THE AIR THAT I BREATHE

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Page 2 of Chapter 71 of the "Queer Realities" series.

Go back to Page 1 of "The Air That I Breathe".

It's an amazingly beautiful afternoon. The trees are turning green and flowers are blooming. Which means that my allergies are kicking up, but I don't give a shit. It's May. And I love May!

Last May was when Brian came home from L.A. I remember walking into the loft and realizing that Brian was there. That he was asleep in the bed, only a few feet away. I was so freaked out that I almost turned and ran away. But I didn't.

Thank God I didn't!

PIFA is crawling with parents picking up their kids at the end of the semester, so it takes me a while to find a place to park. I finally park behind the Film School and walk across the Quad to the Art Building.

Professor Minton is still in his office, grading final exams. "Justin, please come in!"

"I wanted to get my video." Professor Minton's office is piled from top to bottom with student projects, papers, folders, and books. The place is a mess, but he has a huge window with a great view of the Quad. "Isn't it a beautiful day?"

"Oh, yes," he replies, digging through a stack of video cassettes on his desk. "I haven't seen much of it. I still have about fifty finals to grade. Here it is." Professor Minton hands me my video. "Your video went over very well with the audience. And so did Mr. Kinney's unexpected, but delightful appearance. I kept a copy for my archives, if you don't mind. I always keep a copy of my very best student videos. It was a pleasure to have you in my Multi-Media class this year, Justin. What classes have you registered for next semester?"

I hesitate. I'm not even sure I'll be here at PIFA in the fall. Brian and I might still be in L.A. "Professor Stanley's Advanced Painting. And I've petitioned to take the Animation class at the Film School."

"Animation, huh?" Professor Minton raises one eyebrow. "You seem to be gravitating to film and video lately. Are you thinking of transferring to the Film School?"

That's a good question. But I don't really know the answer. "I don't think so. I've always been interested in animation, so I wanted to see what it was like. I was working on a comic book a while back. That was kind of fun. But I also want to work more on my painting skills."

"Professor Stanley is the best for that," Professor Minton concurs. "Keep in touch, Justin. John Hamilton at the Austin Gallery may be putting together an exhibition of young artists next year. He asked me if you might be interested."

"Of course! Definitely tell him that I'm interested." Which means I better get working on some new pieces over the summer. This might be the time to re-work the 'Broken Glass' pieces I started last fall. I think so. They'd be a good follow up to my 'Bringing It All Back Home' piece.

"I thought you'd be pleased." Professor Minton smiles. "I'll tell John to put you on his list."

After I leave Minton's office, I pick up my Graphics portfolio from Professor McHenry. He tells me that someone from the Warhol Museum contacted him the other day. They want to buy one of my 'Warholized' pictures for their permanent collection -- the portrait of Em as Jackie Kennedy. "I told them I thought you'd agree."

"Oh, my God! Yes!" I almost shout. This is the fucking best day ever! Wait until Brian hears about this. He'll be so fucking proud of me! But I'm also glad the museum doesn't want Brian's portrait. That one isn't for sale at any price.

I'm walking on air as I leave the Art Building. I feel great! Not only am I back with Brian, but my art career seems on track. I'm going to be in a show, and one of my pieces will be in the permanent collection of the Warhol Museum. How fucking cool is that? And I'm going to spend the summer on location and then in L.A. with Brian! What could be better? Well, maybe being in England, but that will have to wait for later.

I totally space out about meeting Marshall until he runs up behind me, calling my name. "Justin! I was waiting for you!"

"Sorry, Marshall," I say. "I'm in a daze here! You can't believe what a fabulous day I'm having!" I laugh. Then I notice Marshall's face. He's not smiling. "What's the matter? Did something happen? Are you okay?"

"No," he says, his voice thick. "I'm not okay. I'm not okay at all." He looks around, as if he's afraid someone will hear us. Now I'm starting to worry. "Can we go somewhere? I have to talk to you!"

"Let's go over and sit on the steps of the theater," I say. That's the quietest corner of the Quad, especially now that exams are over and most of the students have left campus and gone home.

We walk across the Quad in silence. Suddenly this beautiful May day has tuned chilly, like a huge cloud has just covered up the sun. We sit down on the stone steps.

