This is Part 2.
Other recent stories in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Nowhere Man -- Part 1.
Features Brian Kinney, Ron Rosenblum, Others.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian goes to the gym and then home. September 2000.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Friday, September 1, 2000. The beginning of Labor Day Weekend, continued:
Brian decided to stop at the gym before he went home. Once all the students came back the place would be packed every afternoon and he'd have to go at odd hours, either early in the morning or late in the evening. Ron hated him going to the gym to begin with -- although he didn't mind the results -- but he especially hated Brian going there at off hours. What the hell! If Brian was going to screw around, he could do it just as well at 4:00 in the afternoon as 10:00 at night! It didn't make sense, but try telling that to someone as paranoid as Ron! Brian was afraid that he'd start checking up on him again, and that would lead to another major blow up. Jeez! Sometimes he wished that cellphones had never been invented.
At the gym, Brian found his usual corner and did his workout alone. Very few faculty members used the facilities and the students who worked out there over the summer were usually athletes or foreign students who stayed on campus year round. All of them gave the 'fag' a wide berth -- at least in public. That was the curse of being one of the few 'out' professors on campus.
Sure, there was the dyke contingent in Women's Studies, and one queen in the Philosophy Department who was so old he must have known Plato personally, as well as a few major closet cases in History, Economics, and the School of Management. Yes, Brian's finely honed gaydar had sniffed those three out right away. But other than Ron, who was so disconnected from campus life that he remained in blissful ignorance of reality, Brian was the lonely faculty symbol of 'Pride' wandering the halls of the university. Or the gyms.
There was also a small but vocal student LesBiGay organization, but Brian tended to avoid them. Friday afternoon mixers with a bunch of nineteen-year-olds was the last place he needed to hang out. Ron already thought that every man in Indiana, from Gary to the Ohio River, was trying to get into Brian's pants, so 'flaunting' himself in front of the 'creme de la creme' (if they could be called that!) of queer campus youth would be waving a red flag in front of a bull. It was the same reason Brian stayed out of the one gay bar in town. Or out of bars in general. Ron didn't drink, either -- other than the usual sherry at faculty parties -- so he thought bars were pointless, anyway, so there was that.
And then there was Brian's 'problem,' of course. Yes, it had been a lot of years ago -- Twelve years? Was that possible? -- but once a substance abuser, always a substance abuser, that was Ron's mantra. And Ron never missed an opportunity to remind Brian of his past. Of the fact that Ron has 'selflessly' taken a teenage junkie whore in from off the streets, fed him, clothed him, and gotten him into a treatment program where he could clean himself up and change his ways. Oh, and fucked him, too. But Brian couldn't very well be too cynical about that -- not about his own partner and his motives. Not when he had done it out of love. Brian couldn't doubt that. He couldn't. Not when it was the basis of everything else!
But what Ron didn't know -- and what Brian wasn't about to tell him -- was that Brian was hit on by supposedly straight guys -- frat boys, students in his classes, athletes at the gym, those closet cases on the faculty -- much more than by any of the gay students. The gay contingent on campus was all too well aware of Ron's volatile temper and his reputation for slamming guys who even approached Brian against the nearest wall. Actually, that was more a legend than anything else. It hadn't happened more than three or four times, and not at all recently. But those straight guys -- they were the main reason that Brian got into the gym, did his reps as quickly as possible, and got the hell out. Being cruised made Brian nervous and being propositioned completely freaked him out. Especially being propositioned by straight guys -- or supposedly straight guys. They never observed the rule of gay etiquette to back off if you said you weren't interested. Straight guys assumed that if you were a fag, you were available and that was that.
Brian noticed one guy in particular today. He'd seen him in the gym before, a couple of times. He was a rower or something like that. The crew team. Cute, lots of upper body work. Hey, Brian was allowed to notice, wasn't he? Jeez, he felt guilty even looking. But this guy was always checking out Brian. And following him into the locker room. He thought he was being 'subtle.' Subtle like a flying mallet. These guys were always trying to get a peek at Brian in the shower. Yeah, THAT was legendary, too. So what? What was this obsession with the size of a man's dick, anyway? Well, maybe he understood it for gay men, but what WAS it with the straight guys? Brian didn't like gawkers, anyway. They made him nervous. All Brian needed with his already precarious position on campus was to have someone walk in and find some straight athlete groping him! Or worse! Try explaining THAT to the Dean! Not to mention Ron! He'd get killed either way, depending on who freaked out more.
The rower came in behind him in the shower. This was trouble. Brian could hear the guy near him, then feel his breath. He turned his head slightly. The rower was staring at Brian's dick. Okay, just stare, but step back. Then the guy made a move towards him -- and Brian was out of there so fast he didn't even finish rinsing his hair. He got dressed in a flash and bolted for the car, his hair still dripping. What the fuck was he so afraid of? The answer seemed to be... everything.
When Brian pulled the old Volvo into the driveway, Ron was waiting at the back door, ready to pounce. "Where the fuck have you been? I thought you'd be home two hours ago! Your cellphone is turned off!"
