a bunch of times since then, mainly at Babylon. He and his conceited asshole pals usually hang out at Pistol, another bar on Liberty Avenue. Those guys avoid Woody's completely now because it's not trendy enough for Alan's clique.
"I thought you were a senior last spring, Alan," I say, coolly. "Didn't you graduate? Or did you get left back because you couldn't pass gym?"
Alan sniffs. "I'm a grad assistant, Justy. I'm TA-ing in Ben Bruckner's class on Queer Film. Ben wrote the recommendation for me himself," he brags.
I feel a little pang when Alan mentions Ben. I really miss seeing Ben with Michael. And I know Michael really misses him, too. But that's a whole other story. "That's great, Alan. How's Ben doing?"
"Oh, Ben is fine," says Alan smugly. "We're really GOOD friends now. You know that Ben's publisher is going ahead with his book on Ron Rosenblum?"
"Oh?" I feel a cold chill go through me. "I didn't know that. It should be great for Ben's career."
"Yes. The publisher wants to get it out while Rosenblum is still a hot topic. Ben says that 'The Olympian' may even win the Oscar this year. He thinks it's the kind of 'serious' work that the Academy likes to award in order to make a big statement." Alan watches my face closely, but I just stay steady, giving away nothing. "You know -- the 'Year of the Queer' and everything. That would make a good title for an article, don't you think, Justin?"
"I guess so. And it would be wonderful if the picture won an Academy Award. For everyone concerned," I say, evenly. "Excuse me, Alan."
I cannot get away from Alan fast enough. The last thing I need is for him to start asking me a bunch of personal questions. About Ron. About Brian. About anything! It feels eerie to hear Alan talking so casually about Ron when he didn't know him. To Alan, Ron was just a name -- a meaningless name attached to a faceless person. But I knew Ron. I... I knew him -- and now he's dead. And Ron and Brian and I are all still the subject of a thousand rumors and speculations. I know that, but I don't have to like it.
The music finally begins blasting out of the speakers. I see Wade rush over to the booth where the DJ is sitting. "Justin!" Wade calls, running back to me. "I requested a song! So you have to dance with me when they play it!"
"I don't feel like dancing, Wade," I admit. "Ask Daphne. Or one of the other guys. You came here to meet some new cute guys, not to hang around with me." As I say this I feel like I'm about 100 years old!
"But Just, I asked Terry to play this song especially for YOU! For US! Come ON!"
I sigh. "When they play it, then I'll dance, okay? But only one dance."
"Okay!" And Wade hops up and down like a puppy with fleas up his ass.
I eat some of the tortilla chips. They're stale. So much for my exciting college social life! Jesus! But it's actually even worse over at PIFA than it is at Carnegie Mellon. Social life at the Institute revolves around someone's boring recital or else 4-hour subtitled foreign flicks at the Film School. Gwen Worthing invited me to go out with her this weekend and I said yes -- until I found out that it was a concert by some student violinist who won a big PIFA scholarship. I told Gwen thanks but no thanks! Violin music gives me a major headache, especially when I remember what Fiona showed me last summer. No fucking violins -- ever! But really, that's the kind of shit that passes for entertainment at the Institute.
And that is when I hear the introductory notes to a very familiar song. Shit! I'm really going to fucking murder Wade now! He comes bouncing over, trying to pull me onto the dance floor. "You promised, you promised, you promised!" he chants.
I shake his paws off of me. "I am NOT dancing to 'Baby Blue'!" I spit at Wade. He is such an idiot sometimes!
"Why not, Just? It's about YOU -- isn't it? I thought you'd be surprised!" Wade says, all innocence. "This is YOUR song!"
Now Brian's ghostly voice is filling up the whole room. I look around and see people gaping at me. Watching to see what I do. "It's NOT my song! It's not about me, Wade! It was written 30 years ago! It's just a song! Only some stupid song...."
But somehow I let myself be led to the dance floor. And I dance with Wade. My feet move like I'm sleepwalking, but it's easier than arguing with him and causing a big scene. Now I only want the song to be over. I only want to go back to the loft and be by myself.
