This is Chapter 28 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Justin Taylor.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Help comes in many ways. Cardinal Lake. February 2003.
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 feel the bed move in the dark.
Then a coldness against my skin.
An empty place.
I roll over into the emptiness. Smelling him on the sheets and the pillow. Feeling the warmth and the imprint of him.
I sink back to sleep.
Justin is shaking me.
"Brian! There's no water!"
"Get back in bed!" I say. "It's fucking freezing!"
The old bed groans as Justin climbs in next to me. His skin is hot and cold at the same time. I rub his arms as he puts them around me.
"I got up to piss and there's no water," Justin whispers. "I tried the sink and the bathtub, too. Do you think the pipes are frozen?"
"No," I whisper back. "This is all well water out here. That means a pump. If there's no electricity, then there's no pump. I'll look in the basement when it gets light and see if there's a back-up generator, but I kind of doubt it."
"What are we going to do without water, Brian?" Justin says. "It's one thing not to have any lights -- but no water!" I feel him shudder.
"Have you looked out the window lately? We are surrounded by about four feet of water -- in solid form. We'll just haul some snow inside and melt it in the fireplace. And also bring some buckets upstairs to keep the toilet going. Or else we'll be squatting out in the snow under the pines!"
"Gross!" Justin says, wrinkling up his nose. But then he laughs. "Some vacation, huh, Brian?"
"We've had a couple that were a lot more luxurious," I admit, thinking of the Chatterton and our weekend in New York City. "But we have food, we have the fire, we have the bed, and we have each other, so it isn't all that bad, is it?"
"No," he replies, clinging to me. "Not that bad at all." Justin sighs. And then he says, "Brian? Do you ever think about what you want? I mean, in the future?"
"Yeah," I say. "I'd like to get back to civilization without any frostbite on my dick! That would be my first priority for the future." I know what Justin is getting at, but I have to make a fucking joke about it. Typical.
"Me, too," he says, grinning. But he's still serious. "I want to get my degree. Just to prove that I was able to do it, bashing or no bashing. And to show my father that I can accomplish something on my own."
"You've already accomplished plenty," I insist. "There's nothing that you need to prove to your old man. You only need to prove things to yourself, Justin. You don't need to answer to anyone else -- not even to me."
Justin's eyes are clouded. "But I want him to see that I'm not a... a fuck-up."
"You've never been a fuck-up in your life!" I say angrily. Thinking about Craig Taylor always makes my fucking blood boil. "If he makes you feel that way, then fuck HIM!"
"But he's still my dad," says Justin in a small voice. Sometimes Justin seems so strong, so much of a man, but then something changes inside of him and he seems so fucking vulnerable and young. It makes me want to punch out all the people who have hurt him. Unfortunately, I would be near the top of that list of people who have hurt him, so that plan isn't too feasible. "I still love him," Justin says, gazing at me.
That turns a knife in my heart. The way Justin can still love people who have damaged him. Maybe I should thank God for his ability to do that. Because I'm still right here, after all I've done to him.
"I know you do, Justin." What else can I say?
I loved my fucking old bastard of a father, too. Really loved him. Even when I hated him. This whole love/hate thing, it messes you up. Both of those emotions are so always tangled up together. Of course, I think about Ron, too, and how I was loving him at the same time I wanted to kill him. I'm sure he felt the same way about me.
But the funny thing is that I have no hate at all for Justin tangled up inside the love. There's not even an inkling of any kind of negative feeling. Sure, I've been pissed off at him. I've been so mad at him that I wanted to throw him out a window -- especially when he left my loft door unlocked and some fucker cleaned me out! But I've never hated him. Never. And I can't ever imagine hating him.
Maybe if he left me. Maybe if he betrayed me in some unforeseen way, then I could hate him. But even then I can't imagine the scenario where that could happen. Maybe every couple believes that. Believes that they could never grow to detest each other. Did my parents ever feel that way? Did they have even a moment when they were young and happy and in love and believed in a future together that wasn't totally fucked up? It's weird to think about it. It's creepy to think about it. I don't want to think that they might have been in love at one point and then allowed things to deteriorate between them. I don't want to believe that they did what they did to me -- and to Claire, too -- because they loved each other once but then they didn't anymore. And that maybe Claire and I were reminders of the failure of their love.
