This is Chapter 32 of the "Queer Realities" series.
Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Dr. Julius Gorowitz, Dylan Burke.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Nostalgia for the present. Pittsburgh. February 2003.
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 can only give you love that lasts forever,
And a promise to be near each time you call,
And the only heart I own
For you and you alone --
I can only give you country walks in springtime,
And a hand to hold when leaves begin to fall,
And a love whose burning light
Will warm the winter's night --
I'm already running late for class on Wednesday morning.
When I woke up I knew I was late, but I just couldn't get myself out of bed. I was exhausted from all that driving yesterday, and I stayed up late watching DVD's with Dylan and then had to drive him home. I didn't get to bed until after 1:00 a.m. and even then I hardly slept at all.
Dylan wants to get together this weekend. There's some kind of party that the GLBT group at Carnegie Mellon is throwing and he invited me. I told him that I'm going to be busy all weekend. I didn't tell him that I have to go up to Springhurst to stay with Brian. Only a few people, like my mom and Michael and Ben, know that's where I go on the weekends. I think some others, like Emmett and Deb, suspect that I'm visiting Brian, but they don't know where he is or where I go.
It's not like I HAVE to go up there every single weekend. It isn't a requirement. I'm doing it because Dr. Gorowitz says that it helps the patient. I mean, it helps Brian. Or it's supposed to help Brian. I guess it's helping. And Brian is my partner, right? I have to help him. It's something that you do. That you're supposed to do.
I only wish I wasn't so fucking angry with Brian. That interview shouldn't have hit me as hard as it did. It was like I was cruising merrily along in the Jeep, feeling good and enjoying the view, and then I hit a fucking brick wall. Bam! That hurt. I know I'm overreacting, but I can't help it. I just can't.
Last night, after I drove Dylan home, I brought the mail up and read the entire interview in 'The Advocate.' Then I read it over again. That didn't fucking help at all. That's one reason I couldn't sleep. I couldn't stop brooding about the shit that Brian was spouting. I know it was more of his fucking 'philosophy' and that I've heard all his crap before -- but it was so fucking hurtful! It was just nakedly horrible to see all of Brian's anti-relationship bullshit in black and white next to a bunch of hot pictures of his perfect body and his handsome, arrogant, smug face!
So I'm rushing around like mad, getting dressed and getting my work together for class, when I hear the buzzer. Now what?
"What?" I yell into the intercom.
"Delivery for Mr. Justin Taylor."
"Okay, I'll buzz you in."
I slide back the heavy loft door and the elevator opens. A man steps out with a huge bundle in his arms. It looks like flowers. Red roses. He steps up to the door.
"Justin Taylor? Will you sign here, please?"
I sign for them. "Who are they from?"
"I don't know, sir. You'll have to check the card."
I carry the bundle into the loft and set it on the dining table. It's much more than a dozen roses, but I can't count how many. My first thought is... but no! That's stupid! Why would Dylan Burke send me flowers? He doesn't have any money to spare on roses.
But it can't be. Never! He wouldn't.
I find the card and open it. Only one word. "Unforgettable."
Brian. Brian sent me roses.
If I didn't know that no one else would know what had happened at the cottage, I'd think it was a joke and that someone else had sent them. Because this is something that Brian would never do. Ever! But no one else would know that we listened to that song.
No one else.
I stare at the flowers in disbelief. And tears begin to well up in my eyes. But it isn't because I'm sad. And it isn't because I'm happy. It's my fucking allergies! Fuck!
Then I start to sneeze and I can't stop. I just can't stop the sneezing. I feel my throat closing up and I gasp for breath.
Fucking roses! Fucking flowers!
I lash out and sweep the bundle off the table and onto the ground.
But I keep sneezing. I can't stop. My eyes are so swollen that I'm having a hard time seeing. I run over to the kitchen and splash some water on my face, trying to wash the allergens out of my eyes. It helps a little. The sneezing dies down. I find my allergy pills in the cupboard and take two of them, praying that they begin to work quickly. I take a few deep breaths, steadying myself. Waiting for the attack to pass.
Then I pull out a garbage bag from under the sink.
I open the bag and push the bundle of roses into the bag with my foot, trying not to touch them with my hands. Then I take them down to the garbage and stuff them into the trash can.
It isn't until I'm halfway to the Institute that I remember that I didn't remove Brian's card. I threw that away, too. And now it's too late to retrieve it.
Everything is too fucking late!
"You would have been proud of me, Doc," I say to Gorowitz. And I mean it. For once in my fucking life I didn't wimp out. I told Justin what I was feeling. I almost didn't say it. But then I knew that I had to. I had to tell Justin that I loved him. No apologies, no excuses, no regrets. And I did it.
"How did you feel saying those words, Brian?" Gorowitz asks. He's always asking about my fucking feelings! Even when we're already talking about them! The Doc always wants more! Some things never change.
