This is Part 2 of Chapter 119 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "I Shall Be Released -- Part 1", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney.
Summary: Justin has some hard thinking to do. Los Angeles, December 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.
"They say everything can be replaced,
Yet every distance is not near.
So I remember every face
Of every man who put me here...
They say every man needs protection,
They say every man must fall.
Yet I swear I see my reflection
Some place so high above this wall.
I see my light come shining
From the West unto the East.
Any day now, any day now,
I shall be released...."
from "I Shall Be Released," by Bob Dylan.
"Jesus Christ," Brian says, staring down at the gun in his lap. And at the two bullets in the chamber. His hands are trembling.
"Get rid of it," I whisper. I feel hot and cold at the same time. Like I'm standing outside myself, watching everything unfold. Like I'm in one of Brian's movies. Or one of Ron's. A fucking horror movie.
"What?" he breathes. "Where?"
I reach across him and open the Jeep's glovebox. "Put the fucking thing in there for now. I don't want it in the apartment. We'll figure out what to do with it later." But he just sits. Shaking. "Brian? Do you hear me?"
"Yes," he mumbles.
"Then do it!" I say. I'm so fucking angry. At him. At myself. And I feel so fucking stupid. "Now!"
Brian shoves the black revolver and the extra bullets he takes from the pocket of his jacket into the glovebox and slams it shut. He pulls the keys out of the ignition and locks it. And still he sits there, just shaking.
"Brian! Give me the keys," I say, quietly, reaching out my hand. He holds them up limply and I snatch the Jeep keys away. "Come on." I drag Brian out of the Jeep, lock it, and then march him upstairs to the apartment. The whole time we are walking I'm watching out for the Kinney Patrol or any other neighbors who might be lurking around with cameras or direct lines to the Brian Kinney websites. I told Brian that we should get the fuck out of this complex! That's all we fucking need now! For this fiasco to be broadcast on the internet! I wipe at my eyes with one hand and guide Brian along with the other.
Once inside the apartment, I take Brian through the bedroom and into the bathroom. It's so small there's hardly room for two people to move around, but I manage to turn on the shower and then I strip off Brian's clothes, tossing his jeans and his tee shirt out the door into a pile on the floor. I test the water. "Get in," I say, pushing a bar of sandalwood soap at him. He stumbles into the shower and I go out and fold down Deb's quilt and the sheet on the bed. I rub my hand across the quilt. I touch Brian's name and my own name where they are embroidered on the corners of this quilt. It's stupid. It's all so fucking laughable. That's the true reality.
Brian doesn't spend much time in the shower. Just enough time to wash off the stink. Brian is very big on smelling things. Smelling me, for instance. He loves to bury his face in my hair, in my skin, in my dick, inhaling me. At least, he used to love to do it. Well, I can smell things, too. And I don't have to like them.
He comes out, wet and forlorn and beautiful, clutching his towel. "Will you dry my back?"
"Dry it yourself," I say, turning away. I grab an extra pillow off the bed and walk out of the room.
When I first knew Brian I spent a lot of time on his couch. Or so it seemed to me. Of course, I was in the big bed under the blue lights a lot more often, but the nights I tossed and turned on that white, Italian, totally uncomfortable couch stick in my brain much more. Because of how miserable I was there. Either I'd been banished there because Brian was pissed at me, or he 'needed his sleep,' or he was just keeping me in my place. Letting me know that I wasn't his lover or his partner or even his friend. Letting me know that I was nothing to him. Reminding me of that fact -- just in case I'd forgotten.
This is the first night I've ever slept all night on this couch. It's big and squashy and usually feels great. Yes, it feels great when Brian and I are fucking on it. When he's sprawled on it and I'm bouncing on his cock. Or when he's leaning me over the back of it, kneeling on the cushions and pushing into me from behind. Or when we are lying on it, with a DVD playing, sucking each other off as we watch.