Failure. My biggest fucking fear. That kind of failure. Failure in a relationship that you really care about. Loving someone and them not loving you back. I think that's what drives you into hate. That's what drove Ron into hating me. Hating Justin. And I was a part of that failure because I couldn't love Ron the way he wanted me to. I couldn't love him enough. Because there was someone else I loved more.
I hang onto Justin so fucking tight that he squeaks slightly. But he squeezes me back. And that's the best feeling in the whole fucking world.
"I want to have a kid someday, Brian," he says suddenly. "Like you have Gus. And the new baby. Has Lindsay decided on her name yet?"
"I'm naming her," I brag.
Justin sits up slightly. "Really? Do you mean that?"
"Lindsay asked me to. Unless she changes her mind. Or unless Mel nixes it and decides to name the kid after another one of her grandfathers!"
Justin rolls his eyes. "Have you decided on a good name yet?"
"I'm still thinking about it." Actually, I haven't thought about it at all, but I better get busy. The kid is due in a month.
Justin lies back on the pillow. "I don't know if I want a girl or a boy. I guess it doesn't really matter. You take what you get."
"Do you have a dyke picked out to be the happy mother yet?" I laugh. "Or are you going to grow this kid in a test tube on Planet Queer?"
Justin pinches my arm gently. "Shut up! I'm serious about this! It's just that you're a father, Brian. And someday I want to be one, too. Not just because you're one, but I've wanted kids all my life. And besides, I don't want to think that the things straight people are allowed to do, or even expected to do, seem too fucking strange or impossible for people just because they're gay!"
"If you're just going to replicate straight life, then what's the fucking point of being a queer, Justin?" I ask him. "Really! For me queer life is about NOT having to conform to straight expectations. It's about living a life that doesn't have to follow the rules. It's about being an outlaw."
"The point of being a queer is that you want to be with men, not women. I don't see that it has anything to do with wanting kids or a family. I don't see how being gay means that you want to oppose all the expectations of society. But you're right. You're a true outlaw, Brian. Which is why you have two kids -- well, one and another on the way -- with a lesbian. What could be more of a confrontation with society than queers challenging breeders at breeding? What is more 'outlaw' than that? Or insisting that faggots have the same rights as straights. The right to get married, to have kids, to keep our jobs. The right NOT to get bashed in the head because you love another guy and want everyone to know it. What could be more threatening and non-conforming than that?"
"I don't know, Justin," I admit. But he's right. In one way keeping ourselves in a segregated little queer box on Liberty Avenue or whatever Gay Ghetto we want to hide in, is safe. It's a way to avoid dealing with the straight world. Or a way of shutting it out. Like the fucking Amish still pretending it's the 19th century! But I've lived on my own terms for so long and there's so much about the outlaw life and philosophy that I don't want to let go of. Maybe it's the difference in age between me and Justin. Or maybe it's all about class -- his WASP expectations and my Shanty Irish guilt and fear. Because he has a whole different attitude about shit like kids and marriage and the straight world. He believes that he's entitled to have everything straights do, while I'm still fighting the battle of the perpetual outsider. But he's right to point out that I'm a hypocrite, too. He's right. I preach about living the wild life, but I have a son and I'll soon have a daughter, too, if all goes well. How can I deny Justin the dream of having that, too?
But can the life that he wants to live really include me? And is it a life that I can live, full time? Dads and kids and house and yard and even a fucking dog? That's the real question. My fear is that I can't. I just can't.
"The two of us, we're alike, you and me," I hear the old man telling me at a noisy union hall bar. "We weren't meant settle down. I was never meant to be a family man." And it fucking scares me that I AM like my old man. That I AM Jack in a different form. And that I'll get more like him in the future. Because I don't want to be Jack Kinney. Or end up like Jack Kinney. That makes me shiver more than the cold of this unheated cottage in the middle of a snowstorm.
"Why don't you help me with the name?" I ask Justin. "You can make up a list of good ones. Nothing too common. Something that's meaningful. And nothing that sounds like a stripper, okay?"
"Okay!" he says. "I can do that! I can think of a million great names. And then we can narrow them down to the ones you really like. It has to be something that sounds good with 'Kinney.'"
"Remember that her last name is going to be Peterson-Marcus, just like Gus. Not Kinney."
"Oh," says Justin. "Right." He mumbles something.
"I said that SUCKS! You're Gus' father!"
"But Lindsay and Mel are his parents," I remind him. "Never forget that."
