This is Part 2 of Chapter 65 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "A Piece of My Heart -- Part 1", the previous section.
My fucking head is pounding when I open my eyes.
Justin is leaning over me, touching the edge of the duvet. Stroking my chest.
No. Not Justin.
I sit bolt upright. "Who the fuck are you?"
"I'm just making certain you're all right. Justin had to go out for a while."
It's that Rowan kid. He gives me the willies.
"Get away from me." I have the spooky feeling that he's been looking at me while I'm sleeping. Touching me. I can feel my skin crawling. I must be imagining it. My nerves are shot. I need a strong belt or one of my pills, but I'm not asking this kid to get it for me. Where the fuck is Justin?
"Want a drink of water?" he says, like he's the host and this isn't MY hotel suite.
"Sure. Okay," I say. But only because my mouth is so dry. I sit up a little more, pushing the pillow higher.
I watch this Rowan walk around the room. Like he owns the fucking place! He seems entirely too comfortable. He acts like he's been in here before. A lot. Shit! We only just got to London -- so how often has he been in this hotel room with Justin? I try to think. When did I leave him alone, other than this morning? They CAN'T have gotten together! It's just my fucking paranoia. The jealousy that I don't 'do.'
So, why am I imagining these things if I'm not jealous? Of this punky goddamn kid! It's too easy to picture him with Justin. And Justin is too fucking trusting of someone he hardly knows! I look at Rowan's square frame, his sturdy Mick legs, his red hair, his arms covered with that same red hair. Fuck. I don't want him around here. AT ALL. I don't want him around Justin!
He goes to the mini-bar and gets out a glass, ice -- he knows Americans pretty well, an Englishman would never have wanted ice in his drink -- and a bottle of Evian. He brings the water over to the bed.
"Thanks," I say. Now, get the fuck of here, I want to add.
But he doesn't seem able to read my mind very well. Instead, he goes over and sits on the chaise and starts reading a magazine. MY magazine. My copy of 'MetroSource' that I bought for the plane! It's only a fucking magazine -- but something about the way he sits on that couch, his legs sprawled, drinking a can of soda, and reading MY magazine, pisses me off.
"Ah, you can take off now," I say. I want to get out of bed and get into the shower, but I'm not doing it with him watching me. I'm NOT flashing my dick in front of this character, no matter what! I look around for my robe, but I don't see it.
"I promised to wait until Justin gets back."
I hate the way he says that. Joostun. Some people think an Irish accent is quaint. To me it sounds like St. Patrick's Day -- right before you get the shit kicked out of you just for being alive. Oh, those golden childhood memories!
If he's not going to leave, then I might as well rest a bit. I try to think back to this morning. When exactly did it all go wrong? Was it when I walked into Sir Ken's office and saw Gerard Milton sitting there? Or was it before, when Dorian Folco told me he did NOT want me for this part, but was doing it as a favor to Ken. That's a fucking confidence booster!
No, I walked out of this hotel room already a nervous wreck. I'd already downed two of the anxiety pills, plus a handful of vitamins, some Tylenols, and a diuretic. Maybe that WAS over-kill.
And how stupid was it to go back to that restaurant on Old Compton? The world's biggest pick-up joint! What did I expect? Especially after the other day when both Justin and I were hit on so many times we must have set a world's cruising record in that one intense afternoon session!
But that was just a joke, just playing around. Because even if I was tempted to pick up someone with Justin, I know how he feels about that now. He did that kind of stuff because he thought I wanted him to. And I thought he really wanted it -- threesomes, foursomes. It was hot! And he was fucking miserable! THAT took me long enough to catch on to. It wasn't until I was out in L.A., really thinking about how empty all that shit is that I realized just HOW miserable he was doing it. And how much he wanted to please me. How is that for guilt?
So, I ended up at Old Compton and picked up a trick. I don't even remember doing it. How fucking scary is that? And then Justin finding me over at Covent Garden. Rescuing me. Saving me from myself -- again! That was no coincidence. That was fate working again. Giving ME a fucking warning! See, how you almost screwed up again? See how easy it is the completely fuck yourself over? You can fuck yourself in your sleep -- and often have.
