This is Chapter 55 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Emmett Honeycutt, Joan Kinney, Claire Kinney, Sylvia Schacter, Bobbie Jean, Don, Gloria, Lucie, Jimmy Hardy.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Happy Birthday, Bri! Pittsburgh/Springhurst, April, 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Read the stories and enjoy. As for The Evil Stream... make up your own mind.
"I looked into your eyes,
They told me plenty
I already knew.
You never felt a thing,
So soon forgotten,
All that you do.
In more than words
I tried to tell you,
The more I tried I failed.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray,
And I would stand by you no matter what they'd say,
I thought I'd be with you until my dying day,
Until my dying day...."
On Thursday Emmett takes me downtown to do some shopping.
"Sometimes you need to break out of your rut, Babydoll," he says. "The mall is dandy and Liberty Avenue is fabulous, but to get the true feel of the hustle and bustle of our urban wonderland, you have to go downtown!"
"Thanks, Em," I say. Emmett has been great. He stayed over with me at the loft after he brought me back from Babylon on Tuesday night and then he stayed again last night. He realized that I was having nightmares and didn't want me to be alone. I really don't know how I would have gotten through the last two nights without him here to keep me company.
The only problem is that Em is as bad as Tim Reilly when it comes to trying to get me to go to a fucking shrink. I know that Brian seeing Dr. Gorowitz up at Springhurst is helping him, but... but I can't talk to one. My mother tried taking me to a fucking waste-of-time therapist when she first found out I was gay and then they had me talking to one at the hospital after I got bashed. Fuck that! There's nothing wrong with me! I don't need to be 'cured' of being gay and I don't need someone to fix my mind just because fucking Chris Hobbs took a bat to my head.
As we drive downtown and look for a place to park the Jeep, I wonder if Emmett knows what day it is. Brian's 32nd birthday. Only a couple of weeks ago I was planning what I was going to buy him and how we were going to celebrate it. Now we aren't even speaking. Who the fuck knows if we'll ever talk to each other again? Or see each other again.
It's hard to think about that. About never seeing Brian again. Never touching him again. Never kissing him again. That's what I thought I wanted -- to leave Brian and live my own life. But it's hard. Harder than I ever imagined.
But is it really what I want? Do I want a life without Brian? Or was I just being a stupid drama queen about Brian and Jimmy at the 'Vanity Fair' party? Fucking is meaningless to Brian. I know that. I've always known that. Tim tried to tell me that and so did Michael. Many people have told me that, but I didn't want to listen to all those other people. Because I thought I could change Brian. I thought he'd be willing to give up his fuck-all lifestyle in order to please me. I guess I was wrong.
But was I wrong to leave him? Is it wrong to want a partner who only wants you? A partner who only... only loves you? Isn't that what love means? That's what I thought. And that's how I got hurt.
So I went out and played the slut. Let myself be fucking used by half the guys at Babylon. Bright move, Taylor. Very bright. That's the way to show Brian how much you want to be monogamous.
Except that I wasn't monogamous when I left Brian. Because of Dylan. Because... because of... Fuck!
My fucking head aches again.
"You okay, honey?" Em asks, touching my arm gently.
"Sure," I reply, glancing away. "What could be the matter?"
He looks at me funny, but he doesn't say a word. I park the Jeep in a lot and we walk around the Strip, which is the old warehouse district that's now crowded with trendy restaurants, art galleries, and shops. The Sidney Bloom Gallery, where Lindsay used to work part time before she had Charity, is here.
Emmett takes me to a funky clothing store on Smallman Street. The retail queens who work there greet him like an old friend, which he is, I guess. Everyone knows Emmett -- or else they know Fetch Dixon.
"I haven't been seeing you on Jerk-at-Work lately," one of the queens says to Emmett. "Is Fetch retired?"
"Oh, I've been cutting way back, hon," Em explains. "I'm thinking of getting into a new line of work. There's only so much whacking the wiener that you can do on the internet before it gets boring."
