This is Part 3 of Chapter 120 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shooting Star -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Jimmy Hardy, Tess Hardy, Howie Sheldon, Diane Rhys, Lilith Rosenblum, Carmel, Maria, William, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: After the funeral. 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.
The scene at the cemetery.
Let's just say that I'd rather have my appendix removed through my nose with a pair of tweezers than to have to go through something like this again. Ever. In my whole life.
It's sunny today and warmer than it has been recently, but the cemetery still feels dark and cold. Poor Mrs. Rosenblum can't stop crying. It's horrible. She isn't doing it very loudly, but she just can't stop. Her two daughters try to comfort her, but it isn't helping. It isn't helping at all.
Jimmy, who seemed pretty together at the memorial service, finally loses it at the grave site. I think the realization of what has happened to Ron has really hit home. After all, Jimmy was the one who found him dead and Ron was his best friend for 10 years. The eulogy that Jimmy gave really laid it on the line -- Ron and Jimmy were not only business partners, but real true friends. So Jimmy has to walk away from the grave. Just walk away.
In fact, come to think of it, it's exactly like the final scene of 'The Olympian.' They are burying Bobby, and Guy, dressed in his sweats and his cap as a protest, refuses to come down to the grave because Bobby's homophobic family won't acknowledge that Guy was Bobby's lover. So instead he sits up on a little hill and watches the burial, alone. Then Bobby's sponsor, played by Sir Kenneth, goes up and sits with him and Guy has his final impassioned speech about their love and about what Bobby meant to him. Brian always refers to this as Jimmy's 'Oscar #2 Speech.' He's probably right about that. When I finally saw the ending of 'The Olympian' in London -- after freaking out at the L.A. premiere -- that speech hit me so forcefully. I'd read the words many times in Brian's copy of the script, but hearing Jimmy say them took my breath away. Because I knew exactly what the character of Guy was feeling. Yes, because that's the way I feel about Brian.
As the two of them watch the graveside service, Guy says to Bobby's sponsor, "You can't know what it is like to invest your whole being in one person. To make him the reason that you need to be alive every day. Just watching him turn his head. Watching the way he moves on the track, his body all golden in the sunlight. How it's hard for him to smile because of the way the world has treated him -- and yet he can smile for you. Knowing that he'll be there, in the dark, when everyone else is gone, and then it will be just the two of you -- and no one else. And knowing now that the reality of life is that you've lost him. Forever."
Yes, that's how I feel. And I remember now that Ron wrote those words. Wrote them after 'The Olympian' began filming and Brian told me that he wasn't happy with the original ending. Because there is no scene like that in the book. They are Ron's words alone. They must have been what he was feeling as he knew that Brian was slipping away from him. He must have known it was over even back then. And those words are what I would feel, too, if I ever lost Brian.
And so Jimmy just walks away from the group and has to sit down on a nearby bench, his head in his hands. Tess goes over and sits next to him, taking his hand.
Howie Sheldon and William are here. The burial is private, so they are actually standing together. Diane stands on Brian's other side, propping him up. Ron's lawyer, Manny Fishman, is here, and also Brian's agent, Lew Blackmore, and Ron's assistant, Ivy, but only a few of the people who Ron worked with over the years. Ron seems to have had a lot of colleagues and acquaintances, all of whom came to the memorial service at Temple Beth El, but he didn't have a lot of real close friends. So I'm surprised to see the big Italian guy who was Ron's cameraman in New York, the one who followed me and Brian in London. He looks over at us with a dejected expression on his face. I stare at him, realizing that he is one of the few other people besides Ron who actually knew Brian when he was in New York. Who knew that 16 year old Brian who I am desperate to understand, but probably never will.
"Brian," I give him a little nudge in the ribs. "There's Marc Gerasi."
But Brian doesn't say anything. He's standing next to me, sniffing, with a funny little smile on his face. He has on his dark glasses. And he's so stoned he can scarcely stand up.
And the worst thing is that there's not a fucking thing I can do about it. I can't drag him away from the burial without causing a big scene. Besides, Howie Sheldon wouldn't let me do it. Brian has to stay here and play his designated role, which, according to Howie, is 'the grieving widow.' Shit! Brian is grieving and he's hurting, but not for public display! No wonder he's wasted. I sort of wish I was wasted, too, so I wouldn't have to be here. Or that my head wouldn't have to be here. Like Brian, I could just pretend that I'm somewhere else.