"You never should have given up your parental rights, Brian. But you already know how I feel about that."
"I do know. But you were the one who encouraged me to do it, Justin. In order to get the girls back together again."
"Right," he sighs. "Killing with kindness. I'm an idiot sometimes, Brian. I should have kept my big mouth shut."
"No, it was the right thing to do." I lean over and run my tongue down the edge of his jaw. "Just like this is the right thing to do at this moment. The only thing."
Then I run my tongue all the way down his body until I find his thick pink cock. When I have his cock in my mouth I don't have to think about anything else. And I don't think about anything else right now. Except how to make him moan and whimper and beg for mercy. Except how my dick fits in his ass like they were made for each other.
And who the fuck knows? Maybe they were.
Once it's light enough Justin and I spend the better part of the morning getting the fire going and bringing in buckets of snow to melt for water. We have bottled water for drinking, but we need to be able to flush the toilet, wash ourselves, and wash the dishes, too.
We find a couple of flashlights in the mud room and some candles in the kitchen drawer and a few more in the old chest in the living room. At least we won't be totally in the dark tonight if the power is still off. I want to reserve the batteries in the flashlights for emergencies, so I tell Justin to use the candles.
"But don't knock them over! That's all we need is to burn down our only shelter! Then we'd have to move into the boathouse down by the lake. And I doubt there's a fireplace in there. OR Rupert Graves!" I say. Justin loves the big boathouse fuck scene in 'Maurice.'
"I'll be careful, Brian," he reassures me. "I think the candles are romantic."
"Jesus!" I roll my eyes. "Romantic my dick!"
"That's what I mean," he grins. "I enjoy your dick most by candlelight."
"Get moving with your chores, Jethro!" I tell him, grinning back.
Justin gets busy hauling buckets of snow up the narrow stairs and dumping them into the bathtub, while I explore the basement, which is crowded with all kinds of dusty old junk. I shine the flashlight around. Broken furniture. A three-wheel bike that has to be 30 years old. Boxes of dishes. And the generator. But it looks like it hasn't been used in 30 years. It probably dates from before they got full electricity out here. But I have no idea how it works or what powers it.
There are some rusty cans next to the generator, either for gasoline or kerosene. They're empty. It's probably just as well. The last thing I want to do is blow up the whole place, and me and Justin along with it.
"You look really butch playing with that machinery, Brian," says Justin, standing on the basement stairs.
"Is this part of that mechanic fantasy you have about bringing the Jeep in to be fixed and having some greasy gearhead fuck you bent over a toolbox?"
"Sort of," Justin laughs. Then he grabs my ass. "But I'd rather have YOU fuck me bent over a toolbox any day!"
"I definitely have to start monitoring the kind of porn you're watching!"
He stands next to me and looks over the generator. "Do you think you can get it going?"
I shake my head. "No. I don't think so. Even if I had the right fuel I don't think I'd want to take the chance of cranking it up. It might be dangerous. Much more dangerous than sitting in the dark for a night or two. Did you try to call Earl again?"
Justin nods. "I left another message on his machine." Then he brightens up. "But I got through to my mom! She was really glad to hear from me! She was worried about us, Brian. But I told her everything was fine here and that we were just waiting to get plowed out. They got a lot of snow, too, but I don't think it was as bad in Pittsburgh as some other places."
I wipe my hands on an old rag and then nudge Justin up the stairs. "I'm starving. Let's see what we can do about making some lunch. After peanut butter sandwiches and milk for breakfast, I could use something a little warmer."
I put some more logs on the fire and try to make them as flat as possible. Then Justin pulls the racks out of the oven and sets them on top of the fire to make a grill. There's a cast-iron frying pan and a large iron pot in the kitchen cupboard that look like they could withstand being put onto the fire. Justin boils some bottled water to make coffee and I put some bacon into the frying pan. It's pretty awkward trying to cook things in the fireplace, but it's better than nothing!
"I think we can do the hamburgers this way for dinner," says Justin.
"Good! Eating raw burgers wouldn't be my first choice. The last thing we need while we're stuck in this place is to get fucking food poisoning!"
Justin takes the last slice of bacon out of the skillet and puts half of it on my plate. "That's it for the bacon, Brian. Tomorrow I'll have to open up a can of baked beans for breakfast!"
"The radio says that the storm is clearing up," I say. "Maybe by tomorrow we'll be ready to get out of here."
