This is Part 25 -- "Confront." The Finale.
Other recent stories in the "Queer Theories" series.
Other stories in the"NOWHERE MAN" Series.
Go back to "Nowhere Man -- Part 24 -- "Dinner".
Features Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Jennifer Taylor, Craig Taylor, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian has to face an impossible choice. 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 8, 2000, continued:
The phone rang at about 10:30 on Friday evening and Jennifer Taylor picked it up.
"Is Justin there?" The voice on the other end was very soft, but obviously male.
"Who is this?" she asked. But she knew that it must be Brian, Justin's new friend from school. Justin was supposed to go over to his house to spend the night, but Brian had postponed it because, Justin said, his parents wanted him to go out to dinner with them.
"This is... Brian." The voice cracked a little. He sounded nervous talking to an adult. Maybe a little too nervous, Jennifer thought. She had her suspicions about her son -- had had them for a long time now. But in the last few days, since he started hanging out with this Brian, Jennifer's feeling of unease was much stronger.
Justin never had many other boys as friends, even when he was younger. Well, there had been one. A boy on his Little League team. Dylan Burke. Justin had what could only be called a crush on this boy, who, although Justin's same age, was much more mature than her slight, delicate son. More athletic. More confident. More popular. More everything. Jennifer had always wondered what this bigger boy had seen in Justin and why he had spent so much time with him. She thought maybe that Dylan felt sorry for Justin. Or else he saw something in Justin that no one else did. Until this new boy -- this Brian. Who was also tall and athletic and more mature -- so Justin said.
Sometimes Jennifer watched her son while he was drawing or watching television or playing with his sister Molly and she was certain that she knew the truth. And then other times -- she wasn't so certain. Justin SEEMED so normal sometimes. He was messy and played his music loud and loved video games and he fought with Molly, just like other boys. But she couldn't deny that beyond those things Justin was very different from the teenage sons of her friends. Her friends' boys were mad about girls and sports and cars -- things that Justin couldn't care less about. Instead, he loved art. And shopping. And cooking. And he loved girls -- as friends to shop with and hang out with. But not for anything else. That was so clear to his best friend Daphne's mother that she let Justin stay overnight at their house and let Justin sleep in Daphne's room, in the twin bed next to hers. What did THAT tell Jennifer? That the other mothers knew what Jennifer didn't want to face? That their daughters were completely 'safe' with Justin?
She had tried to talk to her husband, Craig, about this numerous times, but he didn't want to hear it. Didn't want to even have it mentioned. And he was all for this Brian, it seemed. This kid sounded like everything Craig wished Justin would be and wasn't. Jennifer imagined that Craig hoped some of the other boy's athleticism might rub off on Justin, the same way he had hoped that Dylan Burke would be a positive role model for their son when he was younger. So, thought Jennifer, why was Brian spending so much time with the gentle and artistic Justin? If he was so big and athletic and smart, such a paragon of youthful masculinity, then why did he want Justin around? Justin, who had been an outsider at St. James Academy since his first day there -- at least an outsider with the boys. And with the girls -- their best pal.
"Could I speak to Justin? Please?"
Well, at least this boy was polite. "Just a moment... Brian."
And Jennifer called up the stairs that Justin had a phone call.
Justin was down in a flash and snatched the phone from her hand. Then he stood there, waiting for his mom to leave. Jennifer sighed and went back into the living room and sat down next to Craig, who was watching the news.
"Hey! I talked to your mom," Brian giggled. He sounded strange on the phone.
"Brian -- are you okay? Where are you? I've been waiting here for you! What's going on?"
"I... I'm a little... crocked. I think."
"Crocked? What do you mean?" What was the matter with him? The evening was passing by and Brian was leaving town in the morning! "Brian, are you drunk? Are you at Babylon?"
"I'm somewhere. In a shopping plaza. I... I shouldn't have tried to drive. It was a big mistake." Brian really sounded lost.
"Where exactly are you? What street?"