I have a rotten night's sleep on this couch. I keep dreaming of Ron, hovering over me like a big bird of prey in some dark room, his eyes burning into me. Of someone laughing. Laughing at me. At Brian and me. At our relationship. It's one of those dreams where you're running, but you have no place to escape. Everywhere you go is nothing but mirrors, repeating your image over and over and over, like a demented funhouse. Brian and I watched a movie like that once. 'The Lady from Shanghai.' Everywhere the woman turned it was nothing but reflections of herself and she couldn't get away. She could never get away.
When I wake up it's daylight and I feel like a pretzel, with my legs all curled up under me and my arm jammed against the back of the couch. Someone has put something over me during the night. It's Deb's quilt. Fucking Brian. I roll over and put my arm out, touching something next to the couch. It's Brian, sleeping on the floor. He's got his face buried in the pillow and he's making that wheezing/sniffling sound through his nose.
I climb off the couch, doing my best to avoid stepping on him without looking down at him. Without feeling sorry for him. I go into the bathroom to piss. I'm just wearing my briefs, so I get my robe out of the closet and put it on. It's almost 7:00 a.m. Today is the day the Golden Globe nominations are announced. Brian says all that awards shit makes him nervous, so we had planned to go to the boat and then stay for the weekend to dodge all the hoopla.
"Don't you want to know if you get nominated, Brian?" I asked him the other day.
"If I do, believe me, we'll hear it from Jimmy," he answered. Which was why he wanted to leave for the boat early.
After the tabloid photos were taken at the marina, Brian had 'La Diva' moved. He's pretty sure that Larry the Hippy let the freelancer who took the pictures use his boat to take those shots. Yeah, that would explain how he could afford to give away weed to everyone in sight when he didn't have a job! The new dock is still in the Marina del Rey harbor, but it's in a lot more secure area. And it's docked next to the boat owned by the guy who worked on 'La Diva' after Brian bought it, painting it and overhauling the engines. Joe is an ex-Navy man who Brian jokingly refers to as 'Popeye.' He has big arms and tattoos all over them -- real sailor tattoos of anchors and hula girls and dolphins. I've only met him once, but he reminded me a little of Earl up at Put-in-Bay. A no bullshit type of guy. After the tabloid disaster in London, Brian called Joe and had him secure 'La Diva' and move it. Joe is retired and on his own boat every day, so he's looking after Brian's now, too. This was supposed to be our first weekend on the boat since the photos of us on it were published, but now I don't know what the fuck we are going to do.
I make some coffee and a bagel for myself. Brian finally begins to stir. I can hear him turning over and groaning. I hear him hit his hand against the couch as he tries to get up.
"Happy now that you fucked up your back on the floor?" I say, pouring him a cup of coffee that's practically half sugar.
"I came out here last night, but you wouldn't get off the sofa and go to bed," he stands up slowly, shakily. "So I put the quilt over you. It was chilly in here last night."
"I was just fine," I lie. "And the couch is perfectly comfortable. Better than the fucking floor." And better than in the bedroom with you, I think, my heart turning over.
He takes the cup shakily. "My head. Jesus. I feel like a mule kicked me."
"Not exactly," I say. "But there's an idea." And I go in and take a long, hot, miserable shower. By myself. Then I get dressed.
When I come out Brian is sitting at the tiny kitchen table, staring at an uneaten slice of whole wheat toast. "Justin, I think we need to talk."
"Swell," I reply. "Now YOU want to talk, Brian? Well, I don't really feel like talking right now. If you're going to take a shower, do it and then get yourself dressed. Because we're still going to the boat. I don't plan on sitting in this depressing apartment for the whole fucking weekend."
"Aren't we even going to talk?"
I pull the cooler out of the cupboard and a bag of ice from the freezer. Then I turn around and look straight at Brian. "About what?"
"About... what happened. Last night."
"Brian, I know what happened last night. You didn't listen to me. You ignored my warnings and went over to Ron's. He drugged you, he tried to kill you, and then he fucked you. What more do I need to know?" I say, as Brian winces. "Unless you have a videotape of the whole thing that you'd like me to watch!"
Brian really doesn't have an answer to that. He slinks into the bedroom while I put some food in the cooler. Then I put my favorite blue Speedo, some tee shirts and shorts, and my gray sweatpants into my duffle bag and I'm ready to go. Brian comes out shortly, wearing a clean pair of jeans and a blue tee shirt, his gym bag in hand. You don't need much luggage for the boat. Obviously, as our little photo spread in 'Volkstern' made so clear. Brian picks the cooler up from the kitchen table and goes to the door, waiting, looking very cowed.
