SHOPPING LISTS

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 1 of Chapter 16 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Outtakes I", the previous chapter.

The narrator is Emmett Honeycutt, and features Justin, Brian, Michael, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: It's March 2002, but Emmett thinks about his past encounters with Brian, Justin, and Michael.
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 don't drive and even if I did I can't afford to keep a car. Therefore, much like Blanche DuBois, I have always depended on the kindness of friends. Or, if all else fails, the bus.

Coincidentally, I was sitting on the bus on my way to the mall today, thinking about the mess we are all in. Michael is not speaking to Ted and barely speaking to me. Justin, who I've been getting much closer to in the past few months, looks through me when he sees me. And, of course, Ted isn't even in the universe to him. And we all know who we have to thank? La Diva. La Kinney. Who else?

But Justin -- why that boy must defend him constantly is beyond my ken. It wasn't that long ago -- just before Christmas, in fact -- when I was a shoulder for him to cry on. And cry he did. It was positively tragic the way that boy took on. He was in bad shape -- almost in as bad a shape as I was myself when I first came to the Pitts back in 1998.

I was sitting on this exact bus last December, going over my shopping list and planning my foray to the Monroeville Mall with the single-mindedness which with Lee planned his Virginia campaign. I had my list of definite gifts for specific people. And I had my list of possible gifts for those ambiguous people. And then I had my catch-all list of all purpose gifts for anyone who might show up at the last minute. And, of course, nothing nothing nothing over $20. That's a given -- or else Emmett Honeycutt would spend ALL of 2002 paying for 2001. I mean, more than I already do.

On the top of my list was Michael. And I always know exactly what to get Michael. Believe me, you live with someone for two years, honey, you know everything, from his favorite brand of underwear, to whether he takes his peanut butter creamy or chunky, to exactly how long he is going to be locked in the bathroom first thing in the morning after he ate ALL that Mexican food the night before. My only admonition to myself was to avoid anything too 'comic book-y' -- especially since comic books were now Michael's vocation rather than his avocation.

Ted was next on my agenda. He's harder because he's so predictable. That means I look for the unexpected. Not hard to guess whose idea the 33 dildos for his 33rd birthday was? Quel surprise! So I was on the lookout for something unexpected, something funny, something even a little mushy, because that's what Teddy really is all about.

Deb is another easy one. The more colorful, the more far-out, the more sentimental the better. In reality, I could probably just put a dime in the copy machine, pull down my pants, and xerox my ass, and she would cry over it, frame it, and hang it over the fireplace. She is, as my auntie used to say, easy as grease on a pig.

Vic -- now, he's much harder. Vic has a very serious side, but he's also a prankster. Striking a balance between the two halves is the real trick. Vic is a fellow who I'm sure my family would have called 'fey.' Not as in 'faggot' but as in otherworldly and knowing. It's usually a Southern thing. Or an Irish thing. But Vic has that quality. Maybe it's because he's already faced death so many times and cheated it that he lives a little on both sides of the divide. That makes Vic hard to buy for.

Justin. I had a little star next to his name at Christmas. Something very special for him. Something young and yet not condescending. His is an old brain in a twink's head and so that must be factored in. And he so needed cheering up in that season of good cheer.

Brian. His name was crossed off the list. With a double red line. Yes, I admit it is petty, but I felt a singular satisfaction in striking that name off of Christmas, once and for all. It's something I had vowed to do again and again, but I always pulled back, mainly for Michael's sake. It isn't anything he'd ever done to me personally. Well, not much. Oh, hell's bells, I do connect him with THE lowest point of my life: my first few weeks in glorious Pittsburgh.

The bus discharged me and all the other Christmas shoppers at the mall entrance. I marshalled my resources. The easy ones I would take care of first, leaving the trickier buys until I'd had time to maneuver my way around the entire expanse, perusing and calculating as I went. Then all would be right with the world!

That was the plan. Elegant. Ingenious. Until I sashayed through the Food Court and saw him sitting by himself, an untouched plate of Chick-fil-A before him. I admit that my first selfish thought was, ah-ha! I've snagged my ride back home! That is, if Brian doesn't pitch a fit. I looked around for any sign of the Wicked Witch of Western PA -- and then I remembered.

"Justin! Baby! Fancy meeting you here!" I eased my finest feature into the molded plastic chair next to him.

"Oh, hello Emmett." His enthusiasm at seeing me was underwhelming to say the least.

"Is this lunch or just a quick refill until the real thing?"

"I don't know. I ordered it and then didn't feel so hungry, I guess."

