This is Chapter 56 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Dylan Burke, Sylvia Schacter, Jimmy Hardy, Walker Talmadge III, Richard, Dorian Folco, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin shoots his video. Pittsburgh/McKinley, NY. April, 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Read the stories and enjoy.
I open my eyes and I know more than I've ever known anything in my life that this was a mistake.
A big, fucking mistake.
It's still dark outside. I can't see my watch or a clock anywhere, but that doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter what time it is. I have to get out of here. Now.
I get out of bed and look around for my clothes. I'm trying to be as quiet as I can. The last thing I want is for him to wake up.
I'm almost completely dressed when the light flicks on. "What the fuck are you doing?" he asks, squinting at me.
"Leaving," I say, pulling my shirt over my head.
"I already told you that my roommate is gone for the whole weekend!" he says, an annoyed edge to his voice. "He won't be back until Sunday night. I thought you said you were going to stay until then?"
"I've changed my mind." I look around to make certain I'm not forgetting anything. Because I'm not coming back here. Ever. I know that now.
"What the fuck do you mean you've changed your mind?" He gets out of bed and he's pissed off. "You told me when you called me on Thursday night -- and then again when you came over here yesterday -- you told me that you wanted me. That you wanted to see if we could make something happen between us. To have a relationship!" Dylan runs his fingers through his messy hair. "That's what I want, too, Justin! That's what I've been waiting years for! Jesus! We fucked for hours! It was great! And now you're leaving? What's up with that?"
"I told you that I've changed my mind!" Now I'm annoyed. I only want to get out of here. Out of this crummy dorm room. Away from Dylan Burke.
Of all the bad decisions I've made in the past few months -- and I've made a fucking bunch! -- calling Dylan and telling him that I wanted to see if we could try having a relationship was the worst yet. I knew it was a mistake even as the words were coming out of my mouth. It was all a reaction against Brian and Jimmy. I was hurt and reacting against that hurt. That's what it was and I knew it. But I did it anyway.
I would have been better off going to Babylon and hitting the backroom. At least the guys there aren't expecting anything more than a fuck. But Dylan was expecting more from me. A lot more.
But I know that I can't give it to him. Even if I wanted to, I can't.
Because I love Brian. I still love him. I'll always love him. No matter what he's doing or who he's with. And no matter what I'm doing or who else I'm with, he'll always be the only one for me. I know it sounds like a bad cliché, but it's true. He told me the first time we made love that he would always be here, inside me. Always. And he was right. He still is.
That's why I have to get out of here. I love Brian. That's the main thing. And I also can't disconnect Dylan from all the shit that's happened to me over the past couple of months. I can't get that party out of my head. That party where... where Dylan and I... where we first fucked. Yes, that's what we did. We fucked. I knew what I was doing! I did! I don't care what Tim Reilly said. Dylan never... he never took advantage of me. Period. He can be a jerk sometimes, but he wouldn't do that! And I would never let it happen to me! No fucking way!
I was thinking of Brian that night. And I was thinking of him tonight, too. Shit! I think about Brian no matter who I'm with! I can't get Brian out of my head. And I don't even want to get Brian out of my head anymore. It's all too fucked up for any other relationship ever to work. It doesn't matter whether it's Dylan or someone else. It will never work. Never last.
"What kind of fucking game are you playing, Justin?" Dylan hisses, grabbing my arm. "Don't ever play games with me, because you'll be sorry! YOU called ME, remember? You're the one who wanted to come over here, Sunshine!"
"Don't ever call me that!" I shoot back, trying to pull away from him. "Never call me Sunshine again!"
"Oh, no? I'll call you whatever the fuck I want to call you! You think jerking me around is a good idea?" He shakes me. "Well think again! Are you trying to make me look like a fucking idiot? Is that it?"
"This isn't about you, Dylan," I say, although it really is. It's about who Dylan is -- and who he isn't. "I thought this was what I wanted, but I was wrong."
"That fucking Kinney!" he shouts. "This is all his fault! I fucking HATE him!"
"Shut up about Brian," I reply coldly. "It's not his fault. I left him, he didn't leave me. And the fact that I'm not over him isn't his fault, either. He... he's moved on. I thought I was ready to move on, too. But I'm not. I have to go now."
"No, you don't!" Dylan yells, yanking me towards him again.
There's a pounding on the wall from the next room. "Shut the hell up!" some guy calls. "It's fucking 3:00 a.m.! I'm going to call the R.A.! And then I'm calling the cops!"
Dylan lets go of me. I pick up my backpack and leave without looking back.