But I don't hesitate. "It felt great! I feel free. I'm not kidding, Doc. I feel all cleaned out inside. Lighter. Like I'm not worn down by wondering what lousy thing is going to happen to me next. I'm actually looking forward to the future." And it's true. "I can't believe it, Doc! Last night I was looking through my Filofax and figuring out what I'd be doing a year from now, when Justin is getting ready to graduate from the Institute of Fine Art. What WE will be doing. Or getting ready to do."
"And what were you thinking that you would be doing then, Brian?" Gorowitz's face, as usual, is impassive. Like it would fucking kill him to say that I did the right thing or that I'm moving forward! But that's not the way he works. Like I say, he always wants more. Every time I take one step forward, he wants two -- or a fucking mile!
"I'd like to take a trip on my boat," I tell him. I've been thinking about this for a while. Dreaming about it. Planning it. Savoring it. "Me and Justin and no one else. We'd start in Los Angeles and then cruise down the coast. Not too far away from shore -- I don't want to get into trouble on the water -- but just keep going. Head south. Stop at Catalina Island. San Diego. Then Mexico. We could look for little villages on the coast to stop at. Hang out for as long as we feel like it. Sit on the beach. Fish. Take pictures. Do nothing. Fuck in the sand. That sort of thing."
"Why is this a particular fantasy of yours, Brian?" Gorowitz asks.
"It isn't a fantasy! It's what we're going to do! I'll make sure that my schedule is clear and that we have all the time we need just to be together. That's what we need. Time to be together. It'll be perfect. Fucking perfect! We can spend time looking at maps and charts and reading all the guide books. Justin can circle all the places he wants to see. He loves doing that. It'll be a whole new experience for both of us. He'll have his degree in his hand and all the worry about school behind him. It'll be something that we can really remember later on."
"Later on?" Now I see the hint of a smile on the Doc's face. "Are you contemplating a 'later' with Justin?"
I swallow. Here it comes. "Why the fuck not? Isn't that what all of this has been about? Me admitting that I wanted to be with... with one person? That maybe I want to have a relationship with that person. Now that I'm not totally fucked up with drugs and booze and all the shit that has been filling my head for so many years, isn't that what it's all about?"
Gorowitz raises one bushy eyebrow. "That's not what you said in your interview, Brian."
At first I don't know what the fuck he's talking about. Then it hits me. That 'Advocate' bullshit. Is Gorowitz fucking nuts?
"My interview?" I say. "You mean that piece of crap in 'The Advocate'? You know when I gave that, Doc? Back in December. Right before Ron died. I was so fucked up then I couldn't remember a single thing I'd said to the idiot who interviewed me. I was stoned and I was half-asleep. Come on! No one takes shit like that seriously! Do you have any idea how many interviews I gave in connection with the release of 'The Olympian'?"
"I'm sure that I don't know, Brian."
"Almost a hundred," I inform him. I hold up my hand and count off. "And that includes press junkets for print, radio, network television, local television, and cable, not to mention internet sites. And that's only for that one film. I also had 'Hammersmith' coming out in England at the same time, which meant a whole different round of interviews and publicity. 'The Advocate' is only trying to wring as much attention for themselves out of the upcoming Oscars because 'The Olympian' is a queer film. My personal assistant, Leslie, says that they also have an interview that Ron gave them before he died that they're going to bring out in the next issue. Who knows how they'll spin that? But Ron's gone now and can't complain. It's all a fucking game, Doc! A crap-shoot. It's all about hype and selling magazines."
Gorowitz glowers at me. Maybe if he tried smiling once in a while he'd feel a lot better. Like I do! "I read that interview, Brian, and a lot of the statements that you made that could be very damaging to certain people. Did you consider that possibility?"
"You mean damaging to Ron?" I huff. "I know that I said a lot of hurtful things about him, but he's dead, Doc! He's beyond any damage I can do to him. Anything I said in that interview is stuff I've said before in other places, in private, in public, and in print. It's shit that I've said for years and years, even before I was an actor! Ask anyone who knows me. Ask my friend Michael. Or his mom, Debbie Novotny. Ask Lindsay, my son's mother. They've all heard my bullshit before."
"And what about Justin?" Gorowitz asks.
"What about him? He's heard it all before, too," I admit. "Unfortunately. He's lived through it. He's survived it. But so have I! And I'm trying to move beyond it! I AM moving beyond it! I thought that was what really matters, Doc? That I'm making progress. I had no control over when that interview was going to come out. Zip, nada, nyet. But does that mean that I still believe all the crap I spouted?" I shake my head. "Fuck! I didn't even believe it when I said it! You know that, Doc."
"Then why did you say it, Brian?"