After what feels like a fucking eternity the song finally ends. And people are still staring. Talking. Nodding in my direction. I really need a drink right now, so I get a beer at the keg table. But the beer is warm and sour and I can't even finish it. I walk over and toss the cup into the trash can.
"Justin?" says a voice. "Remember me?"
I turn around. Fuck! This really is NOT my night. "Oh, uh, hi. Um... uh...."
"Eric," he says. "My name is Eric. Not that you would know that, since you never bothered to ask me my name when you fucked me last year at Daphne Chanders' party. But you probably don't bother with the names of unimportant people. Not when you're used to fucking famous guys, right?" he says bitterly. This guy -- Eric -- is holding a big cup of beer, but he's already had plenty. I look at him and grimace of the memory of me fucking him on top of a pile of coats in Daphne's parents' bedroom.
"Listen, Eric," I reply. "I'm sorry about that night at the party. I... I was a little drunk, and... things happen. I really am sorry for the way I acted back then." And I am. That's one particular incident that I'm not at all proud of. I was a dick to this kid -- and I betrayed Brian, too. I broke the 'Rules' -- something that Brian, for all his faults back then, never did.
"Bullshit!" Eric spits, his voice getting louder. Some people turn around to see what's going on. "You weren't drunk at all! You knew exactly what you were doing. It was my... my first time! But you didn't give a shit! You fucked me and you kissed me! I... I thought that you loved me!"
"Eric, please calm down!" I tell him.
"But when I went to see you at that diner where you worked -- Daphne's boyfriend told me where it was -- well, you sure put me in my place. Yeah, you sure did!" Eric teeters slightly. "That really snapped me back to reality about YOU, Mr. Justin Taylor!"
I take a deep breath. "I said I was sorry, Eric! What more can I do? It was over a year ago." Now everyone at the mixer is looking at us. And I just want to fucking disappear through the floor.
"I know I'm not important like your usual fuck pals, Justin Taylor, but now I have a REAL boyfriend!" Eric says, slurring his words a little. "Someone who isn't a jerk like YOU! I thought you might like to know!"
"I'm glad, Eric," I say, sincerely. I remember him telling me that night that he wasn't interested in going to Babylon or the bars. That he only wanted to find one special person to be with. And I remember the way he looked at me. Like I could be that special person. But the entire time I was fucking Eric, I was thinking about Brian. Doing it for Brian. Pretending that I WAS Brian! Talk about fucking things up!
A tall guy with glasses comes up to us. He looks a little older than most of the kids at the mixer. He taps Eric on the shoulder. "Eric, why don't you come with me?"
"Hey, Peter!" Eric says, leaning up and kissing the new guy. "This is Justin Taylor. He's the guy I told you about who fucked me at that party last year. Fucked me and then told me to get lost! He's a real great guy, you know? He told me that faggots will say anything to get their dicks sucked, or -- how did you put it, Justin? -- 'Fuck a nice ass.' That was what you said. I guess that's a compliment, huh? Isn't that romantic, Peter?"
Peter gazes at Eric sadly. And I feel like I'm worth about 2 cents. "I think you've had enough to drink, Eric," Peter says, taking the cup of beer away from him and setting it down. "I think it's time for us to leave now."
"Yeah, Peter, let's leave! Mr. Taylor hasn't picked out his nameless fuck for the evening yet. We're getting in his way here!" Eric stumbles over his feet and Peter props him up gently. "I think I need to go to the bathroom before we go, okay Peter?" Eric turns and heads for the men's room, leaving me standing there, awkwardly, with his boyfriend.
"I'm really sorry," I say. "I didn't mean to hurt Eric that time. It... it just happened. I didn't set out to fuck him over, believe me."