Emmett doesn't mention that he and Ted are barely speaking these days. I think that has more to do with Em's plans for a career change than anything else.
"What else were you thinking of doing, Em?" I ask as we leave the store. He knows so much about fashion I think that he could open his own clothing store, but that takes money and Em doesn't have any.
Well," he says. "I've been talking to Vic and he suggested that the two of us start a catering business. Vic's bored and feeling a lot better these days, so he's looking for something to keep himself occupied and make a little cash. Vic knows everything about food, from soup to nuts, and I know everything about throwing a party, from carrying trays to parking cars, so we thought we'd combine our resources!"
I'm impressed. "That's a great idea, Em. It really is."
"Why thank you, sweetie!" he grins. "Let me know the minute you want to plan an exclusive event. And let your mother know, too. The country club set is always having fancy parties."
I shake my head. "My mom is pretty busy with her real estate clients, so I doubt she'll be having any extravagant parties any time soon. But she has some friends who might. Do you have a card or a flyer for me to give her? She can pass it on to them."
"That's a good idea!" Emmett exclaims. "We need publicity for our new venture. I better talk to Vic about that. We'll need a name for the business, too. Something cute and snappy, but not too camp. We've got to go to that fabulous little stationery store -- you know the one I mean? -- and see what they have. I'll need cards and menus printed up. And posters! Thanks for suggesting it, honey."
"Sure," I say. "My pleasure, Em."
We walk up the street towards the center of town and Emmett is now talking a mile a minute about this catering business. Why do I get the feeling that up until five minutes ago it was just a dim idea in his brain -- but now it's his life's work?
Ahead of us is an old medical office building. And coming out of it I see Brian's mother. I think it's her. She's with a younger woman with brown hair. Both of them have sour expressions on their faces. Emmett and I get closer. Now I'm definitely sure it's Mrs. Kinney.
I only met her once and that was under less than positive circumstances. She came to the loft when Brian and I were fucking. She brought a cake to thank Brian for taking her to church. Then, like an idiot, I walked out and outed Brian to his own mother. I swear I didn't mean to! But it happened and she freaked out. That's when she told Brian that he was going to Hell. Nice lady. Brian pretended it didn't matter to him, but I know it did. He got very quiet and was up late that night, drinking straight from a bottle of Jack Daniels while he sat on the sofa and stared into space.
I felt so fucking bad about that! I wanted to go over to Mrs. Kinney's house and talk to her. Explain things to her. Explain about how Brian and I were in a relationship. That he was a great person and that I really loved him. I lay in bed for a lot of nights after that thinking about what I would say to her. How I would explain it all to her. How I would defend Brian. I wanted to do it so fucking badly, but I never did, of course. Brian would have killed me.
Emmett and I reach the building while Mrs. Kinney and the younger woman are still standing there, arguing about something. This must be Brian's sister, Claire the Bitch. She looks like someone called Claire the Bitch. Her face is all screwed up like she's smelling something bad. And then there's Brian's mother.
Up close, Mrs. Kinney looks a lot older than I remember. Old and sad. Brian says she's a drunk, so maybe that's why she looks so much older. But even now you can see that she must have been beautiful. Lindsay told me a long time ago that both of Brian's parents were attractive when they were younger. She remembers that Jack was a real ladies' man, handsome and charming and funny. At least he was when he wasn't drunk. Or maybe it was only to other people that he was so charming. Maybe he only showed his ugly, hateful side to his own family. Especially to his only son.
But I'm an artist and an artist is supposed to look at more than just the surface. You look for the bones under the skin. The basic structure of the form. You try to see the whole picture. The whole story. And I see a once beautiful woman who's now bitter and lonely and very, very sad. A woman who probably loved her son very much a long time ago. But a woman who's grown so rigid and judgmental that she can't see the reality of her own child. I remember when Brian gave his big dinner at Papagano's almost a year ago. He invited his mother and had an expensive pearl necklace to give to her. But she never showed up. I remember how hurt he was by that. And how he didn't want anyone to know how hurt he was. But I knew. I was onto him. I've always been onto Brian.
