This is Chapter 106 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Ground Fog -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, featuring Dorian Folco, Ivan, Kenroy Smith, Others.
WARNING! Violent content. Susan beta-ed this chapter through her fingers.
Summary: Brian gets himself into trouble in London -- again. London, October 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.
"Brian, are you feeling better now?"
"Better than what, Dorian?" I say. I'm still sweaty and shaky from the premiere. From seeing myself on screen, big as life and twice as deadly. But mostly from seeing Justin up there. I should never have let it happen, but it's too fucking late now!
Dorian is still concerned that I had to cut out before the picture ended. "Well, seeing as I had to drag you from the men's room afterwards, I suspected that you were not feeling your best, Brian," he returns. "And you were in there all by yourself, Brian! That's not like you at all." Dorian smiles, but I don't smile back. I just stare at him.
"Sir Ken is still wondering what got into you," he continues. "I told him it was sheer nerves. He understood that well enough. He used to have terrible stage fright when he was younger. His dresser literally had to push him onto the stage."
"Sure. Nerves. What else would it be, Dorian?" I say, turning away. I don't want to talk anymore about the fucking premiere. Or about seeing Justin in the picture. Or about how I bolted out of the auditorium with a major panic attack. Or how Dorian found me, hiding in the fucking men's room like a ten year old girl with the heebie jeebies.
But while we're getting undressed, Dorian just keeps going on and on about what a 'smashing' night it was. About all of his old theater pals who showed up and went into ecstasies over the picture. About the 'Evening Standard' critic who stopped to compliment him. About how jealous Gerry Milton was of Dorian's success -- so much so that he had a knock-down-drag-out argument with poor old Harry in the lobby of the theater in front of everyone! Gerry walked out and left his 'date' -- little Adele Phillips-Smythe -- standing there with no way to get home!
"And Sir Kenneth is now quite annoyed that he dies at the end of 'Hammersmith' -- because he wants to do a sequel right away!" Dorian laughs.
"Maybe you could make 'Hammersmith II' like those Freddy Kruger movies, Dorian," I say. "You think the guy is dead, but he just keeps coming back." Actually, I think, that would be more in line with MY character. Then they can put a big stake right through my heart to keep me from coming back, again and again. James Hammersmith is an emotional vampire -- he sucks the love out of everyone, even poor old Jonathan Ash, and leaves nothing but a shell behind. No wonder I played the role so well. Who better?
"Oh, I'd love to make something like that, Brian! A pure genre piece, meant from the beginning to be nothing but trash! That would be fun! I envy Ron doing that Western with Eastwood. Is it... finalized yet?" Dorian is always trying to pick up information about Ron's projects. And Ron does the same thing about Dorian. There's an unspoken rivalry there. But it isn't only about film. I realize that now, too late, as usual. It's about me.
"What do you care? I thought you were set to do that romantic comedy with Jude Law next?" Yes, I'm sure Dorian will forget me fast enough once he has Jude Law in the center of his lens!
"Oh, I am. We start shooting in Vancouver in January. I'm merely curious about upcoming projects." Dorian pauses. "Are YOU going to be in the Eastwood picture? That's what everyone is saying. I mean, with Ron directing it, everyone just assumes."
I shrug. "Who the fuck knows? I don't even know what I'm going to do tomorrow, let alone next May."
Meanwhile, while we are talking, I'm getting dressed again. Putting on my jeans and a tee shirt. My leather belt. My leather jacket. Finally, Dorian notices. "Brian, what are you doing?"
"What does it look like? Getting ready to go out." I had told Kenroy, when he brought us back to the house, to come back in about forty-five minutes. I have to get out of here for a few hours or I'm going to have another anxiety freak out. And I don't have any fucking Xanax to offset it. After hyperventilating in the men's room for twenty minutes at the premiere, I think I could use a little recreation. Some pain management. What better way to make myself fucking forget this evening ever happened. To forget what a fucking mess my whole life is.
