This is Part 1 of Chapter 98 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Idiot Wind", the previous chapter.
Narrated by Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Emmett Honeycutt, Lindsay Peterson.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin has three conversations. September 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Lindsay calls me the day after Gus' birthday and -- much to my shock -- apologizes to me for Mel's outburst at the party. She talks about how Mel was drinking a little too much and how they were both stressed out and everything. But Lindsay doesn't even seem to understand what really bothers me.
"Look, Lindsay, I really do love Gus and I want to spend time with him. And not just for Brian's sake, but for my own. I... I want to be around Gus. I feel a connection to him. He's Brian's son and that makes Gus special to me. Like he's a part of my family, in a way."
"I'm happy to hear you say that, Justin. We feel you are a real part of our family, too. And we have ever since you started coming over here two years ago."
"I'm glad, Lindz," I say. I hesitate, because I want to be clear about this. "But I also don't want to get beaten up every time I go over to your house."
"Oh, Justin! That's not what happens! We would never do that to you, hon! Mel and I really care about you -- which is why we are concerned about...."
I have to interrupt her right there. "See, Lindz? You are doing it again. The minute you say those words -- 'care' and 'concern' -- I just know what's going to come next! Some attack on Brian. I think you don't even realize what you're saying or how much you are hurting me when you do it!"
"Justin, hon, I would never hurt you!"
"Not consciously, but you do it. All the time. But if you and Mel are always going to use me to take potshots at Brian, then I'd rather not have these conversations with you. And, as much as it kills me to say so, as much as I want to keep seeing Gus -- I'll have to stop coming over to your place."
"Please don't say that, Justin!" Lindsay says, sounding sincerely distressed. "I was just going to invite you over for dinner next Friday night! Please come. It's my way of trying to show you that we really do love you, hon."
I sigh. This isn't what I had in mind. Dinner at the munchers' house. But maybe if I went, I could make them understand a few things about me and Brian. Maybe.
"I don't know, Lindsay." I glance at the little calendar on Brian's desk. "Friday night is the big 'Olympian' promotion at Woody's and I don't want to miss any of it."
"Please, Justin. Please? You'll have lots of time to hit the bars AFTER dinner."
"But this is an important event, Lindsay. I'll be seeing Brian's film clips for the first time and I don't want to miss anything."
"You be here at 6:00 sharp and we'll be finished in plenty of time! I'm making a special chicken dish I learned in my Chinese cooking class. So, won't you come? For me? And Gus? Please? Justin?" Lindsay gets this wheedling tone in her voice that goes higher and higher as she gets more insistent. Now I know how she wore Brian down for that cup of sperm! She whined him to death!
"Okay. I'll be there," I finally say, as much to get her to stop whining as anything else! "Is there anything I can bring?"
"Oh, no! Just your cute little self, hon!" Lindsay gets all flirty and girly on the phone sometimes. It's kind of annoying.
I try to picture Lindsay as this scary political dyke like Brian says she was towards the end of college. I guess she came out with a vengeance after Brian went away for his semester in London. Maybe while Brian was gone, Lindsay was able to put aside all her fantasies of her and Brian as some romantic couple and transform herself into a 'real' lesbian! Brian told me that when he returned, Lindz had a crewcut and was advocating castration as the punishment for most crimes committed by men. Brian also told me he was afraid NOT to sign her petitions! But that phase didn't last, obviously, because that certainly doesn't match with the Lindsay I know at all.
I hang up with Lindz and get busy around the loft, cleaning up and planning what I need to do this weekend. Most of the time lately I'm busy with my school work. My piece for the gallery show is really finished -- I'm mainly just tinkering with it now because it's made up of a number of different elements and I want them to fit together seamlessly. I'm calling it 'Bringing It All Back Home' after the Bob Dylan album that inspired it. Each element of the piece reflects one of the songs on the album. It's certainly different from anything else I've ever done.
