This is Chapter 52 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, and features Dr. Julius Gorowitz, Sylvia Schacter, Walker Talmadge III, Others
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian is rethinking a lot of things about his life -- and himself -- on the eve of his 32nd birthday. Springhurst, April, 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.
"Sometimes I envy the dead," I tell Gorowitz.
It's our first session since I got out of detox three days ago. It's also the first day of April. April Fool's Day. Very, very fitting.
Gorowitz sits up and looks startled for the first time since I arrived at this joint back in January. "What do you mean by that, Brian? What brought on such a provocative remark?"
I shrug. "I don't know. A lot of time sitting in detox with an IV in my arm. By the way, I didn't take all that much shit while I was outside. Just to let you know."
"You understand the rules, Brian," Gorowitz replies. "Everyone has to detox when they come back from a leave. Now -- what did you mean by saying that you envy the dead?"
"I didn't mean the dead in general," I clarify.
"Then what did you mean, Brian?" Gorowitz asks firmly.
I hesitate. I hate telling Gorowitz shit about my dreams. It seems so... so stupid. Too unreal. It's hard enough talking about things that actually happened to me, let alone fucking dreams and that kind of shit. Or Fiona and her alternate streams. But he asked.
"I had this dream. It was the same night that... the night before Justin left. I dreamt that I was back in New York and on the street. But I was myself now. Grown up and fucked up. And I saw Ron -- and myself. When I was Jack. When I was 16."
"And that was traumatic for you, Brian?" Gorowitz asks.
I pause. Was it? It didn't feel traumatic. Not at all. It felt... almost safe. Almost. And other things. A lot of other things. Sad and terrible, but also sort of... sort of wonderful.
"No," I say finally. "Not traumatic. It was...." Yeah, fucking stupid to talk about this shit! "I was...."
"You were what?" he probes.
"I was jealous," I say finally. "They were happy. Ron and Jack were finally happy. All the shit that you have to deal with in life -- all the pain -- they didn't feel it anymore. They didn't care about anything else except...."
"Except each other," I answer. "They were together and nothing else mattered. And I wanted to stay there with them. I wanted to... to have that peace of mind. That freedom from pain. And that certainty about where I belonged -- and who I belonged with. But Ron told me it wasn't my place or my time. That I had to go back. Had to find my own happiness. And Jack told me to go away, too. I told my own self to fuck off!" I have to smile at that, although it isn't the least bit funny. It fucking hurts -- more than I could ever admit to anyone.
"You realize that this dream was some kind of projection from your unconscious," Gorowitz explains. "You see yourself when you were at the lowest point in your life, except you have rewritten it to make it into a happy scenario. To see 'Jack' as experiencing something that you want so badly right now, which is to love and be loved. And bringing your dead lover back to life to convince yourself that he is in a good place -- even a better place than you are yourself, although you are alive and he is dead. It's wish-fulfillment, Brian."
I want to shout -- No! It's real. It wasn't a dream. I really saw Ron and Jack. I know. I was there. But then Gorowitz would call for the Thorazine -- or the straightjacket. So I keep my fucking mouth shut.
"And where was Justin in this dream?" Gorowitz continues.
"Nowhere," I say. "In the real world. Where he belongs. Off having a life. His own life. The way it should be. The way it is -- now."
Gorowitz taps his finger against the desk. He does that sometimes when he's thinking. Working on a new tactic. A new way to ambush you. "So, you say that you and Justin have broken up. How do you feel about that, Brian?"
I stare directly ahead. "I don't feel anything."
"Tell me the truth, Brian!" Gorowitz returns. I know he's losing patience with me. I saw the look on his face when I came crawling back to Springhurst last Thursday with my fucking tail between my legs. That look of disappointment. Yeah, I've seen that look on faces before. So many faces. Like Justin's....
"What the fuck do you want me to say?" I stand up and pace back and forth in front of Gorowitz's desk. Yes, in the months I've been here I've worn a nice path in the weave of his oriental rug. "That I'm heartbroken? That I can't live without Justin and his fucking love? Because that's bullshit, Doc! And you know what else? Love is bullshit! The whole fucking concept! I've always said so and it's more true now than it ever was. Love is some bullshit idea that straight people invented to get laid. Well, I don't need to tell any guy that I love him in order to get laid! I never have -- and I never will!"
But Gorowitz glares at me. His usual passive stance is slipping and he seems pissed off. Good. Because I'm pissed off, too.