"I'm driving, so we'll take the Cruiser," I say.
Brian blinks. "But we usually take the Jeep down to the boat."
"We're taking the Cruiser," I insist. "Because I don't have any intention of driving around Los Angeles with your fucking boyfriend's gun in the glovebox! If you want to take the Jeep, then fine. I'll meet you at the marina."
"No. Whatever you say, Justin," he says. His voice sounds flat. And so we head out.
Brian steers 'La Diva' out into the ocean. It was a beautiful morning, but now it's almost noon, and beginning to get cloudy. I can feel a cool wind coming in. It is December, after all. Less than a week before Christmas. Even Los Angeles has some kind of winter.
Brian sits up on the bridge of the boat, driving, while I sit on the bow, gripping the railing and staring out at the water. The cold spray is whipping up in my face. I'm only wearing my Speedo and a PIFA sweatshirt. I pull the sweatshirt around me tighter.
We are out in the Pacific, but still in sight of land, when Brian cuts the engines. I see him climb down and throw the anchor over. It won't touch the bottom, but it will keep us from drifting too far. I hear him rummaging in the cooler, probably looking for something to drink.
"Any beer?" he calls out.
"I only brought water and juice," I answer coldly. "If you want beer on the boat you'll have to bring it yourself."
It's quiet for a long time. The boat dips and the water washes up around it. The seagulls are dropping down around the boat, getting a good look. I finally get thirsty and climb down through the hatch and into the cabin, walking out through the galley. And that's when I see him.
Brian is lying on the air mattress, shirtless, his jeans undone. He's holding a water bottle in his left hand and stroking his erect cock with his right. That's what it's about, really. What it always comes down to. Brian and his cock. That's the real love story in his life. That's the real relationship. Anything else is secondary. Anyone else is just something to fuck.
Suddenly I'm angry. Fucking angry! I mean, even more than I was before. Because of what Brian is throwing away. What he can't stop himself from fucking up -- every time. Brian is out of control. I mean, he's been out of control before, but this is conscious. He knows better now. Or I thought he knew better. I thought he saw what it's supposed to be like. I thought he believed that we are supposed to be together! Yet he's still fighting it in his mind. He still can't face it. Like he doesn't want to face it. He'd rather just look away. Go on with whatever happens to him. To us. Like our relationship doesn't matter! That things will work out -- somehow. But you have to fucking MAKE them work, Brian! I want to scream at him! Relationships don't just happen. They have to be built. Invested in. Worked on. But he doesn't seem willing to make the effort. And I can't fucking do it all myself.
Brian and Ron. For the last year of my fucking life it has always come down to those two. It's been that way with Brian for longer than that, obviously, but I didn't know it. I wasn't aware of Ron or of Brian's past. I was blissfully ignorant, you might say. I wish I was still ignorant. Still innocent.
In a way I feel like I understand Ron. In a sick way. Because I'm sick in that same way. Sick over Brian. I have been since that first night on Liberty Avenue when I looked at him and knew that this was the guy who would take my virginity. I was hooked. Addicted. Totally fucked up over this man. So I understand Ron's obsession. His hunger. I understand it. And I hate it. I hate Ron. Because I know what he did to screw around with Brian's head when he was a kid. When he was Jack. How Ron used that boy when he should have helped him. How Ron wanted that beautiful, damaged boy, and how he kept Brian for himself, for his own purposes, instead of really helping him some other way. Some way that didn't reinforce to Brian that he was only good for one thing -- a fuck. That fucking was the only way to deal with anything. That fucking would solve any problem -- money, pain, emotion, fear. Just fuck it all away! Maybe Ron wasn't the only one who taught Brian that lesson, but he certainly didn't do anything to make Brian believe he was worth more than just that -- a good fuck.
