This is Part 3 of Chapter 56 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Sunday Morning -- Part 2", the previous section.
"Welcome to my humble et cetera, cutie. I know you've been here before, so you don't need the tour. Take a load off, kids."
Diane moves briskly around the little apartment, putting her overnight case in the bedroom and a bag of groceries on the kitchen table. Brian limps over to the sofa and drops on it like a rock.
"Brian? Are you okay?" I'm really concerned about him. But he just groans and puts his head back against Diane's embroidered throw pillows.
"He'll live. Believe me, I've seen him SO much worse!" She moves to the fridge and opens it. "What can I get you? Juice? Milk? Coffee, Bridie?"
"Can I have some juice, please?" I'm suddenly so thirsty. "But could I use your bathroom first?"
"Sure, honey. You know the way." She points through the only other door. "I'll get you some orange juice and also see if I can revive the Queen Bee here."
I go through her small bedroom and into the bathroom. All kinds of bras and stockings and things are hanging all over, on the shower curtain rod, the towel racks, and even on a rope strung across the room. I have to duck not to get caught in them. I pee and then wash my hands and splash water on my face, trying to revive myself.
I look at my watch and see that it's just before 8:00 a.m. In twelve hours I'll be in the air, on my way back to Pittsburgh. The thought of it makes me feel so torn up that I have to rub more cold water on my face, shocking myself into some kind of sense. I'm glad that I'm getting away from here -- away from Ron and that house and everything in it. But I'm afraid of what will happen to Brian.
I look around this little bathroom and I know that he can't stay here with Diane for any period of time. He'll either have to go back to the house or leave and make his own life here in L.A. Because I comprehend now that Brian isn't coming back to Pittsburgh. Maybe to visit, but never again to live. I have that feeling so strongly that I splash more water on my face to calm the hot anxiety rash rising on my neck.
"Are you okay, hon?" Diane is outside the bathroom door. I open it and come out. "I'm working up a little breakfast. Free of charge. I hear you guys are a little light in the cash area."
I follow her out and sit at her kitchen table. Brian is still sprawled on the sofa. He almost looks passed out, but I know better. His eyes keep fluttering open, watching me and Diane.
Diane puts bacon in the microwave and pulls bagels out of her grocery bag. Also a jar of coffee, some milk, and a bag of salad. I suck down the big glass of orange juice she puts in front of me.
"I wasn't expecting company. Good thing I stocked up a bit before I came home."
"Where the fuck were you? We've been waiting for you out there all night," Brian croaks from the sofa.
"The living dead heard from," she says to me, offering me a bagel. "I've been in San Diego."
"San Diego? What the fuck were you doing down there?"
"Jerry had a business meeting, so I went down with him on Friday. It was glorious! A deluxe hotel suite with all the room service a girl could want. I even had a massage! But we had to come back early today. Jerry had a brunch to go to with his freakin' wife."
I look at Diane. Jerry was the guy she was with at the race track. "Jerry is married?"
"Of course, cutie. All the good ones are either gay or married in Hollywood -- don't you know that? It's the first thing a girl learns when she comes out here."
"Yeah, that and how to give good head," says Brian, moaning on the sofa.
"Just for THAT -- NO cream cheese on your bagel!"
"I hate cream cheese. It makes my stomach turn."
"Well, I'll think of some other punishment for you then, Bridie. I know...." She picks the jar up and holds it out. "Instant coffee! The generic brand! You'll love it!"
Brian moans a little more.
"I'm sorry -- I didn't know he was married. Your boyfriend or whatever -- I mean...." Now I'm stumbling around, apologizing for making another mistake.
"No offense taken, cutie. A lot of girls have that same problem. Boyfriends who already have wives. In fact, a lot of GUYS have the same problem -- boyfriends who have wives. Right Brian? Huh?"
Brian doesn't open his eyes, but he extends his middle finger in Diane's direction.
"He's such a good guest."
Diane now pours me a glass of milk and gets the bacon and the bagels ready. She's chatting away and sniping at Brian and all the while she's looking at me closely. She knows something is really wrong. She can read it on my face.
"So. Justin. Tell me why the two of you fled from the Mr. Ron's Happy House of Horror right over to Sister Diane's Home for Wayward Boys?"
"Yeah, I'd like the answer to that one, too." Brian is sitting up.
Diane takes a cup of black coffee over to him and puts it into his hands. "Don't burn yourself!" she commands.
He sips it. "Christ, this is vile!"
"I told you, Bridie -- the finest generic instant I can afford."
"If that fucker Jerry wasn't such a cheap bastard he'd get you a better place. Give you the down-payment on a condo out in Santa Monica or some place decent." He sips some more. "I told you that I would give you the money. Take it and get out of this dump."
"I'll move when I can afford to move. With my own money."