"Nice to see you, too, hon," answered Brian, trying not to rise to the bait. "I had to pick up the dry cleaning -- YOUR dry cleaning. And go to the bank. And Fred told me that I'll probably have to be on ANOTHER committee this semester, so that shot my time trying to work at the office...."
"Fred? Who the hell is Fred?"
"Drama prof. About fifty. Glasses. You met him and his wife at that Christmas Party last year."
"Oh. Your hair is all wet. You were at the gym." Ron was following Brian closely as he struggled with his briefcase, the cleaning, and a pile of books he's brought home from the office.
"And I went to the gym." One of the books dropped to the floor.
"Why didn't you tell me that FIRST?"
"I didn't get the chance. Jeez! I walk in here and get the third degree! Let me at least put my stuff away before you bite my head off!"
Ron grumbled and started pawing through the dry cleaning as if he were looking for something. "Is my new gray suit here? I don't see it."
"I picked it up Monday. It's in your closet."
"Oh. I have a dinner meeting tomorrow night and I want to wear it."
"It's up there in the closet," said Brian, watching Ron. "All you have to do is look."
"Whatever." Ron picked up the book Brian had dropped and tossed it on the table, as if suddenly dismissing him. He walked into the living room without looking back at Brian.
And Brian suddenly had an odd feeling. Ron had been over-reacting a lot lately. Keeping track of Brian's ass even more than usual. That wasn't a good sign. It usually meant that he was feeling guilty about something -- and projecting it onto Brian. At least that was what happened the last time. That damn research assistant in Boston. But Ron's current research assistant, Lowell, was positively homely! Ron always bragged that he was only interested in 'Beauties.' He used to say it often to his friends, especially when he was fondling Brian in front of them. Beauties. So, it couldn't be that Lowell! Could it? But Lowell was nineteen and that counted for something. Especially knowing Ron's taste for teenage boys. He'd never gotten over that particular interest, even when a certain teenage boy was long past that age. Way past it now.
"Guess what?" said Ron, switching gears again. "Joe Gleason called. That grant from the National Endowment for the Arts? Looks like it's in the bag."
"You're kidding!" Ron had been waiting for this money in order to start his new project, a documentary on gay adoption.
"Nope. I've already put out feelers at UCLA. And it looks promising."
Brian stopped. "UCLA? You don't mean... moving out to Los Angeles?"
"Of course!" said Ron. "I can get a much better crew out there. Better facilities. Plus, attention from the studios. I can get better distribution if I can hook up with Jimmy Hardy's production company again. I've already called the guy in charge -- and they are definitely interested." Jimmy Hardy, the movie star, had a company that put money into small, socially aware films. Hardy and his wife were heavily into AIDS charities, and his company, which had distributed Ron's AIDS in Africa documentary, 'The Monkey Puzzle,' had been responsible for the attention the film got -- and probably its Academy Award nomination.
"But Ron, I've just started HERE!" Brian ran his hand through his hair in desperation. "I have a year in and the semester is beginning in less than two weeks!"
"So? You don't want to be stuck in Indiana, do you?"
Brian just stared at his partner. He knew that in his mind Ron was already long gone to California. "But you said that about Philadelphia, then Boston, too! At this rate I'll never be at one place long enough to even unpack my books!"
"So what? You can get a teaching job in L.A. I'll set it up. Don't worry about it."
"What difference does it make, Brian? Here or in L.A.?" Ron's voice was taking on an annoyed edge.
"A lot of difference -- if I ever want to be taken seriously! Or get tenure anywhere."
"Christ! Which is more important? My film or your crummy little teaching job? Wake up, Brian!"
"I guess that answers THAT question," said Brian, walking into the kitchen.
After dinner Brian brought up another issue that had been bugging him. With his news about the grant, Ron might be in a receptive mood. "You know the Volvo is stalling out again. I really need a new car. That one will never make it through another winter."
"I'm planning to get a new car in the spring. Then you can have my old one."
"But I've been looking at these." Brian had his clippings ready and showed Ron some ads from the local paper. "I can get a used Jeep and trade in the Volvo. And the Jeep will be a good car for the winter."
Ron frowned over a stack of papers and grant forms. "I don't know."
Brian turned it up a little, pressing against Ron on the sofa. "Don't you remember last January? Three big storms in a row and over two feet of snow? The Volvo could barely make it through the streets. And I got stuck in that snowbank. This Jeep has four-wheel drive!"
But Ron was balking. "I don't like Jeeps. They're just a dumb fad. The Volvo is much more practical."
"But the Volvo is dying, Ron!" Brian said in exasperation. "Besides -- this black Jeep is cool. I like it."
"That's no reason to buy a car, Brian. 'It's cool.' Don't be childish."
Shit! thought Brian. There's the 'don't worry your pretty little head' response, if I ever heard it. He pushed his lip out, moving his tongue around in his mouth restlessly.
