This is Page 2 of Part 2 of Chapter 110 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to Page 1 of "Shelter from the Storm -- Part 2",.
"Why don't you drink this?" I say, holding up a mug of tea. The minute we got back to the loft Brian stripped off his clothes and climbed into bed while I put on the kettle to boil some water.
"Not that herbal shit! Please, no, Justin!" Brian makes a face.
"I put plenty of sugar in it. Come on. A little mint and camomile tea. Just a little sip," I coax.
"Is this the same voice you use on Gus?" Brian says, taking his Wicked Willie mug in both hands.
"Yes, actually," I say. "The exact same voice. I use whatever works."
He touches his lips to the tea. "It's too hot."
"You want me to blow on it?" And I pretend to blow at the mug.
"You're going to give Wicked Willie a hard-on doing that."
"Brian, he's a cartoon dick! Wicked Willie already IS a hard-on!"
Brian snorts and sips the tea. He's been very quiet since he left Woody's. He's calmer now and he seemed to have a good time with the gang -- but something is definitely wrong. He didn't actually freak out in the bar, but he could have. It was like he was ready to -- but we left just in the nick of time.
I know that Brian doesn't like to talk about things, but sometimes it's necessary. Sometimes I have to push a little. Just like he used to push ME a little -- just a little -- to do things. Step by step, until I wasn't afraid anymore. And that's what I have to do, too.
"How did you feel tonight? I mean -- being out with the guys and everything?" I say.
Brian shrugs. "All right. It was good to see Michael. He looks happy with Ben."
"I think he is. Ben is just the kind of steady influence he needs. And he makes Michael feel secure."
Brian sighs. "Poor Mikey. Always looking for 'Dad' to take care of things."
"Maybe, Brian. But when you never had a dad to begin with...."
"I know. I'm just glad that he's with Ben and not with someone who will always be making him think that he isn't good enough, or smart enough."
"Like Dr. David?"
"Yeah," says Brian. "Like Dave Cameron. He just wanted a little substitute son to play house with. But the minute he got to Portland and had his real kid around all the time -- BOOM! He didn't need Michael as badly as he thought. And he let him go without even a backward glance."
I swallow and think about how once upon a time Brian let ME go without even a backward glance -- or so I thought. But things weren't at all the way they seemed. Especially after I started to get those calls at the loft in the middle of the night....
"Brian... tell me what you saw at Woody's. What was freaking you out? You can tell me." I feel Brian tense up. He hands me the empty mug and I set it down on the table next to the bed. "Brian?" I whisper.
"It...." he says. "Nothing. It wasn't anything." I feel him begin to turn over and shut me out, but I reach over and stop him.
"It was that Fritz guy, wasn't it?" I say. But Brian is silent. "Was he some bad trick that freaked you out a long time ago? I mean, he said he knew you from the baths." I try to get a picture in my head of where I've seen Fritz before myself, but it's hazy. And I keep seeing two guys... two guys in leather.
"Yes, I remembered him from a while ago. More than a year. But it wasn't him. It was...." And he stops again. "I can't."
And I take a deep breath. Because I think I know what it is. What it must be. "Is that Fritz always into leather, Brian? That hardcore look?"
"I guess so. He thinks it makes him a macho man. But like a lot of those steroid cases he's got a dick like a chipmunk." Now Brian takes a deep breath. "Guys like that think they are so tough. They have to show you just how tough they are. Prove that they aren't a couple of fucking fairies by... by...." He pauses. "People like that must hate themselves more than they even hate the fucking world. And they DO hate the world. They hate everything that gives you any fucking hope."
"Like what people, Brian?" I say, so carefully. "Like those two guys who beat you up in London?"
"Maybe," he says, tensely.
It's dark in the loft except for the little accent lights Brian had built in here and there. So the place is never completely dark. And the nightlight in the bathroom. And another small light in the kitchen. And the blue neons, of course, when we have them on. Brian is never totally in the dark. Because he's afraid of the dark, still, after all those years. And so am I.
"Is that what they were doing, Brian?" I whisper. "Showing you what fucking macho men they were?"
"I don't know," he says, just barely.
I put my arms around him and pull him against me. "Because you're right. Guys like that must hate themselves if that's what they have to do to feel like men. If they have to... to hurt someone else to prove that they are strong. To kill something in someone else to prove that they are alive. But it could have been anyone that they hurt, Brian. It could have been me. Or anyone else. It didn't happen because you deserved it, no matter what you think, Brian. It didn't."
"You don't know that, Justin," Brian says. "I went out... looking to get myself fucked up. Looking to... beat myself up. Because there's something wrong with me. Really, really wrong. Something that can never be fixed."
"That's not true!"
"It is, Justin. It is true," he says, so softly. "Sometimes I think that I'm looking to get killed, just so I don't have to think anymore. Or feel anymore. Just find a way to end the pain. But... but... when those two guys...." He stops again.
"Keef and Mac," I say. "The two guys who... attacked you in London." And I feel him flinch. "You said their names to Tim Reilly. I knew immediately that's who you were talking about, Brian. But you told the police that you never saw who hit you. That you didn't know them."
"They knew it was a lie. The cops knew. Dorian knew. Even the fucking homophobic doctor there knew. But I couldn't... I just... couldn't say it. I tried NOT to remember it."
