This is Chapter 49 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Leslie Mann, Carmel, Maria, Jimmy Hardy, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian faces the past -- and the present. Los Angeles/New York City, 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.
"I know your leavin's too long overdue,
For far too long I've had nothin' new to show to you.
Goodbye dry eyes I watched your plane
Fade off west of the moon,
And it felt so strange to walk away alone.
No regrets, no tears goodbye,
Don't want you back, we'd only cry again,
Say goodbye again.
The hours that were yours echo like empty rooms,
The thoughts we used to share, I now keep alone.
I woke last night and spoke to you,
not thinking you were gone,
It felt so strange to lie awake alone..."
I know this street so well.
Of course, it doesn't look like this now. These days there are pretentious boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants all along this block. Oh, you still see the homeless people on the corners, the punks hanging out in front of CBGB's, and a tourist can get mugged here on a bad night.
But it isn't the same as it was back in 1988.
Except that it is.
And I'm here, like I was back then.
It's also February instead of March.
But on this street it's always February. Always cold. And last night it snowed again.
I drift along, glancing in windows and watching out for the cops. It's an old habit. My feet feel cold and I don't have any gloves. I don't have a coat, either. Actually, I'm wearing my dark green suit from the 2001 Prada collection with a cream Marc Jacobs shirt and a vintage tie that I bought in London. These aren't the right clothes for this place, but then I didn't know I was coming here or I would have dressed for the occasion.
I shiver and try to pull my thin jacket closer. Then I look around for a place to get out of the wind.
And that's when I see them coming towards me.
A man in his mid-twenties wearing a long black overcoat and a red hand-knitted scarf. His hair is dark and curly, a little unruly, and he's got on those wire-rimmed glasses that he used to wear before he got contacts. He has his arm around a kid -- a boy, really -- in a worn leather jacket, ripped jeans, battered Chuck Taylor sneakers, and a red shirt made of some cheap, shiny material. The boy's golden brown hair is shaggy and his arms and legs are long and painfully thin. He's only 16 but he has the suspicious eyes of someone much older. He's almost as tall as the man, but not quite. Eventually he'll be taller, but not here. Never here. He'll always be this same height. And he'll always be 16, just as the man will always be 25.
They walk purposefully down the street, stepping around the pools of dirty slush. The boy says something and the man laughs, their heads together, not caring who is watching.
I move forward, directly in front of them. They stop and stare at me, their faces impassive.
"Ron," I say, trying to keep my voice even to hide my growing panic. "I've been calling you! Why haven't you answered me?"
"I know, Brian," the man replies with a sigh. "I heard you. What do you want me to say?"
"I want you to tell me what to do!" I say in exasperation.
"You don't need me to tell you anything," he says, irritation creeping into his tone. "It's your life, Brian. You already know what you should do. It isn't my fault that you're too much of a pussy to do it."
The boy snickers when the man calls me a pussy.
"I'm not a fucking pussy, Ron!" I retort. "You know that!"
"Then don't act like one, Brian," Ron informs me sternly. "You never used to give a shit about what other people thought. You never needed the advice or the approval of anyone but yourself to know what to do with your own life. So why are you asking now? Why are you bothering me with this shit?"
"Because...." I hesitate. The boy is glaring at me with hostile eyes as green and bright as a feral cat's. Were my own eyes ever that green? "Because I don't know what the fuck to do anymore, Ron. Everything I do, I only fuck it up. I think it might be better if I stay here. With you."
"No!" The boy turns to the man. "Tell him to go away!" he says angrily. "We don't want him here! He doesn't belong here! He'll ruin everything!"
"Shut the fuck up!" I say to the kid. "I have as much right to be here as you do!"
"No! You don't!" the boy spits. He clings to the man's arm possessively. "Get lost! Go back where you came from!" He leans against the man. "Please? Tell him to go away?"
Ron nods. "Jack is right, Brian. You don't belong here. You know you don't. I don't understand why you're here at all."
"I told you why!" I insist. "I need you to help me, Ron! I need you to tell me what to do. To tell me where I belong."
"Not here!" Jack says forcefully.