What are you going to do the day Justin doesn't show up in time? I don't want to even think about that....
And I started this trip off with such pure intentions. I was going to stay off the hard stuff, stick to beer and wine only. No recreational dope, especially not around Justin. When he gets stoned he gets weird and he gets scared. Especially when he's still taking certain medications for his own pain and anxiety.
Oh, and no screwing around. That was my biggest resolution. Why bring Justin at all if I was going to act like a horse's ass and chase after a bunch of meaningless tricks? That's all I could think about when I was starring in the Poolhouse Follies -- please let this be over soon! When I finally stopped I heard my poor dick say 'thank you'!
So I was going to be a good example! See how long THAT all lasted? Two days? Is that the way it's always going to be for me? Reverting back to type the minute you get scared or drunk or stoned -- or pissed off? Says a lot about your maturity level, Kinney. About your much hyped, but much over-rated, self-control. My self-control! In fact, my control of anything is pitiful. It's fucking non-existent.
I look up and Rowan is standing by the bed, staring at me, saying something to me.
"I said d'ya want more water?"
"No," I say. "Thanks." Where the fuck is Justin?
Then he starts walking around the room, picking things up. Straightening up.
"Ah, you don't have to do that."
"Justin -- he's a bit untidy," the kid says.
"No, he isn't. But cleaning up this place isn't his job. Or yours, either. That's what they have maids for."
"I don't mind." He's opening the closet and moving my shirts around. Why do I get the impression that's he's casing the joint, looking for something to steal?
He picks something up off the floor next to the couch. He's got my fucking underwear in his hands. This is too much!
"Put those down and please leave."
"I don't think so," he says.
Shit! Okay, I'm just going to ignore him. But Justin has a lot of explaining to do when he gets back from wherever the fuck he is!
I get out of bed -- screw the robe, I don't care. I feel unsteady, but I move extra carefully because I don't want to look like some kind of drunk in front of this kid. He's staring at me. Go ahead -- take a picture, it lasts longer! I get to the bathroom, where I can finally lock the fucking door and have a little privacy!
I take a piss and then survey the damage on my face. My hair looks like it exploded. Eyes all red. What else is new? A big imprint from a wrinkle in the pillow across my cheek. That should fade in a few minutes -- I hope. I turn on the water in the shower and get in, trying to feel like I'm alive again.
I stay in there a good long time. When I turn off the water I hear someone pounding on the door.
"Brian! Are you okay? Answer me!" It's Justin.
I get out and unlock the bathroom door, still dripping wet. "I'm fine. Wet, but fine."
"You were in there so long -- and you never lock the door!"
I look past Justin to Rowan, standing behind him, gaping at me. "I didn't want anyone barging in on me."
"Who would do that?" Justin asks, innocently.
"I can't imagine." I'm very aware that I'm dripping all over the bathroom floor. "I need a towel."
"I'll get it," Justin says, going to the warming rack and pulling a clean towel off of it. He wraps it around me.
"Do you think you can tell your... friend to take a powder? I'm getting sick of having an audience."
"Oh," says Justin. "Sure." He leaves me to dry myself off. I hear them talking, then the suite door slam. Justin comes back into the bathroom.
"Where the fuck WERE you?"
"I had to get a few things. Call my mom. That kind of stuff."
"Why did you have to leave the room to call your mom?" Something is definitely up.
"I... didn't. I just made the call while I was out. No big deal."
Great. He's probably telling his mother about all my screw-ups and doesn't want me to hear him complaining. I guess he has a perfect right to blow off steam to someone. Better his mom, who already knows I'm an asshole, than having him confiding in that Rowan character. He's just the type of guy that would use any grievance about me to worm his way into Justin's good graces. All the more reason NOT to fuck up anymore.
Right. How many times have I said THAT?
"You want to go out and get something to eat in a little while? Or I can order room service? Or we can eat in the hotel dining room?"