That was his mother's loss. Because she wasn't able to see his beauty. His kindness. Can't allow herself to see what Brian's done for so many other people. All the people he's helped and loved. Or what he's done for me. Yes, for me. Or how much he's loved me.
My eyes fill with tears that I don't want anyone to see. I stop on the sidewalk and turn away from Emmett. Away from Mrs. Kinney and her daughter, who are now walking down the street, still arguing. Away from everyone.
What the fuck have I done? What have I become? Is that my future? To be like Brian's mother? Unable to admit that I love someone because he doesn't live up to my expectations of how he should be? Of how he should behave? All those fucking conditions that you place on love. That's what's got me in a bind. Not Brian, but myself. My own expectations and conditions. That's what has me pinned into this dark corner where I can't get out. Just like Joan Kinney.
But Brian has never placed conditions on his love. Never. When he gives his heart he does it without putting limitations on his emotions. Fuck his bullshit philosophy! So Brian doesn't believe in love, only fucking? That's never been true! And it's still not true.
No one knows that better than I do.
So how the fuck could I let myself forget it?
"Emmett," I ask him. "Do you mind if I take you home right now?"
Em tilts his head at me. "Not at all, sweetie. Is there something you have to do?"
"Maybe, Em," I reply. "Something I have to think about. Something very important."
"How do you feel about that, Bobbie Jean?" Sylvia asks.
That's it. Now the fucking woman will go on for twenty minutes.
I hate Group. Hate it. Talking to a bunch of strangers about my 'feelings' is my idea of torture. I'd rather rim Melanie Marcus' twat in Hell than sit in Group Therapy for five seconds. But here I am.
"I feel sad," sighs Bobbie Jean, her round face full of fake concern. "I think Don's wife is wrong to file for divorce when he's still in rehab. It's mean and it isn't fair to Don."
"I don't give a damn," Don mumbles. "The old bitch."
"Come on, Donny!" says Gloria, patting her blonde hair. She's always fucking around with her hair. "You know you're feeling angry and we know you're feeling angry. You're allowed to feel angry!
"I'm not angry," Don shrugs. "I don't care anymore what the hell she does."
"How do you feel about what Bobbie Jean said and what Don answered, Brian?" Sylvia asks me.
Jesus! Why does she have to ask me for my fucking opinion? I'm just sitting here, minding my own business, waiting for this session to be over. I toy with the little heart that hangs around my neck. I should take it off, but... I can't. Not yet.
"If he doesn't care, than why should I?" I shrug, crossing my arms over my chest. This is fucking pointless. "It's his wife."
"Why do you feel that Don doesn't care, Brian?" Sylvia prods.
Unbelievable. "Maybe because he said that he didn't care!" I snap. "Isn't anyone listening?"
"I feel that Donny said he didn't care, but that doesn't mean he REALLY doesn't care," Gloria insists. "Because I feel that he cares. I feel that he's hurt. He just doesn't want to admit how much he's hurt."
"Jesus Christ," I breathe. "Relationships are bullshit! They end and no one gives a fuck! It happens and it's not a tragedy. You just let it go. You go on with your lousy, miserable life and he... I mean, she goes on with her life. That's reality. And there's nothing you can do about it."
"I feel that you're blocking your feelings, Brian," says Bobbie Jean. That is such crap! You're supposed to begin everything with 'I feel.' Feel, feel, feel. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit! I don't feel much of anything right now. "I feel that you're feeling Don's hurt, but that you don't want to say so because you've been hurt, too."
"Just fuck off," I tell the woman.
"Brian," Sylvia says sharply. "You know the rules of Group. Please apologize to Bobbie Jean."
But I don't say anything. I don't apologize because I don't FEEL like apologizing. I'm not sorry I told the bitch to fuck off and I won't lie to these people.
"Brian!" says Sylvia, her voice rising.