But I also have other classes that I need to focus on, too. My graphics class is especially difficult and I'll need a lot of concentration to do well in it. I don't want to get behind when the semester has barely started, so I don't go out a lot at all.
Emmett usually stops over after his shift at Jerk-at-Work, trying to get me to go to Babylon with him. But I'm not really in the mood to go there. Especially not without Brian.
To me Babylon always means Brian. When I'm there without him I find myself spending the whole time either unconsciously looking for him or very consciously remembering things we did there. What songs we danced to. What things we said to each other. The spot where we 'negotiated' those disastrous rules. The stage where I stripped and danced to win the King of Babylon title -- all as a way to get Brian's attention. The corner of the dance floor where he pushed away the two guys I'd 'stolen' from him the first night I ever came to Babylon -- and where Brian reclaimed me and lifted me up in the air as they played 'Let's Hear It for the Boy.' I felt like they were playing that song just for me! Just for us! Then there's the place by the bar where Brian told me that it was too late to turn back -- that I might as well admit that I would never be a Business Major, never be what my parents expected me to be, because I had to be myself. Just too many things to remember.
Funny, but when Emmett stops by to convince me to go out, he always ends up staying in with me for the whole evening. While I do homework, he just watches television or reads one of the huge pile of magazines Brian subscribes to. 'Vanity Fair.' 'OUT.' 'GQ.' 'Architectural Digest.' 'The New Yorker.' 'Oprah.' 'Premiere.' 'The Advocate.' 'Vogue.' Brian used to get 'Cosmopolitan,' too, but he canceled it because I kept making him take those 'Cosmo' Quizzes on 'How to Measure Your Love Quotient'! Emmett will just lay on the sofa and flip through a copy of 'Time Out -- London.' Em isn't really in the mood for Babylon, either, I guess. Without the whole gang there, it isn't all that fun to go out clubbing. It just isn't the same.
Which is why all of us are looking forward to the 'Olympian' promotion at Woody's. Because we are all going to meet there. Since Cynthia gave me the heads up on it on Gus' birthday, she's called me a number of times to remind me to tell everyone to come to the promo party. As if I needed to be reminded! I've done everything but send out engraved invitations. I don't want anyone to miss Brian's big moment!
Even Debbie and Vic and Tim have promised to be there. I considered asking my mom if she wanted to come with me -- but then I remembered Brian mentioning how America would soon be well acquainted with his ass. And although my mom has seen Brian naked -- accidently, of course! -- I don't think she would want to view his butt on a large screen with a big audience of horny guys, all hooting and clapping!
And I smile to think about how, if they filmed that same scene today, there would be something else filling that screen! Something with MY name on it! But that's for only me to know right now.
The night before Lindsay's dinner, Emmett comes over and brings a bag of food from the diner. "Deb wants to know where in heaven's name you've been, boy! Don't you ever go over there anymore?"
When Em says this I feel a little guilty. I haven't really had time to hang out at the diner recently. I get up and go straight to class in the mornings, I'm at school all day, and then I try to stop by Michael's store for an hour or two to get his computer files and books in order before I go back to the loft and hit my studio. That's one of the reasons I'm always so glad to see Emmett and his boxes of take-out food. He's making certain I get enough to eat, because during the day I grab what I can from the snackbar, usually between classes. I know Debbie wouldn't approve of my eating habits.
"Is Debbie definitely coming to the promotion party tomorrow night? And Vic and Tim?"
"She's coming. Vic and the dishy ex-Father will be there, too! Honey, everyone is coming to this bash!"
I wince slightly when Emmett says 'bash.' I know it's silly, but sometimes just a word can make me cringe. Make me feel a little vulnerable. Luckily, Em doesn't notice it. He's too busy opening up the boxes of food Deb sent over. Meatloaf. Fried chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy -- lots of gravy! Lemon squares. Of course -- always lemon squares!
