This is Chapter 27 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Sooner", the previous chapter.
Narrated by Ron Rosenblum, with Lilith Rosenblum, "Jack," Others.
Rated R contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Takes place on Mother's Day, 2002, with a flashback to February 1988.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Did you get the flowers?"
"Of course, Ronnie. They came this morning. I have them on the table next to the front door so everyone can see them when they walk in."
I have to smile. It's so important for her friends to see the flowers. Appearances are so important, aren't they? More important than the reality, I suppose.
Like the reality that I completely forgot about Mother's Day and that my assistant, Ivy, picked out and sent the flowers. Then she reminded me so I wouldn't act like an idiot when my mother thanked me.
But I am an idiot, so I probably should have been caught out. But someone is always covering my ass. Excusing my mistakes. Telling me that every rotten thing I do is the right thing.
That is called having power. Being a fucking big shot.
My mother always wanted me to be a big shot. A success. I wanted that, too. Worked for it my whole life. Put everything else in a box to pursue it the way I see other men pursue women, or money, or prestige. The way I see women pursue love. That's how I tried to make my films -- with that single-mindedness.
And now, the pay-off.
So, why does it feel so unsatisfying?
Why do I feel I've ruined everything and gained nothing?
In a week the whole thing will be done. Well, the actual shoot. The scenes will be finished. The rest will be in the editing and the music and the over-dubs and the promotion and the junkets.... But the picture itself -- the raw thing itself, that I created, that I nursed through the last decade -- that will be over.
And in a week Brian will be gone. That's not in doubt at all.
"How's the weather there? I heard from Mrs. Grossman -- her son is an accountant with the Saxon Agency out there -- that it's been hot."
"Yes, it's hot. Quite hot."
"Because it's been humid here."
The weather. Why do they always talk about the fucking weather? Especially in Florida? Isn't the weather always the same? Isn't everything always the same? Just like out here!
"We are filming outside all this week, so the hot weather may be a problem."
"Can't you wait until it gets cooler?"
Yes, Mother -- in L.A., in May. It's not going to get cooler.
"No, Mama. This is the last week and we'll wrap. We have to get the shots, heat or no heat."
"You aren't letting Brian out in this heat, are you? I thought he's still not feeling well from that food poisoning?"
"Yes, he'll be filming. And he's fine. The food poisoning is all better." Food poisoning, shit. Couldn't we have thought of a better excuse than that? Hearing my mother repeat it makes it seem even more a stinking lie.
"Well, you tell him to be careful in the strong sun. With his delicate skin he could get a bad burn. That leads to skin cancer, you know. They took a skin cancer off Sid Nussbaum just last week. Too much golf out in the hot sun."
"I'll make sure he puts on plenty of sunscreen, Mama."
"You do that. You take good care of him. That's your job -- to take good care of that boy."
Why does she keep fucking saying that? It's not my job to take care of anyone. Not anymore.
"He always seems so sad. I don't think he's had an easy life. But I know you can make him happy."
Her words chill me to the bone. Sad, yes -- because he has to live with me. At least until the end of the week. And, no, not an easy life. Especially since he came here. And, yes, Mother, he's so happy. I've made him so happy.
"Did he call his mother today?"
I am taken aback. "Brian? Call HIS mother? Whatever for?"
"Because it's Mother's Day, of course! Why else would I ask?"
"You know that he and his mother don't speak. Or, rather, she doesn't speak to him."
She sighs deeply. "This is something I'll never understand. A son is a blessing. Especially such a beautiful son. Ronnie, you know I love your sisters with all my heart -- but a son is a mother's greatest blessing. That's just the truth."
"Right, Mama. I hear you. But it's different for other families. He's just not close to any of his relatives. He never has been."
"The shame is on his mother, then. She has that many sons that she can discard one like that?"
"Just leave it, Mama."
"All the more reason for you to be good to him. Otherwise, he's alone. And there's nothing worse than being alone, Ronnie. I ought to know." I hear another great big sigh.
Already with the guilt. I'm about ready to scream with this conversation. But then it takes a different turn, thank God.
"I saw Jane's aunt at Bingo last week. She's getting divorced from her husband."
Jane. My fianceé from ancient times at NYU.
"This was her third, you know."
"Really." Nice to know that Jane can fuck things up, too.