I'm relieved when he doesn't follow me.
Sylvia knocks on my door again at 6:00 p.m. "Brian? Are you coming to dinner tonight?"
She was here after breakfast to see how I was, and again at noon, asking if I was going to meet my Group for Sunday lunch. I told her to fuck off.
I'm not leaving the room today. Sylvia can't make me. No one can make me.
Jimmy left on Friday, the day after he arrived. He bitched and he moaned, but he didn't push things. He didn't get what he wanted. I didn't stay with him at The McKinley Inn Thursday night and I didn't fall into his arms at his ridiculous partnership proposal.
But Jimmy still thinks he has time on his side. Jimmy thinks I'll cave in and become his piece of queer arm candy. He's fucking delusional! He actually told me he was postponing his big 'Coming Out Statement' until I can get my head together. "You're worth the wait, Bri," he said as he opened the door of his rented BMW. "I'll be at the Malibu house. I expect you to join me there as soon as you get sprung from this summer camp."
"Jimmy, I already told you," I explained for the millionth time. "I'm not your lover and I'm not your partner. And if you keep up with this shit, I won't even be your friend."
But Jimmy only grinned. He never listens to anyone but himself, so I might as well have been talking to the BMW. "Give me a kiss, Bri. Come on, Big Guy!"
I looked around and saw that almost the entire population of Springhurst was watching 'The Jimmy and Brian Show' from the windows of the main building. "Forget it, Jimmy."
But he leaned over quickly and kissed me anyway right on the lips. Not a straight-guy peck, but a full-out wet, messy kiss. I even felt his tongue trying to work its way between my lips. "Ha! Gotcha!"
"Jesus, Jimmy!" I said, pulling away. "People are fucking watching us!"
But Jimmy was totally unconcerned. "So what? Let 'em look! But remember, Bri -- I always get what I want. I'm Jimmy Hardy! Never forget that." He slid into the driver's seat and turned the engine over. "I'll call you when I get back home." Then Jimmy waved to all his gawking fans. "Bye, folks! Aloha!" And Jimmy Hardy, America's Boy Next Door, sped away, on his way to the Buffalo airport.
When I went back into the building, Sylvia had a thousand questions for me, but I brushed her off. Everyone had a thousand questions. But I had no answers for any of them. I saw Walker Talmadge watching me from his usual perch at the piano in the Rec Room. He followed me to my room and lurked at the door.
"Jimmy Hardy, huh?" said Walker in his whispery voice. "I thought those scenes in 'The Olympian' looked too hot to be fake."
"Buzz off, Walker," I replied. "And fuck you!"
"I wish you would, darling," Walker sighed before he slinked away. "But I see you have bigger, more important fish to fry."
I kept a low profile all weekend. I took a few calls from birthday well-wishers -- Dorian and Diane both called me and we chatted briefly. I called Lindsay back and she e-mailed me new pictures of Gus and the baby. The baby is cute but I feel disconnected to her, like she's not real. I've hardly seen her or spent any time with her. But looking at Gus is a different story. He's getting older, getting bigger. He IS a real little person now. A person who hardly knows me. That's the kind of lousy father I am.
I also went to meals and did my laundry so I wouldn't look like a total fucking wreck. But I didn't feel like talking to anyone. I didn't 'feel' like it. See? I'm using the 'f-word'! Sylvia would be so proud. But today I don't even bother to try. I'm staying in the room. It's April 13th. Two years since the Prom.
When I think about everything that's happened in the past two years, I start to feel anxious. Thinking about the past always causes me a lot of anxiety these days. Knowing that there's nothing I can do to change the past few years. Thinking how things might have been different if... That's the way it always is. The big 'If.' If I hadn't shown up at Justin's Prom. If Mikey hadn't walked in on me when I was scarfing. If I hadn't gone away with Ron. If I hadn't seen a twink under a streetlight and taken him home.... If, if, if. So many fucking ifs.
It starts to get dark outside. Dinner is over, but it doesn't matter. I'm not hungry anyway.
I pick up my cell and then put it down again. This is a call I desperately want to make, but I don't have the heart to do it. But I have to. There are questions I need to ask, even on this day. This horrible anniversary.
I hit the number. And he answers before the second ring.
"Brian," Justin says. "I'm surprised to hear from you."
"Yeah, well, I had a few things I needed to ask you," I say, keeping my voice level. "Is everything okay? I mean, with you?"
"Oh, sure," he says. "Everything is fine. Great. Why wouldn't it be?"