I sniff. Why? Why else? "Because I'm an asshole. Because I was stoned and pissed off. Because that's what people expect me to say. And because that's exactly the kind of shit that Ron didn't want me to say. I... I was getting back at him, more than anything else. Trying to fuck with his head. Telling him point blank and in print that I wasn't his partner or lover or anything else! And letting Ron and Howie Sheldon and all the other studio toadies know that I wasn't their pawn. That I wouldn't play their stupid game anymore. And that I refused to roll over like a good dog and be a quiet, obedient faggot and play nice! I've never played nice in my life, Doc. I was sick of telling the media what the studio wanted me to say. I guess I thought that I had nothing to lose."
Gorowitz leans forward. "But you did have something to lose, Brian."
"I know," I say quietly. "Ron killed himself a couple of days later. But it wasn't because of that interview! It wasn't because of anything I said or did. It was all about him! All about his obsessions."
"And what about Justin?"
"Justin?" I blink. "What about him?"
"What was his reaction to the article?" Gorowitz won't let this go. Why is he ragging on something that's in the fucking past? It has nothing to do with my life now!
"I don't know," I say. "I haven't talked to him about it.
"Do you think he'll be upset about what you said, Brian?" What is Gorowitz suggesting? That Justin will be mad about some bullshit interview? Especially after our weekend at the cottage?
"Listen, Doc -- that reporter was probing around, trying to get dirt on me and Justin. Trying to get me to say stuff about him and about our relationship! That guy had the fucking nerve to show me pictures of me and Justin together that were taken with hidden cameras! Not only those photos of us on my boat, but us walking down the street, holding hands. Laughing. Even kissing when we thought we were alone! No one has the fucking right to invade our privacy and our life like that! Not even a supposedly 'sympathetic' interviewer from a gay magazine. The guy wanted gossip. He wanted me to spill my guts. He wanted me to talk about Justin -- and I refused! I told the guy point blank that I wouldn't talk about Justin and that it was none of his fucking business!" I sit up in the chair, indignant. "Sometimes you have to draw the line somewhere, Doc! And Justin is where I draw that line!"
"But the way some of the things in the interview sound, Brian -- people may misinterpret some of the things you say. They may think that you were talking about Justin and your relationship with him. Have you considered that possibility?"
"Not really," I admit. "I have no control over what people think about me. They think what they think! That's their problem! But Justin knows me better than anyone else on earth. He understands me. He can read between my lines better than I can read myself. And Justin knows what the circumstances were when I gave the interview. He knows how fucked up I was. How fucked up everything was then." I sit back and close my eyes. "This interview is just a nasty little remnant of a very nasty time that is now OVER. Done. Finished. It has nothing to do with where I am today or what our relationship is all about at this minute. December might as well have been a hundred years ago rather than two months. It FEELS like a hundred years ago. I was so different then that I can't even recognize myself." I inhale deeply. It feels good. My lungs feel clear. My head feels clear. "Wasn't that the whole reason I came here? Wasn't that why I did it? To save myself?"
"Was it, Brian?"
"And to make myself... okay. To make myself better than I was in December. Better than I've been my whole life. So that Justin wouldn't think that I was a worthless motherfucking piece of crap anymore. For him. That's why I did it. Because, let's face it, Doc, I've never cared all that much what happened to myself. But I've always cared about what happened to Justin. And if he insisted that he was going to be with me, no matter what, then I didn't want to spend my life as a fucking embarrassment to him. I didn't want Justin to be ashamed of me the way I was ashamed of my old man for all of my life because he was a drunk and a bully and a steaming sack of shit. I never want to look at Justin and know by seeing the expression on his face that he's ashamed of me."
"What about your son, Brian?" Gorowitz asks.
"Yes, Gus, too," I add. "But he's so little. He's always on my mind, but even Gus wouldn't have been enough to force me to change my life. Maybe if he was older, it would be more of an incentive. But as it is now he'll only remember a father he can be proud of, Thank God. That way he'll only have good memories of his childhood -- and of me. And of Justin, too. Because Justin is also a big part of Gus's life. I don't want Gus to cringe when he thinks back at the way he grew up. I don't want him to have the Kinney Legacy of Destruction hanging over his little head. And I'll try to make certain that he has a better childhood than I had."
"That's a very serious undertaking, Brian. But I know you're sincere about it."
"Fucking straight I'm sincere about it!" I laugh, but it really isn't funny. "Getting sober and learning to admit my feelings are the two hardest things I've ever done in my whole crummy life. And I mean that, too. It isn't just rhetoric. It isn't just another line of bullshit. Justin and Gus -- they are the two anchors in my life. Making them proud of me and living up to their expectations is the most important thing if all. It's what I have to do to keep my sanity. And what I need to focus on if I'm ever going to have a life when I get out of here."
"Our time is up for today, Brian," says the Doc, standing up. "I think it might be a good idea for us to have a session with your partner this weekend."