"But this place doesn't even have a guest room for me to crash in! It's worth giving you the cash to move you just so I don't have to deal with this lousy sofa ever again."
"Brian, if I had a real guest room I'd NEVER get you out of it. You'd be like a freakin' yo-yo, bouncing back and forth between here and the canyon, unable to make up your mind where you were supposed to be."
"Well, THAT shit hit the fan last night."
Diane's face gets very bright and interested. "Do tell. So this isn't just the aftermath of an all-night bender the two of you went on?"
"Fuck no! Ron and I practically had a set-to by the pool. But he walked away. Fucking nelly coward!"
"Bridie, that would hardly be a fair freakin' fight!"
"So what? He deserves to get decked."
"And let me guess -- the duel was over our fair damsel here, right?" She pats my cheek exactly the way Deb does. It's uncanny.
"I took Lindsay out to dinner with Jimmy...."
Diane looks at me sideways and makes a face.
"... And Tess. Morton's -- the whole business. Fuck me but it was excruciating. Every two-bit agent and has-been actor in town made his way to the table to lick Jimmy's ass and present themselves to me. It was pitiful. Naturally, Lindsay had a wonderful time. She even met some soap star she used to watch when we were in college. Another fucking has-been schmoozing Jimmy. Shit! If I hear one more person ask Lindsay if she's 'Mrs. Kinney' I'll fucking scream!"
"You brought it on yourself, Brian, by bringing her out here and then acting like, well, a husband."
"Shit." Brian finally can't take the coffee anymore. He stands up and walks, stiff-legged, over to the table and snatches some bacon and a sesame bagel. "But that's not what I was trying to tell you, Diane. When we got back from dinner -- Jimmy dropped us off, so I was a bit... a bit...."
"He was plastered," I add.
"Thanks. I was plastered. Lindsay went off to bed and I -- went to say goodnight to Justin."
"Goodnight. Right." Diane bites into her bagel and nods.
"If I hadn't been so plowed I would have known something was up. But this one bolts from the poolhouse and the next thing I know I'm having an argument with Ron. I don't even remember how it started, but he was being a total asshole. And then I heard Justin being sick...."
They both look at me, but I look down at my plate.
"Something has been going on and I want to know what it is!" The angry edge to his voice is coming back. I start to feel shaky again. Brian is practically breathing down my neck.
"Hey, now. Let's step back a moment. Brian, why don't you take a seat?"
And he does, grudgingly.
Diane takes hold of my right hand and squeezes it, like she did the first time I met her. I squeeze back, showing her the new strength in my grip.
"Now, I bet there was a time when you couldn't even pick up a spoon, huh? Am I right?"
"Not very well."
"But you worked at it and worked at it and little by little you got the feeling back, the use back, the mobility back, right?"
"Little by little."
"Good boy. That's the only way you can make any progress, Justin. Little by little. Then you know each step works, as you go from one to the next, and so on."
Diane reaches over and grabs Brian by the chin. "Now, this one thinks that bulling his way through every problem -- pushing and stomping and careening around, knocking things over -- is the way to deal with things. Oh, and it helps if you're drunk. Or stoned. Or fucking. That's THIS one's way of dealing." She releases his face. "See where it's gotten him? He's living in his freakin' car!"
"One fucking night, Diane!"
"I don't care, Brian. You let things come to this pass because your way of dealing with things is either to attack or bolt. Apparently you did a little of BOTH last night. And because of that I have visitors -- again. How long is this going to go on?"
Brian looks down at the yellow table cloth on the kitchen table. He pokes at a small coffee stain with his finger.
"Which brings us to the problem at hand." Diane looks directly into my eyes. Her eyes are very blue and very kind. I think about my mother's eyes and I have to take a deep breath. Then I think of Ron's eyes and I feel something very different.
"You look a little green, cutie."
"I think I feel sick," I say, and dash for the bathroom.
Once I get in there and stand over the sink, the feeling starts to pass. But my knees are still shaking, my face clammy. I try to take some deep breaths because I know I'm about to have a panic attack if I don't do something to stop it. I brace myself and slowly breathe in and out until the feeling recedes. I wipe my face and walk into the bedroom.
I can hear Brian and Diane talking about me.
"The minute I saw him get off that plane, I should have turned him around, marched him over to the Trans-Con counter, and put him on the next flight BACK to Pittsburgh."
"So, why didn't you?"
"I don't know -- I'm a selfish bastard who only thinks of his dick?"
"Maybe because HE knows what you need better than you know it yourself?"
"Wake up, Brian. Seriously. Wake up before you sleepwalk your way right off a cliff."
"It may be too late for that."
"You always think it's too late for everything. This isn't the last fifteen minutes of 'Titanic' here -- you have a world of time to do the right freakin' thing -- if you don't screw it up."