I make a pot of tea. After being in England I'm drinking tea all the time. And Emmett likes it -- he calls these little sessions our 'tea parties.' All I can think of when he says this is the Mad Tea Party in 'Alice in Wonderland'! That's about what it amounts to!
"So, where is the Man right now?" Emmett sits back with a big piece of fried chicken in his hand.
"Back in L.A. -- I think."
"Did he go straight from London?" Emmett asks. I know he's wondering if Brian thought of making a pitstop in Pittsburgh. But I know that wasn't really an option -- yet.
"Actually, he went from London to Venice for a film festival, then to Toronto for another film festival. But he should be back in California now."
"That boy will need to grow wings, he's flying so much!"
"I know. And it will just get worse as it gets closer to the premiere of 'The Olympian.' Hey," I say, getting up and going to Brian's desk. I pick up a printout and bring it back to the table to show Emmett. "Take a look at THIS! It's the tentative schedule of Brian's television appearances to promote the movie."
"Oh, Baby! Let me see that thing!" Emmett snatches it eagerly. "'Letterman.' 'Conan O'Brien.' 'The Today Show.' 'Regis and Kelly' -- oh, I just LOVE her! 'The View' -- oh my God, those women will DEVOUR Brian! 'The Tonight Show.' 'Charlie Rose' -- I guess that's for the Culture Vultures."
"Some of the appearances are with Jimmy Hardy. See right here and here? Some are Brian alone."
"I don't see Mr. Ron penciled in anywhere."
"They usually don't have the director on -- unless it's some big name like Steven Spielberg. Maybe on the 'Charlie Rose' show. But that's PBS. That will probably be the 'serious' discussion of the making of 'The Olympian' and all the gay issues. The rest are just plugs for the movie."
"Too bad 'Rosie O'Donnell' isn't on anymore!"
"She'd probably 'out' Brian right there in front of all her 'girlfriends'!"
Emmett giggles. "You're right about that! I think Brian should go on Christopher Lowell's show!"
Now I have to laugh. Emmett loves that program. "What would Brian do on that show, Em? He doesn't know anything about remodeling a house or making throw pillows!"
"But he could just stand there in a gorgeous Dolce & Gabbana suit and Christopher could schmooze all over him. I'd definitely watch that!"
"Me, too!" I take another lemon square. "Emmett, why don't you ever bring Ted over to eat with us? I know he probably still doesn't like me very much -- I mean after the way I decked him in the diner. But that was a long time ago -- last February. Does he just go home by himself after he leaves Jerk-at-Work?"
"Baby, that assumes he ever leaves Jerk-at-Work! Sometimes I have to drag him away for a half-hour just to get him some dinner. And I know he sleeps on the couch over there -- or on one of the big beds."
I make a face. "Yuck. How can he sleep on those beds after... after they've been jerked on all day?"
Em giggles again and rolls his eyes. "I don't know, Baby, but he does! I think he simply doesn't want to go back to his apartment every night -- alone."
I take a sip of tea to wash down the lemon square. "He's not the only one who's sitting at home alone. The only reason you and I aren't alone is because you come here to hang out. Let's face it, Em, we're not much in the mood for Babylon or the bars, either. Ted is welcome to come over anytime. I... I really don't have any hard feelings against Ted. I understand how he feels about Brian. I think it's all about envy. But Brian's life isn't all roses, believe me. It's not easy being Brian Kinney -- especially right now."
I look over at the phone and wonder when -- if -- Brian will call tonight. He tries to call every night, but sometimes it's just not possible. I tell him that it doesn't matter what time it is, that he should call anyway. But he knows I get up early for class. I don't care, but Brian does.
"Teddy is coming tomorrow to Woody's for the promo party, that's certain. And I'll try to bring him for our next tea party. He might have a good time. I know he misses our little sessions at Woody's. When everyone just sat around and dished the dirt."