"When will you stop lying to yourself, Brian? And lying to me? And also lying to your partner? That is the basis of all of your self-destructive behavior, you know. Your inability to admit the truth not only to yourself but also to the people who most need to hear it from you!" Gorowitz leans back on his judgmental throne and crosses his arms in front of him.
"Like you, Doc?" I stop pacing and glare back at him. "You seem to know me better than I know myself, so why the fuck do I need to tell you anything? And Justin -- I don't need to tell HIM a fucking thing, either! He's not a child. He knows what he wants -- and I'm not it! So he walked out. Big fucking deal! People leave. People die. People move on. You either live with it or you fucking don't! So forgive me if I don't curl up and die!"
"I don't expect you to curl up and die, Brian," Gorowitz says. "I expect you to live. But I expect you to live a life that isn't merely a shadow of the life you're capable of living. And that means a life where you are not drowning yourself in drink and drugs and sex. A life where you can enjoy your children and not replicate the dysfunction of your relationship with your own parents. And a life where you can love another person without feeling that loving is a punishment -- or as the betrayal of some sort of code that you have invented to shield yourself from the possibility of that love."
"It's fucked," I say, sitting back down in the chair. "I don't want to feel anymore. I'm tired of feeling. It fucking hurts. I was happy before, you know. Before all... all this shit!"
"Happy?" he asks. "When were you happy, Brian?"
"Before... Justin," I whisper. "I was living exactly the way I wanted to live. I drank when I wanted and I took whatever drugs I wanted and I fucked any guy I wanted. And I never had to answer to anyone. Not you -- or HIM!"
"And you were happy then?" he asks again.
"Sure," I say.
"Tell the truth, Brian!" Gorowitz demands.
"Fuck you, Doc! I told you that I was living the way I wanted to live!" I shout. "Isn't that enough? Isn't that being happy?"
"You have to tell me that, Brian," Gorowitz says. "Because I don't know. WERE you happy? Numbing yourself with substances and meaningless sex doesn't seem like happiness. It seems like an escape from a reality too painful to endure."
"You don't understand," I tell him. "You're not queer! I'm not like straight people! I don't want the same things as straight people! Being a faux-heterosexual is fucked up -- and so is any faggot who thinks that's what he wants! Those kinds of queers are only fooling themselves."
Gorowitz makes a sniffing sound. "And what about your partner?"
"My EX-partner?" I correct him. "What about him?"
"What does he want?" Gorowitz keeps prodding.
What does Justin want? That's when I realize that I have no fucking clue what he wants. A home? A family? A commitment? Rings on his fingers and bells on his toes? A career as an artist? The only thing I was sure he wanted was... was me. But I was wrong. He left. So I don't know. I have no idea what the fuck he wants. And so I have no idea how to give it to him to make him come back to me.
"I don't know. I never asked him," I admit, defeated. "I'm tired. Can we end this now?"
"If you wish, Brian," Gorowitz says softly. "By the way, Sylvia said that you didn't attend group yesterday. And that you didn't show up for dinner last night."
"I wasn't hungry," I say flatly. "And I have nothing to say in group. Those people look at me like I'm a fucking freak. I can't say things in front of them."
"Group is important, Brian," Gorowitz states. "They don't look at you as a freak. They all have similar problems and are working on solutions themselves."
"The blind leading the blind, huh, Doc? What are you going to do if I won't go? Make me wash the fucking dishes, like at Haven of Hopelessness?" I stand up, ready to walk out. I just have to get out of this fucking room!
"I know you're angry, Brian," says Gorowitz. "Angry at your partner. Angry at me. Angry at the world. And angry at yourself most of all. But that's not a bad thing. Anger is better than no emotion at all, believe me."
"And you believe ME, Doc -- I'd rather feel nothing!" I close my eyes. "Fucking nothing! Because it hurts too much. And I'm sick of it hurting. Sick and tired!"
Gorowitz stands up and walks me to the door of his office. "I'm ordering an anti-depressant for you to take. I think you need it right now and I want you to start it today."
"No!" I lash out. "I came here so I wouldn't have to take any fucking drugs!"
"This is a prescription, Brian," Gorowitz insists. "It's for Zoloft. I think it will help your mood to settle."
"Yeah," I snort. "That's what Dr. Hall told me, too, when he wrote out his Xanax scripts. Fucking forget it!"
"This is nothing like Xanax, Brian, but I'm not going to force you to take it if you are violently against it," says Gorowitz. "And I am NOT Dr. Hall, as you well know. So think about it and let me know if you change your mind. And also if you keep having these dreams of Ron. They may be signaling... well, some morbid thoughts. I don't want you to feel overwhelmed by them."