"Don't know. But this is the... just a minute." And Brian was gone so long that Justin was afraid he'd passed out -- or dropped his cellphone. What was the matter with that guy he went to dinner with! Why did he let Brian get into the Volvo if he couldn't drive? He could have crashed the car and been killed! Justin was very angry with the Doctor Whatsis!
"I'm here. It says Castle Town Center. And there's a drugstore here. And a gas station across the street. And a McDonald's."
"I know where that is," said Justin. "It isn't far from here!"
"I know that, brat! I know where I was going -- I just don't know where I am!" said Brian, confidently.
"Brian -- stay THERE and don't drive anywhere. I'll come and get you!"
"Okey-dokey," said Brian, his voice all fuzzy. "I was wondering what you were up to tonight. Were you thinking about ME? 'Cause I was thinking about you."
"Brian, I'm always thinking about you -- you know that."
"But were you THINKING thinking -- or just KINDA thinking of me?"
"Brian, I'm going to come and get you, so don't move! Please!"
"I bet you were jerking off in your room. 'Cause that's what I used to do in my room. All the time!"
"Brian, we can talk about this later, okay? Okay? Brian! Are you there?" Justin didn't hear any response. "Brian!" He called into the phone as loudly as he dared.
"I'm here, Sunshine," came the voice, finally.
"I'll be there in a few minutes!"
Jennifer was thinking about Justin and her suspicions when, suddenly, he was there beside her, crouching next to her chair. "Mom -- I need to borrow your car for about a half hour."
"Justin -- why? What's going on?"
"Brian... ran out of gas. He was on his way over here to get me and he forgot to fill up the tank. That's even happened to you, Mom." Justin looked at her with pleading blue eyes.
"I know, but...."
"Anyway, I'm going to get him and take him to the gas station and get the gas. And then I'll bring the car RIGHT back! I promise!"
"But Justin, it's after 10:00...."
"But you already SAID that I could stay over at Brian's tonight! We're going to... watch a movie on his new DVD player. It isn't MY fault that he ran out of gas! It's FRIDAY night, Mom!" Justin's voice was taking on an edge of hysteria.
Craig looked over at them. "I'm trying to watch the sports here! Could you two keep it down?"
"Craig, Justin wants to take the car. His friend... Brian ran out of gas."
"So, what's the big deal, Jen?"
Justin stood up and looked at his father. "I'll be right back with the car. He's just stuck up at the corner!"
"Take the Toyota. The keys are on the sideboard," Craig said, and turned back to his sports report. There was a big Steelers game coming up on Sunday.
Justin was out of the house and into the garage before Jennifer could say another word. In a few moments he was already halfway down the street. The Castle Town Center shopping plaza was only a few miles from the Taylor home and Justin pulled into the parking lot minutes later. He saw the Volvo sitting next to a pay phone. The driver's door was open and Brian was on the edge of the seat, holding his head in his hands.
"Brian -- are you okay?"
He looked up at Justin. "Hey there, Sunshine." And then he giggled. It didn't sound like Brian's usual laugh at all.
"Brian -- what happened to you?"
"A large bottle of Chateau Shit-faced happened to me. Or maybe it was TWO bottles!"
"Have you been driving around like this? You could have killed yourself!" Justin took hold of Brian and stood him up. He was unsteady on his long legs and he grabbed Justin for support. "What if you ran off the road or something?"
"I drove REAL slow! REEEEAAAL slow!" Brian insisted.
"That's no excuse!" Justin shook him. "Are you listening to me?"
"I... I couldn't get over here any other way." Brian tilted a bit to the left. "Let me sit down."
Justin guided him back to the edge of the driver's seat. "Are you going to puke or something?"
"I already did that. Twice!" But he still looked a little green. "But not in the car."
"I can't believe that your 'date' let you drive like this, Brian!" said Justin with disgust.
"He didn't. He dropped me off at the motel. He wanted to fuck me! Can you believe that?" Brian said, incredulously.
