This is Part 1 of Chapter 65 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Working Out -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, featuring Diane Rhys, Rowan Conley.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin seeks some advice, Brian seeks anything. July 2002.
Author's Note: More thanks to Susan for the tea and sympathy.
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 take my backpack and go downstairs and out into the back garden. As I walk farther and farther in, I realize just how big it is. It's not really like a garden out here, but more like a private forest. The trees are so thick that it's like being in the woods in the middle of the city. I can hear birds singing and see them hopping where the branches lace together above my head.
I'm uneasy about leaving Rowan back in the suite with Brian. But I guess it's better than leaving Brian completely alone -- especially if he might get sick. I know that Rowan's had experience with drinking men. His father. His brothers. Even himself. So, he would know what to do for Brian if anything happened.
But I have to make this call and I can't make it in the same room -- the same building! -- that Brian is in. Because he'll hear it. He'll hear ME, talking about him. Talking to Diane. He might SEEM asleep, but -- as he's told me many, many times -- he's never REALLY asleep. I'm convinced that he can hear every word you say, even when he's unconscious. Even going into the bathroom, locking the door, and turning on the water in the shower full blast wouldn't be safe. He would STILL hear everything -- and that would defeat the whole purpose. So, I get as far back from the hotel as possible, deep into that thick garden
I find an iron bench and pull out my phone. I haven't tried to make a long-distance call from another country on it before. I take out Brian's Filofax and look through the numbers, finding Diane's easily.
Brian's Filofax is not like any other. Everything in it is in a kind of Kinney-Code that he says he invented as a teenager so his parents couldn't read any of his personal stuff. There are certain code words for certain 'things,' also symbols like stars, checks, exclamation points, and other little glitches and blobs. For an obsessive-compulsive like Brian, his Filofax is essential. He says that Ron goes crazy trying to look through it and figure out what he's writing in there. But Ron doesn't really understand Brian -- and so he doesn't really understand the code.
For instance the section with phone numbers and addresses is typical. Diane isn't under 'R' for Rhys or even under 'D.' Instead, she's under 'B' for Buffalo, her home town, listed as 'Jablonski' -- her real name. Other people are in by nicknames that Brian has given them, or sometimes under a brief description, if Brian doesn't know the name -- or doesn't care about the name. Bob and Brad, the two guys he used to work with at Ryder Associates, are together under the simple title 'Idiot Twins, #1 and #2.' Michael is listed under 'Astro,' Ted Schmidt is listed as 'Loser #1,' and Emmett as 'Tangerine,' in tribute to some horrible pair of pants that he once wore in Brian's presence, and so on. In other words, you have to know Brian's life inside out. You have to understand how Brian's mind works in order to crack the code.
And I can read his code like it's my own.
I dial the number and pray that Diane is home. "Pick up. Please, pick up!" I start pacing back and forth, looking up through the trees to the window of our suite and wondering if I did the right thing leaving Rowan up there alone with Brian.
Her machine comes on. "Diane here, kids. At the tone leave your name, rank, and serial number. If it's Woody calling about a role in your new film -- I'm calling YOU first!"
"Diane -- if you are there, please pick up! PLEASE! It's Justin!"
I hear the phone click and I'm almost ready to hang up when I hear her voice.
"Hey, cutie! Where the freak are you?"
"Diane!" The relief in my voice must be readable across an ocean and a whole other continent because she tells me to sit down and take a deep breath before I do another thing. I sit on the bench and do my breathing exercises.
"Okay now, hon -- WHAT is going on? Where are you, Justin?"
"In London. Things were going fine -- and then...." I realize that this is going to be harder for me to get through than I thought.
"What did he do, the big lug?" She sighs. "Did you walk in on him with someone? Already?"
"No," I say, my heart sinking. "He hasn't been sleeping very well -- or at all. But I thought that was just because he was anticipating the trip. I also can't get a lot of food into him. He's been really nervous about starting this film and he took some pills this morning. He brought a whole fucking pharmacy with him Diane! I think he took Xanax -- he couldn't remember how many -- and then he had a few drinks at lunch. Maybe more than just a few."