The ceremony is nice. I've never been to one like it before. The Rabbi says a prayer called 'The Mourner's Kaddish,' which sounds so sad that Mrs. Rosenblum starts crying again. Then the coffin is lowered into the ground and the family and close friends are supposed to put a shovel full of dirt into the grave as a last gesture of love for the deceased. At least, that's what the Rabbi says. But Mrs. Rosenblum can't do it, so her two sons-in-law do it for her. Everyone looks at Brian, expectantly. He's standing there with that weird, stoned smirk on his face. Howie Sheldon steps forward and hands him the shovel, but Brian just looks at it. Then Brian puts his head down and drops the shovel at his feet. He can't. He just can't.
And the day isn't over yet.
The scene at the house.
That's a whole other story.
Tess Hardy is acting as hostess and she's arranged for a ton of food and soft drinks and the catering people are circulating with trays. Tess, as usual, has everything under her complete control. She greets each new arrival, kissing them and then directing them to the kosher spread of corned beef, pastrami, chopped liver, kugel, and blintzes laid out in the kitchen. The food looks great. Too bad I can't choke down even a single bite.
Jimmy Hardy, on the other hand, is now lying down in one of the guest bedrooms with a cool cloth over his eyes, unable to deal with the crowd. Their daughter, Annie, is at home, thank God. It'll save her a lot of nasty memories. Annie would have been able to deal with the memorial service and even the burial -- she's a pretty mature and sensible 15 year old girl. But I don't think she could have dealt with seeing her father and Brian in the horrible shape they both are in today.
Carmel and Maria are sitting at the kitchen table, all dressed up in new designer outfits they obviously bought for the occasion. Carmel is telling stories about working for Ron all those years. I stand for a while, listening. Carmel is actually really, really funny and people are gathered around the table, holding their plates of food and laughing, as she tells some anecdote about when Armani was a puppy and ripped up the script to one of Ron's porno films.
Ron's family are all sitting in one corner of the living room. Mrs. Rosenblum has finally stopped crying, but she just seems totally crushed by what has happened. She's staring off into space as if she's not really here. It's creepy because I keep thinking of how my mom would have been if I had died after I got bashed. I can see her being the same way, with that same defeated look on her face, having just lost her only son. Ron's nieces and nephews chase each other around the yard, playing with Armani. I don't think they knew Ron very well, if at all. I don't think he spent a lot of time with his sisters and their families in New York after he came out here to Los Angeles to live and work. I don't know how Ron's sisters felt about Ron being gay or what they thought of his films -- or of Brian. Now they mainly seem stunned, although the one husband looks angry. He's the guy who was glaring at Brian at Temple Beth El.
Outside on the deck the atmosphere is completely different. A bunch of Terra Nova Studio people are milling around the pool like it's New Year's Eve without the noisemakers. They must have worked on 'The Olympian' or maybe even a couple of Ron's other projects over the years. I have no idea why these studio people keep showing up, but once they're here they are impossible to get rid of, like cockroaches. I think they just want to tell everyone at Morton's or the Polo Lounge that THEY were at Ron Rosenblum's house after the memorial service.
Poor Ivy, who was Ron's assistant for almost a decade, is sitting on one of the pool chairs, crying quietly in a corner. Tess goes over and offers her a soft drink, but Ivy just waves it away. She's the only one showing any kind of real emotion in this group of movie people.
Freddy Weinstein and his wife, Dolly, showed up early and only stayed long enough to get into a shouting match with Howie Sheldon. They didn't even pay their respects to Ron's mother before the two of them stormed out. Very classy, those two. I think they only wanted to come here and start up something with Brian, but they never even saw him.
Not many of the guests have seen Brian.
Because he's passed out in the poolhouse.
Diane is in there with him, making sure he doesn't fall off the sofa bed, or throw up and then choke on it. Or that he doesn't magically produce whatever dope it is he's been taking and snort even more of it. I searched his clothes, the room we're staying in, the Jeep, and all of the possible hiding places in the house that I can think of, but I still haven't found his stash. I know it's here somewhere. Whatever he's taken he must have gotten last night when he 'escaped' and didn't come home until almost dawn. I can only pray that he doesn't have any more, but I know that's just wishful thinking.
Meanwhile, I walk around, making excuses to people for Brian's absence. But I'm not fooling anyone at all. I notice that Howie Sheldon is knocking back shots. He and some of the studio people have brought their own liquor into the house and they're hiding it behind the bar in paper bags like a bunch of high school kids at a dance.
I hear Howie grumbling to William about Brian getting wasted and not doing his job. I walk over there. "I think you have a fucking lot of nerve to bring booze in here and then bitch about Brian in his own house," I say bluntly. Because now this is Brian's house, like it or not.