"Yes, I can believe it, Brian." Justin could easily believe it, even given Brian's staggering condition. Especially given Brian's staggering condition! Maybe that doctor had a few scruples after all in not taking advantage of Brian's pitiful state. Maybe. But Justin still resented him.
"But I said I had to get up really, really early and drive a long, long, long way back to Indiana. And so Raj said he'd see me next time I was in town. I think that means I have a second date. Does it?"
"Could be, Brian," Justin answered sadly, thinking of Brian telling the doctor about his long drive -- a drive back to that fucking Ron! "I'm not exactly an expert on dating."
"Me neither. As soon as he was gone, that's when I got into the Volvo and came over to get you. But this was as far as I got."
"And you drove all the way from the motel? Like this?" Justin couldn't believe it.
Brian nodded. "I said I drove slow."
"I should really smack you, Brian!" Justin tried to keep the fear out of his voice. He could picture the car wrapped around a tree and Brian's body in a million pieces. Justin had taken Driver's Education last year and watched 'Mechanized Death' and 'The Last Prom' and they had scared the hell out of him.
Justin looked around to see where the nearest fast food restaurant was. There was the McDonald's across the street and an Eat 'n' Park a little down from that. Justin guided Brian into his mother's Toyota and took the keys to the Volvo out of his hand. Then he locked the Volvo and got into the Toyota. Justin drove to the Eat 'n' Park and dragged Brian out of the car and into the restaurant. Justin was supporting Brian, his arms around his waist to hold him upright. And Brian's long arms were slung over Justin's thin shoulders.
"A booth, please," Justin requested, and the hostess led the pair to a quiet corner. "And if you could bring some coffee right away. A LOT of coffee."
"Sure thing, sweetie," the woman said, raising her thickly painted eyebrows at the pair. She was back in a minute with two cups.
Justin figured that if he could get plenty of black coffee into Brian then he'd at least be focused enough to follow him back to the Taylor house so Justin could drop off the Toyota. Then Justin could drive Brian's car back to the motel. But it was already obvious that their last night together for who knows how long was ruined! Because of Brian's damned date! Justin wanted to kill that doctor! And he wanted to strangle Brian, too! But not before he sobered him up.
"So, Brian," said Justin. "How was your 'date'? Did you have a hot time?"
Brian groaned and held his head in his hands.
"Take a drink, Brian." Justin held the cup to Brian's lips, but not before he had poured the equivalent of about six packets of sugar into the coffee and stirred it around. Justin knew that Brian needed a lot of sugar in his coffee. A lot! Brian blew on the steaming liquid and then took a sip. And then another.
"I think I'm going to be sick again," he muttered.
"If you really are, Brian, I'll take you to the bathroom," said Justin. And he waited.
But Brian took a deep breath. "Maybe I'll be okay. Maybe." He picked up the cup of black coffee again and shakily held it to his mouth.
"Better now?" asked Justin.
"I... I think so. Geez, I'm going to feel so rotten in the morning."
"Why were you drinking, Brian?" Justin asked. "You told me that you almost never drink. The most I've ever seen you have is, like, two beers!"
Brian winced. "I know! I know! I... was so damn nervous about that 'date.' I just... thought I'd feel more comfortable if I was a little... looser. And that greasy-haired little waiter at Papagano's kept refilling my glass with some kind of deadly French gasoline that they were passing off as wine."
"Brian! You're lucky that you didn't crash your car on the way over here! You... could have been killed! Or arrested for DUI!"
"I know! I'm so sorry. I'm a total idiot, Justin. What can I say?" Brian stared down into the cup of coffee, unable to look Justin in the eye. "After we finished eating, Raj wanted me to go back and 'see' his house. He's got some big mansion over in Shadyside. Well, I'm naive, but I'm not completely dense. First, he gets me drunk and then it's over to see his 'etchings'! Even I can see what was coming next!"
"Brian? Etchings? What does THAT mean?"
"It doesn't matter, Justin. I told Raj that I needed to go back to the motel. And his driver dropped me off there. I must have been nuts to try and drive to your house... but I had to. I had to see you. Or at least I had to try. And now I've completely screwed up my last night here. OUR last...." He looked away and felt sick again. "Our last night."