"That was real bright!"
"Diane, I was on my way to lunch with a friend. And I saw him in Covent Garden. He was with some guy -- he'd obviously picked him up. But that wasn't the worst thing! He almost passed out right there! The guy booked, but Brian was literally sitting in the gutter. He couldn't walk or talk right. I got him back to the hotel, but he was fucked up. I've seen him on a lot of things, but never like this. It scared the shit out of me, Diane!" I pause to catch my breath. "I... I don't know how to deal with it."
"Do you know if he took anything other than the Xanax and the booze? And how much booze?"
"He can't remember. But he thinks he took something -- a painkiller -- after the Xanax. He's taking shit and he can't recall what he's already taken! That's how people kill themselves, Diane! By not being able to remember and then taking more!"
"Honey -- don't panic. Please, don't. Grace under fire, you know? YOU need to keep your head, especially if he can't keep his, do you understand?"
"Okay, then. My dad was Regular Army, a career man. He would always tell me that you need a battle plan and that you need to put it into action and then stick to it. You do know what I mean, Justin?"
Diane sounds very somber and direct. It's not at all like her usual funny way of joking with me. But it's comforting, reassuring somehow.
"Yes, I know."
"All right, Justin. I want you to listen to me and listen to me very seriously -- because you might not like what I have to say."
"Yes," I answer, fearfully. Because I have the horrible feeling that she's going to tell me to pack my bags and leave. To go home and forget about Brian. To leave him here in London and never think about him again. That's my biggest fear. Because even if it was the right thing to do -- the only thing to do -- I couldn't do it. I couldn't leave him.
"Where are the drugs?"
"I took them. I locked them in my suitcase -- but Brian thinks I flushed them down the toilet."
"Good boy. The toilet might actually be the next step, but let's assess first." I hear Diane fumbling around, pouring herself a drink. "I just got out of bed here, cutie. Excuse me while I take a sip of juice."
"I'm sorry I woke you up."
"No, Justin. I'm glad you did. Who else would you call? I'm flattered and pleased. But it was also the correct thing to do. Cripes, but I'm going to kick that bitch's ass one of these days!"
"I feel better just talking to you -- I wish you were here."
"Well, hon -- you are the next best thing!" She laughs shortly, then gets serious again. "Okay, remember I told you that you aren't going to like what I'm going to tell you? Because it's something that no one wants to hear. Ron doesn't want to hear it. Brian himself won't believe it -- even though he knows it's true. Can you take it, Justin?"
"Yes," I say, untruthfully.
"Okay then, because you know that the one absolute truth about Bridie, then, now, and forever in the future, is that he's an addict. He was when he was sixteen and he's one right now. He may have gotten clean from the dope way back when -- but he's STILL an addict. And he'll be one until the day he dies -- which will be sooner rather than later if he keeps this shit up -- excuse my French!"
"Don't start with the 'buts,' Justin. He has NEVER stopped taking drugs. Or drinking. Ever. He just changes what he takes -- or calls them by a different name. If it isn't smack, it's weed. Or 'peer group pressure.' A little coke -- enough to ruin his nose, but that's not REALLY drugs, right? Then it's 'recreational pharmacology.' Or 'pain management.' And now it's 'prescription medication.' But it's all the same stuff. And it's all taken for the same purpose -- to numb the pain, to cut the fear."
"But he had so much of it...."
"I'm sure he did. And when he really wakes up and realizes it's gone, he's going to freak. Because he thinks he NEEDS it. He may go into full-blown panic mode when he doesn't have it."
"Then what am I going to do, Diane? He'll KILL me for taking it away! Or else he'll just get more. Either way, he's going to hate me. And he'll be right back where he started."
"This is where you have to be smart, Justin. Even sneaky. Can you be that?"
"I think so."
"First, what did he have and where?"
I outline all the shit I found in his kit, especially the stuff written out by that Dr. Hall, and the prescriptions for written for Ron.
"The freakin' Bobbsey Twins! Ron and that Dr. Hall! What a quack! I'm calling Tess Hardy the minute I get off with you. She might be able to do something about that guy. Her own doctor is on to him."