"I know," says Peter, calmly. He doesn't seem angry with me, just resigned. "But I have to tell you that what you did to Eric really devastated him. I think he had some romantic notion about his first time. And I think he fell in love with you a little bit. You know how it is with someone who is innocent and idealistic -- they kind of fall in love at first sight with the guy they lose their virginity to. But you probably don't know anything about that," he says, without any irony.
I cringe listening to him. "I... I might know a little something about that."
Peter shrugs. "When those stories about you were in the papers and everything -- with that stuff about those photographs and then that guy who died in Hollywood -- Eric got upset all over again, remembering what... what you did to him. It was a constant reminder of something that he was trying to put in the past." Peter gazes at me. He must think I'm a real shit. "If I'd known that you were going to be here, we wouldn't have come," he says bluntly. Just then Eric returns from the bathroom, looking more than a little green. "Excuse me, but we have to leave now."
I watch this really nice guy gently lead his boyfriend outside. They are probably going home. They will probably get undressed and Eric will still be a little drunk and he'll cry and then they'll make love. Not fuck -- which was what I did to him over a year ago. Make love.
My stomach feels all twisted around inside. I fucked that kid at Daphne's party because I was trying to prove something to myself. To prove some point about how cool I could be. That I could be a player. A sex pirate. An outlaw. That I could be like Brian. But I found out quickly that I couldn't be like that. It made me feel rotten. And I know now that incident made Brian feel rotten, too, although he would never admit it. He would never tell me how hurt he was that I broke those damn Rules, but I know that he was. And in Eric I actually get to see the consequences of my nasty little experiment in soullessness. Now I really feel like I'm going to be sick. I have to get the fuck out of here.
I find Daphne standing on the edge of the dance floor with a couple of guys, laughing with them, having a great time. They are dishing the dancers hard and fast. They are also watching Wade. He's been picked up by a tall guy in a muscle shirt. Wade is grinding against him blissfully while both the guy's hands are stuck down the back of Wade's baggy jeans, kneading his plump ass. Like I say, Wade is well on his way to becoming the biggest twinkie slut in town. And Wade couldn't be happier!
"Daph, I have to go."
She raises her eyebrows at me. "But Justin, we just got here!"
I shake my head. "I have a headache. You know how it is, Daph. All this shit..." I glance around the room. "I don't expect you guys to leave. If you could take Wade home? Okay? And not too late? I promised his mom."
"Sure, Justin," says Daphne, taking my hand and squeezing it. "Are you all right?"
"Not really," I reply. What does she think? "Please make sure that Wade doesn't get too carried away, okay?"
"I'll keep an eye on him, Justin. Don't worry," she says. "I'll call you tomorrow."
I simply nod.
As I'm walking out the door I see Alan Wray leaning up against the wall. He has his arm around a guy, who then turns and glances at me. This guy looks so familiar. For one horrible moment I'm afraid that he's one of the tricks I fucked in the backroom after Brian left me last year and I was in such fucking despair. Or maybe some guy Brian and I picked up at Babylon together and then kicked out of the loft when we were finished with him, laughing about it afterwards. I don't want to meet any more ghosts like that tonight.
Alan's friend looks me up and down. He blinks and then smiles slightly, like he recognizes me. He's about my age, but he's tall and lean, with dark, shaggy hair and greenish eyes. I stare at him. Then I realize why I'm staring. It's like I'm seeing Brian when he was 20 years old, young and strong and beautiful, with everything in his life in front of him. It's such an eerie feeling. No wonder Alan has latched on to this guy. Alan has always been hot for Brian.
Brian. That's my real problem. I can't stop thinking about Brian.
I drive home in the Jeep and go straight to bed. The loft is cold and quiet and I'm alone. I feel like going to sleep for days and never bothering to wake up. I know that I'm depressed, but there's not a fucking thing I can do about it.
Well, maybe one thing.
I get out my notebook and flip it open. I go over what I did today and what happened tonight at the mixer and then I begin to write:
"Dear Brian -- I've been thinking about you...."
Continue on to "The Sponsor", the next chapter of "Queer Realities."
©Gaedhal, January 2004.
Posted January 8, 2004.