"That girl never really settled down."
"It happens, Mama." Yeah, shit happens.
"You know, I think she never got over you, Ronnie. You should give her a call and see how she's doing."
Now, here is the crazy thing. One minute she's promoting Brian like he's the be-all and end-all. And the next minute she's telling me to look up my old girlfriend who just divorced her third husband. Now, what's the message here? Is there a message? Or is it just my mother's rambling thought process that the Florida sun and too much Bingo has rendered even more confused? I don't understand.
"Sure, Mama. I'll give her a call."
"That would be nice."
How many minutes have I been on? Is it enough? Have I forgotten to say anything that I should say? After all, it IS Mother's Day.
"I have to get going, Mama. Busy, busy, busy."
"Wait, Ronnie. You promised to send me some new photos. For me to take to Bingo and up to the Jewish Senior Center. Those last ones you sent -- Brian looked like a hippie! His hair was so long and he needed a shave! That's not a nice picture to show people."
"Those were stills from the picture, Mama. That's the character he's playing. It takes place in the 1970's, so the hair might be a little long."
"I don't want people to think that your boyfriend is some hippie. Call me old-fashioned, but it's not the way he really looks. What about a nice photo in a beautiful suit? He looks so handsome in a nice suit. And your hair could use a trim if those last snapshots you sent were any indication."
"I'll see what I can do."
Mother's a trip, I admit. She's not embarrassed to show around pictures of her son's lover, as long as people shouldn't think -- God forbid -- that he's a hippie! And this from a woman who, when I was growing up, was the closest thing I knew to a 'beatnik chick' in all of our Long Island neighborhood! Joan Baez and Dylan were her idols! Go figure!
Some time very soon I'll have to explain to her what happened. What went wrong. If I can understand it myself. If I can force myself to face the truth.
"I love you, Ronnie."
"Same here. Have a happy Mother's Day."
I hang up the phone and prepare to spend another day hiding in my office, avoiding the obvious.
"What am I supposed to do here all day by myself?"
"I won't be gone all day. I'm just going over for a few hours and I'll be back in time for dinner."
"You spent all yesterday with Jane." He says her name like she's a contagious disease.
"I was editing. We were working. Don't you want to see what the movie looks like finished?"
"I don't have to see it. I lived it."
Jack is lying on the couch, pouting. It's a beautiful pout, especially when he's wearing nothing but one of my old tee shirts and a pair of white briefs that truly are brief. He's got the Sunday New York Times piled around him and his chest is covered with bagel crumbs.
"You'll like seeing yourself on the screen."
"Don't you want to be a movie star?"
"Not particularly. Besides, I didn't do any 'acting' -- I just answered dumb questions and you -- or Marc -- pointed the camera at me. That's NOT being a movie star. Harrison Ford is a movie star! Patrick Swayze -- HE is a movie star!"
"Well, this is the closest thing to a real film I'm probably ever going to make, so YOU are my star -- take it or leave it."
I bend down to kiss him and can't resist licking the little crumbs and sesame seeds off his chest and undershirt. "I've always wanted to kiss the star of a major motion picture." I move to his mouth, which tastes like margarine and sesame.
Jack catches me around the neck and pulls me down over the back of the couch and on top of him. He's determined that I'm not going to leave the apartment any time soon, even though I'm already an hour behind schedule.
"When are you going to start editing the OTHER movie we made?" He has an evil gleam in his green and golden eyes.
"I don't know what you're talking about." That is not the way I was supposed to spend my grant money -- making porn with Jack.
"The GOOD movie. The one people will PAY to see. Not like this other thing. Only a bunch of professors and students will see THAT shit." He begins to unbutton my shirt -- the shirt I spent fifteen minutes carefully ironing and which is now rumpled and untucked. "Don't go over THERE -- go to school and get the camera. We can make a sequel. A trilogy -- like 'Star Wars'!"
"I don't think there's much of a market for a film where Han Solo is fucking Luke Skywalker's ass."
"Wanna make a bet?"
I roll off the couch and stand up, straightening my clothes and brushing off crumbs. "I have to go NOW. The longer you keep me here, the longer it will take me to get home."
The pout is back. "What am I going to eat for dinner?"
"I'll bring something back. Chinese?"