"But he's still Brian's doctor!"
"No, cutie -- he's owned by the studio. He gives Brian whatever Ron tells him to. Or whatever he thinks Brian 'needs.' Of course, he doesn't need a damned thing, except an aspirin now and then, but tell that to Dr. Feelgood."
"But what can I do here and now?"
"First, you have to search ALL of his luggage, not just his kit. Assume he has stuff stashed all over. Do it quietly and do it immediately, got that?"
"Then -- and this will be hard. You may have to supply him. At least just a little, so he doesn't panic or go looking for stuff outside. And then who knows what the freak he might take, not knowing what it is?"
"But -- what can I do?"
"You have a safe or something in that hotel?"
"I don't know."
"Find out. Flush everything but the stuff he's most attached to. Give him all the vitamins, the Tylenol, that stuff. Let him have it all. He won't hurt himself with it and he might feel like he's doing something for himself by taking it. But the Xanax -- that's serious. He could have a withdrawal from that if he's been taking a lot of it. You can't just stop it cold in that case. But YOU have to control it, Justin."
"How do I do that?"
She thinks for a minute. "Bridie is a creature of habit. Of ritual. Make getting the pill he needs a ritual. Keep them down in the hotel safe. Make sure only YOU know where they are and only you have access to them. Talk to the concierge, he's sure to be helpful about it. They deal with celebrities and other tough, nutty guests all the time. Dole the things out to him under circumstances that HE decides. That way he'll feel like he still has some control over the situation. For instance, he can have ONE before he leaves in the morning. Or one sleeping pill before he goes to bed. But it has to be agreed on in advance. And HE can't have free access to the stuff or that will defeat the purpose."
"But what if I'm taking away medication that he really needs?"
"Brian THINKS he needs that stuff more than he actually needs it. The best thing, of course, would be to get placebos of the pills made up and give those to him. They would probably calm his nerves exactly the same way -- without any side effects."
"But he'd know the difference!"
"Not necessarily. It's all THINKING that they are working or not working. Obviously the Xanax was working, because they could have killed him! But he STILL took more because he was still nervous. And he drank on top of it! That's his HEAD, not his nerves, Justin."
"I see what you mean."
"But in the long run, he's got to want something else -- someone else -- more than he wants the pills, the drugs, the booze. He has to know that there are other things TO want. Do you know what things I mean, Justin?"
"I think," I say, in a very small voice. "But he'll NEVER admit he needs that!" I say, beginning to feel panicky again myself. "He'll never admit that he needs... anyone. That he needs... me. Ever. He's fought against it his whole life!"
"Then YOU have to fight HIM fighting it. It won't be easy. It won't be easy at all. Most people would never be up to it. His parents weren't. That other guy -- Mikey -- he wasn't up to it. Ron is certainly not up to it -- instead, he's USING it to control Brian. That's not what he needs. And it will only destroy him, one way or another. If not physically, then it will destroy his spirit, his soul. You know that, don't you?"
Now I'm really afraid. Fucking petrified. Because I DO understand. I have seen what can happen to Brian. When he returned from L.A. that first time, right after he got out of the hospital, he was like a shadow of himself. And I caught glimpses of it in his eyes when I was in L.A. myself, especially when he was dealing with Ron. Like he's been ripped apart somehow and he can't put himself back together. Saw it when he was sitting in that gutter, his hand trailing in the filthy water. Like he was reaching for little pieces of his heart that were floating away, down the current and out to sea.
"And it isn't just the pills, kiddo," Diane says, pushing into my thoughts. "It's the booze, too. Don't make the mistake of thinking that one is poison, while the other is safe. BOTH are killing him."
"I know, Diane. I know."
"I know, too, cutie -- but only because I've been there. Both my parents were alcoholics. And their fathers, too. So who knows how far back it goes in our family? It takes a lot of long, cold nights with the home-made vodka to get a real Polack smashed, Justin. I don't think it takes quite as much for a Mick. Heck -- they INVENTED the stuff! It would probably be a miracle if he wasn't a drunk. But, you know I'm a Catholic, honey, and I believe in miracles. Bridie does, too -- only he won't admit it."