"Funny but you're always trying NOT to remember things, Brian. And I'm always trying to do the opposite."
"Not funny at all, Justin. Fucking tragic. Because I can't forget anything. I have total recall of every horrific moment of my life. It's the good things, the happy things... those are the things I have difficulty remembering."
"No, you don't. You remember everything about when you're with Gus. Or with me. Even... the Prom. You remember THAT for both of us. You have to, since I don't remember it. And I don't WANT you to forget it, Brian, no matter what may have happened to me afterwards. That doesn't erase everything that went before. Our 'ridiculously romantic' moment. Just because I can't... I can't get it back into my head, that doesn't erase it from our life. Maybe some day I will remember that dance. I'll remember more than just those few minutes before I got hit. That's why YOU have to do it for me. I'm counting on that."
"But I don't want to think about it! I don't want to think about what happened to YOU! Or what happened to me with Keef and Mac. Don't you see, Justin! I was trying to...." And Brian stop short. And he blinks. I can see the lights from the street outside reflected in his eyes. "Shit."
"What? What's wrong?"
He sits up. "I was trying to... get myself bashed. That's what I was doing. I... wanted them to hit me. To hurt me. To fuck the memory out of me. Oh my God!"
"No," I say.
"Yes," he answers. "That's what I wanted. And they gave it to me. That's what I've always wanted. Someone else to take the responsibility away from me. To fucking pound me down. To break me. Until there was nothing left. Like my old man. Like fucking Stan. Like... Ron. That's what I wanted. Except...."
"What?" I whisper.
"I don't think I... I don't want it anymore. The last thing I remember thinking as I was... falling down was that I wanted to look at the sky. The blue in the sky. I didn't want my face in the dirt, looking down. I didn't want that anymore. But it was night. Everything was dark. And it was too late. Too fucking late!" And he breaks down in my arms.
"Brian -- it isn't too late!" I say, trying not to lose it. "It's not! And you know that it isn't. You have your whole life ahead of you -- and I have MY whole life, too. After you left last winter I had a long time to sit in the loft and think. All those long nights...."
"I'm sorry! That's another thing that I...."
"Brian -- remember what you said about apologizing? So don't. At least, not until I finish saying what I have to say." And he's quiet there in my arms. "What I was saying is that I realized that no matter what had happened to me, I had a second chance. I'd been bashed, but my hand was beginning to work much better. I was making progress at PIFA. You had left for Los Angeles, but I still had a place to live. I had the Jeep to drive around in. I had friends, like Emmett and Michael. And Debbie, too. And I had YOU, Brian. I STILL had you."
"How can you even fucking SAY that, Justin? It amazes me that you could even stand to fucking LOOK at me after that!"
"But I DID have you, Brian," I answer. "You were calling me and that was a connection. At least until Michael accidentally answered the phone and you stopped phoning. But it mattered that I KNEW that you were thinking about me -- even if only when you were drunk or stoned. And that was something. It was something to hang on to... until you came to your senses."
"Sure!" Brian says. "Come to my senses. When will THAT be?"
And I know the answer. I know it. And Brian knows it. Which is why it has all come down to the two of us. Here and now.
"It's NOW, Brian," I reply. "Right now. This moment. This is when you come to your senses. This is the point where things have changed. And they HAVE changed. Because YOU put yourself through hell -- and you survived. Like I survived. Didn't you SEE it all in Fiona's vision? If you keep running away from me then you'll just have to go through it ALL over again until you do it correctly. Sort of like in 'Groundhog's Day'! Except it's all of the streams of your life. And MY life. And they HAVE to come together. They have to. I just know it!"
Brian sniffs. "And what would Fiona and all your crazy women with The Sight say about a Fate that would chain you through all those different streams to a major fuck up like me? What did you do to deserve THAT, Justin?"
"Like I've said before -- just lucky, I guess," I answer, as I run my hand over remnants of the scrape on his face. There's a tiny scar there, a line not unlike the ones I have on my forehead where the bat hit me and under my hair where they drilled to release the blood. Maybe they show that my life isn't perfect, that I'm no longer 'perfect' -- but that's just reality. And it's Brian's reality, too. His perfection isn't where he's always imagined it to be -- in his face or his dick or his job -- or now in his fame. It's somewhere inside of him. Maybe I'm the only one who can see the full picture, but I'm the only one who needs to. And he's the only who needs to see the truth about me. My weaknesses -- but also my strengths. Because he's the one who has made ME feel stronger. And it's my turn to do the same for him.
And I don't care what Brian says about himself -- or about us -- I KNOW what he feels. I've always known. I've been on to Brian from the beginning. His actions speak so much louder than any words he can ever say. And his actions, even if they sometimes take rotten detours, always come right back to me. To US. In this bed. This little shelter against all the people and all the traumas and all the fears that come from outside this circle we make with our bodies. The way it should be.
"I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a morning dove,
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love.
Do I understand your question? Is it hopeless and forlorn?
'Come in,' I said,
'I'll give you shelter from the storm.'"
from "Shelter from the Storm," by Bob Dylan.
Continue on to "The Junketeer -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, March 2003.
Updated March 16, 2003.