"And don't pout. At your age it isn't cute," said Ron, turning back to his pile of papers.
Ouch. At his age? Right. Brian was twenty-nine. Thanks for mentioning it, Ron. Ten years older than Lowell, that ugly research assistant. Well, Ron, you can put a bag over his head when you fuck him, then. Have fun!
"By the way, Brian, I forgot to tell you that your mother called. If you had been here when you were supposed to be, then YOU could have taken her call and I wouldn't have had to deal with her bitching at me."
"I'm sorry I'm not clairvoyant, Ron. How was I supposed to know she would call? I've given her my cellphone number, but she doesn't seem to remember it, so she calls the house. What was it about this time?"
"She wants you to come to Pittsburgh. Your father is insistent that YOU take him to some appointment he has with a new doctor. Some specialist."
Brian sighed. "I was just there three weeks ago -- for four excruciating days!"
"Well, your mother wants you to come back."
"Why me? Why do they want ME to come? They don't even LIKE me! And that woman just wants to fucking torture me!"
"Watch your language, Brian," Ron snapped.
'Sorry. But really, what's the point?" Brian twisted at the ring on his left hand. He did that more and more when they were arguing lately.
"She's YOUR mother, Brian. It's not MY responsibility to deal with her. If you don't want her to bother you, then you have to be the one to tell her off."
"Funny that when it's YOUR mother, Ron, everything has to stop while you take care of things. But when it's MY family -- then the hell with them!"
"It isn't as if your family has exactly been supportive, Brian. They signed off on you a long time ago. So, who took care of you, then? Who put you through school? Who did everything? Who, Brian?"
"You did." Brian was feeling a major migraine coming on.
"Damn right! But now, they want you to drop everything and jump and come running because THEY say so? Because they 'need' you? That's bullshit, Brian!"
"But the old man is sick, Ron! What am I supposed to say?" Brian suddenly felt incredibly guilty, but he didn't know about what. "He's probably dying," he said, quietly.
"Your father is just as bad as the rest of them. He'd have you at his beck and call if he could get away with it. Let your mother and sister handle him. You have things to do here!"
Right, thought Brian. I have important things to do here. More important than catering to a dying old man. Like picking up your laundry. And getting ready for classes that I'll work my ass off to teach and make a good impression in the department while you are already wrangling a better offer in Los Angeles! And then I'll have to start all over again with a new university and a new department and a new group of people and a new house... and everything.
And a new isolation. Because that's how Brian was feeling. Isolated and detached. Like he was going through the motions. These days he always seemed to be going through the motions.
Brian felt paranoid around too many straight people. Self-conscious about how they viewed him, which was completely as an appendage of Ron and his success. At Ron's faculty functions and receptions Brian had always ended up in the corner, unsure whether to stand with the faculty wives or mingle with the 'real' professors. Even now, when he WAS a 'real' professor, he still felt uneasy about his place in the scheme of things.
It was bad enough that he had to endure the condescension of open homophobes, like the Chairman of his current department, but he also had to put up with the queeny derision of Ron's gay friends, too. Especially Ron's Queer Film and Media Group in New York. To them, Brian would never be anything more than Ron's pretty boyfriend. They'd known Ron and Brian from very early on, and some of them had their suspicions about Brian's background. He'd heard their whispers and catty comments speculating about where Ron had 'picked him up.' Everyone knew that Ron's MFA thesis, his first documentary, 'Street Boys,' had been about male prostitutes -- and some of Ron's friends enjoyed dropping 'humorous' asides to Brian about Brian's own possible participation in that film. Of course, they never said those things when Ron was around because they knew Ron would hit the roof and ream them out royally. But these same 'friends' also never really guessed how true their speculations were -- or how much they hurt Brian and contributed to his feeling of worthlessness.
And Brian also hated the way Ron's friends assumed he was a brainless twink even as he was graduating with Honors from NYU, or working on his Ph.D. at Columbia, or beginning his teaching career. Of course, their dismissal of Brian didn't stop every single one of Ron's pals from putting their hands on him whenever they got the opportunity. And they would have loved it if Brian had reciprocated. Yes, they would have loved running to Ron to tell him that his pretty little slut couldn't be trusted after all! But Brian never responded to their overtures. He NEVER did. And Ron knew it. Ron counted on it.
So, for Brian there was nothing like the feeling of being a total non-entity. A 'trophy wife' who might inspire as much derision as envy. Who would never be a threat to Ron in any way. And Brian never was a threat. He knew his role all too well. He'd been raised into that role, literally, from the age of sixteen. Brian didn't know how to be anything else. Not anymore. Ron called the shots, made the decisions, and that was it. Always had been. Brian just didn't question it. How could he? Where would Brian BE otherwise? Everything he had, he owed to Ron -- and Brian repaid him by deferring to him in everything. That was just the natural order of things. Or so it had seemed for a long, long time.
Continue on to "Nowhere Man -- Part 3.
©Gaedhal, October 2002
Posted October 12, 2002