"Screw it up -- that's the key phrase."
"You don't have to screw it up, Brian. If you don't always deny everything right and left you might have a chance here. But you have to find out what happened up at the house. It's tearing that kid apart."
"I know -- and that's what terrifies me."
"Maybe it isn't as bad as you imagine. Or as bad as HE imagines. If you two can TALK instead of constantly avoiding every important issue in your lives at every important moment, then maybe you could actually move forward in your lives instead of running around in freakin' circles like a couple of dogs chasing their tails!"
I walk out of the bedroom and they fall silent as I come back to the table and sit down.
"How about some water, Justin? Or more juice."
Diane fills a glass with ice and pours some water out of a bottle. She sets it down in front of me and takes my hand again.
"If you want Brian to go into the other room or sit on the couch, that's a-okay. But it would be better if you tell HIM right now. Because if you wait it's going to eat you up, honey. You know that. Believe me, nothing can be as bad as you think it is, no matter what. Do you believe me?"
I shake my head.
"Do you think that there's anything you can tell me or Brian that could possibly shock either one of us? I doubt it. We're a couple of experienced characters here. Between the two of us, I think we've seen and done it all, ay, Bridie?"
But Brian isn't smiling. He looks grim and worried.
Diane sighs. "It's only because something has obviously happened to YOU, Justin, that you find it hard to face. But something that may have happened to you is not ALL that you are, anymore than being attacked last year is all you are. It's just one thing. But you have to tell us in order to let it go. To make sure it doesn't take you over and become more important than it needs to be. I think you know that, right?"
I nod. It's like Diane already knows exactly what happened. The way she looks into me, not judging me. As if I could tell her anything and not be ashamed. And yet....
"Okay, hon -- just look at me. Take a drink first." I sip some of the water. She's still holding my hand. Brian is sitting next to me, but I can't look at him. All I see are his hands, clenched together and resting on the table. "Just answer yes or no to start, okay?"
Diane smiles at me. "Justin, did somebody hurt you? Hit you or anything like that?"
"No," I say. Not physically. Not like the bat. But in another way.
"Okay, did someone touch you? Did Ron?"
I hesitate and Diane nods at me, encouraging me. "Not exactly. Not...." I stop.
"Okay, hon. Not exactly? Then did he say something to you? Or tell you something that upset you? Something about Brian, maybe?"
"Maybe." I sip some more water. "He showed me," I whisper.
Diane frowns and leans forward. "Showed you what, Justin?"
I swallow. "A movie."
"A movie? What do you mean, hon?"
I see Brian's hands flatten out on the table. He's tapping his finger against the cloth.
"A movie. That Ron made. Of Brian."
I hear Brian take a deep breath. "Shit," he says softly. "Shit."
"What kind of movie, Justin?"
Brian speaks up. "Porn, Diane. It's some old, old porn."
"Porn? What kind of porn?"
"Porn of me, Diane. Ron filmed it at the same time be made 'Red Shirt.' He used his extra film from the project to make some fuck films -- homemade."
"Why Brian, you filthy, filthy kid!"
"I can't deny it. But I didn't know he still had it."
"He said he found it when he looked at the original film of 'Red Shirt.' It was stored with it. And he edited it... and made a movie," I say, my voice trembling.
"Then why didn't he show it to me?" says Brian, demandingly. "I'd love to see the thing. Why would he hide it from me?"
"To blackmail you?" Diane suggests.
"To blackmail someone the person has to be embarrassed or ashamed of what people might see. I'm not ashamed. It wouldn't matter to me WHO saw it. If anyone should be embarrassed it would be Ron -- since he's in the fucking thing, too."
Diane winces. "I'll pass on the privilege. But why would he show it you, hon? What possible reason would he have?"
"That wasn't all," I say, my voice low.
"What else is there?" asks Brian. "I think it was three different times, but it must all look pretty much the same. Shit! Now I want to see it!"
"I did, too," I say, sadly. "That's how he got me to... come to his study. To watch the video of... the two of you. He...." my voice falters.
"It's all right, Justin. Keep going." Diane presses my hand.
"There was more stuff, Brian." I turn and look him in the eye. "New stuff. Of you... he added to the tape."
"Of me? What do you mean?"
"From the poolhouse. Of you." I look away. "And then...."
"What the fuck do you mean, the poolhouse?"
"He's filming you in there, Brian...."
He stares at me, the truth dawning. "Mother. Fucker." He looks at Diane. "He's got a fucking camera in there! He...." Brian turns to me. "Oh my God. He filmed us, didn't he? He filmed US!" Brian stands up suddenly, as if he can't contain himself. "He was filming us in the poolhouse! Has been filming ME! For how long, Justin? Do you know?"