Howie just leers at me. "I noticed earlier that you must have run out. Or else Brian drank everything up. So I took the liberty of sending out to restock the bar for you."
"Thanks a lot, Mr. Sheldon. Especially since I threw out all the liquor in here yesterday to try and keep Brian sober!"
Howie Sheldon laughs right in my face. "Yeah, you did a great job, kid! Brian's in fabulous shape. He was almost able to stand up by himself at the cemetery. So give yourself a hand!" He raises up a highball glass filled with whiskey and ice, saluting me.
"Fuck you," I say quietly, and I walk away. You can't win with these bastards. I can only wait for them all to leave. For Brian and me to get the hell out of here and back to Pittsburgh. Back to the loft. Away from all of this.
I go into the kitchen for a bottle of water and Carmel grabs my arm as I pass her. "Hey, chico -- Mr. Brian -- how is he?" she asks quietly. Everyone is asking, but I don't tell them anything. Let them figure it out.
"How do you think?" I say, a bit abruptly. I know that Carmel and Brian didn't get along very well while he was living here. She didn't like Brian and was always snarking at him, even in front of me and Lindsay when we visited last June. Brian says it got even worse after the summer when he came back to California for 'The Deal.'
But Carmel surprises me. She sighs. "I thought that Mr. Ron would be happy once Mr. Brian left. Because he seemed so unhappy when Mr. Brian was here. They was always fighting so bad! Saying awful things to each other!" Carmel shakes her head and Maria nods in agreement. "But when Mr. Brian went away -- Mr. Ron was not the same at all. He would not eat. Just drinking all the time. I would bring him food and he would throw it at me! Mama and I worked for him as long as he owned this house and he was never like that before! Never!" Carmel frowns, remembering. "Finally, we could not put up with things any longer. Mr. Ron was bringing people here. Such bad people. They were stealing things. Doing... very bad things. We did not want to leave, but...." She shrugs.
I don't know what to say. "I'm sorry you had to deal with that, Carmel." And I remember Brian and I coming back to this empty house, with the trashed poolhouse and the hollow-eyed hustler sitting on the deck by the pool. "That must have been awful."
She nods. "So it did not surprise me to hear... what happened." Carmel glances at her mother and Maria crosses herself. "I said to Mr. Ron before we left, 'Maybe you can make it up with Mr. Brian? Maybe it's better to be fighting with him than drinking yourself to death!' But Mr. Ron told me it was impossible. That Mr. Brian was with someone else. That he loved someone else. That Mr. Brian would never come back to him. That's why he didn't want to live no more!" Carmel looks at me closely. "You make sure that Mr. Brian doesn't do the same thing, chico!"
"What do you mean?" I say, my body tensing up.
Carmel squeezes my arm. "We left the house and Mr. Ron had no one. No one to take care of him. No one to make sure that he didn't hurt himself. No one cared enough to look after him. Make sure that Mr. Brian always has someone who cares enough. It is so easy to die, chico. So easy. Especially when you don't desire to live anymore."
"You're scaring me," I tell her, trying to pull out of her grasp.
"I don't need to scare you," she answers seriously. "You are already scared." Carmel lets go of my arm and turns away, reaching for some pastries on the table.
And that letter from Ron to Brian is still folded up in my pocket.
I walk past the partiers on the deck and into the poolhouse, shutting the door tightly behind me. Brian is lying on the open bed, crashed. Diane and I took off his suitcoat and tie, unbuttoned his shirt, and loosened his trousers so he wouldn't completely ruin his good Armani suit, but he's obviously been thrashing around and he looks like a total mess. Diane is sitting in an old chair with her bare feet up on the edge of the sofa bed and her eyes half closed. "Hey, Cutie," she says, wearily.
"Hi, Diane." I take off the jacket of my own suit and drape it over the back of her chair, then I lie down next to Brian on the bed. He's breathing loudly through his deviated septum. I try to smooth down his unruly hair. Brian and his hair, the never-ending battle.
"Bridie has got to get that wheeze fixed!" Diane yawns and stretches. "I'm bushed, hon. I've hardly slept the last two nights. I really have to get home tonight because I'm supposed to have a rehearsal at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. I can't blow off my show any longer." She looks at me sadly. "I wish I could stay until you guys leave for Pittsburgh, but I just can't. Isn't Brian's new assistant supposed to come into town soon? Maybe she could help out. When is she due here?"
"At the end of the week, right after Christmas," I reply. "We'll be in Pittsburgh, but Leslie is going to get settled in town and then when we come back after Christmas she's going to set up Brian's office."