"You mean suicide?" I reply. "Ron already told me to get lost. That I didn't belong there. At least not yet. See? Even my dead lover has no use for me, let alone my living one. I'm batting a thousand, Doc."
Gorowitz sighs. "Please tell Sylvia or one of the other counselors immediately if you start feeling more depressed. It's important, Brian."
"Sure," I say before I go out. "I'll shout it from the rooftops. I'll buy an ad in 'Variety' -- 'Brian Kinney is feeling depressed!' That's old news, Doc. No one gives a shit -- not even me."
"I give a shit," Gorowitz says seriously. "Never forget that, Brian."
I look at him and understand that he does care. I can see it in his eyes. But is that enough? I don't know. But I nod to him before I leave his office.
For now it has to be enough.
I barely leave my room for the remainder of the week.
I don't go to group and although Sylvia stops by every day to try to convince me, I still refuse. I also get my food and bring it back to the room to eat it. I don't want to sit with anyone, or look at anyone, or talk to anyone. And I don't want anyone asking me any questions about my fucked up life. I don't want anyone's concern, or empathy, or pity. All those things make my fucking dick soft.
But when the weekend comes the weather begins to turn beautiful. Fucking spring. It's sunny and little flowers are pushing up all around the buildings. Crocuses and daffodils and that shit. I put on my jacket and start walking. Just walking all day. Into town. Along the lake. Into the woods. Wherever.
And into the small neighborhoods that make up the town of McKinley. Walking by the houses. The school. The park. The playground. All those small town clichés. But they're here, in front of me. People living inside that cliché.
On one street I see Dr. Harry Mason coming out of a house with two little girls and getting into an SUV. He still looks hot. This is his life, his family, his house. Like a lot of houses in McKinley, it's a big old farmhouse that's been restored and modernized. Probably filled with antiques and cute little sickening touches that his wife is so proud of. There's a fake spinning wheel on the front porch and a dried flower wreath on the front door. Jesus, I hate that kind of crap!
Imagine living in a place like this. Or in a two-bit little town like this.
Imagine growing up here. With parents who loved you. Maybe a dog. Walking to school. Surrounded by friends. By family. Not having to wonder who the fuck you were. Not having to duck every fucking time you saw your old man walk in the door. Not being afraid every day of your fucking miserable life. And even more afraid when it got dark. So afraid of the fucking dark.
It's all a lie. I know it is! A fantasy. The people here are just as fucked up as everyone else. Just as fucked up as I am.
But I don't want to think about it.
So I keep walking.
Sunday night it rains and I lie in bed listening to it pour down.
Why the hell did I come back to Springhurst? To hide? Or to help myself? Where else can I go? I need to get my shit together before 'Red River' begins rolling. I can't let Dorian down. Or Eastwood. Or even Ron, since he wrote the script with me in mind. So I have to be ready before the end of May. I have to be clean, sober, and in good shape or I'll get fucking killed with all the riding and physical shit I'll have to do on this shoot.
Tomorrow I'll start going to the gym -- if you can call what they have here a gym. But it's better than nothing. And I better start eating again. I'll have some protein powder and some juices and energy drinks sent in. There's a place in Erie I where I can order it. I can do this. It'll give me something to focus on. A goal.
Maybe I'll even go back to group.
What the hell?
Yeah, what the hell.
Monday morning I go to breakfast for the first time since I've been back. I'm still not hungry, but I force some food down anyway. Yeah, I need food. Too much fucking grease, but I'm planning to work it off anyway.
Walker Talmadge sits down at the table next to me, trying to catch my eye. I've made it clear about a million times that I'm not interested in fucking him, but he won't get the hint. He keeps writing these sappy songs and claiming that I inspired him. Whatever the fuck. I'm still not interested.
But he comes over anyway.
"Brian," he says in his low, whispery voice. "I'm glad you're back."
"I'm not finished here," I say flatly. "And I won't leave until I'm ready. Really ready."
Walker slips into the empty chair across from me. "Dr. Mason says I'm making progress. He says crystal meth is hard to kick. Harder than heroin, even. Or caffeine!" he giggles.
"Good luck," I tell him. "Because I've kicked that myself and it was no fucking picnic?"
"You were on Tina?" Walker frowns.
"No," I say. "Smack. And caffeine, too. I'm still working on the caffeine."
"We all watched you on the Oscars, Brian," says Walker. "I thought your speech was wonderful. I'm sorry about your... your friend. The one who died."