He watches me while I put on my heavy coat and boots and draw on my gloves. The February cold spell shows no sign of abating.
"Your mom will probably stuff you with food and you'll forget to bring anything back."
He looks suddenly very sad and vulnerable. He sniffs constantly -- but whether from a lingering cold, or from something else I try not to think about. I lean down and hand him a Kleenex. "Be good. In a couple of weeks -- perhaps -- I'll take you out there with me."
"Sure! No way."
"Really. I've been -- thinking about talking to my mother about... certain things."
"You mean fag things, Ron? I doubt it."
"No, I mean it."
He picks up the Sunday Magazine and begins to page through it, dismissing me regally, a diva in the making. "Tell me another one. Just go now and don't lie to me."
I take the train out onto the Island. My mother would have preferred that I come on Friday night, the way I used to. The way I would when I'd bring Jane. But I explain how busy things are. The shoot. The weather. The editing. She's just glad I'm here.
One of my sisters is over with the kids. My aunt and uncle. A few friends of my parents. I didn't realize there would be so many people. I just thought it would be me and the old man and Mama. But it seems crowded and familial. Nice. I feel secure here -- even if a little out of place.
Everyone is asking about Jane. I try to fend off the queries. Even my mother thinks our 'relationship' can be 'worked out.' My Uncle Morry gives me all kinds of man-to-man advice. He and my aunt have been married for thirty years. One of those couples that look like brother and sister after all those years together. Morry means well, but, shit, what would he say if -- while he's telling me how women like to be wooed, romanced, the candles and flowers bit, don't just jump in there with the shtupping! -- I were to say, "Well, Uncle Morry, it's a moot point because I can't get enough of this firm, pale, Irish boy's ass I have stashed in my apartment and Jane just can't compare." Who knows? Morry is a man of the world. Maybe he wouldn't be as surprised as I think?
Maybe none of them would be as surprised as I think? Jane certainly wasn't. What do they say about always being the last one to know?
My father and I have the kind of relationship where he never says anything to me and I never say anything to him. It isn't at all hostile or even adversarial -- it just doesn't exist on anything but the most basic level.
"Hi, Papa. Anything in the paper?"
"Crazy world, Ronald. Crazy world."
And that's about it. I can't remember having a longer conversation with him in my life. He was always working -- the garment trade -- and when he came home he read the paper, he ate, he went to bed. I never remember him attending a school activity, a Little League game, a play I was in, or even my high school graduation. It just wasn't what he did.
And so I can't imagine telling him anything about my life. Or my confusions. Hell, Uncle Morry is a better bet for advice. And that leaves my mother.
I finally catch her alone after supper. She is in the kitchen drying and putting dishes away. My sister and aunt had cleared the table, but Mama insists on putting things away 'the right way.' Aunt Sylvia and Wendy are no good at putting things away to my mother's satisfaction.
"Have you spoken to Jane lately? I thought you might bring her today."
"Let's not start this again, Mama. I've told you -- Jane told you -- we're broken up. For good."
"You've said that before."
"Yes, and this time it's really over. The last time we got back together -- it was a fluke. Really."
"Janie didn't think so."
"I'm only saying. She thought things might work out."
"For about five minutes, yes. But it's just not meant to be."
There is a long silence while she stacks some plates. I open the cupboard and lift them up onto the shelf for her.
"There's someone else, isn't there?" She says it tight-lipped.
Okay. This is the moment. If I only have the guts.
"Someone I know?" Fishing, always fishing.
"No. Not at all."
"Someone from the university? I know it's someone Jane knows. She's mentioned it.... but no details. She was too hurt, I think."
"I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean for her to be hurt."
"Not Jewish, I take it?"
Now I have to laugh. "No. Not even a little."
"Why is that so funny? I don't see the humor."
"Sorry, Mama. It just struck me." This is her big fear? She should only know. Perhaps....
"A Catholic, I bet."
"Very good, Mama."
"Italian?" She says, apprehensively.
She winces. "They are all from families of drinkers, Ronnie! That's nothing but trouble!"
I picture the bruises on Jack's body from his father's assault. "Sometimes."
"And how do you think they'll look at YOU, huh? That they'll think YOU are such a prize? They like to stick to their own, too, you know."
"I never heard such a load of crap, Mother."
"I bet she's a blonde."