I picture Rowan, in his apron, filling our water glasses downstairs.
"Let's walk up to Notting Hill Gate and eat there. I could use some air."
"Will you be all right to walk?"
"Jesus -- I'm just a tiny bit hung-over, Justin! I can walk! I'm fine. There's nothing the matter with me. See?" I say, rubbing my dick with the fluffy towel. "Better than normal."
Justin reaches over and rubs it himself. "I see that."
"Ah -- are you sure that kid is really gone?"
"Rowan? Oh, yes. He's gone."
"Is the fucking door of the suite locked?"
"Yes, I locked it myself."
"Okay, then," I say, dropping my towel. "I need to make sure that everything is still in working order. I wonder if you have any ideas about that?"
"That's funny -- test driving happens to be one of my specialties!"
There's nothing like a leisurely fuck that begins in the bathroom, moves to the fainting couch, then onto the pillows on the floor, and ends up under the harem tent.
I think the pillows were the most interesting. We hadn't really focused on them before.
"What if you try out that little dance you were working on after I bought you the bracelet? Remember that scene in 'The Persian Boy'? When the slave-boy entertains Alexander the Great?"
"I don't know which one you mean?" He remembers -- he's just being coy.
"The one where I -- I mean, Alexander the Great lounges on these pillows...." I spread them out on the oriental rug. "And watches Bagoas do that very slow dance." I look around and see a bright fushia Indian silk scarf that Justin bought folded up on top of the desk. I shake it out and wrap it around his bare hips.
"That is for my mom!"
"Not after this it isn't!" I settle back onto the pillows. "Let's see just how limber you are."
And he proves to be fairly limber. The right music isn't exactly available on the radio and I didn't bring any belly dancing accompaniment on CD, so Justin is humming a little as he sways back and forth, then to and fro. Especially to and fro. He slithers around the pillows that I'm lying on, the almost transparent scarf brushing up against me as he turns, the slave-bracelet jingling on his wrist. Since I still feel a little bit hazy from this afternoon's knock-out, I can almost imagine that I'm dopey with hash or opium. But it's just the smell of Justin as he sways closer, and then spins away. Then comes closer again, and turns the other way. All in extreme slow-motion.
The little dance ends, like in the book, with the slave-boy doing a deep bend all the way back. And it also ends, again just like in the book, with Alexander grabbing him in mid-bend.
By the time we are finished with that silk scarf, Justin agrees that he can't give it to his mother. Not with the places it has been. I fold it up and place it in the drawer of the bedside table -- for future consideration.
Later -- quite a bit later -- we walk up to Notting Hill and look for a place to eat. I vote for an Indian place, while Justin, predictably, wants Italian. We go for the Italian.
After stuffing ourselves -- and I admit it is the first really complete meal I've eaten in about a week -- we stroll down towards Portobello Road. It's quiet in the evening, unlike the chaos of the weekend when the big antique market is going full force. I detour us off the main drag and up towards Ladbroke Grove, curving around into Stanley Crescent. The houses look very expensive and well-restored, unlike the aura of shabby gentility the street had when I was living there. I stop in front of one of them and peer down past the railings at the basement door.
"Where I lived. My old flat."
"In the basement? Really?"
"Sure. I had a sitting room, bathroom, bedroom, and kitchen. I also had use of the big private garden behind all these houses. It was a little chilly and dark down there, but it wasn't bad. Not bad at all."
"Who lived upstairs?"
"Some old woman. Her family had lived in the house for years and years. I think her kids were constantly trying to get her out and in a old fogies' home so they could sell the place. But she hung on, renting out that room to American students. As long as you were quiet and didn't do anything too, um, distracting to the neighbors, she left you pretty much alone. She's probably long dead now. The house has been completely redone."
"She sounds cool."
"She had a few interesting tales to tell. She must have been a trip back during the War. She sure liked Americans, though. Must have had a yen for Yanks in uniform. I can relate to that. Although as a visitor to these shores, I was much more into sampling the domestic products."
