This is Part 2 of Chapter 17 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Shopping Lists - Part 1" , the first section of this chapter.
We strolled out of Kaufmann's with our bags, heading towards the center of the mall. Justin was very quiet, chewing on my little revelations.
"Frankly, Cupcake, you don't seem all that surprised at what I've told you so far. I mean, about Brian. And me...."
"Actually, I'm not surprised at all."
"Not really. I see little things that other people don't see about Brian. And he definitely treats you differently than he does, say, Ted. He never cuts you down the way he does other people. I wondered if there was something there -- I mean from way back."
"Well, it wasn't THAT long ago! I'm not ancient, after all!"
I admit that when Justin first joined the 'group' I was a tad put out. I was used to being the sweet young thing and didn't brook with any rivals. But Justin is like a cute little worm that wiggles his way into your system. No wonder Brian could never get rid of him!
"Well, I'd hardly call waking up in the loft with a staggering headache a great moment in a budding relationship!"
Almost being raped by that crystal creep in the backroom hadn't been bad enough, but I woke up the next morning with no recollection of what -- if anything -- had happened. Of course, knowing Brian as I now do, I can guarantee that SOMETHING happened, but fuck if I could tell you what it was. And he certainly never will.
I opened my eyes to see my 'rescuer' glaring at me like an insane person, his hair sticking up every which way. I was now more frightened than I'd been the night before!
"What the fuck are YOU still doing here?"
Well, good morning to you, too!
"Get out. And be quick about it. I have to go to work."
And he was gone, just like that.
I stumbled around, collecting my clothes and trying to figure out where I was and how I had gotten there. We'd ridden in the Jeep for a number of minutes, so we were nowhere near Liberty Avenue. I didn't know where we were. Looking out the windows only showed me a snow-covered city street. I could have been anywhere in Pittsburgh or Paduca or Timbuktu. Now I had to figure out how to get home. Home, right -- my horrible apartment, I meant. I felt like crying. And then I started to.
"Are you STILL fucking HERE?"
"I don't have a way to get home!" I tried to give him an appealing smile through my tears. That almost always worked -- I was cute and knew it. But not on this guy. He was like a block of ice. He'd already gotten out of the shower and had his towel wrapped around himself. He looked fabulous, I admit that. Especially wet from the shower and angry. Damp and cranky men have always been a turn-on for me. If I hadn't been so far down in the dumps, I might have fallen for him very, very hard. Thank God for some things!
He got something to drink from the fridge. He didn't offer me any.
Instead, he pointed to a little bulletin board on the kitchenette wall. "Here's the number of the Pitts Cab Company. Call them and get out. I want YOU ready to leave when I'M ready to leave." And he stalked back up to the bedroom.
Well, that was wonderful. Because I didn't have any money for the cab. And I seemed to have lost my scarf somewhere. And my Meridian-bought coat was already inadequate for the bitter Pennsylvania winter. He was obviously going to toss me out into the snow and I'd wander, forlornly, until I froze to death in a drift. My stiff body would eventually be found by the snowplow men and I'd forever be a nameless, faceless tragedy in Pittsburgh's pitiless annuls.
Then came the capper. As I stood there, pulling on my pants, the big metal door of the loft slid open and in walked the short, dark-haired boyfriend of my host -- I still hadn't caught his name and he never bothered to ask mine. Great, I thought. Now I'm going to get my fine ass kicked all over this loft. Or at least be caught in the middle of a knock-down drag-out fight between the Glowering God and his Too Cute to Be True Sweetie.
I had wondered why I hadn't seen him the night before at Babylon. The two of them were usually dancing together or holding up the main bar for most of the night. And now he was walking in the door and looking at me, his huge dark eyes blinking. He was short, but he looked quite muscular. Certainly more so than me! He took a step towards me. I recoiled, afraid he was going to take a swipe at me.
"Hi, my name's Michael." He held out his hand.
I took it, expecting a trap. "Emmett Honeycutt."
"Hey, you're not from Pittsburgh, that's for sure."
"Really? That's a long way. What are you doing in town?"
"Working at the Gap. Living in a slum."