"I'll... try to believe."
"You are a believer already, Justin. Otherwise you wouldn't BE where you are right now!"
"You really know all about this shit, don't you Diane?"
"The miracles? Or the drugs?"
"Both, I guess."
"The miracles -- those come free with a childhood of Catholic education. The other stuff -- that's just the price of survival. I was shooting dope on the street when I was fourteen years old and picking up tricks when I was fifteen. That I'm not dead or in an AIDS hospice at this very moment I credit as the first miracle. I've had a lot of others since then. No reason why you shouldn't be due a couple of your own right now."
"Wait -- I forget about your little dance with the boy with the bat. So you DO know a little about that kind of power. I don't need to convince YOU. It's someone else who will need convincing. Someone with a very, very thick and stubborn skull, right?"
"Honey -- this call must be costing you a mint. Let me see... I will call you guys this evening, YOUR time. Make sure you are in the room around 8:00 p.m., okay? What's the room number?"
"Okay. At the Chatterton, right? Wild, wild place! I'll call -- spontaneously. Just to shoot the breeze with the big guy. You take a bath or go down and get a magazine -- something like that. Give ME a chance to talk to the Drama Queen and get a handle on how he's feeling. How HE sees the situation. If this whole incident scared him enough, he might be very cooperative." She pauses. "But if it didn't, then he'll be one nasty bucking bronco -- and you'll be the one who has to stay on him. Get it, Justin?"
"I get it, Diane."
"Good boy. I'll call tonight. Be in the room. Sayonara, cutie." And Diane clicks off.
I close up the mobile, but stay sitting on the bench for a while, thinking. Breathing. Or trying to breathe. My hands are shaking, almost like I'd taken all that shit myself and was trying to shake it off.
The implications of what Diane said -- even though I already knew it in my heart -- are blowing me away. It's one thing to deal with a difficult person -- and Brian is difficult under the best of circumstances -- but to deal with a person who you know is really a drug addict. Probably an alcoholic. Definitely a sex addict, too -- SHIT! What is he NOT addicted to?
Relationships. Caring about someone. Love. Those are the things he's always avoided. Is STILL avoiding. And Diane says he's replacing those empty places with drugging and drinking. Brian's famous 'pain management'! Fuck! Even I tried it myself, when I thought I would never draw again. When I thought the best thing to do was to quit PIFA and bury myself in sex and drugs. It didn't work.
But what if I HAD kept doing it? How many years until I was no longer even capable of feeling any emotions, having suppressed them for so long? Would it take me ten years, fifteen years? How long had it taken Brian?
Which made me even more aware how hard every gain that I'd made with him really was. Hard for HIM, I mean. Each compromise. Each little bit of 'give' in his precious 'code of conduct' must have seemed to him like an earthquake splitting open his whole foundation. Never do anyone twice. Never be part of a couple. Never live with anyone. Don't do 'boyfriends.' Never let anyone get close. Never care. Never SHOW anyone you care.And he broke every single one. For me.
And what did it all end up leading to? Fucking RON! Yes! I feel like I opened the door for that. Yes -- I wanted it for myself! I thought I was pushing and prodding and prying that door open for myself! But what happened was that once Brian knew he COULD 'do' a relationship, even a very small one, he had to try and go back in time to recreate the one he felt he'd lost long ago. And that was a disaster. It still IS a disaster! Because you CAN'T go back -- you can only go forward. And now I'm going to make sure that I am the one he goes forward with. Not with Ron. Not with ANYONE else.
Which means I have to do what Diane says. She KNOWS. I have my plan of action and I must carry it out. Like a mission. I was never much of a one for playing Army -- but I was a good Tomb Raider player. Other video games, too. Which takes learning to plan. Strategizing. Expecting the unexpected. I guess those games were actually a pretty good training ground for playing the Brian Kinney Game!
I hoist my backpack up onto my shoulder and head up to the suite.
Continue on to "A Piece of My Heart -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Pictures of Randy Harrison and Gale Harold from Showtime.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated August 9, 2002