"Oh, but I thought that... never mind." And Dorian turns away from me, not saying anything else. His disappointment is obvious, but that's not my problem. It's NOT!
Yes, that's the way it starts. Just like with Ron. He pretended that he didn't give a shit when I went out tricking at night. He 'encouraged' me to get it 'out of my system'! That's what he said! Out of my fucking system! Like I could ever get tricking out of my system. It's biology, pure and simple. I HAVE to do it, it has nothing to do with choice or desire. I have to fuck a lot of guys. Period.
But Ron didn't believe it. He didn't want to believe it! And then he acted like he didn't give a shit that I was prowling around in the middle of the night, looking for some fresh dick. But he DID give a shit. And pretending he didn't care made him crazy, eating away at him, day by day, night by night. That's where it all went wrong. That's the way it started. Both of us pretending. Me pretending that I wouldn't do it. Ron pretending that it wasn't eating him alive. Lying to each other -- and to ourselves.
And now I feel that sense of deja vu. Like I've lived this scene before. Only it's Dorian this time. Which means that tomorrow I've got to find a hotel. I've got to get out of this house. Thanks for the hospitality, Dorian, but this is the end of it.
Funny how I go through the same ritual every time I trick. Getting dressed in the same outfit -- jeans, tee shirt, leather jacket. Stripping myself of my ID and valuables. Of my identity. I just have a roll of ten pound notes and some change in my pocket. And my 'works' -- condoms and lube. I don't need anything else. As anonymous as possible.
How much longer will I be able to get away with being 'anonymous'? I admit, I've never been 'faceless' -- that's a myth. Certainly not in Pittsburgh, where every queer in town knows me by sight. And it's gotten to be the same way in Los Angeles, especially in West Hollywood. They see me coming. They all know me all too well. And now in London -- if anyone reads the newspapers, the tabloids, then they will know me, too.
I guess it's the pretense. Like when certain deeply closeted actors I know go out to the baths to get fucked and they think that no one recognizes them! That's such a joke! Even Emmett Honeycutt had one of those 'encounters' on one of his trips out to L.A.! I remember how we all laughed when Emmett told us how he fucked this certain actor. I'm sure the actor thought Emmett didn't 'recognize' him! Right! And then I saw this same guy myself in the baths when I first got to Los Angeles. Might have been the very same bathhouse, too! But I avoided him. It was too creepy. Yes, too creepy.
And now I wonder who in the future is going to pretend that they don't recognize ME -- and then have a big laugh with their friends over it? Yes, creepy.
The last thing I do -- after checking my hair -- is to take a pack of Dorian's French cigarettes. And his fancy lighter. I left mine back in Los Angeles. I've definitely cut back on the cigarettes, but I have a feeling I'm going to need one tonight. More than one.
Kenroy is waiting out front of the house with the Rolls.
Dorian's Romanian houseman, Ivan, opens the front door for me. "Do you have a key, Mr. Kinney, for when you come back?" he says in that Dracula accent.
"Nope. I don't have a key. I guess I'll just have to pound on the door and hope someone lets me in."
"As you prefer, sir," Ivan says, evenly. He reminds me of Carmel. He'll be so glad to see me walk out the door forever. Well, I'm not crazy about him, either.
I tell Kenroy to take me to that club near the river. The place where I 'rescued' Justin from the skinhead. The same place where we played our little 'pick up' game. I've been checking things out there and I know that tonight is Leather Night. Which is why I had to go back and change out of my tux -- they wouldn't have let me in otherwise.
"Are you sure you want to go there, Brian?" says Kenroy with concern. "Don't you think that it might be better if you just stayed in tonight? Or there's the party at the Hilton...."
But I cut Kenroy off. "Just take me where I told you to. And hurry up. The night isn't getting any fucking younger," I say coldly.