"I don't know, Brian. It's mostly just you... jacking off. I didn't see any... other guys."
"There aren't any. I never took anyone to the poolhouse. Never brought anyone back to the house at all. Not with Carmel always sniffing around and Ron watching me like a hawk... Fucking WATCHING me! Shit! I cannot believe it!" He's pacing back and forth, his hand on his head.
"Brian -- you need to calm down. Don't let your emotions get out of hand," says Diane.
But Brian doesn't look so much furious as he looks stunned. Stunned and devastated. "This is my fault. My fucking fault! I couldn't keep my goddamn dick in my pants and now that bastard has film of Justin! I should just fucking kill myself for letting this happen!"
Diane jumps up and takes Brian's arm. "Don't over-react, Bridie. Not now. It's too important. There's nothing he can do with this film right now -- unless you force his hand. Unless you make HIM panic. Think of how completely desperate he must be to pull a stunt like this? How pathetic? How hopeless?"
"So, I'm supposed to pretend it didn't happen? Pretend everything is normal?" He stops pacing and leans against the doorframe of the bedroom, steadying himself.
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying. Justin is leaving town. He'll be out of Ron's reach. There's nothing he can DO to him, other than the psychological abuse of having Justin know that his privacy has been so violated. And I think THAT is Ron's whole purpose, Brian -- to break the kid and make certain he's not a threat. Break him mentally and cow him so much that he's afraid to be with you. Afraid to act on his own emotions. Just to make him afraid in general."
"What's the fucking point, then?"
"To punish you, Brian? To hurt you? To take away a rival that he can't fight any other way? Who the hell knows? But it's a desperate act, let's face it. I think the best defense is to do nothing. Let him wonder what will happen? What the consequences will be?"
"But I want to confront him! I want to grab him by the balls and tell him that...."
"Don't, Brian. Don't do it. You might be able to make him crazier if he thinks you still don't know. If he's still filming in the poolhouse...." Diane looks at Brian slyly. Then she glances at me. "You could make him sorry he ever thought of this little diversion. Really sorry. If he isn't sorry already just from watching the two of you -- watching you make love, while he is festering away."
Brian presses his hands against his eyes. "I have to think, Diane. Think about this. But I also have to get Justin on that plane back to Pittsburgh. And Lindsay and Gus, too. Get them out of this city. Today."
While they are talking I get up and go into Diane's bedroom. My head aches and I have to lie down. Because I still haven't told Brian the worst. The very worst part. That Ron has more video -- of him and me. And THAT I can't tell him. Can't even think of it. I roll my face in Diane's big, soft pillows. I think about Brian fucking me on this bed only a few days ago. It seems like years. Like a more innocent time that is now gone forever.
Brian comes and stands in the doorway. He closes the door and lies next to me on the bed.
"It isn't your fault, Brian. I came here without you asking me to. You knew I shouldn't be here -- and now I have to face the consequences."
"How could anyone imagine something like this, Justin? I mean, it's beyond the fucking pale in every way." He rolls me over to face him. "You couldn't have known any more than I could have known. If anyone is at fault it's me, like I said. I can't fucking control myself. Or else...."
"But I wanted you, Brian! I wanted you to come out to me in the poolhouse that first night -- and the other times, too. That's why I came out to Los Angeles! I wanted to help you. Help you get better, like I did in Pittsburgh. And help you understand what you really wanted -- which I hoped would be me. And now I've done nothing but cause you even more trouble. And I've fucked myself over in a big way. Such a big way...."
"No, Justin. You HAVE helped me. You've helped me see the truth. I might have gone on and on, thinking I could make things better with Ron. Thinking that I was a problem. That I was destined always to fuck up everything all by myself. But this shows me that it's really about HIM. About his fucking obsessions. His control. His fantasy about what he wants me to be -- which is something that I CAN'T be. At least, not with him."
He holds me closely for a while and I watch his face. He looks sad and confused -- and hurt. With his hair all messy and his eyes red and face blotchy and drawn, he looks like someone has beaten him up badly. And someone has.
"I thought when you were younger that everything was so dark and full of people who were cruel and evil to you and that you were this... pawn, I guess. This used-up thing. That's the impression I got. But then I saw you -- how truly young and innocent you were, even in the middle of all that shit. How unafraid of anything you were. Just like I think of you now -- unafraid and beautiful, always. The way I want to be. Like you."
"I'm a bad model to emulate. You already know that, Justin. I'm not right. I've never been right."
I shake my head and move against him. "I watched the film he made -- back then. It really was beautiful. It was. You CAN love somebody. I saw it with my own eyes. And you were beautiful, Brian."
He blinks a little and looks down. "That's over. Over a long time ago."
And I catch the tears that fall from his eyes with my mouth.
Continue on to "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Updated July 24, 2002