Marshall is nervous and can barely look me in the eye. "I was going to tell you this on Tuesday night," he begins. His voice sounds hoarse and my own throat feels raw, too, maybe in sympathy. "That's why I went to the Video Festival. To talk to you. But then I saw Brian go up on the stage. That's when I knew you guys were back together. I... I looked for you afterwards, but you were gone. Did you go back to the loft?"

"Yeah," I confirm, not volunteering any more information. I wait for Marshall to continue.

He nods. "I'm glad. You guys belong together." He pauses and coughs, clearing his throat. "That's why it's hard for me to tell you this. But... I have to, Justin! I have to!"

"Why don't you just tell me and get it over with?" I urge.

He nods. "It's about Dylan."

That surprises me. "Dylan Burke? Fuck that, Marshall! There's nothing I need to hear about Dylan!" I get up to leave.

But Marshall grabs my hand, stopping me. "Justin, please listen to me! You need to hear this. Then you can ream me out all you want to -- and I won't blame you if you do."

"All right," I say, settling back down next to him. "I'm listening. But hurry up. Brian is taking me out for Italian tonight and I don't want to be late."

Marshall nods. "On... on Monday night I was in my dorm studying for my Art History final, when Ethan Gold came to see me."

"Ethan Gold? Do you even know him?"

"Not really," Marshall concedes. "Well, I kind of know him. Everyone at PIFA knows who Ethan is. But he and I have something in common. And so do you, Justin. That's what I've been trying to tell you!"

"What could we possibly have in common?" I can't think of anything, except that we're all PIFA students.

"Dylan Burke." Marshall almost whispers it. "That's what we all have in common. And Wade, too. And Alan Wray. And a bunch of other guys, including two guys on Dylan's CMU baseball team, if you believe Ethan Gold."

Now I'm beginning to understand. "Are you telling me that you slept with Dylan Burke? And so did Wade? And Ethan Gold? And some guys on Dylan's team?" It figures! The whole time he was proclaiming his undying love for me, Dylan was screwing half the guys at PIFA and, apparently, half the guys at Carnegie Mellon, too. And poor, slutty Wade, who's just about to graduate from high school! Dylan really is a fucking sleazeball!

"I couldn't tell you, Justin!" Marshall is almost crying. "I thought you really loved Dylan! I thought you'd left Brian to be with Dylan! That's what he told me. And he said if I told you or anyone else that he was fucking me on the side, that he... that he'd do something to me! That's when I started to be afraid of him. I thought he'd forget about me when the two of you started seeing each other, but he kept calling me, wanting me to come over to his dorm." Marshall swallows. "And I went. I had such a crush on him! I was afraid you'd find out and hate me, Justin! I'm so sorry!"

"You don't need to apologize to me," I tell him. "You can have Dylan Burke on a silver platter if you want him. Good riddance and good luck -- because you'll need it! And so will Ethan Gold and whoever else Dylan fucks -- and fucks over!"

"I don't want him," Marshall says sadly. "Not anymore. And neither does Ethan. That's what he came to my room to tell me. And that's why I have to tell you, Justin. And you have to tell Brian, too."

I feel that chill again. "Tell me what? And what do I have to tell Brian?"

Marshall stares at me for a moment, like he's working up his courage. "Ethan wanted to warn me to go to the Health Center and get a... a test for gonorrhea. He had to get a physical because he's going to Vienna this summer for some violin competition -- and they told him he had the clap! He'd only been with one guy this whole semester -- Dylan Burke. Ethan knew I'd been with him, and that you had, too, because Dylan bragged about it. Ethan said that Dylan even talked to you on the phone while they were in bed together! Ethan thought he'd get tired of chasing you and come back to him, but it didn't work out that way. He knew that Dylan was fucking a bunch of other guys as well, so Ethan is letting as many as he can find know that Dylan might have infected them." Now Marshall really does start to cry. "I went to the Health Center the next morning -- and I had it! I couldn't believe it! A venereal disease!'

Poor Marshall! I feel really bad for him. I guess anyone can slip up and make a stupid mistake. "Is Dylan the only guy you've ever slept with?" I ask gently.