"No reason." He's fine. He's doing great. Without me. That's good. Really fucking good. "Listen, Justin -- Dorian called me to tell me that he's coming to Pittsburgh on Thursday and driving up to McKinley with your crew to shoot your music video. I... I thought that you'd changed your mind about doing it here. So I need to know... do you still want me to be in this thing? I'll need to get clearance from Gorowitz to be out of Springhurst for the filming. And... well, I want to know if you really want me to do it."
I can hear Justin breathing on the other end, but he's quiet for a long time. Finally he says, "Yes, Brian. I still want you to do it. That is, if you want to do it. I wasn't sure you'd want to, so I kind of let it hang. But I hoped you'd still be willing. It's only a couple of days and I promised the guys in my crew that they'd get to meet you. I didn't think it would be a problem. After all, you're a professional, and I... I'm trying to be professional about this." He pauses. "If you don't want to do it, I'll understand. But I'm still planning to shoot in McKinley. I've already gotten permission from the Town Council to film in the park and by the lake."
"No," I say. "I'll do it. I just thought that... that you might have someone else in mind. Because I want to do it. I mean, if you want me to." Now I sound like a fucking idiot, fumbling around like a lovesick lesbian.
"Then it's settled," he says. "We're driving up Thursday. Dorian is staying at The McKinley Inn, but I reserved a couple of rooms in that little motel right outside town. I'm paying for the crew to stay there myself. I have my money from... from Ron's estate, so I can afford it. Which reminds me, Brian -- I've been meaning to ask you about starting to pay back your loans to me. I should have been doing it ever since I got the first payment from my trust fund, but I kept forgetting to bring it up."
I stop him right there. "And that's what you should do, Justin. Forget it. That debt is marked 'paid in full' and has been for a long time. I don't need your money. Ron meant that money to be for schooling and whatever you need for your art career. Paying for your video is exactly what it should be going for, not paying me back." I take a deep breath. "It would just be giving me Ron's money -- and I've already inherited enough from him. I don't need a cent more. We've had this conversation before about the rent for the loft and upkeep on the Jeep. You know my thoughts on that. I'd rather have you there and using the loft, driving the Jeep, and keeping an eye on my stuff, than me paying some kind of maintenance fee to strangers. It's not about obligation, it's about convenience," I lie. Yes, it's amazing how well I can lie to Justin when it suits me. "I'd rather have you... have you there, than not have you there. Understand?"
"Okay. I understand, Brian," he says so softly I almost can't hear him. "You know what day this is, don't you?" he adds.
"Of course," I reply. "I know. That's why I asked if you were all right. But I know you are, Justin. You're not a kid anymore. You'd let me know if anything was wrong. But you know what you want and what you need. That's what being a man is all about, right?"
"Right, Brian." His voice is so fucking small.
I pause for a moment, trying to steady myself. To say something true to him. Something real. "I only want you to... to live the life you want to live, on your own terms. I only want you to get everything you want out of life. What YOU want, Justin." Even if it's not what I want, I want to add. But I can't say that. I don't want him to feel guilty about any of the choices he's made that don't involve me. If Justin is happy, that's all that fucking matters. My own happiness has never been a primary concern in my life. And if so-called happiness isn't in my future -- well, I've lived without it before. That's the way I've always lived, after all. I'll fucking survive.
"Brian, I...." But his voice trails off. Then it comes back stronger. "Thanks for letting me... letting me make my own... decisions. I know that... I mean, thanks. That's all. Just thanks."
"Then I guess I'll see you later this week." Only a few days from now. Thursday.
"Yes," he says. "Later."
Later, I think as he hangs up.
On Thursday evening we meet at PIFA to make the drive up to McKinley, New York. We're going in the Jeep and a van that belongs to Richard, one of the Film majors who is on my crew. Richard is my video cameraman, supposedly the best at the Institute. When we all gather in the parking lot in front of the Media Studies Building I have Dorian with me -- he flew in from New York this morning -- and Richard almost has a heart attack when he realizes that Dorian Folco is going to be observing our shoot.
"I'm pleased to meet you all," Dorian says, shaking their hands.
"This is going to be amazing, Mr. Folco!" Richard swoons. "I downloaded some previews of 'Hammersmith' from the internet and I loved them! When is it going to be released in the U.S.?"
I know that the lack of an American release date for 'Hammersmith' is a sore point for Dorian. But his British studio is having money trouble, like a lot of businesses right now, and having a hard time finding a distributor. Even with Brian Kinney and Sir Kenneth Fielding starring, an independent British feature is a hard sell in the blockbuster-driven American markets -- at least that's what Brian told me.