I believe that Ron loves Brian -- as much as he's able to love anyone but himself. Because it's always about what Ron wants and what Ron needs. Selfish love. Love of something Ron invented in his mind. Jack. A fucking fantasy. A memory. Something that doesn't really exist at all. I've tried to show Brian that isn't the way it has to be. That I don't love him the way Ron does -- that it's completely different with US! That with us it's REAL. That it's about everything. Our whole lives! Not an invention. Not just some stupid fantasy.
But now I'm beginning to think that it isn't really any different. That I'm living a fantasy, too, just like Ron. Maybe I'm not as crazy as Ron, but I'm getting there. Believing that Brian can love me. Believing that he's really changed. That he CAN change. That's MY fantasy. And as I think about Brian I realize that I don't really know him at all. He's beyond an enigma now -- he's a blank to me. And that in his way he is crazy, too. That the damage that has been done to him over all those years is irreversible. And that there's nothing more I can do. Nothing more I should do but accept that. Either decide to learn to live with taking what I can get, or walk away. Just... walk away.
Brian's eyes meet mine as I stand in the doorway. I see the ocean stretched out around us, going on forever. The water looks dark, disturbed. 'La Diva' is beginning to rock a little more as the waves kick up. And Brian keeps stroking himself. Slowly, constantly.
I pull off my sweatshirt. I walk over and stand over Brian. He doesn't stop stroking. The heart charm that I gave him is cradled in the hollow of his throat like a puddle of blood. I reach over into the little cubby hole and pull out a condom and the little tube of Super Glide. The same tube we were using the night they took those photos. But there are no photographers now, out here on the dark water.
I pull down my blue Speedo, crouching over his cock. I suit him up and coat the condom with lube. I wipe my hands on my ass, on my crack. Then I lower myself onto his dick, slowly. He closes his eyes and gasps at the tightness. I flinch, but I push myself past the pain. And all of it isn't physical pain. No, the worst pain isn't physical at all.
I've never had another man inside me. Never. And I never wanted anyone else to be there. But what the fuck does it really matter? It's just a fuck, right? This is just a fuck. Isn't that the first lesson Brian taught me? When he was teaching me how to be the best homosexual I could be? That a fuck is a fuck. And that love is something else altogether. Oh, I always knew he believed in love. That was obvious from the way he looked at Gus in the hospital that first night. And from the way he was with Michael. With Lindsay sometimes. And even the way he was with me... sometimes. Yes, sometimes. That made me believe that Brian could be like that always. Always.
When he told me that he loved me in England... can I really believe that? Or was it a cynical way of making me go along with the Deal? Of shutting me up? A little piece of candy tossed my way? And Fiona's visions? What do they really mean... if anything? Just wishes. Seeing what you want to see. Believing what you want to believe. Another fucking fantasy.
Because this is just fucking. Meaningless, right? Isn't that true? I want to yell out. Yell at Brian. Yell at the world. I'm making those little grunting sounds, those squeaking sounds as I'm working his dick with my ass. He reaches up and puts his hand on my ass, on my tattoo. Touching it. Outlining the golden star with his finger. My star. Stroking the place where his name is embedded in my flesh. Meaningless gesture, right? Isn't it? He always likes to touch it, kiss it, lick it. His mark on me -- forever. And I put it there. Why did I do it? What was I thinking? But I couldn't do anything else. I can't do anything else, even now.
It seems like an eternity until he shoots, deep inside me, like a fucking rocket going off. Then he grabs my cock and pulls at it furiously until I come all over his chest. He drops his head back, mouth open, while I fall forward slightly. He holds his arms up to me, trying to coax me down into them. To hold him. To kiss him. But I just look down at him.
"You wanted to talk, Brian -- so talk," I say, standing and pulling my blue Speedo up over my hips. "We always do what you want to do, Brian. You wanted to fuck, so we fucked. But that's all it was -- a fuck. Isn't that true, Brian? All it ever will be. All it's ever really been, right? Right, Brian?"
"No! That's not all it is! And you know it!" he says, propping himself up on his elbows. "What the fuck are you talking about, Justin?"
I have to laugh at that. "Just because you fuck me a little more often than you do other people obviously doesn't make me some kind of privileged character in your life. I'm well aware of that. It doesn't give me any status in this so-called relationship. I certainly don't rate up there with Ron...."