"It's all right," Ron reassures the boy, stroking his arm gently. "He isn't staying. He can't stay here." Then Ron looks at me sadly. "Go back where you really belong, Brian. Do what you need to do. Which is to live your life. No bullshit, no regrets. And no cop-outs, remember? Don't be an asshole your whole life, Baby. And don't make the same mistakes that I did. I knew what was right, but I ignored it. I didn't listen to you and I didn't listen to myself. I shut out what was painful and that numbed me to everything but my own obsessions and my own stubbornness. You want me to tell you what to do, Brian? I'll tell you what NOT to do. Don't follow my road. Don't wake up too late and realize that you've stupidly thrown away everything you ever loved, the way I did."
"But Ron," I say. "You're happy now. Aren't you? I... I want to be happy, too. Maybe I can't admit to anyone that it's what I want, but I do want it. I want it so fucking badly! I... I just don't know how the fuck to be happy."
"Sure you do, Brian," Ron sighs. "You know how. You just refuse to believe how easy it is. You think there's some trick to happiness. But there isn't. All you have to do is live and let it happen. And do what you need to do."
"But what is that?" I feel like shouting. "What do I need to do? Tell me!"
"Can we go now?" says the boy, tugging at Ron's arm. "I'm cold."
"Sure, Jack," says Ron. "Goodbye, Brian. Don't hang around here. It's not your place and not your time. I'll see you -- eventually. But not now." He wraps his arms around the boy's waist. "Are you ready to go back to the apartment?"
The boy grins and rubs himself against the man lewdly. "I'm ready! You know I'm always ready!" Jack scowls at me one more time as the two of them turn around and begin walking back up the street. Away from me. Shutting me out.
"Fuck," I whisper. And the street gets darker around me as the February snow begins to fall again.
Every movement is painful. Like I've been hit with a Mack truck.
I roll over slowly and reach out. But there's no one there.
I open my eyes.
That's even more painful.
I try to focus on the clock. It's after 9:30 a.m.
I jump out of bed and scramble around, looking for my pants or my robe. I find a pair of my briefs on the floor and pull them on. Fuck it. This is my house. I'll wear or not wear whatever I want.
In the kitchen Leslie, Carmel, and Maria are sitting at the table drinking coffee. They look up in surprise when I come in. Carmel rolls her eyes when she sees me in my fucking underpants and nothing else.
"You want some coffee, Mr. Brian?" she asks, starting to get up to get me some.
"No, thanks, Carmel," I say. "When did Justin leave? How long ago?"
Leslie frowns. "Over an hour ago, Brian. He was waiting for the car when I came in. He said that you're leaving tonight on the Trans-Con red-eye with Jimmy." Leslie sets down her coffee. "Is Justin meeting you in New York? It should be fun doing the 'Letterman' show again! Where are you guys staying?"
"No," I say slowly. "Justin isn't coming. He has class. And he... he had to get back to do some work. I... I think we're staying at the Royalton. I think that... that's what Jimmy said."
Leslie gets up from the table and comes over to me. "Brian? Are you all right?"
"He needs some food in him, Miss Leslie!" Carmel chimes in. "He never eats any food! You would feel so much better if you got up in the morning and had a nice breakfast, Mr. Brian. Mr. Ron was the same way. A half of a bagel is not a meal! At least Justin eats real food -- when he isn't in a hurry to catch a plane."
Leslie touches my arm. "Brian?" she repeats. "What's going on?"
"Nothing," I say, turning away.
"Do you want me to come to New York with you?" Leslie asks. "I wasn't sure and Justin didn't seem to know any of the details of your trip. Because I can pack a bag in five minutes and come with you tonight, Brian. I'm sure Jimmy will be bringing his personal assistant with him."
"There's no need," I tell Leslie, shaking her off and walking to the fridge. "And Peggy isn't going. Jimmy told me. It's only Jimmy and me."
I pour myself some guava juice and drink it down quickly. It tastes sharply acidic and I feel that acid backing up into my throat.
"Justin said he didn't want to wake you up before he left," Leslie says. "He said you were tired."
"Right," I reply. "I was really tired."
I leave the kitchen and go out onto the deck, staring across the quiet water in the pool. They're scheduled to start working on the poolhouse this week. I told the contractor that I wanted it to be filled with light. The perfect studio for an artist. I wanted Justin to be so fucking surprised when he saw it.
I hear the door slide open and Leslie comes to stand beside me. "What happened, Brian?" she asks. "You need to tell me."
"Isn't it obvious?" I answer bleakly. "Justin's flown the coop. It was inevitable. But... I didn't think it would happen so fucking soon."
"But why?" Leslie touches my shoulder. "Because of what happened at the 'Vanity Fair' party? Because of that dust-up with Ron's old agent?"