"Certainly -- SIR," Kenroy answers. So, now Kenroy thinks I'm an asshole. So fucking what? He's just the driver. Besides, I AM an asshole. Isn't that my middle name? We ride along in an uncomfortable silence, with me brooding in the back and Kenroy judging me up front. I feel bad for snapping at him, but the last thing I need tonight is for Kenroy to put HIS two cents in. I've had enough of that in my life. Everyone's input. Everyone knowing what's best for me. Now HIM!
The club looks to be jumping, even on a Tuesday night. This is more like it. I get out of the Rolls. Kenroy leans back in the driver's seat and lights up a cigarette, preparing for a long wait.
"Why don't you just go home?" I tell him. "I don't need you anymore tonight. So you can take off."
Kenroy just looks at me, pulling on his cigarette. "I'll be waiting outside, Brian. MISTER Kinney. Whatever you prefer when you're in this mood. But I'll be waiting right here. So, when you're finished doing whatever it is you're plannin' to do to knock yourself out -- and I can tell that's what you're plannin' -- then I'll be here. Just come out and I'll drive you back."
"It's NOT necessary, Kenroy!" I insist. "Just take off, okay?"
"I promised that I'd look after you while you were here," Kenroy replies, seriously. "Now, I made a bollocks of that promise the time you got in the middle of that brawl with those musicians and were hauled in by the police. But I promised Justin -- remember him? -- that I would look after you when you were in town -- and that's what I'm doin'!"
"So now you're a member of the Justin Fan Club, too?" I say, angrily. "Trying to lay the guilt on me, huh? Making sure I'm a good boy? How do I know that you aren't just another one of Ron's fucking spies? Like Hughie Marsh? And that fucking Rowan Conley? I bet he's on the payroll, too! So why not YOU?"
But Kenroy just looks at me, sadly. "I'm on no one's payroll, Brian, and you well know that. I'm a free agent. A free man. I drive you NOT because you pay me, but because I like you. I like all the gentleman I drive -- or I wouldn't drive 'em. I care what happens to 'em. I know what you're doing, Brian. But trying to escape from your troubles, your fears -- that won't make them go away. It won't solve what's really wrong. And you know that."
"You know SO much about me, Kenroy? You don't know SHIT!"
"I know what I see. And I see a man in pain, that's what. And I see someone who isn't here -- but who is always with you, no matter how much you deny it," he answers. "And, yes, I do care about Justin. If that's wrong, then so be it. He's an innocent in all this. But he cares what happens to you -- so I feel an obligation to watch out for you. Even when you don't want to be watched out for. Especially then."
"Well, I'm sorry to say that I'm a grown man, Kenroy! And I don't need a babysitter or a minder or a fucking wet nurse!"
Kenroy just shrugs. But he doesn't make any move to leave. "I'll be here when you're finished, Brian. To pick up the pieces."
"Fuck YOU, Kenroy."
"I'm not your type, Brian -- but 'ta' for asking." And he continues to puff on his cigarette.
Kenroy needs to mind his own fucking business! I was in a fucked up mood before, but now I'm really pissed off as I go into the club. But I guess 'pissed off' is the requisite mood on Leather Night. This place is full of pissed off men.
The first thing I do is get a beer -- a lager, I'm sick of drinking room temperature piss -- and then look for someone with some 'E.' If I'm going to fuck myself up tonight, then why do it halfway? I'm planning to do it thoroughly. And it only takes a few minutes to find someone to fuck me up thoroughly. Or two, rather. They are leaning over against the wall by the dance floor. The music is some mind-splitting techno/metal mix that sounds like the inside of a foundry. I stand with them and watch the dancers. But I'm not in the mood to dance.
The last time I was at this club was when Justin and I played our little 'game.' I stood not far from this spot, watching the dance floor, waiting to make my move on him. No, I'm not interested in dancing at this place. I'm not interested in dancing with anyone. Fuck dancing.
And fuck Kenroy for being such a fucking priss! I'm sick and tired of people who are 'watching out' for me. Who are making sure that I don't fuck up. Because it's assumed that I WILL fuck up.