"Well God knows Bridie needs a personal assistant right now! And you can't do it yourself, Justin!"
I toss my head. "I can handle things, Diane. I've done it before and I can do it now."
"I know you can, Cutie. No one better," she replies gently. "But you could use really use some help here, just so you don't exhaust yourself." Diane stands up and puts her shoes back on. "I have to go. Are you certain you're going to be all right? Maybe Tess should stay here with you tonight."
"It's okay, really." I reluctantly get up off the bed. And Brian just snores away.
After making sure that Brian is all right, Diane and I leave the poolhouse. Diane goes inside to say goodbye to Mrs. Rosenblum. People are leaving. They've paid their respects. There's no reason to stick around anymore. Ron is dead, Brian is passed out, and Tess is in the kitchen supervising the clean-up by the caterers. And Jimmy has finally come out of the guest room and is down by the pool with all the studio creeps. He's having a couple of belts with Howie Sheldon and William next to the patio bar.
"Hey there, Baby Blue!" Jimmy says, as I amble over to them. I'm just waiting for this reception or wake or Shiva or whatever it is called to be done with. Suddenly Jimmy grabs me in a tight hug. He's really drunk. His hand roams down and squeezes my ass. Really squeezes it hard.
"Cut it out, Jimmy." I slap away his hand sharply. I'm not in the mood for this kind of shit. I can smell the familiar odor of Jim Beam on his breath.
"Cut what out?" Jimmy smirks. But Howie Sheldon isn't smiling at all. He's been drinking too, but he's not drunk. And he's not happy watching Jimmy grope me.
"That's enough, Jim," says Howie, firmly taking Jimmy's hand away. "It's time for you to go home. You aren't very funny, you know that?"
"Now that's where I would have to disagree with you, Howie my man! I do both comedy and tragedy equally well!" Jimmy boasts. "I would like to THANK the Academy for this award! But I'd especially like to thank my GOOD friend Ron Rosenblum, without whom this award wouldn't be possible! He's DEAD -- but thanks anyway, Ron!"
"Shut the fuck up, Jimmy!" says Howie. "People are watching you." And it's true. All the studio geeks, the assistant directors and associate producers and third-string writers who came here to eat some free food and pick up the dirt on Ron's death and Brian's collapse, are avidly watching this little scene unfold. I even see Marc Gerasi standing by the door that leads into the house, shaking his head sadly.
"And..." Jimmy continues. "I'd like to thank my co-star, the lovely Brian Kinney, wherever it is he's hiding. Without him I couldn't have done all those FABULOUS fag love scenes! Weren't they fucking amazing, folks?" Jimmy does a little bow. "All the reviews said how realistic they seemed, so I must be a GREAT actor, huh? Yeah, real great! They should have filmed what was going on in Brian's trailer, isn't that right, Howie? You would have seen some REAL action! They don't give out awards for performances like that, but they should! Brian would be the new Laurence Fucking Olivier!"
"That's enough!" shouts Howie. Now everyone is looking at them. People are coming out from the kitchen to see what Jimmy Hardy and Howie Sheldon are yelling about. I want to slink away quietly. Because I don't want to get caught in the fallout when Jimmy Hardy finally explodes. Which should be any minute now. "Stop it right now, Jimmy! You're NOT funny!" Howie blasts.
"Who's being funny?" says Jimmy, his face falling. "Poor Ronnie. He always wanted to fuck me. He was in love with me, you know? But I wouldn't let him. Because I didn't do faggots! Nope! Not ME! Not 'America's Boy Next Door'! At least not until I saw Brian's nine-inch dick, that is! That thing would make Jerry Falwell drop to his knees for a taste -- and I fucking MEAN that!"
"Jimmy! For chrisake!" says Howie, his eyes bugging out. Now both Howie and William are trying to drag Jimmy away from the bar and back into the house. They probably want to drag him upstairs and lock him back in his safe little closet. But I think it's too late for that.
Because Jimmy won't go. He sees me creeping away towards the kitchen to get Tess. But he lunges for me and jerks me by the hand into a tight embrace. I can actually feel his dick lurch as he rubs his crotch against mine. "Come on, Baby Blue!" Jimmy murmurs. "Brian would fuck me until I was screaming, but he'd never let me fuck him. But you would, wouldn't you, Baby? You'd let me fuck you. And I've wanted to for a long, long time. I want you, Baby Blue. You have such a nice, hot ass," he mumbles into my neck as he slobbers on me.