"You fuck off, too, Sylvia," I say, standing up. "I've had enough of this shit!"
"Sit down, Brian," Sylvia orders. "Group isn't over yet."
I'm about to get into it with her when Lucie, one of the other counselors, flies into the room, her eyes bugging out. She leans over and whispers frantically into Sylvia's ear. Then they both turn and stare at me, their mouths open.
That fucking scares me. "What?" Something's wrong, I know it. Something's happened. Something bad. "What is it? Tell me, goddamn it! Did something happen to Justin?" I demand.
Sylvia stands up. "No, Brian. Nothing's happened to anyone. You have a visitor. In reception."
"Who is it?" I ask, suspiciously. It can't be Mikey, who hasn't contacted me since his last aborted visit, and if it was Justin, then Sylvia would simply say so.
"He's waiting for you!" Lucie squawks. "By the front desk!"
"I'm going," I say. I walk out of the room. I'm glad to leave. No more Group for me, I swear. I'm leaving this place as soon as Gorowitz clears me, but I refuse to go to Group again. It's a fucking waste of time.
I see a bunch of people standing in Reception. There's talking and laughing, which is strange. It's usually pretty quiet at Reception. Then I see what all the fucking fuss is about. Who all the fuss is about. I'm so stunned I just stand there like an idiot, blinking.
What I should be doing is running away. Fast.
"Bri!" he screams out. "The man of the hour! Happy birthday, Buddy!"
All the people -- counselors, nurses, patients -- stand back and gape at me. But I don't move. So Jimmy comes to me. He bounds across the worn tile and grabs me in a huge bear hug. "Bri! Are you glad to see me?"
"What the fuck are you doing here?" is all I can say, pulling his arms from around me. "How did you find this place?"
"Come on, Bri!" he smirks. "I'm Jimmy! I can find out anything if I really want to!" Then he turns to the assembled throng. "Isn't this guy adorable? He's so glad to see me he's speechless!"
"I'm not speechless, Jimmy," I say. Sylvia, Lucie, and all the members of my Group appear. It seems that practically the entire population of Springhurst, including Dr. Mason, is now in Reception to get a look at Jimmy Hardy, two-time Academy Award Winner and 'America's Boy Next Door.'
And Jimmy is loving it. He loves nothing more than adulation. Basking in the glow he gets from people recognizing him. Loving him. Fawning the fuck all over him. "Mr. Hardy! Can I have your autograph?" gasps one woman. She's about to hyperventilate.
"Maybe later, my dear," Jimmy says smoothly. He's hanging on me and won't let go, no matter how much I try to untangle myself. "I'm here to see my good buddy, Bri. We have a lot to talk about, don't we, Big Guy?"
"No," I say bluntly.
"What a kidder!" Jimmy squawks. "I'll catch you people later, okay? Where can we have a little privacy, Bri?"
But I just stand there. I'll be fucked if I'm taking Jimmy back to my room.
"Brian's room is down there!" says Gloria, pointing helpfully. Thanks, bitch! "Corridor A. Number 3."
"Thank you, darling," says Jimmy, leering at Gloria until she collapses in a fit of giggles. "Come on, Bri. We need to talk. Now!"
It's useless to argue with him in front of all of Springhurst, so I lead him away. Down Corridor A. This is bad. But what the fuck can I do right now? Jimmy is Jimmy. With Jimmy it's never good. So why am I bringing him into my room and shutting the door behind us?
Back at the loft there's a message on the answering machine. It's from Dorian.
I've talked to him a couple of times about my music video. When we were in L.A. for the Oscars Brian asked Dorian to advise me and even though he's a busy guy, he's been calling me periodically. Only because Brian asked him to, of course. But he's been really helpful. Telling me what kind of equipment I'll need. How to line up shots. About lighting. That sort of thing.
At first I was going to cancel the video altogether. But I'd already asked some people from the Film Program to be part of my crew and they'd turned down some other people who asked them to be on their crews, so I felt obligated to go through with the shoot. I know that most of my crew are only doing it because I told them that Brian was starring and they wanted to work with a real movie star. Now I have to tell them that Brian isn't going to be in my video.