"A session with Justin?" I ask. "Why?"
"To work on some of these issues, Brian," Gorowitz says, making a note on his calendar. "To make certain that your partner is on the same page as you are about your goals for the future. And perhaps... to plan for your release."
I have to grin at that news! "My release! That's more like it, Doc! What about my request to get out for the Oscars? Have you thought about it?"
Gorowitz squints at me through his glasses. "I don't see why you shouldn't attend. Especially since it's important for your career. It will be a good test of how you can handle things back in the world you will be returning to. The world you will be living and working in once you're finished at Springhurst."
"Thanks, Doc!" I exclaim. "I won't fuck up! I'll never fuck up again!"
Gorowitz sighs. "Don't say that, Brian. Don't set yourself impossible goals. Everyone has set-backs. Everyone 'fucks up' from time to time. The real trick is to know that those set-backs are not fatal. They are merely ruts in the road. You then pick yourself up and move on. That is the real secret of staying sober and on the right course."
"I know. And I'll do it!" I assert. "You'll see!"
"What the fuck do you mean, you aren't coming this weekend?" he says.
Brian's voice on the other end of the line sounds... frustrated? Angry? I'm not certain. Maybe both.
"I'm sorry, Brian," I tell him. "But I have so much work to catch up on... I'm really swamped. I've missed some classes and then with the snowstorm and long weekend and everything... I thought you'd understand. I have to stay here and do this work!" I'm almost shouting now. "You know how important it is for me not to fall behind in my classes, Brian! And there are also my pieces for the Warhol Museum. That's coming up in a couple of weeks and I still have a lot to do."
I hear him take a deep breath. "You're right," he says. "It's okay. As usual, I'm only thinking of myself. And of my dick!"
"A logical thing to think of, Brian, considering how important it is to you," I say without any humor. But the second the words come out of my mouth I want to take them back. They sound so... so wrong. So cold.
"Yeah, really," Brian agrees. "I didn't mean to sound bitchy, Justin. Sorry about that. I'm just really disappointed. I want to see you. I fucking miss you."
"And I miss you, too, Brian," I say, swallowing.
"I guess I'll learn to deal with it. That's part of this whole rehab thing -- you learn to deal with things as they come and try not to freak out when things don't go your way. And don't quote the fucking 'Serenity Prayer' to me or I'll have to kick your ass the next time I see you!"
"I wasn't going to quote the 'Serenity Prayer,' Brian. You don't have to quote it if you're learning to live it, you know?"
"Whatever," he replies. "Oh, by the way -- you didn't mention how you liked the flowers?"
"The flowers," I say, holding my breath. A chill goes through me. "You mean the roses?"
"Yeah," he says. "Three dozen of them. Were they all red? They were all supposed to be red."
"Yes," I say. "They were all red."
"Great. And the card?" he says, happily. "Did you read the card?"
"Yes, Brian." I feel all cold and numb inside. I don't know why I feel so cold. It scares me. I need to get off the phone with Brian before he can hear it in my voice. Before he can feel that coldness reaching out and touching him. "I... I read the card. Thanks. The roses were... were beautiful." I almost hang up right then. "I... I have to go now, Brian. All that work to do. I need to get started right away."
"Okay, Sunshine," he allows. "Later."
"Sure, Brian," I say. "Bye."
And I click off immediately.
I don't know why I feel guilty about not going up to Springhurst for the weekend. I was just there a couple of days ago dropping Brian off! I'll go up next weekend. It'll be better next weekend, anyway. I'll be in a much better mood. This whole 'Advocate' shit will be in the past by then. Brian and I will move on and forget it ever happened. That's what we'll do.
I stare at the cellphone in my hand. I punch in a number.
He answers almost immediately. "Hi there, Justin. What's up?"
"Nothing much," I tell him. My mouth suddenly feels very dry. "I was going to pick up a pizza. Want to come over and eat it with me?"
"Sure," says Dylan. "I'd love to. Will you pick me up? I'm studying over at some guy's place. Can you come get me here?"
I know that Dylan doesn't have a car, so I don't mind picking him up. "Give me the address and I'll be right over."
He tells me and I write it down. It's not far from the Institute. I wonder what he's doing studying over there? Oh, well. It doesn't matter.
Dylan coming over is okay. It's only having some pizza together. Like having Emmett over. Or Marshall.
Only friends hanging out.
That's all it is. Really.
"There are those I am sure who have told you
They would give you the world for a toy.
All I have are these arms to enfold you,
And a love time can never destroy.
If you're wondering what I'm asking in return, dear,
You'll be glad to know that my demands are small:
Say it's me that you'll adore,
For now and evermore --
"That's All" by Bob Haymes and Alan Brandt.
Continue on to "Everything Is Good for You (If It Doesn't Kill You)".
©Gaedhal, November 2004.
Posted November 14, 2004.