"Yeah," says Justin. But then he's quiet for while. Like he's thinking things over.
"I know you'll be anxious to get the hell out of this place and go home, right?" I say. "Right?"
Justin stands up suddenly. "I'm going outside!" He picks up his plate and coffee cup and heads the kitchen.
I reach out and try to grab his leg as he goes by, but he sidesteps me. So I get up and I follow him. "Outside? Are you fucking crazy? We may not have any electricity, but at least it's warm in here next to the fire! It's 2 degrees outside!"
"It's not that cold, Brian. Besides, I want to take a walk!" he says, putting his plate and cup in the sink.
"A walk? Justin, the snow will be up to your chin! There's no place to walk!"
"You were outside yesterday, Brian," he insists. "I want to play in the snow before we have to leave."
"I was out there trying to dig out the damn Jeep! I wasn't building a fucking snowman!"
But nothing I say does any good. I watch Justin bundle himself up and then trudge out to the screened-in porch and try to push open the door. There are drifts of snow piling up inside the porch that are almost as tall as he is. He finally gets the door open enough to squeeze himself out and then he swims through the whiteness, heading in the direction of the lake.
"I'm not going to come out and save you when you're buried up to your nose in snow! Remember that, you fucking little Twat!" I call after him.
The wind has stopped howling and the sun has even come out a little, but it's still not a great time for a walk in the winter woods. I watch Justin flail around in the deep snow for about 20 minutes. I can't tell if he's having fun or if he's in trouble. But there's something so innocent about him out there, proving that he can have fun in the snow. Something I guess I'm too fucking jaded to understand. So I put on about four layers of clothing and squeeze myself out the porch door, too.
He's managed to get about halfway down the hill to the lake. I follow the trail he's made until I catch up with up him. "You'd get there faster if you just laid on top of the snow and rolled down the hill!" I tell him.
"Okay!" says Justin -- and he flings himself down and starts to roll. He only gets about a foot before he comes to a dead stop, but he's already covered completely with snow.
"Are you crazy!" I cry. "Oh, hell! What the fuck?" So I throw myself down into the snow, too. I'm already wet and cold anyway, so I might as well join him.
Justin grabs at me and tries to push my face in the snow, but I push him first. His hair and eyelashes are coated with snowflakes and his hat has fallen off.
"You're going to be lucky if you don't get frostbite!" I breathe against his face, melting some of the ice. Then I lick the snow off his lips. He tastes like coffee and bacon. And like Justin.
"What would happen if we just stayed here and let the snow cover us, Brian?" he whispers. Justin gets the nuttiest ideas sometimes.
"They'd find us in the spring and they'd have to defrost our hard-ons before they could bury us, that's what," I say, pulling him to his feet. We're both saturated with snow and ice.
We follow the track back up to the cottage. The wind has started to whip up again and Justin is shaking like a leaf. The minute we get inside I strip off his wet clothes, towel-dry him, and wrap him up in one of Earl's old blankets. Then I do the same for myself. I also add some more logs to the fire.
"My winter walk wasn't very successful, was it, Brian?" We're both huddled on the sofa, wrapped in the same blankets. I'm just beginning to get the feeling back in my feet.
"It was fun, but let's just say that if you want to make snow angels, this probably isn't the best time to do it, Sunshine."
"I saw cardinals, Brian," he says. "Three of them. They flew right over my head into the trees."
"That's why they call it Cardinal Lake." And then I remember something. I recite:
"'We hear bird song
as we stand in snow.
It is unexpected,
A cardinal flies;
it is as if a clot of snow has burst
and the blood
sings and sings.'"
"What's that, Brian?" says Justin, smiling.
"Something I remembered from a long, long time ago. A poem I memorized once. Funny the crazy things that come into your head when you least expect them."
"Yeah," says Justin, burying himself against me. "Funny."
And I realize that I don't ever want to leave this place. I don't want to go back out into the crummy world where there are other people besides the two of us, and other things besides the fire and the warm blankets and the cardinals. Now I understand what Justin meant about letting the snow cover us up. It's about somehow stopping time. Living this particular moment forever. Because certain moments will never come again. Ever. And this is one of them.
When he finally leaves -- whenever that will be -- I want to remember how this feels. So that it can be the last thing I ever feel before I shut myself down from ever feeling anything else again.
"Brian!" Justin's face is pressed against my chest. "I hear something!"