Shit! I wonder how I could have lived for thirty-one years without all these people 'looking out' for me! Everyone who is SO fucking sure that they know what's 'good' for me. My goddamn mother. Ron. Lindsay. Michael. Deb. Diane. Dorian. Sir Ken. My fucking agent, Lew Blackmore. Jimmy. Tess. And now Kenroy. Everyone butting into my fucking life! My fucking business!
And Justin. I can't get away from him! Away from his face -- looking at me. Expecting things from me. Trusting me. And sitting in that theater tonight, watching the film -- the last thing in the world I expected to see was HIM -- right there on the screen. The look on his face as he gazed at that poster of James Hammersmith. That poster of ME. Justin is no actor. He wasn't pretending. That was what he felt. Love. It was palpable. I could SEE it on film so much clearer than when he's in the room with me. Because when he's right there I can rationalize it all, somehow. Reduce it all to lust. Or obligation. Or guilt. I can tell myself that I'm not seeing what I'm seeing, even when it's right in front of me. Or not feeling what I know I'm feeling. But now it's there. On film. For everyone to see. The depth of his love. The reality of it. And I can't deny it.
That terrifies me. Because of what Justin has already been through. What he's survived. About how he needs a chance to have the kind of life he really wants. With someone who can give him all of that shit. That love. Without constantly screwing up. Without constantly being on the verge of ruining everything. Who doesn't have the compulsions. The damage. The demons.
Someone who isn't me.
And Ron is right. I'll destroy him. I will. I can't help myself.
Just like I'll destroy myself, sooner or later. Probably sooner. Sooner than anyone can know.
The two guys with the 'E' are called Keef and Mac. They are big and dangerous looking, but that's the attraction, isn't it? Because they are both nasty as shit. And that's what I'm looking for. Nasty. Menacing. That's what Leather Night is all about.
They seem to be regulars here. They live somewhere in South London. I'm not sure if they're a couple or just 'mates.' It doesn't matter anyway. Even knowing their names is more information than I want or need.
Keef is a dirty blond with a shaved head and big sideburns. It looks all turned around. Not an attractive style at all. He's short, but muscular, more so than most limeys. They aren't exactly big on working out over here. Since drinking and eating sweets are the two main national pastimes, it makes for a lot beer bellies and bad teeth. The two guys rag me for being too thin.
Mac, the other guy, is a Scot. He doesn't say so, but it's obvious by his accent. I think of that castle up in Scotland where I was invited for the weekend. Maybe I'll get a bit of Scotland tonight after all. It'll save me a long, fucking train ride, that's for sure. He's bigger than Keef, beefy rather than pumped. With gingery hair all over. He's got a leather vest that shows off his chest and arms and they are covered with that reddish fur. I always have bad luck with redheads. Like that fucking Rowan! He would have to show up tonight at the theater! But what the fuck. I'm not interested in Mac's hair. But these hairy Celts usually have thick, red cocks. And what else really matters?
And Fiona. She's Scottish, too. Or sort of Scottish. Now why the fuck am I thinking of HER right now? Jesus, I have to get HER out of my mind or I'll never get it up. Yikes.
But the 'E' is helping things. It always does. My cock lives in his own little world where my anxieties don't get in the way at all. It's like a machine -- a perpetual motion machine -- that just powers on. Mikey was so funny that time he 'saved' me from scarfing. How he said that the cleaning lady would probably find me one day, stone dead with a huge boner. Yes, I'll be dead, but my dick will live on. Maybe they'll put it into Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum! Yes, that's definitely where it belongs.
The noise of the so-called music is giving me a major migraine. And everywhere I look -- I see Justin. Fuck! I should have gone some place where we never went together. Then I wouldn't think I see him, hanging out in every corner. I wouldn't feel his presence. I... I have to stop thinking about that. Right now!