"And watched Brian homing in on that evening's trick!" I smile. "I remember that pretty vividly, Em. That was part of the fun in the early days. Trying to make him take me home. I don't think any of you guys realized just how many times he was taking me home -- even after he'd taken some guy out to the alley or into the backroom at Babylon. But I'd still be waiting around. And eventually Brian would break down and come get me and take me back here with him."
"You little devil! You were the sneaky one, Baby."
"I'll never forget the look on Michael's face when he realized that not only had Brian broken his 'one time' rule with me, but he'd broken it over and over again! Michael just stared at me like I had two heads! He couldn't believe that a seventeen year old twink made Brian Kinney break his 'rules'! I'd told Michael that it was more than once, but he didn't believe me! Then he started coming over early in the morning, supposedly to pick up Brian to go for breakfast -- and I was here, almost all the time. I think Michael wanted to see for himself what was going on."
"And then Michael completely freaked out when your daddy kicked you out and you were suddenly LIVING at the loft! Poor Michael couldn't get over it!"
"I know. I really thought everything was like a dream back then. I was in heaven. Until the loft got burgled. Then I came crashing down to earth pretty fast. I thought Brian would never have anything to do with me ever again! Especially after I started living at Deb's. I really thought that was the end of it all." I sit back in the chair and look up at the ceiling of the loft, thinking about those days.
"That looked like the end of the line for blond twinks in Kinneyland!" says Emmett.
"But it wasn't, Em! That's the thing. I wound up being over here almost as much as I had before! Brian couldn't help himself, of course," I laugh. "He couldn't resist me! And I was determined to be with HIM! That's a powerful combination. Brian would sometimes call me late at night and come over and get me. I had to kind of sneak out sometimes, so Deb wouldn't know. Then I'd sneak back really early in the morning. Vic knew what was going on. He sleeps at odd hours and he'd see me -- but he never ratted me out!"
"Vic's a good person. And Father Tim is ever so dreamy!" Emmett rolls his eyes around like a schoolgirl.
"Em, you are such a romantic!"
"No I'm not, Baby! You are the romantic and I am the realist! That's why we are such a good team!" Emmett pops the last half of lemon square into his mouth. "And the secret of you and Brian is that in that relationship, You are the realist and he is the romantic. That's the thing no one would ever guess!"
"I think you're right about that, Em. Too right."
Emmett helps me clear away the dishes and then I take him home in the Jeep. I drive back to the loft and do some homework. I've been asleep a few hours when Brian calls -- very late. It's almost 3:00 a.m. Pittsburgh time. He sounds exhausted. But he also sounds sober -- which is not always the case when he phones. Unfortunately.
"My ears are still buzzing from the plane," he says.
"Did you just get back from Toronto today?"
"Tonight, actually. It was a bitch."
"The plane ride or the film festival?"
Brian makes that huffing noise. "Both! Really. Some of those interviews... I don't know how I'm going to keep repeating the same shit over and over. And Ron and I got into it about how I answer the fag questions. I just want to give the facts. Say to those people, 'Fuck, yes, I'm queer. What about it?' I mean, what's the fucking point in pretending? Ron is out -- the rest should be pretty obvious! But Ron only cares about what the fucking studio wants."
"What does Jimmy say?"
"Oh, he's the great one for the evasive answer. But he does it in such a 'cute' way. Turns the questions all around and makes them into a joke. This one interviewer says to Jimmy, 'So, those love scenes are so convincing. How did you manage it?' And fucking Jimmy says, 'Oh, it was easy! We were really DOING it! In fact, I'm leaving my wife and Brian and I are running away to Key West together!' And they ALL fucking laugh and say, 'That Jimmy! What a card!' I mean, fuck!"
"Jeez, Brian! That hits a little too close to home!"
"Tell me about it. But I can't do that like he can! I get too self-conscious. It's one thing to make a pitch to a client when you're selling a product. It's another thing when it's your life that you're pitching. And when you can't reveal the most important thing of all!" He pauses. "Like who you really are -- and who you really love."