This is my chance. "Ah -- no." Wait for a few weeks and you can see my film. Then you'll know, Mama. I'm too much the coward, I tell myself. This isn't the time, the place.
"Not a redhead? Those Irish girls at school with the red hair -- all of them were wild."
"Not a redhead. Just plain brown hair."
I think of my fingers in that dark chestnut hair, going in all directions.
"I think this is a fad, Ronnie. You'll come to your senses."
She thinks so? Ask Jane, Mama, if SHE thinks it's a 'fad' -- a 'phase.'
"There are more important things than a pretty face." She folds her dishcloth in half and hangs it on the rack. "Just be careful." She looks right in my face. "Be careful!"
I get the uncanny feeling that she knows everything. But that's impossible.
By the time I come in the door, it's after 11:00 p.m. Every light in the apartment is on because Jack is afraid of the dark, especially when he's alone. Then I remember that I didn't bring any dinner, not even any left-over brisket from my mother's.
So, I'm a fucking idiot. I forgot.
He's been on the Macintosh, playing the games and printing out crude little drawings and signs he made, fooling around with the fonts. One sign reads: "Feed Me!" with an unhappy face. He's left that one on the top.
"Must have had a long talk with Mom," he says, opening his eyes when I come into the bedroom. "Did you bare your soul and come busting out of your closet, Ron? Am I the guest of honor next week at dinner?"
"Don't be a brat."
"I knew you would forget the food. Forget to come back. Why did you say you would come back when you knew you wouldn't?"
"I lost track of time."
"That fancy new watch you've got and you STILL can't tell time! See why I never wear one unless I have to?"
"My electric bill is going to be sky-high if you keep all these lights on ALL the time."
"I thought I heard something. At the window."
"Turning on all the lights isn't going to make it go away. It won't protect you, you know?" I look at his face. He really is afraid of the dark. "It's silly. No one is going to hurt you!"
"You don't think so?"
I put out of my mind all the people who have hurt him already, beginning with his own father. "Well, I'm here -- I'm not going to hurt you!"
He stares at me in a way that makes me self-conscious. "You don't think so, huh, Ron?"
"You want the black light again? Because I'm not leaving this lamp on all night long. I can't sleep with it shining in my face."
He sits up, excited. "Yes!"
I drag out an old black light I bought for a joke in college. It has an eerie blue incandescence that makes things glow. I used to have an old psychedelic poster in my dorm room -- my roommates and I would turn the stupid light on and get high, pretending it was the 1960's. Jack loves the thing.
I plug the light in and turn off all the others. It does kind of give the place a curiously sexy aura. It illuminates odd things in the room and throws weird shadows on your skin. It causes the whites of Jack's eyes to radiate in the dark.
"The minute I'm out of your sight you forget all about me, Ron."
"Now that's not true and you know it. I can't think about anything BUT you -- all day and all night." And I can't keep my hands off of him right now. His long, smooth neck. His long, smooth body. His long, smooth cock....
"I hope you never get a dog. It would starve to death."
"I don't need a fucking dog. I have you."
"Nice comparison. If you do THAT to a dog someone will arrest you for sure."
"They might arrest me if I do THAT to you, too. Depending on what state we're in."
"Good thing we're in New York. I think anything goes here. Maybe even the dog thing."
I fumble around for the lube and the packets of condoms Jack has stashed in the drawer next to the bed.
"You're squishing me," he says.
"Fuck it," I say.
"What are you doing?"
"Forget that stuff." I bend down to his mouth and cover it.
"But, wait...." He thrashes under me, reaching for the drawer.
"I've never been with anyone else. Don't worry." I pin his hands over his head. He's strong for his age, but I'm still stronger -- when I'm not caught off-guard.
"But... don't... Ron!"
It's too late for him to protest. I need to do it hard. Harder. Fucking show my mother. Jane. The whole fucking family that I know what I'm doing. Show Jack, too, that I know. Show HIM the most of all. Harder, until he yells. Yells his head off.
Something radiates off of him under that black light. Something I still can't capture. Or tame.
Fuck it, then. Harder.
Continue on to "The Olympian -- Part 1", the next section.
©Gaedhal, June 2002
Pictures of Gale Harold from "Paper Magazine" and Showtime.
Updated June 14, 2002