And I don't know who the fuck is going to take his place.
"Justin," Dorian's clipped British accent comes out of the machine. "I'm in New York doing some pre-production for 'Red River,' so I thought I'd stop and see Brian before I return to the West Coast. I was thinking that I might meet you in Pittsburgh and drive up with you and your crew on Thursday the 17th. I know next weekend is when you're planning to shoot, so I'd love to observe and perhaps give you a few pointers -- if that's allowed. It should be quite interesting. That is, if you don't mind? This is your project, after all. Please call me back. I'm at the Paramount." Dorian recites the phone number and then signs off.
I'm sorry I ever decided to make this video. It's snowballing out of my fucking control and at this point it's to late to cancel it. I can't leave my crew in the lurch and Dorian is coming. I'm sure it's all Brian's doing so that my video will be good, but it's too much.
I sit down on the sofa and try to think. About Brian. About the video. About Dylan. About my fucked-up life. But mainly about Brian.
Seeing Mrs. Kinney and Brian's sister on the street really threw me. It reminds me of all the shit Brian's been through in his life and all the baggage he's had to get rid of in order to allow himself to feel anything. About all the walls he spent years building up just to protect himself. And how he's trying to open himself up.
And how I walked out on Brian after I promised Dr. Gorowitz that I'd be there for him. After Dr. Gorowitz told me he thought I was too young to be in this relationship and I said that he was wrong. That I could handle it, even though I knew it would be hard.
Even after Brian told me that he loved me. Showed me that he loved me in a million ways.
But I fucked it up.
I put my hand on my forehead. My head is aching again. Emmett says I should go to my neurologist and get myself checked out, but I'm fucking sick of doctors. Sick of everyone harping about me seeing a therapist. Just sick of people telling me what I should do. Sick of myself and my stupid fucking choices. Wrong choices. Sick of 'pain management' in the backroom. I'm getting to be exactly like Brian used to be. Blocking out emotions because I can't handle them. Because I'm afraid of them. Afraid of what I want. Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of... everything.
Afraid to take my chance with Brian. Afraid of how hard it is. Afraid of how hard it might be in the future.
But the future without Brian... that looks worse. That looks empty. I think about how my life has been since I left Brian. Empty. I wanted to get Brian out of my head. Out of my heart. But he's still there. He'll always be there. All the time. I can't get rid of him, but I don't have him, either.
But it's not too late. It's Brian's birthday. That gives me an excuse to call. To see if he still feels the same way about me. If he still wants me. It isn't too late for us! I know it's not!
I pick up the phone.
"Jimmy," I say carefully. "I appreciate your offer, but...." I stop. Jimmy is grinning at me. That fucking Jimmy Hardy Grin. "No, actually, I don't appreciate it. Frankly, Jimmy, you're fucking crazy."
"I'm not crazy, Bri," he says. He's lying on my bed, making himself at home. But not for long. Because he's not staying here. "I'm here because I finally know exactly what I want. And that's you. To be my partner."
"Yeah, so you've said." I'm standing. The last thing I want to do is sit next to Jimmy on the bed. I've been standing the entire time Jimmy's been giving me his pitch. And that's what it is -- a pitch. Not a proposal or a seduction, but a pitch. A business deal. I shudder when I think that's the way he must have proposed to Tess. Because Jimmy is, at his core, cold. Soulless. And I think about the way I was before I met Justin. Empty at the center. Just like Jimmy.
But I've changed. Really, truly changed. Which is why I could never be Jimmy's partner. Never go for this bullshit deal. A long time ago I might have done it, might even have welcomed it. But not now. Never.
"The problem is, Jimmy, that I don't want to be your partner," I tell him. "I don't want to live with you. I don't love you. I don't even particularly like you at this point. Yes, we've fucked. That's in the past. A lot of shit has happened since then. A lot has happened to me. I need to figure out what I want to do with my life and my future. But I know that my future is not with you."