"Are you really leaving tomorrow, Brian. I mean... do you have to?" Justin forgot his exasperation with Brian and now could only think about him going away.
"I don't have much choice, Justin. I have my job -- and a contract to teach this semester which I can't break if I ever want to teach again. And... I don't have any money. I don't have... anything that's really mine. Not even that stupid old Volvo. Even THAT is in Ron's name. For 'insurance purposes'! If I stayed here...." Brian shook his head. "I can't."
"But I'd help you, Brian! I would! You could get an apartment. And you can find a job. You could do anything, Brian!" Justin asserted. "You are really, really smart! There are lots of jobs in the newspaper. And... I'll get a job, too! I could move in with you and help to pay the rent! If... if my parents don't like it, then they can go to hell, Brian!"
"Justin, stop! Please." Brian put his hand on Justin's arm. "You can't do that. You need to focus on school and getting into a good college. It's important. And your parents... don't even think of blowing them off. I... my parents and I didn't speak for a lot of years. And now my father is dying... and I think of all the years when I might have been helping him understand me instead of hating me. And now...."
"I'm a grown man, Justin! Or I thought I was. And I need to find my own way of doing things -- for once in my life. I've never been allowed to make my own decisions. Ron never gave me the chance. And I never pushed it. I... I never wanted to rock the boat. I was afraid to stand up for myself. Afraid of what Ron would say. But now I have to BE an adult and... I don't fucking know how to!" Brian put his head down on the table. He felt like he was standing against a brick wall, with nowhere to go. No way to understand what was the right thing to do.
Brian lifted his head and looked across the table at Justin, staring into his blue eyes. Justin reached over and took Brian's hand and they sat there in silence for a long time while the coffee got cold.
The hostess came over again. "Can I give you a refill, boys?"
"Sure," said Justin, smiling. And the hostess smiled back. But another waitress was also watching them. And she wasn't smiling. Instead, she went into the back of the restaurant and spoke to the manager.
"Excuse me, but you'll have to leave."
Brian and Justin looked up to see the manager standing over them.
"What?" said Brian. "What's the problem?"
"This is a family restaurant -- and we've had a complaint," said the manager, his face stony. "So I'll have to ask you both to leave."
"What for? What are we doing?" Justin said, indignantly. "Who complained?" He looked around the dining room. Except for two hetero couples at a booth and three high school students sitting at a table, the place was empty. "Hey!" Justin called to the other patrons. "Do you MIND if my boyfriend and I are sitting here, drinking some coffee?
The two couples giggled and shook their heads. And the three teenagers turned around. "Fuck no!" one of them replied.
The manager's face turned red. "I'm asking you to leave. Now."
"That's not fair! That's... discrimination!" Justin stood up, bristling.
Brian grabbed his hand and pulled him back down. "It doesn't matter. Let's just get out of here."
"It DOES matter, Brian! I want to know what this asshole's problem IS!"
"All right -- that's it!" cried the manager. "Leave now or I'm calling the cops!"
Brian took out a five dollar bill and tossed it on the table. Then he pulled Justin after him. "Let's just go. It isn't worth it. It isn't fucking worth it!"
And Justin followed Brian out of the place and back to Jennifer's car. Justin unlocked the door and got in, while Brian sat in the passenger's seat. "Brian, that guy...."
"It isn't important, Justin. It... you get used to it. Sort of."
"But Brian -- I don't WANT to 'get used' to stuff like that! That's such crap! It's...."
"It's reality, Justin. You should live where I live, in rural Indiana. The guy would probably just have shot us instead of throwing us out."
"But, we were just sitting there! Just sitting!" Justin cried. "It isn't fair!"
"Yes," answered Brian. "And you were holding my hand. This isn't Liberty Avenue, kid. This is Real Life." Brian shook his head. "Well, that sure sobered me up fast."