Now seeing this boy NOT eating was an amazing thing in itself. "Well, let me help you there. My mouth can never turn down hot and spicy and batter-fried!"

Justin pushed the tray at me and I dug in.

"So, doing a little Christmas shopping? Or is this where the action is for the young, hip suburban queer teen?"

"Trying to shop, but having a hard time. I never know what to get or how much to spend. And with school and everything, I don't have a lot of money to spare."

"Only spend what your budget will allow and use your creativity to compensate for any lack. Or at least that's what Martha Stewart says."

He smiled wanly. "I was thinking of just going home."

I could see my ride receding into the distance. "Maybe we can pool our resources?"

He looked up at me, as if for the first time. "Sure. If you don't mind walking around the mall with me."

"Mind? Mind! It would be the high point of my holiday season!"

I put aside the plastic tray and pulled out my shopping list. I unfolded the masterpiece on the table like a battlefield map. I outlined my plan of attack, focusing on our target giftees. I showed him my annotations, noting sizes, color preferences, and past year purchases. The arrows pointing to possible areas of gift convergence. The inventory of department stores, specialty shops, and kiosks in this particular mall, set out in alphabetical order. I could see that Justin was impressed with my foresight.

"You really spent a lot of time thinking about this, didn't you?"

"I only spend as much time as the occasion deserves -- and Christmas is THE major occasion on the Honeycutt calendar."

He studied the list for a few minutes, then got out a small scrap of paper. It turned out to be half of a phone company envelope. On it was written: "Brian. Mom. Debbie. ??" I felt like my little heart was about to break.

"I see you've done some planning of your own." I forced a smile, handing the 'list' back to him.

"I guess I didn't put much thought into this after all."

"You are just a novice, Baby. Permit Auntie Emmett be your guide in this endeavor. I think you could use my help."

I took his arm and lead the boy into battle.

Some people feel that a bar is the best place to draw someone out -- alcohol being the best lubricant for truth. Or so they say. Others swear by the psychiatrist's couch, but I wouldn't know about that, having neither the cash nor the dejection needed to seek out that alternative -- at least recently. Others say the only place to really talk is in bed. But I prefer to save that space for other things.

For me, the best place to talk out your troubles is the mall. The walking, the looking, the thrill of the chase, the bonding over that perfect pair of parachute pants -- all make for true confession and heartfelt disclosures.

And, like every snoopy queen this side of Liberty Avenue, I was hoping to fish a little information out of Justin. I mean, the disappearance of Brian was THE hot topic of conversation. Justin's pitiful Christmas list suggested that he had some hope of his imminent return, but since Christmas was only a few days off, it didn't seem likely.

And Baby just didn't seem himself. Yes, he was depressed, but there were other things on his mind. I had barely seen him the last few weeks, since he was rarely at Babylon and never at Woody's. And at the diner he kept to himself and did his job in subdued dignity. Debbie told us one snowy, shitty morning that she had just sent poor Sunshine home in tears after two tables of acid-washed queens had been ragging him.

We had just entered Kaufmann's when he suddenly asked me the million dollar question:

"Emmett?"

"What, Baby?"

"How well do you know Brian? DID you know Brian, I mean? Just how well?"

Oh. Dear. How to answer this one? "How well does anyone know Brian?" Talk about dodging the issue!

"I'm just curious. I know that Michael has known him a long time. And Ted for a few years. I was just wondering."

We were wandering through men's wear, looking at the sale sweaters. I tried to distract him with a lovely oatmeal knit, but he was staring at me in that guileless way.

"Actually, Brian was one of the first people I met when I first came to Pittsburgh...."

On the bus. Of course. Straight from Meridian, Mississippi. I thought about going to Atlanta, but I wanted to get out of the South. Way out. I had only so much money for a ticket and Los Angeles was beyond my means. And I knew I could never afford to live more than a day or two in New York. So, I was aiming for Chicago. But I only had enough money for a ticket to Pittsburgh. It was October of 1998.

I slept the first night in the bus station. By the end of the week I had a job -- at a Gap. And I found a place to stay. Two older queens who befriended me my first night at Babylon let me sleep on their sofa until I had enough money to sublet an apartment in what had to be the worst building in Pittsburgh. This was the infamous 'Hooker Haven' -- but who was I to point the finger at anyone? I had exactly one suitcase full of horrible clothes I'd bought either in Meridian (shudder) or Hazelhurst (double shudder) and I felt about as stylish and hip as if I'd just fallen off the last turnip truck out of town.