"Like Gerry Milton?"
I look at Justin. "You would mention him."
"He's just so awful, Brian!"
"But that's now. People change. He was funny and kind of cute then. And he had ALL his hair...."
"And an MG Midget." Justin is laughing.
"That, too. And -- well, you see how he is even now. Flattering. The Brits really know how to put you down, but they also know how to butter you up. And I was ripe for that. I just ate up someone telling me how great I was. How beautiful I was. I hadn't heard that in a long time...." I pause, not wanting to think about who I had first heard it from. Not wanting to think about him at ALL. "I guess you need someone to tell you things like that when you're twenty years old."
"But you WERE great!"
"I don't think so, Justin. I was pretty pitiful. Scrawny and badly dressed and fresh out of Pittsburgh! Shit! I was used to quickies in the bathroom of the bus station or else fumbling around on some dorm bed in the dark, hoping the guy's jock roommate wouldn't walk in and murder us! I just couldn't believe these cool foreign guys would look twice at me, let alone chase after me! Let alone some rich actor. Or, rather, student actor."
We walk up to Ladbroke Grove and turn, heading back down in the direction of Holland Park.
"You said that same club I went to with Hughie was there when you were in London."
"I think that place has been there since Oscar Wilde came out! Yeah, it was always a major pick-up joint. I may even have met Gerry there. I can't remember. But I met a lot of guys there. I didn't have much money, but once I got in I didn't have to worry about that too much."
"Just like at Babylon? Guys buying you drinks all night?"
"Look who is talking! The twink who NEVER takes out his wallet! Yes -- I depended on the kindness of strangers."
"You said that Indian lady used to give you free food."
"Sometimes. My landlady, too. They knew I didn't have any cash. I used to scour Portobello down at the lower end where they have the flea market, searching for used clothes that still looked okay. I managed to make myself presentable that way. And if I really needed a good feed -- well, there were a couple of places around St. Martin's Lane and Shaftsbury Avenue, where the theaters are, that were teeming with old queers looking for a friendly face."
"Just for dinner! Jesus! And maybe a quick blow-job. But, shit -- you do what you have to do. If they didn't have a problem with it, why should I?"
"Brian -- that's such rationalizing! You can rationalize away anything -- but that still doesn't make it right."
"I know." He's quite the one for bringing me down to earth with the unvarnished truth. Like I told him on the plane over here -- his assignment is not to let me get too full of myself. Not to let me get out of control, thinking I know what the fuck I'm doing. Because I don't. I think I do, but I don't. I need those Justin-centered reality checks and I need them regularly. Like the one he gave me this afternoon over my 'over-medication' and subsequent crash-landing.
"I didn't make much money at the diner, Brian. What if I did the same thing? Handed out blow-jobs to get better tips?"
"But you wouldn't do that."
"But what if I DID?"
"Then I'd have to kill you."
"Be serious." And his face really IS serious. "What if...."
"Then I'd be a big fucking hypocrite to point the finger at anyone for anything that they did! Even YOU. Besides, it's just sex. It's meaningless in that context. It's meaningless in MOST contexts. It's like obsessing over having lunch."
Justin stares at me, his face deadly serious. "That's pretty hilarious from someone who DOES obsess over lunch. And dinner. And any meal! That's how 'meaningless' it really is, then? Sometimes even a... a blow-job can be pretty fucking serious. It can mean... it can just...."
"Shut up. You talk entirely too much. I like it better when you use that big mouth for other things!" I joke. But his mood has changed. Something I've said has gotten him upset and I can't get out of him what it is.
We get back to the room at about a quarter to 8:00. Justin goes in and runs water for a bath. He's really into this bath thing. He really WILL be wanting a bathtub in the loft. Maybe I can put one down in the studio. Like a hot tub with a Jacuzzi. That could be cool. There's plenty of room down there. It might feel good -- and will save having to go over to the club. And you can do some interesting things with pointing those jets at....
The phone rings. Justin is already in the tub, so I answer. It's one of those old-fashioned French phones, which matches the whorehouse decor.