"You mean Ron." I think of how much Ron would have hated Walker Talmadge III. Walker embodies the kind of gay man Ron detested. He's the consummate queen -- coy, campy, lispy, and fluttery. He makes Emmett seem butch! Walker is the kind of guy who makes you nervous watching his hands move around in the air. Like he's channeling Judy Garland or some other over-wrought diva from long ago. Which makes sense, since Walker is also a diva to a new generation of gay men. "Ron also wrote my next film, 'Red River.' The one I'm starting at the end of next month."
"What kind of movie is it?" Walker says with interest. "I'm always interested in doing songs for soundtracks."
"I doubt your music would fit this project," I tell him. "It's a Western."
"Oh." Walker seems disappointed. Then he smiles flirtatiously. "That sounds very butch. Are you a cowboy in it?"
"No, I'm a dance hall girl!" But I have to laugh. Walker is so fucking transparent. "Yes, I play a cowboy. With real cows. It takes place on a cattle drive."
Walker turns up his nose like he can already smell the cow manure on me. But then he leans closer. "I bet you'll look great in your cowboy outfit."
"You'll have to see the film when it's finished," I say.
"Is that an invitation?" He bats his eyes at me.
"Sure. It's an invitation." Why not? It's not like I'm afraid of Walker Talmadge. "It should be in all of the theaters around Christmas." I stand up and take my tray. "See you around."
I leave the dining room without looking back. I don't want Walker to think I want him to follow me. He doesn't.
I check my e-mail and answer some messages from Leslie, Dorian, and Lindz. I also take care of some stuff from my accountant. Bills for the loft and the Jeep that I need to okay. After that I go for a long walk and then to the gym.
It's around 2:00 in the afternoon and I'm lying on my bed, reading. I should be going to group in another hour, but I still don't want to. When I meet with Gorowitz tomorrow I know he's going to chew me a new asshole for missing group. Again.
There's a knock on the door and Sylvia sticks her head in.
"Right on time to hound me about group, right?" I ask her.
But Sylvia shakes her head. "No, actually, Brian. You have a visitor."
I sit up. "A visitor?"
Sylvia grins. "It's someone you'll be very happy to see!"
My fucking mind is racing.
Shit. I'm a fucking mess. I'm wearing a pair of dirty sweatpants and an old tee shirt. And I haven't shaved today. Or yesterday, either.
There's no time to change. But would he care if I changed? Probably not. Because I won't wait to change. I can't wait.
"Where is he?" I ask Sylvia, pushing past her.
"In the main rec room," she says. "I think he brought you a birthday present, Brian. He has a wrapped package. Didn't you say your birthday is this week?"
"Yeah," I say. "I don't usually celebrate tragic events." But in this case I'll make an exception.
I'm almost running down the corridor. I realize that I've forgotten to put on my shoes. Fuck it.
But I won't fuck it up this time! I promise! I know I won't. Not if Justin is here and willing to give me another chance.
I won't. I won't. I won't.
I slow down before I walk into the rec room. I catch my breath.
I won't fuck it up.
I see him.
And I stop.
He turns and smiles at me when he sees me.
"Brian!" he cries and then he's hugging me.
"Michael." I'm breathing again. But I don't want to be. "What the fuck are you doing here?"
Michael and I go into the empty dining room. You can always use the coffee machine there or get something to drink out of the soda dispensers. So we sit at the same table where I had my meager breakfast this morning, next to the big windows that look out on the woods, the lake, and the beginning of spring.
"I know your birthday isn't until Thursday, but I wanted to give you this in person," he says, putting the wrapped package on the table.
My birthday. Once again I come face to face with that fatal day I refuse to celebrate. But someone always butts in and overrules me. I still shudder when I think of that fucking Death Day Party they gave me two years ago. Shudder when I think about climbing into that fucking coffin and slamming the lid on myself. What kind of people do that to a person? What kind of friends?
My friends, obviously. No wonder I bought that scarf and decided to give myself my own party, in my own way. But Mikey interrupted that, too. Maybe if he hadn't then Justin would have gone to his prom, danced with Daphne, and then driven home, safe and sound. And I wouldn't be sitting here, facing another year. Ripping off another page on the calendar of my useless existence.
Ron would probably still be alive, too. Not probably. Definitely. Ross Preston would have made an okay Bobby in 'The Olympian.' Well, maybe not even okay. And Jimmy probably wouldn't have won his second Best Actor Oscar. Big fucking deal. But the trade-off would have been worth it. Jimmy's Oscar for Ron's life. All those other lives would have been better. And the only one who would be missing would be me. Not so bad.
