This is Part 3.
Other recent stories in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Nowhere Man -- Part 2.
Features Brian Kinney, Ron Rosenblum, Others.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian thinks about his life. 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 often liked to think about how happy he'd been those first few years in New York City. When Ron had completely taken over and transformed his life. How Ron had protected him from some street thugs who wanted to harm him, even to kill him. How Ron's intern friend had gotten him into a drug treatment program, which hadn't been as terrible as Brian had imagined. It hadn't been that difficult to stop doing something that was making him so wretched.
And Brian never questioned how Ron had found that sympathetic priest in Pittsburgh, Father Tim Reilly, who was working with young runaways and addicts, to help convince Brian's parents that Brian was better off staying in New York and getting help there. Brian didn't question it when Ron flew to the Pitts and retained a lawyer, who Ron brought to the Kinney house one stormy spring day. Or how Ron had returned to New York with a guardianship agreement that basically handed Brian over to Ron, lock, stock, and barrel.
Because Ron had made it clear to the Kinneys from the start that Brian now belonged to HIM and that if they didn't like it and didn't go along with it, then he'd find ways to make them sorry. Ron would see that the authorities would investigate them for child abuse -- and that their own son would testify against them. Testify that his father had beaten him and broken his ribs. Abused him again and again, physically and mentally. And that his mother had been indifferent to that abuse. Complacent. If the Kinneys were afraid of what the neighbors would say BEFORE, wait until Ron brought it ALL into the open. He even had film of Brian prostituting himself in New York City. How would they like THAT to be known? To be seen?
However, if they let Ron continue to do what he had been doing -- taking care of their son -- then it would turn out to be in everyone's best interest. They would no longer be financially responsible for him. They wouldn't have to worry about Brian running away or taking drugs or getting arrested. Now they knew the other thing, too. That their son was a faggot. They wouldn't have to deal with THAT, either. Wouldn't have to deal with that 'sin' on their conscience.
Ron would see that Brian got treatment for his drug addiction -- Brian was, in fact, already in a program and pretty much completely clean. And Ron would also make certain that he finished school and even went to college. Brian would live in New York. He would no longer be their obligation. And since, as Brian often told Ron, Jack and Joanie Kinney had never wanted him in the first place, that he was a mistake they had been stuck with by a cruel Fate, there should be no problem in giving him up.
And there wasn't. Brian's parents agreed. It all happened just as Ron had planned. Exactly. Things always turned out exactly as Ron planned them to.
Even dealing with Ron's own family was easier than either of them had ever imagined. When Brian first began living in Ron's apartment, he had joked bitterly about Ron bringing Brian to the family dinner table, but it happened sooner than Brian could believe. All it took was for Ron, after painfully coming out to his mother, to bring Lilith Rosenblum down to the rehabilitation center. To introduce her to this sick and abandoned boy with the tragically beautiful eyes and let her natural empathy kick in and embrace him. Ron's mother became Brian's greatest ally.
Before anyone else in the Rosenblum family could even question it, Brian was sitting at the dinner table, a constant presence. And no one dared criticize this new element, for Lilith was, in her way, at least as determined and dominating as Ron, albeit tempered with a true compassion. Certainly Ron's sisters, Wendy and Debra, didn't go against it. They loved Brian and petted him like a pretty doll, delighted with his chestnut hair, his shyness, and his funny little comments. They liked Brian so much more than Ron's bitchy old girlfriend, Jane, with her sharp tongue and nasty attitude.
And Ron's father, Max, hardly even understood what was going on before Brian was a permanent fixture in his house -- sitting on the sofa with Ron, holding his hand while watching television, in the kitchen, talking with Lilith, or riding in the car while they went up to the beach. This boy was -- suddenly -- just there. Max had never understood Ron, his only son, to begin with, and he understood this development even less. But no one consulted him. No one asked his opinion of this solemn-faced Irish boy who appeared out of the blue and became a member of his family overnight.
Sometimes Max caught the boy looking at him, as if wondering what Max was thinking of him. You and me, kid, thought Max, we're the only clueless ones here. After all, the boy seemed to come from nowhere and then grow up in the middle of his family, as if he'd always been there. His birthdays, his graduations -- even Christmas! -- were celebrated just for him as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
"Besheret," said Lilith. That's what she called Ron and Brian. Fated to be together. And Ron repeated it to Brian again and again. Look at this whole story! It HAS to be. Don't deny it. Never try to contest it. Anyone who questioned their relationship heard Ron's impassioned pronouncements on Love and Fate. On things that were meant to be. And to hell with anyone who thought otherwise.