"Bad news travels fast in La La Land," I snort.
"So what, Brian?" says Leslie. "So you and Freddy Weinstein got into an argument at the party. What else is new? Freddy is a big blow-hard and a bully. Ignore him. No one else takes anything he says seriously."
What can I say to Leslie? That Freddy is a prick -- but he's right about me? That I'm a whore and a destroyer. That I lost my head and got drunk and high the first time I got the opportunity. And that I let Jimmy blow me in the fucking alley. That nothing's changed. Nothing can change with me. Justin is right to get out while he can, before he's hurt too badly. And while he's still young enough to heal and move on with his life. And young enough to find someone else. Someone who will deserve him.
"What did Dorian say about your screenplay?" Leslie asks, changing the subject to something more positive. She knows that I had lunch with him yesterday to discuss it. Leslie was the one who prepared it and I know that she read it while she was putting it together -- what good personal assistant wouldn't?
"He thinks that we should do it," I tell her. "He thinks it would be a good independent project. Very low budget, small cast, short shoot. He thinks we should film in Toronto, maybe next November or December. Dorian wants to do something for the festival circuit -- Sundance, Tribeca, maybe even the Outfest -- and he thinks this would be perfect."
Leslie grins in delight. "That's fantastic, Brian! Are you going to... to play the lead?"
"Dorian wants me to," I reply. "But I don't know if I can do it. Play Ron, I mean. It might be too creepy."
"It might be good for you, Brian," Leslie states. "You should talk to your therapist about it. What's his name? Dr. Gorance?"
"Gorowitz," I correct her. "He'd probably agree with you, since he was the one who encouraged me to write the screenplay. And my counselor, Sylvia. She kept goading me on, the nosy bitch."
"Good for them," says Leslie. "Now I need to get into the office and do some work. Do you want a car to take you to the airport tonight? Should I order one for you?"
"I think Jimmy's driver is picking me up," I say. "Oh, one more thing. Ron's Oscar is in my room, on the dresser. Can you arrange to have it sent to Ron's mother, Lilith, in Florida? I think she's the one who should have it. She deserves it."
"Sure, Brian," says Leslie. "I can do that. Maybe you should give her a call? I'm certain she'd love to hear from you."
"No," I say. "If you'd do it, I'd appreciate it. I... I can't talk to her right now. Maybe when I get back from New York I'll phone her. Maybe...." I think of that weird dream I had last night. Of Ron. And Jack. "Maybe later."
"All right, Brian," Leslie nods. She doesn't push it. Leslie always knows when to back off.
"Thanks, Leslie," I say. I'm still staring into the pool.
"Everything is going to work out, Brian," Leslie adds. "It will. I know it will."
I just nod.
Yes, things work out. But that doesn't mean they work out the way you want them to. But the fucking world wasn't created to cater to my wants and needs. Gorowitz is always reminding me of that. Brian Fucking Kinney is not the Center of the Universe! Imagine that?
Yeah, I'm imagining a lot of things today. Realizing a lot of things, too.
And telling myself that I have to learn to accept those things, as rotten as they may be.
On the red-eye to the East Coast I try to get some sleep.
The flight attendant keeps coming around wanting to take my drink order. You're never aware of how often people offer you booze until you're trying not to drink it. In Ireland people on the wagon wear little ribbons on their lapels to let everyone know that they've 'taken the Pledge.' So everyone knows not to tempt you from the path. Not to ask you if you want a 'wee drop.' I need one of those fucking little ribbons so I don't have to explain to anyone. So I just try to sleep. Or pretend that I'm sleeping.
Jimmy is on the same flight, but he's sitting across the aisle, giving me some space. He knows that I'm in a shitty mood and he knows why, although we haven't discussed it. If I have my way, we never will discuss it. Jimmy must be a fucking lunatic if he thinks he can get away with anything he wants to do, including screwing around with me where anyone could see us. But I'm only really interested in one person seeing us. And that one was enough. Enough to make him leave me.
And Jimmy has plenty of things he's not talking about, either. I know he's moved out of his house, leaving Tess and Annie there alone. He's staying in Lew Blackmore's guest house, but he mentioned something about finding another place, maybe in Malibu. He asked me if I liked Malibu and I told him it's okay. Then he asked me what I thought of Palm Springs. How do I know? Why the fuck is he asking me? I don't give a fuck where Jimmy buys a house. I snapped at him and told him exactly that. That's when he stopped pestering me and decided to leave me in peace for the rest of the flight.