Last year I knew how to celebrate this auspicious occasion. I tried to off myself much more directly. It almost worked, too. Of course, that's what landed me in The Spencer Pavilion. It makes me wonder if Gorowitz and Sylvia have me 'on watch.' That's what they call it when they suspect someone is suicidal, being 'on watch.' Big Brother is right there, waiting to save you from yourself. No, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find myself on their watch list, especially now. And especially not with my fucking record.
My fucking birthday. Number 32. On my way into middle age for certain. Leave it to Michael to remind me of it.
And right after my birthday -- the anniversary of the prom.
Such good times.
"Well? Aren't you going to open it?" Michael prods me.
"Of course. I was only waiting for the perfect moment." I pull off the paper. It's a book made up of sheets of cardboard bound together. "What is this?" The cover is a drawing of a superhero in a tight black jumpsuit. "'Rage The Gay Crusader,'" I read.
"It's the prototype for my comic book, asshole!" Michael exclaims in excitement. "I wanted you to be the first person to see it, since you inspired it!"
"Jesus!" I say. "You really did it!" The character on the cover does look like me -- a little bit. "You think that suit could be any tighter, Mikey? You want the entire world to know that I'm 9 inches, cut?"
Michael laughs. "I thought the whole world already knew that!" He reaches over and opens the book. "These are the mock-up pages, but the whole story is right here. An independent comic book company has agreed to print and distribute the first issue. If it sells well enough, then they'll put 'Rage' out four times a year. I figured that was enough to start with." Michael seems so pleased, like he's going to burst. This is his dream come true, after all. "See? There's Rage and his sidekick, Zephyr!"
"Who looks exactly like you." But I also notice something else. "These drawings. Justin didn't do them. This is his design for the superhero character. And this looks like the loft. But he didn't draw these." I look up at Michael. "They aren't as good as Justin's original drawings."
Michael swallows. "I know they aren't. Edwin might not be as creative as Justin, but he's a good illustrator. And I can depend on him. He used Justin's models for the characters and also re-drew some of the finished panels. Don't worry, Brian, I'll give Justin credit for designing the characters. But...."
"But what?" I ask pointedly. "You're cutting Justin out of the comic book? After all the fucking work he put into it?"
"It was his decision," Michael huffs. "Both of ours, actually. A mutual decision. I already told you that when I drove you down to Pittsburgh on the day your daughter was born, but I see you weren't listening -- as usual!"
"I was listening, Michael," I reply sharply. "I thought the two of you would get over whatever petty little argument you had. I never thought you'd... you'd just drop Justin! Like he didn't matter!"
"It wasn't working out." Michael's face is petulant. "He was never around when I needed him to work on things. And besides... he... he...." Michael looks up at me. "Never mind. Just fucking never mind!"
"Is it because Justin and I broke up?" I ask. "Is that why you're punishing him? Because what happened between us isn't his fault."
Michael's mouth hangs open. That's when I realize he didn't know. He really didn't know that we had broken up. "I... I'm sorry, Brian," he says finally. "So sorry."
"It was a mutual decision. Like you said before. It wasn't working out, just like your collaboration." I grip the coffee cup between my hands. "Forget it. Thanks for the comic book. I'm sure it'll be a big success."
"Thank you," he whispers. "For everything. Brian, I... I should tell you one more thing. It's that... that Justin has been...." But he stops and can't look me in the eye.
"What?" I frown. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"Nothing," he replies stonily. "Never mind." Michael stands up suddenly. "I better get going."
"Going?" I say. "You only got here a fucking hour ago! I thought you were going to stay at least for the night. There's a motel in McKinley. I'll pay for the room if you're too cheap to spring for it."
"It's not that, Brian." It's like Michael is now eager to get away from this place. And from me. "I promised David I'd be back this evening. If I stay overnight he'll be worried about me."
"David?" Now I stand up, too. I'm clutching Michael's gift in my hand. Rage. What a suitable name. "What the fuck does David Cameron have to do with anything?"
"Because...." Michael hesitates. "I've moved in with him. David and I are living together. Back in his old house. With Hank. One big happy family."
"I see." I turn away. "One big happy fucking family. You and Junior and the Doc!"
"I know you don't like David, Brian," he snaps. "But it's my life! And that's what I want."
I stare out the big windows. Spring is sprung, that's for sure. April Fools! "Then go for it, Michael. Do what you have to do."
"Thanks," he says. "I will."
"And so will I," I answer.
Whatever that is.
Continue on to "Heart-to-Heart".
©Gaedhal, June 2005.
Posted June 30, 2005.