I fell in with a group of fellows my own age -- twinks, although that term wasn't yet in my vocabulary. But I was learning -- fast. Most of them were buff, cute, and cash-proud. At least compared with me. But then the average derelict on the street was in better financial shape than I was. I didn't know 'buff' from a hole in the wall -- the only gym I'd ever been in was the one where I was harassed every day of my school career because I couldn't throw a ball to save the lives of the entire Honeycutt Clan. But I was adorable -- and that was my fortune.

I found that I could attract a man with the best of them. My problem came after I'd made the connection. My experience in Mississippi had pretty much been theoretical. A couple of fumbles with the choirmaster of my mother's Holiness Baptist Church. A quick hand-job from a friendly trucker when I was hitchhiking home from my auntie's one Saturday night. Even a half-assed blowjob in an all-night monster movie fest in Meridian the night before I left town. Beyond that, I was clueless.

And that's when I was introduced to Lady Crystal. Not that I could afford to be her regular boyfriend -- I could not. But some of the boys in the Twink Gallery were willing to share. And some of the tricks who thought I was cute as a button would kick in a snort or two to make sure that the connection was made and laid. For my first three months in town I didn't know that you were even allowed to get fucked without being wired tighter than an electrician's fusebox.

So, I had a place to live, a job (of sorts), and a social life that left quite a bit to be desired. I was almost so depressed as to be suicidal. I had no real friends, only tricks and drug buddies. I, who was used to a huge, insane, extended family back home. Yes, they were smothering. Yes, it was like 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' meets 'Other Voices, Other Rooms' -- but at least I wasn't alone. As Thanksgiving came and went and I spent the holiday in a fetal position on my horrible name-that-stained sofa in Hooker Haven, I was at a truly low ebb. I viewed the approach of Christmas with mounting desperation.

I also realized that I was close to having a real problem with crystal meth. In a way, my poverty was my salvation. Since my job didn't allow me to indulge myself as often as I wanted to -- which was all the time -- I instead thought about the drug, craved the drug, and plotted ways that could get the drug. Or ways I could get someone to get it for me. So, I became the worst crystal slut that Liberty Avenue had ever seen. I would fuck, suck, or drag a truck for anyone who would stake me to a little of that broken glass.

Justin stopped me. "I think I understand what you mean."

I looked at him with my cool gaze. "Meaning, Baby?"

"Those guys at Boytoy. The guys Jay and his friends hang out with."

"Tweaked?"

"Most of them." He shook his head. "They keep taking me there and wanting me to snort with them. Jay's boyfriend said that one snort and I wouldn't care WHO I fucked...."

We were walking through a section of the store that was heavy with Christmas cheer -- red and green and golden bows and a lot of fake evergreens hanging everywhere.

"But, I DO care who I fuck. I do care. So I keep blowing those guys off. Even when I'm really feeling like I just want to forget. But Brian said -- never to... Never...."

"To do that shit? I know what you mean."

It was the night before Christmas Eve -- sounds like a song, doesn't it? And I was flying out of my mind. A little bit of Crystal goes a long, long way -- and I was only halfway there. A guy had given me a bump and then pulled me into the backroom. But he wasn't too into the Christmas Spirit. I hadn't exactly been eating that well and I was dizzy and fizzy and barely able to stand up. When he couldn't get me 'positioned' to his satisfaction due to my altered state of consciousness, he decided that his frustration would have to be taken out on my face. He got one good punch in and I went spinning. I tried to protect myself, expecting him to really knock me for a loop, but the next thing I was aware of, he was spinning across the room himself. Then I was being picked up and shaken by a vision in black jeans and red sleeveless shirt. He wasn't smiling.

I'd seen him before -- how could I miss him? I'd seen him and his boyfriend -- short, dark, and insanely darling -- dancing away into the wee hours. Babylon royalty, in my mind. But the boyfriend was nowhere in sight. And my potential trick was long gone -- frightened away by my savior's notorious temper. And I was a little frightened myself. Not to mention just about to lose consciousness from dehydration, hunger, and the need for a long, hard cry.

The next thing I knew I was out in the cold December air, then riding through the darkness, then going up in an elevator. After that, alas, it's mostly amnesia. And, believe me, I've tried to remember many, many times. It's like getting to the moon -- and then falling asleep just before that 'one small step' thing. It's something that will never be repeated -- and I have never really wanted it to be repeated. But it would be nice to have that blank space filled with what, for many, is the Holy Grail of Fucks.

Continue on to "Shopping Lists" -- Part 2" , the concluding part of Chapter Sixteen of "Queer Theories."

©Gaedhal, May 2002

Picture of Randy Harrison and Peter Page from "OUT."

Updated May 26, 2002