"Yes... Except for one time when I... I did it with both Dylan and his friend Alan," Marshall wrings his hands. "I didn't want to, but Dylan said it would be hot. But it wasn't! It was awful! And then the two of them laughed at me! That's when they told me that they'd had a threesome with Wade -- and he loved it! But I felt... disgusting. Like they used me. I was in love with Dylan -- or thought I was -- and he used me." Marshall takes out a kleenex and wipes his eyes. Then he gazes at me. "You don't seem upset, Justin. You've been exposed to gonorrhea! You'll need to get checked out -- and so will Brian!"

"I'm not worried," I explain. "Dylan and I always used condoms. That's one thing I'm certain of. I just can't believe you let Dylan fuck you without protection! And Ethan Gold did, too! What the hell were you guys thinking?"

Marshall blinks at me. "We did use condoms. Every time. And so did Ethan. He told me so."

"Well, then how the hell did you get it?"

Marshall reaches into his backpack and pulls out a folded paper. It's a brochure from the PIFA Health Center. "The nurse gave me this to explain it. We used condoms, but not for oral sex. I never even thought of doing that and apparently neither did Ethan. We both have..." Marshall looks at the brochure. "Pharyngeal gonorrhea. In the throat. The nurse said you can have it in your penis, in your anus, or in your throat. Dylan must have gotten it in his dick from someone who blew him -- and he gave it to Ethan, and me, and maybe Wade, and who knows who else? And maybe you, too, Justin, if you blew him without a condom. And maybe you gave it to Brian, if you blew him."

Fuck. All of a sudden my throat feels very tight. And sore. I did suck off Dylan. More times than I want to think about. And I've never used a condom for a blowjob. Ever.

"You have to get tested," Marshall asserts. "Go as soon as possible. Go tomorrow! Maybe... Maybe you won't have to tell Brian. They give you a shot -- you only need one. Then you need to go back in a week so they can recheck to make sure you're cured."

"I have to tell Brian," I whisper. My throat feels like it's closing up. I have it. I know I do. If Marshall and Ethan have it, then I must have it, too. "Do you know how long Dylan has had it? Is it just recently?"

Marshall shakes his head. "No, he's had to have had it a while. Maybe even since early in the semester. But who knows? The important thing is for you to get checked out!"

"But Brian and I just got back together!" I cry. "How the fuck can I tell him I might have given him the fucking clap? He'll kill me!" I picture Brian's furious face when he threw me out of the loft. He could do it again -- and he'd have every right to -- if I infected him because I was fucking around with Dylan!

Infected. Diseased. Jesus! I feel like I'm going to throw up. I stand up slowly, my legs shaky.

"What are you going to do?" Marshall asks. He stands up, too. The damp kleenex is balled up in his trembling hand.

"There's only one thing I can do," I say. "I have to tell Brian the truth. Even if he fucking hates me. I can't keep this from him. Because we'll both have to go to the doctor. It's the only way."

"I'm sorry! So sorry, Justin!" Marshall repeats, his voice breaking. "But I had to let you know!"

"You did what you had to do."

My heart is pounding and my head is aching.

Yes, Marshall did what he had to do -- and now I have to do what I have to do.

Tell Brian.

Fuck.

I picture Brian's face as I tell him. As I have to confess to him once again. I see the disappointment there. The anger. I'm fucking afraid to tell him! But I know I have to. There's no other option. We both could be sick. That's thebottom line.

We can never have a real relationship if I'm afraid to tell him the truth, especially about something like this. If I fuck this up, then I deserve to lose him.

I want to be with Brian forever. And I know he wants to bewith me. That is, if he can ever stand to look at me again after I tell him I may have given him the clap!

I gaze up at the sky and am surprised to see that the sun is still shining. But I have to do this -- no matter what the consequences are.

I take a deep breath.

It's time to go home and face the music.

***

"If I could make a wish
I think I'd pass,
Can't think of anything I need,
No cigarettes, no sleep, no light, no sound,
Nothing to eat, no books to read.

Making love with you
Has left me peaceful, warm, and tired,
What more could I ask,
There's nothing left to be desired?
Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak,
So sleep, silent angel, go to sleep.

Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe
And to love you,
All I need is the air that I breathe,
Yes, to love you,
All I need is the air that I breathe.

Peace came upon me and it leaves me weak,
So sleep, silent angel, go to sleep...."

(Hammond/Hazelwood)

Continue on to "Feeling Good".

©Gaedhal, April 2006.

Posted April 23, 2006.