"Get the fuck away from me!" I say, swinging at him. I feel all dirty where Jimmy's hands have been touching me.
And then Tess and Diane are there. "Jimmy," says Tess, her face like stone. "Come with me."
Jimmy lets me go. He stands, blinking wildly, like he's coming out of a haze. "Where's Brian? Where's Brian?" he whines. "And... and Ron...?"
"Jimmy, you know you can't drink while you're on medication," says Tess through clenched teeth. I remember that Brian said Jimmy is also one of Dr. Hall's patients. No big surprise there.
Diane hauls me away from Jimmy before I punch his stupid, slobbering face. She puts her arm around me. "He's drunk, hon," she whispers. "Poor bastard."
"Right, sweetie," Jimmy says to Tess. "No drinking while on medication! That's what my pal Dr. Hall told me. And that's how poor old Ron bit it! Xanax and Jim Beam! The cocktail of choice!"
"And you've had enough of both." Tess takes Jimmy firmly by the arm, while Howie Sheldon takes the other side, and they guide 'America's Boy Next Door' into the kitchen.
After that the house clears out quickly. Tess and Howie and William get Jimmy into Howie's limo and they all leave almost immediately. Ron's family, who were in the living room and luckily missed Jimmy's little explosion, go back to their hotel. Diane takes Armani, kisses me, and heads home to bed. It feels like this one day has lasted about a year.
I wander into the kitchen and see Carmel and Maria, aprons tied over their new dresses, cleaning up what the caterers just cleaned. "You don't have to do that, you're guests," I tell Carmel.
"These people don't know how to clean MY house right!" she answers, gesturing to the departing catering staff. "We take care of everything, chico." So I help them straighten up the house as the last stragglers leave.
"You need me and Mama back," says Carmel. "You and Mr. Brian can't take care of this place on your own." She writes a number on the kitchen chalkboard. "My sister's house in San Diego. You call after Christmas. Mama and I will return, okay?"
"I don't know, Carmel. I have to talk to Brian first."
"Hm," she sniffs. "YOU tell HIM what to do, chico. That's your job now." And they put on their coats and take off, the last of the mourners.
I go back out to the poolhouse to check on Brian. He's still passed out on the sofa bed, having slept through all the angst and drama queen moments. There is a CD case lying next to the player. This is one of the CD's that Brian often listens to when he's fucked up. This and the Smiths. The Cure. Lou Reed. But especially this CD. Nine Inch Nails. 'The Downward Spiral.' No fucking kidding! Talk about the understatement of the year! The CD is playing softly. Brian must have turned it on, even though he seems completely out of it. Maybe this particular song just went on all by itself to underscore this moment. The creepy voice of Trent Reznor fills up the darkness of the poolhouse.
"I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel.
I focus on the pain,
The only thing that's real.
The needle tears a hole,
The old familiar sting,
Try to kill it all away,
But I remember everything.
What have I become?
My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end.
You could have it all,
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.
I wear my crown of shit
On my liar's chair,
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair.
Beneath the stain of time
The feeling disappears.
You are someone else,
I am still right here.
What have I become?
My sweetest friend,
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end.
You could have it all,
My empire of dirt.
I will let you down.
I will make you hurt.
If I could start again
A million miles away,
I would keep myself,
I would find a way."
I stand here as the song fades, then I hit the stop button.
I mean it! No fucking more!
We have to get the fuck out of here. We have to! There's something evil here. In this house. In this town. And time is running out. I can feel that it is. The wolves are biting at our heels. They are ready to bring us down. Bring us both down and devour us.
I take off all of my clothes and lie down next to Brian on the bed. I just put my arms around him and hold on to him, as tightly as I can. I want everything to stop at this moment. I want everyone else to go away and leave the two of us alone. I want to be safe. I want to be home. I want... but everything I want is impossible. Fucking impossible.
I remember Brian's fantasy of getting into the boat and just cruising. The two of us. Into the sunset. We could head for Hawaii. To Maui or one of those places that Brian says is so beautiful. Just keep sailing West until we are in another day. Another universe. And we would never have to come back.
I begin to understand what Ron was trying to do when he planned his Grand Finale. He was trying to take Brian and escape with him into a world where no one else could follow them. Into a world of Ron's own sick mind. I guess he thought that's the only place they both could be safe. Be free. And I understand, because I want that, too. The difference is that I know it's a fantasy. A dream.
But what we have to face is reality. And that's the hardest thing of all.
Continue on to "Shooting Star -- Part 4", the next section.
©Gaedhal, October 2003.
Updated October 22, 2003.