And, much later, at the commitment ceremony, which was planned by Lilith with as much lavish detail as Wendy and Debra's weddings, Ron used that word again. Besheret. Fated to be together. Lilith even secured the same very liberal rabbi who had performed Ron's sisters' weddings to officiate over the ceremony. This religious element was important to Lilith, even if the commitment wasn't legal or recognized by the Jewish faith. It made Lilith feel proud and secure about the relationship, even as it baffled her husband, Max.
At the commitment ceremony Max was shocked to see two parents and a sister and brother-in-law who seemed to belong to Brian. Max had never heard these people even mentioned before! Where had they been all these years? But there they were -- ill at ease and out of their element, but there. Proof that Brian had had an existence, however tenuous, before Ron had gotten a hold of him. Max wanted to go up to the father -- a beefy, florid Irishman -- and say to him, 'I don't get it either!' But he didn't have the chutzpah. And poor Max Rosenblum never got it -- not even on the day he had a massive heart attack and died in his office in the garment district. And by that time, it didn't really matter.
Ron finished his MFA thesis -- his first documentary film, 'Street Boys' -- and received his degree at the same time Brian was finishing his senior year in a Long Island high school. The film was immediately picked up by a number of PBS affiliates and entered in a couple of film festivals that specialized in documentaries. Ron got another grant and a lot of critical attention.
But Brian thought that Ron's film had been ruined, gutted of all of Brian's scenes, except some voice-overs and a few shadowed appearances. Ron still had a copy of the original cut of the work. It was starker and harder hitting, a more compelling and honest film. The central figure of the boy hustler and drug addict, 'Jack,' his commentary, his point of view, his riveting presence, made all the difference. 'Jack' was the soul of the film -- with him it was a small masterpiece, but without him it was just another workmanlike documentary on a social problem.
But in the end Ron had to make a choice. And he couldn't allow the film to stand as it was. Wouldn't allow it. Couldn't stomach the thought of Brian so exposed, so revealed, when he was just turning his life around. Couldn't allow HIS boyfriend to be shown as a prostitute and a junkie. And so 'Street Boys' became a very different film. Brian always was of two minds about how Ron had sacrificed his original vision to protect his young, vulnerable lover. But Brian knew the other film was greater. And he believed that real version would see the light one day. Brian knew that it had to happen. But neither he nor Ron was brave enough for that to happen any time soon.
In the end, Ron made the final decision about the film, just as he made all the decisions about where Brian would go to high school, then college, and even about who Brian's friends should be. Ron's family had become Brian's family, and Ron's life became Brian's life. It was as simple as that.
And Ron also chose where Brian would go to graduate school and what he would study. NOT the same area as Ron, no. English Literature, not Film. Brian liked to read -- he was quiet and bookish -- and that was a perfect subject for him. Brian could indulge himself in reading and writing his papers and articles while Ron did his star turns with his documentaries and videos. And Brian could teach. He was very good at that. He was conscientious with the students and he knew how to make a presentation and make it convincing. That was a successful combination at the university.
There had been a few years, when Brian was at NYU and later in grad school at Columbia, when Brian had tasted a little freedom. Ron was away a lot, first making 'The Monkey Puzzle,' a documentary about AIDS in Africa that won a number of awards, including an Oscar nomination, and then as a visiting professor at a British university in East Anglia.
Brian had the apartment -- and his life -- to himself for long stretches of time. And he used that time to make a few friends of his own, even to go to an occasional bar or a club -- but not too many, of course. Ron's constant warnings about backsliding into abusing drink and drugs still scared the hell out of Brian. Not only did he have his own addictive past, but he had the example of his alcoholic father constantly in his mind. Both of those images were enough to keep him fairly sober.
But Brian soon found out another thing as he left his teens and grew up to his full six foot three inch height. He was whip-thin, with a long neck, long legs, and long graceful fingers, not to mention his long cock, or his beautiful hazel-green eyes, straight nose, and full lips. Brian soon discovered that there was never a shortage of guys in New York City who wanted to fuck him. And with Ron out of the country so much, Brian took advantage of a number of those opportunities.
But the guilt he suffered afterwards oppressed him. He felt like an ungrateful little shit. Those guys were just looking for a quick fuck and nothing more. It was pointless. Joyless. They didn't care about Brian as a person. And, Brian thought at the time, if they really knew me, knew my story, what I had been, they would probably despise me. Which was another reason to keep that whole episode of his life a secret. Only Ron knew everything and he didn't hold it against Brian. Didn't judge him. Only Ron had seen something salvageable in a filthy street kid. The only one who really, truly cared. More than Brian's own family, that's for sure!