"No, it's Barbra Streisand wanting to know if you are coming to my party."
"You bitch! What are doing calling here?"
"To find out how you like the hotel, of course! Do I know how to pick them or what?"
"Well," I say, looking at the bordello fixtures. "It certainly does have a certain -- ambience."
"I knew you would like it! I thought it was the classiest place I've ever stayed!"
Which says a lot about the places Diane usually frequents! "Our suite looks like the last occupant was Lawrence of Arabia -- or Alexander the Great!" I can't help but laugh as I kick one of those big pillows out of the way, thinking of what Justin and I did on them about two hours ago.
"Oo, that sounds like a good one! They are all different, you know."
"I'd love to get a load of some of the others. Should I go around and knock on some doors? I might get lucky."
"What about Justin?"
"I'm only kidding, Diane!"
"Sometimes I'm not so sure about that."
"Besides, Justin and I haven't made any kind of pact that we wouldn't fuck anyone else. You know I'd never make any kind of promise like that," I say, feeling uncomfortable with this particular subject.
"And why haven't you, Brian?"
"Well, because... I couldn't keep it. And I wouldn't WANT to keep it. That kind of shit is for dykes and breeders."
"You are so full of it, Bridie! And don't use that term, Brian. 'Breeder.' It's as insulting as 'faggot.'"
"I say THAT, too."
"That's besides the point. Besides -- YOU are a breeder yourself."
Yeah, I think. Twice over, too, if Lindsay is correct on her last 'progress report.'
"I'll watch my mouth and attempt to be more politically correct in your presence."
Diane laughs. "That will be the day! How is Justin?"
"Wet and probably well-shriveled by now." I can still hear him splashing in the tub.
"Everything going okay?"
"In what way?"
"Don't be coy with me, asshole. Why do you think you brought him there with you, Brian?"
"That's a question that keeps coming up. I prefer that it remains purely rhetorical."
"But him being there isn't rhetorical. It's pretty tangible, I'd say."
"And your point is?"
"You aren't fucking up there, are you, Bridie?"
Shit. "Fucking up? I don't know what you mean...."
"I'm trying not to. Okay? Satisfied?" Jesus! This woman wants my whole life detailed in a fucking document, signed and notarized.
"No," she says, her voice serious. "I'm not at all satisfied. Are YOU satisfied with the way things are, Brian?"
"I...." Fuck -- of course I'm not! But what can I do? Make promises I'm only going to break? Isn't that worse in the long run than never making them?
"Are you drinking?"
"This very minute?"
"Don't be a prick, Bridie!"
"Well... not much. Tonight I had ONE glass of wine. With the pasta. We didn't even stop at the pub on the way back!"
"That's NOT a bad thing, you know. It's NOT a crime to want to be in control of yourself -- even when you are under a lot of stress. Especially if you are under a lot of stress."
"What are you, Diane? Some kind of psychic psychologist?"
"Maybe." She sighs. "Listen, Brian, you're a grown man, so I won't beat around the bush. Don't tell him I told you, but Justin called me this afternoon. About your little 'incident' today"
"Fuck." I knew it was something like this. "Diane -- it was blown all out of proportion. I'm fine now! Do I sound all screwed up?"
"That's beside the point, Brian. You scared that kid. And you should have scared yourself, too, if you had a lick of sense. Get RID of that stuff! NOW!"
"It's gone. Justin must have flushed it all. Or I think he buried it in the back garden here. He was gone a long time while I was asleep. I think that's what he was doing."
"Then he has a hell of a lot more smarts than you do, Brian. Take a dollar and buy a clue."
"You are exaggerating all of this, both of you."
"I don't think so, Brian. Remember that I've been where you are. You can't b.s. ME and expect to get away with it. Take a step back and look at the big picture. Don't be an ass. And..." she pauses. "Don't fuck it up, you know what I mean? DON'T fuck up this thing with Justin!"
"Diane, you NEVER use that word."