When we land I'm groggy. Like I've been underwater. Or like I've slept for days but haven't gotten any real rest. It's still dark outside as the limo drives us into Manhattan.
The Royalton is a beautiful hotel. Very modern. Phillipe Starck interiors. But I'm too tired to appreciate them right now. Jimmy leads the way into the suite. He's stayed here before and he's raving about the slate fireplaces and the huge round bathtubs. Yeah, great, Jim. All I want to do is get into a real bed and rest until we have to go over to the Ed Sullivan Theater to prepare for the show, which tapes at 5:00 this afternoon.
Then I look around, blinking. "Jimmy? Where's my room?" I ask as the bellmen leave, large tips from Jimmy in their hands. Because this isn't a suite. It's a fucking ROOM.
"This IS your room, Bri," he says. Then he grins. "OUR room." And that's when he grabs me and kisses me.
"Jesus, Jimmy!" I say, startled. "What the fuck are you doing?"
"It's over between me and Tess," he confides. "And Justy scampered back to Pittsburgh with his little tail between his legs. So there's nothing stopping us now, Bri. I've got my two Oscars. I'm fucking untouchable in Hollywood! And I'm sick of living my life the way other people want me to. Sick of doing everything only because it's good for my career. Now I want to do what I want to do! With you!"
"Jimmy, come on!" I say, pulling away. But Jimmy is stronger than he looks. "What the fuck?"
I should have foreseen all this, but I've had other things on my mind. I've been ignoring all of Jimmy's red flags. But I can't ignore them any longer. "This isn't the right time for this shit!" As if there would EVER be a right time for this!
"It's the perfect time, Bri," he asserts. "This is exactly the right moment! I was thinking that I could do an interview with 'Time.' First I thought of 'People,' but that's too gossipy and light-weight. I want this to be a serious story! An important story. 'Jimmy Hardy Faces the Truth!' How's that for a title?"
"A title for what?" As if I have to ask.
"For my coming out!" says Jimmy. "What else are we talking about?"
I shake my head in disbelief. "Jimmy, get some sleep. We have a show to do this afternoon and I'm a fucking wreck. And you obviously aren't thinking very clearly, either." Then I break away from him completely and head for the telephone. I need to order myself another room.
"Bri, I'm thinking very clearly!" Jimmy insists. "I'm thinking clearly for the first time in my entire fucking life! Ron's death was a wake-up call for me. He and I were almost the same age -- but now Ron's dead! It can happen to anyone, at any time, Bri! I don't want to be having a fucking heart attack at the age of 46 and be thinking the whole time that I never lived my life the way I wanted to! That I never admitted who I really am! Well, now I'm admitting it. I'm proclaiming it! And I want everyone to know the truth!"
This is beyond ridiculous. Jimmy Hardy, America's Boy Next Door. America's New Gay Icon! Give me a fucking break!
"Jimmy, what are you taking?" I have to ask. "Are you on some new medication that's making you goofy? Or is it just YOU being totally out of your fucking mind?"
"Only the usual dosages," Jimmy shrugs. "But this isn't any drug talking, Bri. This is my life!" He pauses. "And yours, too."
"I'm already out," I remind him. "And I have a partner."
Then I remember.
"Oh, yeah?" Jimmy smirks. "So where is Baby Blue? Your little partner? Why isn't he here with you?"
"Shut the fuck up!" I pick up the phone to call the front desk, but I feel like throwing it at him. "I'm getting my own room!"
Jimmy doesn't try to stop me. He only smirks at me even more. The bellman comes up to get my bags and move them to another room down the hall.
"I can wait, Bri," he says as I pick up my coat and carry-on bag. "Because I know what I want. You know how I feel about you. It's inevitable. You and me, baby! You hear what I'm saying?"
"I'll see you at the theater, Jimmy," I tell him.
And I leave Jimmy standing alone in the room, that famous Hardy Grin plastered on his smug and certain face.
"No regrets, no tears goodbye,
Don't want you back, we'd only cry again,
Say goodbye again.
Our friends have tried to turn my nights to day,
Strange faces in your place can't keep the ghosts away.
Just beyond the darkest hour, just behind the dawn.
Still feels so strange to lead my life alone.
I've no regrets, no tears goodbye,
Don't want you back, we'd only cry again,
Say goodbye again."
Continue on to "Stardust".
©Gaedhal, May 2005.
Posted May 26, 2005.