Justin headed back to the other parking lot and Brian got into the old Volvo. His hand was a bit shaky as he turned on the ignition, but he no longer felt drunk. Just depressed. Justin drove his mother's car back to his house, while Brian followed closely behind. Justin put the Toyota into the garage. The house was dark, except for a light his mother had left on in the kitchen. Justin walked back out and got into the Volvo, next to Brian.
"I guess so," said Justin, looking at his lap.
Brian began the drive back to the motel, going slowly and carefully. Brian didn't want to take any chances with Justin in the car.
"You probably think I'm a fucking wimp for not having a big fight with that guy, Justin," Brian said, after they had driven in silence for a few miles. "But... you have to pick your fights... and that one just wasn't worth it. It wasn't. Not in the larger scheme of things. Not with... everything else we have to deal with. I've already fucked this night up enough for us, Justin. Punching that homophobic jerk in the face wouldn't have helped the situation. Unless spending the rest of the night in jail sounds like fun to you?"
Justin looked up at Brian. "I wouldn't mind. As long as they put us in the same cell."
Brian sighed. "Don't even joke about things like that! You have no idea...."
Brian pulled the Volvo up to the door of the motel room. The Volvo sputtered as he turned the car off, and Brian couldn't help wondering how much longer the car was going to hold up. He pictured himself driving that long, cold stretch of rural highway across Indiana and Ohio all through the coming Winter, praying every minute that the car wouldn't die.
Brian leaned over and kissed Justin gently over the gearshift. It was already a little ritual they performed every time they arrived at their destination. Then Brian got out of the car slowly, his feet still a bit unsteady, while Justin jumped from the passenger's seat and ran around the car to where Brian was standing. He put his arms around Brian's slender waist and hugged tightly. Justin felt as if he were transferring his youthful strength, his resolute will, directly into Brian to bolster him. To fire his courage. "It doesn't matter now, Brian. We'll think of something! We will. Together. It'll be okay, you'll see. It WILL!"
Brian looked down at Justin's trusting face. He leaned down and pressed his lips against his cheek, his mouth....
"That's a beautiful sight, Brian. Just beautiful. What, are you hanging around the playground now? That's a great place to pick up an easy fuck."
Brian and Justin turned around, startled. Ron was standing there, his face grim. He took a step forward, towards them, and Brian pulled Justin closer. "Just following in YOUR footsteps, Ron. Justin is seventeen. Of course, I was only sixteen -- and you didn't pick me up on the playground, but what's the difference, right?"
"You're sick, Brian!" Ron spit out at him.
"You only see what you want to see, Ron!" Brian retorted. "And you have a fucking nerve calling ME sick!"
"Brian -- who is THIS?" Justin stared at the other man in dismay. His heart was sinking because he knew exactly who it was. He'd even spoken to him on the phone. Ron. "Brian?"
"He's no one, Justin. He's just... my partner."
"Yes. That's ME. No one." Ron stood there, his face dark and hard. "Get your shit, Brian. You're coming with me. Now."
"I said, get your shit, Brian! You're coming -- NOW!"
Justin held tighter. "You don't have to, Brian! I'll get a job! We can be together!"
"Justin, please...." Brian said.
"What are you going to do when I call this kid's parents? Huh? You'll never teach again. You'll never WORK again!" Ron took another step forward, his face softening. "I've got a rental car here, Brian. And a room at the Marriott. Just come with me now and it'll be okay. I'll send the kid home in a cab and forget I ever saw him. All right?"
"Brian!" Justin held onto Brian's waist as if he would drown if he let go for even a moment.
"Brian!" Ron stepped over and took hold of Brian's arm, giving him a hard shake. Trying to shock some sense into his partner of twelve years. A partner he wasn't about to lose to some skinny teenager.
"Brian!" And Justin pulled at Brian in a panic, feeling him slipping away.
The voices all collided inside Brian's head. And then they were suspended in space, only words, hanging in the dark air.
©Gaedhal, February 2003.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your comments on "Nowhere Man." Without your feedback I don't know if you are enjoying this series!
Posted February 7, 2003.