"That's why I'm using it NOW. So you won't forget. I don't care if you don't want to call it a relationship. Call it whatever word doesn't offend your sensitive, freedom-loving ears. Just don't ruin it for yourself. OR for HIM!"
"Diane, give me a break!"
"And if you DO fuck it up -- then I'm calling Ron and telling him to go over there and get you, because you are a bad and nasty little boy who can't handle his own life and needs daddy to come and take him in hand. Literally. And I'll VOLUNTEER to be the bridesmaid this time. In fact, I'll INSIST!"
"You think I'm kidding? I'm betting all of my old man's Frankie Yankovich records on you NOT screwing this up with Justin. So, don't make me look like a fool on this, Brian. You hear me?"
"And don't let Justin know that I told you he called me. He's just concerned. Did I say concerned? He is terrified for you."
"He should mind his own business."
"Brian -- this IS his own business, you idiot! And if you won't admit that to him, at least admit it to yourself. And remember that I have Ron's number right here. Go back to the house up on the canyon and stew yourself into oblivion. Ron would love that and no one else would give a shit. Except that kid."
Justin comes out of the bathroom and sees that I'm on the phone. He stops. He knows it's Diane. This whole thing has been a set-up. But I'm not mad at all, strangely enough.
"I'll call you next week, Diane."
"You better, Bridie. I love you, you know."
"Well...." Jesus, I can't even say it to HER. Then how the fuck am I supposed to say it to...?
"Hang up now and be nice."
"Bye," I say, putting the receiver back on the cradle.
"Who was that?" he says, all innocence.
"Diane. She says 'Hi.'"
Justin sits next to me on the couch. "I wish she was here. We could do stuff together. I mean, while you're busy."
"I don't think so, Brian."
"I still don't like that Rowan."
"He's straight. He told me all about his girlfriend!"
"Yeah, there's always a 'girlfriend.' Rock Hudson had 'girlfriends.' Diane is my 'girlfriend'! Don't fall for it."
He kicks his feet against the coffee table. His hair is still wet, the skin on his neck damp and glowing. "We could still go out to a club -- if you wanted to. Or...." he hesitates. "To a pub."
"Not really. I should get some rest. I have a lot of appointments tomorrow, including meeting with the band. You want to go with me?"
"Really? I don't want to be in the way."
"Mr. Taylor, Mr. Kinney's 'personal assistant'? In the way?"
"I knew you heard me making those calls this afternoon, even though you were supposed to be asleep. You aren't mad that I told them I was your personal assistant?"
"You know that I'm NEVER asleep, Justin, so of course I heard you! And I thought you were very professional. You know, a personal assistant is probably exactly what I need. I mean, to take care of my personal needs."
"I'm good at personal services -- but I only work for one person."
"I'm sure you can only handle one person at a time."
"No -- one person. Ever. That's just the way I work. It's the only way I can work and really be happy." He holds up his right wrist with the bracelet on it. I bought it as a little joke, but he isn't joking right now. Not joking at all.
This little admission is no real surprise, but it floors me, nevertheless. I guess I can panic and run the other way, looking for the nearest quick trick to throw in his face. I've done that in the past, to my shame. How many times can you break someone's heart before they break apart completely and can't be put back together?
I find myself fingering that little heart on the chain. I don't know why, but I do it a lot, when I'm thinking.
"Well, let's see just how you work out right now. Your terms and your contract as my personal assistant -- we can discuss those later."
"Later. Because now I have some other plans for your term of personal service."
I take the fushia silk scarf out of the bedside drawer. This will do for now, but I make a mental note to buy at least three more down at the market at Covent Garden.
He lies back on the bed and puts his arms up, over his head, near the bedposts that hold up the tent-like canopy. He smiles as I wrap the scarf around his wrists, not too tightly. But not too loosely, either.
It's that balance that you have to get right, between too tight and too loose. It's that balance that I'm still working on. We are still working on. Together.
Continue on to "Pea Soup", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Pictures of Randy Harrison and Gale Harold from Showtime.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.
Updated August 10, 2002