"But it could be, Bri." Jimmy stands up and comes over to hug me, but I sidestep him. "I want you to think about this. This is going to be big! WE are going to big! Look at what we've done together already. Like 'The Olympian'! I've got plans, Buddy. So many plans."
"Ron made 'The Olympian," I remind Jimmy. "Not you. Not me. Ron. I tried to be Ron's partner, but it didn't work." I swallow. "And I loved Ron. I tried with Justin, but that didn't work, either. And... and I loved him even more than I loved Ron. A lot more. I don't want to be your partner, Jimmy. Or anyone else's partner. I can't do it. I'm finished with that. All of it."
"But you could learn to love me, Bri," says Jimmy. He's still pitching. "Your career will be like mine -- golden! I can do no wrong! I know this is right. Trust me."
But I move away. Jimmy's pressing against me and he's getting hard. And I'm hard, too. I'm fucking horny. I haven't had sex with anyone since Justin left me in L.A. and I'm not about to break my carefully guarded celibacy with Jimmy, no matter how much my dick wants it. "Give up, Jimmy. I'm not buying and neither will anyone else. You'd be committing career suicide."
But Jimmy just grins at me. "I'm checked in at that little inn in town. Let's go out to dinner and celebrate your birthday. Then you can come back to my room and we can talk about this some more. After you've had a little food and some wine and a chance to kick back with me, you might see things differently. What do you say, Bri?"
I snort. "I can't have any wine, Jimmy! I'm in fucking rehab here! And I'm not staying with you at the inn. I'm eating in the dining room, as usual. If you want to join me -- and the rest of Springhurst -- then be my guest."
Jimmy sits back down on the bed. "Sure, Bri. I'd love to eat in the dining room. Whatever you say."
I reach over and check my cellphone. I'm expecting a call from Dorian. But there's only a brief message from Lindsay, wishing me a happy birthday. Nothing from Dorian. Or from... anyone else. Fucking useless. I put the thing in the drawer. "I'm going to get a shower. Then we'll go to dinner. Then you'll go back to your room at the inn, and tomorrow you'll go home. Alone. Okay, Jimmy?"
But he only smiles that Jimmy Hardy Smile.
I hear Brian's cellphone purr. Once. Twice. But it goes to voicemail. It always goes to fucking voicemail! I don't leave a message. So I dial Brian's room phone. If he's there, he'll have to pick up. I hope.
While it rings I finger the slave bracelet that Brian bought for me in London. I close my eyes and remember that day so clearly. The sun and the park. The vendors on the sidewalk. I was so happy that day. We both were. It rings again. I need to hear Brian's voice. I need to talk to him. To tell him that I'm sorry. Ask him if he's sorry, too.
"Hello!" says a strangely familiar voice. "If you want to talk to the birthday boy, he's in the shower. Hello? Talk to me!"
It's Jimmy. Jimmy's voice, no doubt about it. He's there. At Springhurst. With Brian.
"Going once, going twice!" Jimmy chirps. "If this is a wrong number, then hang up. But if you want to talk to Bri, you can give me the message. I'll tell him when he gets out of the bathroom."
I hang up the phone.
I'm too late. Too fucking late. The story of my pathetic life. Brian's out of reach. Forever. He's moved on. With Jimmy Hardy. Fucking Jimmy!
But I got what I wanted. Finally. Plenty of time to myself. Plenty of freedom.
Now I only have to learn how to live my life without him.
"I used to think my life
Was often empty,
A lonely space to fill.
You hurt me more
Than I ever would have imagined,
You made my world stand still.
And in that stillness
There was a freedom
I never felt before.
I would not let myself believe that you might stray,
and I would stand by you no matter what they'd say,
I thought I'd be with you until my dying day.
Until my dying day,
Until my dying day,
Until my dying day,
Continue on to "The Video".
©Gaedhal, August 2005.
Posted August 5, 2005.