And Brian repaid him by fucking around! Shit! Talk about the guilt kicking in! What did Brian owe Ron? Everything! Everything that he had and everything that he was! Brian stopped going to bars and stopped seeing anyone else. He even avoided most of his friends. He concentrated on his studies. And he waited for Ron's forays back to the city like a good boy. Brian was as loyal as a dog who only knows one master. And Ron rewarded his loyalty by treating him like an equal partner. Sort of. Almost.
But Brian could never complain that Ron had ever abandoned him or been unfair. After all, Brian had literally had nothing and Ron had given him everything. Even when his own parents wanted nothing to do with him, when he was sick and miserable in rehab, only one person cared anything about him. Ron.
No, Brian's parents only began coming around when he was grown and 'successful.' When he had his degrees and a 'fancy' academic job, not to mention an extremely impressive partner -- then they started to make overtures. His mother began sending cards on his birthday. Then presents. Calling and inviting him home to family functions. Then sending Ron cards on HIS birthday. And then asking to borrow money -- or, at least his old man would ask for money. And Brian found himself sending it. He had no clue why -- Pop had never done anything for him except beat him up and drive him away. But Brian did it. And Brian made certain that Ron didn't find out.
So, almost before he knew it, Brian's life was set into a pattern. Brian had his role and he fulfilled it perfectly. Ron's family adored him and pampered him. Even his own parents cultivated him, even if they didn't particularly like him or understand his 'lifestyle.' But Ron still intimidated them. He was so sharp and smart and unimpressed by the Kinneys that even Pop was cowed. And that was a good thing, as far as Brian was concerned. It kept the Kinneys at arm's length and it kept them in Pittsburgh -- far away from wherever Brian was.
But when Ron decided that they would have that commitment ceremony, Brian began to feel uneasy. They'd already been together for almost eight years at that point and Brian wasn't sure what the rationale behind the ceremony was. Especially since it wasn't recognized legally or anything. What did queers need that kind of thing for, Brian wanted to know? But Ron was insistent. It made for stability, he said. It was a good symbol, a good political statement, too. And a smart move for Ron's status in the gay community. Ron was a star of sorts -- already winning awards -- and Brian, although he was unaware of it, was a 'catch' -- young, intelligent, very good-looking, and on the verge of getting his Ph.D. from Columbia. It was truly an event.
Brian felt more like a spectator than the central figure in this 'event.' Ron and his mother, Lilith, did everything. Brian was like a beautiful doll that they dressed and moved into position. The platinum ring with its large diamond cost more than the old Honda he was driving at the time. Brian remembered standing and thinking that he could use a decent car more than this ceremony. Thinking that he didn't really even know most of the people there. They were Ron's family, his academic colleagues, his film connections. Brian's few friends -- and even fewer former lovers -- from college weren't on the invitation list. And the only people from Pittsburgh were his parents, his sister, and her husband -- people he also hardly knew. The rest of his past -- as always -- had been erased. And that was that.
Just recently Brian had also begun to feel that something else was really wrong. Something that was missing in this perfect set up. But he couldn't put his finger on it. Until Brian really felt betrayed. When he caught Ron fucking around with his Research Assistant at the university in Boston. That hurt. Especially hurt after Ron's constant accusations about Brian -- none of which were true. Because there was never a reason for Ron's paranoia, except, Brian realized later, as a reflection of his own guilty behavior. What happened to 'Fated to be together,' Ron? That's what Brian wanted to ask his partner. What happened to being faithful? What happened to trust?
As far as Brian knew, there had been no repeats -- until.... But Brian had no proof of anything there. It was only a feeling he had about Ron's new research assistant, Lowell. But Brian pushed it aside. Tried to ignore his suspicions. What did twelve years together mean, anyway, if Brian was still so doubtful?
And Brian still felt very apprehensive when Ron, after time and a round of HIV testing had put the Boston research assistant well into the past, wanted to forego the condoms. Ron hated the things and never made any secret of it. They were a barrier to their relationship, Ron said. And Brian didn't dare to say no because, if the truth be told, he was still intimidated by Ron. Even afraid of him.
Brian, at the age of twenty-nine, felt that he was at the mercy of forces that had always been beyond his control. And something was still missing. Like a huge piece of the puzzle of his life. Brian didn't know what that piece was, but he felt the absence of it like a part of himself had been cut off somewhere and separated from the rest of his body. And Brian had no idea where to look for that missing piece.
Continue on to "Nowhere Man -- Part 4.
©Gaedhal, October 2002
Posted October 17, 2002