"Sounds like fun." He looked around. "Where have you hidden Brian?"
Brian. Ah, my host DID have a name. I pointed to the bedroom.
He went up there and I finished getting dressed. I thought about making tracks out of there as fast as I could, but the little scene I'd just had with this Michael enthralled me. He hadn't seemed the least bit dismayed or even surprised to see me there. If anything, he was amused by my chagrin at being caught with my pants literally down.
The two of them came down out of the bedroom, laughing. I stood there like the pile of dog shit in the middle of the oriental rug in the front room.
My host -- Brian -- looked like he was about to ream me out for the third time. But Michael stepped in.
"I think Emmett needs a ride home."
"Emmett?" He sniffed at me. "Why is he STILL here?"
"I was just getting ready to go...."
Michael put his hand out. "Would you like me to drop you off somewhere? I could take you to the bus -- or home, if it isn't too far?"
"That would be just peachy." I put my coat on and was ready to vamoose.
Michael turned to Brian, who was standing in front of a full-length mirror in the corner, tying his tie. "Try to be at my mom's by noon tomorrow."
"We aren't going to eat a huge fucking meal at NOON on Christmas day, are we?"
"No, we'll probably eat around 3:00 -- but I want you there early this year. It's rude to walk in, eat, and then go stomping out." Michael went over and rearranged Brian's tie around the collar. If he wasn't his boyfriend, he was something -- but I couldn't figure out just what.
"I fucking hate fucking CHRISTMAS!"
"No one ASKED you your opinion. Just be there." Little Michael took him by the lapels of his expensive suit jacket. Brian seemed to be tamed now -- but I knew better than to trust that impression. "And bring SOME kind of present for my mom, at least."
"I don't know what to get her," he mumbled.
"Any little thing in a pretty box. With wrapping paper. And a big bow. Even you should be capable of THAT, right?"
"I guess so."
We walked out and got into Michael's car, a rusted-out Escort, while Brian climbed into the big, shiny black Jeep and gunned the engine. He was off before we even had our seatbelts snapped.
I gave him my address, which wasn't too far out of his way. "I work at the Big Q. I'm training to be an assistant manager."
"What a coincidence. I, too, am in retail. The Gap."
"Are you working today? I have to work until 6:00, even on Christmas Eve."
I had completely forgotten about the holiday. I felt the tears welling up. "I'm working from noon until the mall closes."
Michael saw me dab at my eyes. "Are you spending Christmas with anyone? I mean, if your family is back in...."
"Hazelhurst, Mississippi. No, I don't know that many people here."
He stopped the car in front of my building. He looked at it with distaste. "Do you really live HERE?"
"Everyone has to be somewhere." I got out of the car and went around to the driver's side. He rolled down the window. "Thanks. I would have had to walk home if you hadn't saved me."
He looked at me and then looked at my building, the infamous Hooker Haven. "Listen, would you like to come over tomorrow to my mom's? It'll be kind of a motley collection of my friends and her friends and my Uncle Vic's friends -- and anyone else who happens to stumble in. But you are welcome."
"I couldn't intrude. I don't know anyone...."
"Sure you do. You know me. And Brian."
"If he even remembers me tomorrow."
Michael guffawed. "Probably he won't. But that's okay. Don't hold it against him."
"Okay. I'll come. If you give me the address...."
"I'll come and pick you up. Or I'll have Brian get you on his way over. That might guarantee that he's on time."
I wasn't sure how thrilled Brian would be about collecting me, but I didn't want to queer this deal, so to speak. I was desperate NOT to be alone on Christmas Day.
"What should I bring?"
"An appetite. My mom will provide the rest."
The next day I stood outside Hooker Haven dressed in my finest holiday apparel -- from the Gap, God forbid, but with that employee's discount I couldn't afford to be choosy.
The Jeep barrelled down the street and came to a screeching halt in front of me.
"Get in." Mr. Warmth was at his best, even on Christmas Day.
I was full of chatter, but my driver didn't say one word as we drove to Michael's house. In fact, he acted as if he'd never seem me before in his life. And in a way, he hadn't. Two nights before I'd been a trick, unworthy of any further consideration once he was done with me. Today I was Michael's friend -- a total stranger. It was as if I wasn't even the same person. I guess in Brian's mind, I wasn't the same person.