But the last straw is when the DJ starts playing some weird mix of 'Baby Blue' with the bass turned up and all sorts of effects distorting my voice. I can't tell if the way my voice sounds on the track -- ominous and ragged -- is the way the mix actually is or the way I'm hearing it through the 'E' I've ingested. But I know I've got to get the fuck out of here. Soon.
"I'm sick of this joint," I say. Now I'm really twitching. "There must be somewhere else to go."
Keef and Mac confer. They know a place, not far from here. Down the river. It's a private club, but not a dance club. They'll get me in.
"Okay," I say. "Let's hike. But is there another exit?" I want to avoid Kenroy Smith and the Rolls, which is parked right in front. If I walk out the main door, he'll see me and stop me.
They lead me through the club and downstairs. There IS a back exit. We come out right on the river. I can hear the rumble of the underground station directly under us. And I can smell the Thames, like dead animals and gasoline.
We walk east, along the river.
This club isn't even marked. It's just a door. A black door in a warehouse, surrounded by alleys.
Inside, it's a pretty typical dive. A sex and drugs kind of place. Nothing but leather. The guys are as ugly as you'd expect and they stink. The whole place reeks with the smell of sweat and amyl nitrate and skunk, that local weed they grow here. There's some indistinct music, but no dancing in a place like this. Who the fuck would come here to dance?
A couple of guys come over to me immediately. I don't know if they recognize me or if I'm just cleaner and thinner and better-looking than the usual run of creep who comes in here. Then I see one guy who interests me. He's young and smooth. Dark buzz-cut, like most of the men here. And blue eyes. Very blue. I go over to him and run my hands over his chest. He's already tweaked, which is good, because I don't have anything on me. We move back against the wall.
But then I feel a hand on my shoulder. "What the fuck?"
"YOU came here with us, mate! Remember?" It's Keef.
"Fuck off," I say. I'm not interested in him. Obviously. He's ugly and he smells. And so does his buddy. Just like most of the men here. Fuck them all.
"No you don't!" says Keef. And he pulls me away from Blue Eyes. Who immediately makes himself scarce. Mac, the big ginger haired Scot, moves in next to me. And together they slam me against the wall.
"Fuck you! Leave me alone!" And I struggle. But they have a hold on me. A tight hold. I feel blood in my mouth where I bit into my lip. "Shit! You stupid fucks!"
"Shut your face!"
And I feel myself being pulled along through the dark. Into some place even darker. And then a door is shoved open. I know we're outside because of the rush of air. But it isn't fresh air. It smells like garbage. Like the river. I can see lights in the distance, but there's no light in this alley.
This alley. I suddenly have a terror of being here. It smells like the alleys in the Bowery. Fetid, rat-infested. That's where the nastiest tricks always hung out. Where Stan was always waiting. In the alley. Where that guy from the store took me outside, while that foreign woman screamed at me. Where he shoved me up against the frozen brick and raped me. And then left me lying in a heap next to the trash cans, just another piece of garbage.
And suddenly I'm very cold. I was always afraid of being left in one of those alleys. Of falling down in the cold. Of never getting up again. Of dying there.
And now I know that's exactly what's going to happen. Now. Right here. One of the two men shoves something under my nose. I can't tell what it is, but it gives me a powerful rush -- and then leaves me limp. So I can't fight back. I try desperately to keep my feet. I have to keep on my feet! If I end up on the ground, then that's the end.
One of the men punches me, then twists my arm and pushes me against the brick wall of the alley, the side of my face scraping as I'm dragged down. Just like before. Just the same way. I can't stop them. I try to grab something to hold myself up. There's nothing but the cold wall.
I feel them fumbling with the front of my jeans. Then the prick of a knife, a switchblade, the point of it against my neck, my chest, cutting away my jacket, my jeans, my tee shirt. Hitting me again. Thrusting me down. Down.
I'm finally on the ground. But before I pass out, I look up one more time, trying to get one more look at the sky. Something blue. Something....
Continue on to "Humpty Dumpty -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, January 2003.
Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions. I welcome all of your feedback on this chapter.
Updated January 23, 2003.