But Dorian surprises me by smiling at Richard. "We're having our North American premiere this summer at Outfest in Los Angeles. We'll probably also be hitting the Toronto Film Festival, TriBeCa, and a few others. 'Hammersmith' was a critical and financial success in Britain, but I think the festival circuit is the way to go here in the States. That way it can find its best audience before it comes out on DVD next year."
"Does Brian know about this?" I ask Dorian as we get into the Jeep. He's driving with me while the crew follows in Richard's van.
"Of course," says Dorian as we head north on I-79. "Brian has already told me that he'll do whatever publicity is necessary both in L.A. and Toronto. The word is that Woody's film -- the one with Brian's small role -- will also be premiering in Toronto. Brian will definitely be making an appearance on behalf of 'Hammersmith' because I won't be able to. I'm hoping that 'Red River' will have wrapped by early July but I'll need every spare moment this summer to get it ready for a Christmas release. And that's on top of pre-production for 'Red Shirt.' which is tentatively scheduled to begin filming in November. I'm going to have my plate full this year!"
"'Red Shirt'?" I'm gripping the steering wheel. "You mean Brian's screenplay?"
Dorian nods. "We've gotten the financing from Jimmy Hardy's company, Castle in the Air Productions, and a hand-shake deal for total control of the film -- casting, script, and final cut. The only pre-condition is that Brian also stars. But it's Brian's screenplay and he's already said yes to the role, so it's a go." Dorian glances at me questioningly. "You didn't know any of this?"
"No, I didn't," I say. "Jimmy's company, huh? It figures. He'd never turn down any project that involved Brian."
"They're only financing," Dorian insists. "Jimmy won't have a hand on this picture. No creative input at all. He's only providing the money."
Sure, I say to myself. But then I think of something else. "Brian is going to play Ron, but who is gong to play Jack?"
Dorian shrugs. "I have no clue. Presumably someone very young and very unknown. We're going to do some shooting in New York on the Lower East Side, but most of the work will be done in Toronto. Costs are much less up there. I'll hold casting calls in both New York and L.A. This may be a low-budget affair, but I want it to be as good as Brian and I can make it. I'd like for this picture to be a small gem. If everything works out, 'Red Shirt' and 'Red River' should give both of our careers quite a boost!" Dorian crows. "Not that Brian needs a boost. He's already a star, no doubt about it."
I think about the irony of Brian using Ron's 'Red Shirt' documentary as the inspiration for a new version of that story. The story of Jack and Ron re-told from Brian's viewpoint. Except Brian will be Ron and someone else will be Brian -- or Jack. I wonder if Brian can pull this off? It seems like he's walking on an edge here, tackling such personal stuff. But maybe that's what he needs to do to deal with his past once and for all. I don't know. I guess it's no longer my concern. Brian's life, I mean. That realization feels like a punch in my gut.
I keep driving while Dorian relates the latest Hollywood and New York movie gossip. But I'm barely listening. I'm thinking about what's at the end of this drive. Springhurst.
"Hey" I say to him. I can't think of anything more profound.
I've been thinking about what I'd say when I saw him again. Thinking about something witty. Or profound. Or cutting. Or even romantic.
Something that means something.
And that's what I end up saying. "Hey."
"Hey," Justin says back. That's all.
We're standing awkwardly in the parking lot of The Lakeview, McKinley's nicest restaurant. Dorian called me earlier and asked me to make a reservation for Justin's crew to have dinner, his treat. So of course I added myself to the list. And one more. My guard dog, Sylvia.
"I'm positively famished, Brian," Dorian drawls. "I hope I can get a decent drink at this place. After that long drive I need a double vodka as soon as is humanly possible!"
"Yeah," I tell him. "You can get a drink. But none for me, thanks." I glance at Sylvia. "This is my counselor, Sylvia Schacter. Sylvia, this is my friend Dorian Folco. He's going to consult on the video shoot."
Sylvia smiles and shakes Dorian's hand. "Brian talks about you all the time, Mr. Folco. And it's nice to see you here, too, Justin," she adds. But her voice is cool and she doesn't offer Justin her hand. She's pissed off at him, even though I told her she shouldn't be. Justin's absence at Springhurst isn't his fault. It's all mine.
I don't eat a lot at dinner. And I notice that Justin doesn't, either. He's sitting far away from me at the end of the long table, while I'm wedged between Sylvia and Dorian, but I notice. I notice everything that Justin does, even when it seems I'm not looking at him.