"But that is so weird!" Justin interrupted.
"Why do you say that, Baby?"
"Brian wasn't like that at all -- with me. Not at all!"
"You were the exception that proves the rule -- from Day One. Don't you realize that?"
"I don't understand. He didn't kick me out. He even made himself late for work that first morning. I mean, he was late even before he drove me to school!"
"Ah, the Broken Rule. I bet Brian himself didn't even understand that he was breaking his own rule from the start. But Michael did."
"What do you mean?"
"Oh, he was pissed off. He knew something different was going on. He even mentioned it to me." I gestured to a bench and sat myself down. Justin sat down next to me. By this time we had quite a assortment of shopping bags, each one brimming with our purchases. And I was getting tired.
"Michael befriended me because he felt sorry for me. I was just another one of Brian's discarded tricks. No threat to him at all. Mikey could see that from the first minute he saw me standing in the loft so pitiful and tearful. But you..." I poked him in his twinkie tit. "You were something else again. And it's taken Michael a long while to reconcile himself to it."
"And now he's pretty friendly. I mean -- I don't think he hates me."
"No, he doesn't hate you, Cupcake. Michael finds it hard to hate anyone. It isn't in him to hate people. I think a person has to be hurt again and again in horrible ways to truly feel real hatred."
"Maybe... Yes, definitely. But not towards you. Never towards YOU. Never."
"I wish I could be as certain as you are, Emmett."
"Are you ready to go? I think we've exhausted our resources here."
We walked out to the parking lot and for a moment I was startled to see the Jeep -- or a newer version thereof. We loaded out ill-gotten gains into the back and then climbed in the front.
"What was Christmas like at Deb's?"
"Bizarre. Loony. Wonderful. Michael and Vic kicked off the festivities by fighting over which video to put in before dinner -- 'Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol' or 'White Christmas.' I voted for 'White Christmas' -- I just LOVE that Vera Ellen! But it was Deb's vote that tipped the scales. She's nuts about Rosemary Clooney. So we watched 'White Christmas' and Vic was happy. AFTER dinner we watched 'Mr. Magoo' and Michael was happy."
"What the heck was Brian doing all this time?"
"Oh, he was ready to kick the television in. I don't think he likes either of those movies."
"I can just imagine. Holidays don't bring out the best in him. Things were kind of shitty around the Holidays when he was a kid, I guess."
Do tell, Sunshine. Do tell!
"And I met Teddy that day and a lot of other people who I still know. I fact, my whole Pittsburgh social circle was expanded greatly from that single assembly. I even met Evan -- the guy who eventually became the manager of Torso -- and that's how I got my job there. Not to mention a semi-long term boyfriend. And one of the best and most gigantic meals I've ever eaten in my life!"
"I don't think I know Evan."
"Oh, we broke up after about six months and he eventually moved to Philadelphia. And then my apartment was torched by the crazed hooker and I moved in with Michael. The rest you know. And that's where things stand now."
"Huh. Funny how things work out."
Yes, it is funny. And who would have thought that just three months after Justin and I had our little expedition to the mall Michael and Justin would be living and working together -- just as friends, but still...? And neither of them would be speaking more than a few words to me and none at all to Teddy. And we ALL would be persona non grata at the diner. It boggles the mind!
And it all started with Brian. Doesn't it always? Does every story in the fucking universe begin and end with Brian Kinney? It seems so. I guess we are all destined to play supporting roles in the drama of HIS LIFE. Now, that's a scary, scary thought.
I just keep thinking of Baby and his little shopping list. The ragged scrap of paper with Brian's name at the top. And the little present he bought that day and wrapped so carefully -- under my tutelage, of course. I wonder if it is still sitting there in the loft. Where he has to look at it every day. And think of how much time has come and gone since Christmas. How much time has passed since he made that little shopping list.
Continue on to "Outtakes II", Chapter Seventeen of "Queer Theories."
©Gaedhal, May 2002
Picture of Peter Page and Randy Harrison from "OUT."
Updated January 16, 2003.