I open my eyes in the upstairs bedroom. It's Monday morning and already bright out. The windows of the bedroom are completely frosted over, but light is coming through very brightly, meaning that the sun is up and it's strong.
Justin leans over and tries the little lamp next to the bed. "The power is still off, Brian."
"I better get up and get the fire started." I sit up, but it's so cold that I find myself sinking back down into the warmth of the bed, which is about the only warm spot in the entire cottage except right in front of the hearth.
But then I hear it, too. "What IS that?"
"It sounds like a truck," says Justin.
"Or a plow!" Now I really get up. "Get dressed quickly, Justin! Maybe someone is digging us out!"
And someone IS digging us out. We watch the snowplow make its way very slowly down the long driveway to the cottage. It stops just short of the Jeep and a figure all bundled up in a green parka and a fur hat like a Russian peasant jumps out.
"Anybody alive in there?" yells Earl.
"Nobody here but us faggots!" I yell back. "What the fuck took you so long?"
Earl pushes his way to the back door. "I was stuck myself! Out at my daughter's house in Middlefield. You guys got any coffee?"
"We don't have any power," I tell him. "But we DO have coffee. Instant."
"I'll take it!" Earl waves at the truck and another man gets out and makes his way to the door. "This is Lester. That's Lester's truck and plow, so you better give him some coffee, too!"
"I think we can swing that!" I turn to Justin. "We have two guests for breakfast, Jeeves. Put out the good china!"
Earl and Lester settle themselves in front of the fireplace to defrost while Justin pours them the coffee. "When did you lose the lights?" asks Earl.
"Some time Saturday night. I saw the generator in the basement, but there didn't seem any way I would get it going."
Earl snorts. "That old thing! I doubt it even works. Looks like you guys have things under control pretty well."
"We found the candles. And we cooked in the fireplace," says Justin, proudly. "And melted snow to flush the toilet. And we didn't burn the place down, either!"
"Good job, guys!" Earl laughs.
Justin serves Earl and Lester what we have left -- toast, canned baked beans, and leftover hamburger from last night. And they eat it right up, hot from the fireplace. I eat a piece of toast, but pass on the beans. Hey -- gay men should always pass on the beans!
"You really in the movies?" Lester asks me. It's the first thing he's said since he got to the cottage. Lester seems a man of few words.
"I told you he was!" says Earl. "In that fag movie! With Jimmy Hardy."
"Didn't see it," says Lester, helping himself to some more beans. "I seen 'The Terminator.' That was okay."
Earl snorts. "Lester doesn't get out much!"
"I'm pretty busy plowing," says Lester, like he does it year round and around the clock.
"You would like 'The Olympian,' Lester," says Justin, offering him more coffee. "It's full of hot man-on-man action!"
"Justin, behave!" I warn.
But Earl laughs his ass off! "That's one way of putting it, kid!"
"What's that mean? It's like an action flick?" Lester looks confused.
"Oh, there's lots of action in it," says Earl. "You should take Sadie. She'd love it."
"Sadie's the old woman," Lester explains. "These are good beans." Earl looks impressed. I guess for Lester this is a pretty deep conversation.
"As soon as you guys can get packed up, I want you to follow me back to my place," says Earl.
"We should probably be heading home, Earl," I say. I think about how I was due back at Springhurst this morning. And that Justin has to go back to class at PIFA.
"You guys need to get warm and cleaned up before you go home," says Earl, firmly. "You can take a shower at my place. Most everything is closed today anyway. All the schools and a lot of businesses are still digging out. Besides, I promised my wife I'd bring you two back with me. If it isn't a problem going home tomorrow?"
Justin takes me aside. "We can call Dr. Gorowitz and tell him what happened. We can go back tomorrow, can't we?"
"Sure," I shrug. "Why the fuck not?"
Earl and Lester clean up the toast, beans, and coffee, while Justin and I gather our stuff together. Just before we're ready to leave the lights go back on.
"It figures!" I wail. "Now the damn power returns!"
"Isn't that always the way?" Earl laughs.
"I didn't mind," says Justin. "I didn't mind at all. I liked the candles and the fireplace. And having to snuggle together to keep warm."
"Yeah," I admit. "It wasn't half bad."
"No," Justin repeats. "Not half bad at all." And he turns out the lights behind us.
Continue on to "Don't Look Back in Anger".
©Gaedhal, September 2004.
Posted September 26, 2004.