"That's not fucking true, Justin!" he interrupts. "That's total bullshit!"
"Excuse me -- I'm talking now," I tell him. "I don't rate up there with Dorian or Sir Ken. I know you've fucked them, but you also listen to them. Pay a little attention to what they have to say. You even listen to Jimmy -- sometimes. My opinion doesn't even rate that high with you, does it, Brian? Because I'm just some little twink who wears his heart on his sleeve. You can do anything to me -- hurt me, humiliate me, leave me, fuck around on me -- and I'll always come crawling back, like a kicked dog. Isn't that it, Brian? Isn't that IT?" I blast out at him so hard that my whole body throbs.
"NO! It isn't!" he yells back. Then quieter. Much quieter. "It isn't."
"Then tell me what it is. What it's all been about? Because I don't think you can tell me," I say. "Our relationship. That is a fucking joke, Brian! Because it's ME having a relationship -- and you running away from one. Every once in a while you get trapped in a corner and then you make some kind of admission. 'I love you.' 'He's my boyfriend.' 'You're my partner.' Those words. But that's all they are, aren't they, Brian? Words. And you always say that words are bullshit. Meaningless. It's actions that matter. What you do and not what you say. Well, I've seen what you do, Brian. Yeah, I've seen what you do. Seen it until I'm sick to my stomach." And I can't stop the tears from running down my face. I promised myself that I wouldn't waste another fucking tear on this man, but I guess I can't control THAT either.
"So I'm supposed to sit around, waiting for Ron to fuck you again? Waiting for Ron to KILL you? Because he's going to kill you one day, Brian. If that gun sitting in the glovebox of the Jeep isn't enough to tell you that, then I don't know what kind of fucking wake-up call you need!"
"I know! It's fucked up, Justin!" he cries. "I know it is! But it won't be that way -- not anymore. I... I promise...."
"Promise?" I reply, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. "You know how much stock I put in your promises, Brian? You promised me you wouldn't be alone with Ron! You promised me that you wouldn't go over to his house! And you promised not to fuck anyone but me! You... you promised. I guess promises are bullshit. More fucking words."
"I'm sorry," he says, rubbing his forehead.
"Yeah, apologies -- those are bullshit, too! Isn't that what you believe? Isn't it, Brian?"
"No! I don't!" he says, grimacing. "Not anymore. You know that, Justin. And this isn't about Ron or the gun or any of that shit! It's about us. About our future!"
I have to gape at him. "OUR future? Our future of you ignoring me and treating me like what I want and what I need doesn't matter? That my feelings and my opinions are just a tiny disturbance in the Big, Important Universe that is ruled by Brian Fucking Kinney! That's what I have to look forward to? That's OUR future? Well, I'd rather have my head bashed in a hundred more times than put myself through THIS every fucking day of my life! And I'm not kidding, Brian! I've had enough. Are you listening to me? Do you even care?" I stand there, waiting.
He stands up, slowly, painfully. Like an old man. He picks up his tee shirt from the deck and wipes my come off his chest. "Is that the way you really feel, Justin? Is... is that the way you've always felt?"
"No, Brian," I answer. "That's not the way I've always felt. You'd know that if you paid even a tiny little bit of attention to how I'm feeling -- ever. If you even tried to think about anything but yourself. About anything but your fucking dick!"
"And... that's all you think I care about? Justin, do you?" he says. The look on his face is... it's... I can't look at him. I have to turn away now. I can't let myself care any more! No! I can't let myself get sucked in -- again. That's why I can't look at him.
I go into the cabin and take off my Speedo. It's getting too cold. I put on my sweatpants and a clean tee shirt and then I lie down on the bunk, covering my eyes with my hands. The wind is whipping up. I remember when we got caught in that storm up on Lake Erie and I shudder. I hear Brian pull up the anchor and then climb onto the bridge. He revs the engines and points the boat back to shore. Home port.
I'm beginning to think it's time to go home. For good.
Continue on to "I Shall Be Released -- Part 3".
©Gaedhal, September 2003.
Updated September 26, 2003.