"Maybe after the movie comes out it won't matter?" I say, softly. "When it's a big hit people won't care WHAT you are. If it's so great and you're so great in it!"
"That's a hope, Justin -- but I think it's only a hope. I can't see things changing much. You wouldn't believe how many queers in Hollywood are still not 'out' -- no matter who in the Industry knows about them. They date the Starlet-of-the-Month as a cover while they are fucking their male co-star in the trailer on the set!" Brian pauses. I can almost see him shaking his head.
"Maybe they're afraid, Brian."
"They are. They're fucking afraid! In public they are still in the closet with the door locked tightly. Ron's friend, Peter Bridges, the 'All American Dad'! And he's prowling the sleaziest leather bars in town, looking for dick! And think of Harry Collins in London. You'd think in Britain they wouldn't give a shit -- but it's the Business that does it. Harry isn't exactly a sex symbol. What harm would it do to his career if people knew he was an old pouf? He's in his sixties, for fucksake! And he's STILL afraid to come out! I don't want to end up like that." Brian sounds dejected.
"Brian, you won't. You wouldn't!" I say, trying to think of something to cheer him up. "Hey! The 'Olympian' promo party is tomorrow at Woody's. Everyone will be there! All the guys are looking forward to seeing your ass up on the big screen!"
Brian starts laughing so hard he almost chokes. "I will call for certain Friday night! I have to talk to you when you get back to the loft! I want to know what the reaction to the trailer is! Every fucking detail! I wish I could see Mikey's face! And Ted! Jesus!" He pauses. "I wish I was going to be there for it, Justin."
"Justin, you know that I'll try to be there for your gallery show -- if I possibly can. I mean it. I want to be there."
"I know. It's a difficult time for you to get away...."
"You know, when I'm in New York for those TV appearances -- it's not THAT far from Pittsburgh, especially by Liberty Air. Maybe you could come down for a day or two, Justin? As long as it wouldn't interrupt your school schedule."
"I'd love that, Brian! I'll make it fit with my schedule, no problem!"
"We could go out to dinner. Or just hang out in the hotel room and order lots of room service. I know you would enjoy that, you brat!"
I have to smile, thinking about visiting Brian in New York. Remembering that hotel room he found me in after I ran away -- and what we did there! And so much has happened in the two years since. So much is different now. "What about Ron?" I say, cautiously.
"What about him? He'll be busy in L.A. It'll just be Jimmy and me in New York. And all the fucking publicity people and hangers-on." Brian sighs. "But that isn't until November."
"November seems like a long time from now." And it's only the start of September.
"I know, but it isn't that long, Justin. Christmas will be here before you know it! I saw a commercial for one of those Christmas music CDs on television the other day up in Toronto. They don't waste any time getting people in the Holiday Mood!" Brian snarks. "But it also reminded me that it really isn't that far away until the end of the year. And I have a lot of shit to do. I have to get my act together."
"Brian," I say. "Be careful. I mean it."
"Be careful of what?" he asks, innocently.
"I don't know. Of anything. Of Ron. Brian, I... have an uneasy feeling. And I'm not out there with you! Anything could happen."
"Nothing can happen to me, Justin. And you are in the best place possible. Safe in Pittsburgh. And that's where I want you to stay -- for now. And I'm not fucking kidding! I want you to be safe."
And I remember the last time he said those words. 'I want you safe. I want you around for a long time.' That was the closest he'd ever come to saying he loved me then. "I love you, Brian. Don't ever forget that."
"I love you, too. Now go to sleep before you have to get up for class! Later."
After I hang up with Brian I have a hard time getting back to sleep. I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. My first instinct is to go immediately to the airport and fly to Los Angeles. I know it's ridiculous, but it's such a strong feeling I can't put it behind me. I eventually fall asleep, but it's a restless sleep and I wake up still feeling like I should do something. But I have no idea what.
Continue on to "Ordinary World -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, October 2002
Updated October 28, 2002