There are seven other students on Justin's crew, all from the Institute of Fine Art. One guy named Richard dominates the conversation and is kissing up to Dorian in a big way. And Dorian is basking in this kid's attention. Richard isn't exactly hot, but he's all right. Kind of tall and geeky, but definitely bright. And he spouts off his knowledge of film, obviously trying to impress the famous director, Dorian Folco. Ron used to say that there was one guy like that at every film festival he'd ever attended -- the guy trying to make a big impression. The guy who flirts with you and strokes your ego in order to get an 'in' in the Business. And sometimes it works. At least it seems to be working with Dorian.
"A crane!" Richard says to Dorian. "I told Justin that we'll never get those overhead shots without a crane. But we don't have one."
"Let me see what I can do," says Dorian. "This is rather short notice, but I have a few contacts. And some favors owed me by various people. I can try to call those in for this purpose -- if it would help the final product."
"That would be fantastic!" Richard gushes. "Hear that, Justin? Dorian might be able to get us a crane!"
"Huh?" says Justin, blinking. He's off in his own little world. He's also on his third glass of wine. "Yeah, Rich, a crane would be great." And Justin doesn't say another word during the entire meal.
"Are you all right, Brian?" Dorian asks before Sylvia and I head back to Springhurst. The video shoot is going to begin early tomorrow. Time is limited. The next two days, Friday and Saturday, are supposed to be sunny and warm, so Dorian suggested that the kids take every advantage of that fact, especially since the forecast for Sunday is cold and showery.
"I'm fine." I reassure Dorian. "Oh, I wanted to tell you that Gorowitz says if everything works out okay, I'll be officially released on May 1st. So I'll be reporting for duty, General!"
"That's wonderful news, Brian!" Dorian is really happy for me -- and for his upcoming picture. Because 'Red River' is already in pre-production with shooting scheduled to commence in Los Angeles at the end of May and location work beginning not long afterwards. Only one fucking month and I'll be on the set again. Back to the real world.
"Brian -- about Justin...." Dorian begins.
I cut him off. "It's fine. We both decided that we'll never work things out. We want different things. We have different goals."
"But you love each other, Brian," says Dorian. "I know that."
I take a deep breath. "Sometimes love isn't enough. I'd never ask Justin to sacrifice what he truly wants to be with me. He deserves more than that. He deserves to have exactly what HE wants and nothing less. And that doesn't seem to be me." I look away from Dorian. He can read me too well. "I'll live. I'll survive. I can do it. I know I can now. That's what I've learned here at Springhurst. The basics of what I need to do in order to live. And to know when to let go."
"Please tell me if there's anything I can do, Brian," says Dorian. "Any time."
"Thanks. I appreciate it."
"No bother," Dorian sighs. "You know how much I care about you. My only wish is to see you happy and in good health."
"Amen, Dorian," I say, kissing him on the cheek. "If I need anything, I'll let you know. See you first thing tomorrow."
I walk back to Sylvia's Volvo. But I don't see Justin. He's slipped away before I could say goodbye. Again.
Friday is a beautiful April day. Sunny and in the high 60's. That's better than I'd hoped for.
"It's a pity the flowers in this park haven't bloomed," says Dorian, looking at the storyboard and pointing out places where we can set up the camera. "That would give this scene some color."
"I know, Dorian," I reply. "It's really too early to be filming outside. But I don't have time to wait for May. I need to get this thing shot and edited in two weeks to be in time for the PIFA Video Festival. Some of the other people doing videos have already finished theirs."
"Well, 'Don't Dream It's Over' is about a three minute song, so we should be able to get enough footage to cover it!" Dorian laughs. This must be kid's stuff to him, but he's never condescending. He treats the crew like professionals, even though we're only students. And Richard is sucking up every word Dorian says.
I see Brian out of the corner of my eye. He and Sylvia are sitting on a park bench under a tree, sipping lattes and eating banana muffins from Brewed Awakenings. Sylvia came to the restaurant last night, too. She's sticking very close to Brian. I wonder if that's Dr. Gorowitz's idea? If he thinks that being around me might cause Brian to fuck up somehow when he's so close to being released. I hate thinking that's true, but it might be. Brian is doing everything he can to avoid me.
We spend most of the morning taking establishing shots -- footage of the park, the lake, the streets, people walking, and cars passing by. Dorian says that we should shoot as much as possible in case I need to fill in between the narrative scenes in the editing process. "Three minutes doesn't seem like much, Justin, but you want to make certain you are covered, especially when you can't go back and shoot more."
Dorian, Richard, and I watch the footage on the small video screen, "That looks really good!" says Richard, happily.
"You have a very good eye," Dorian tells him and Richard puffs all up. "I think you're ready to do some of the narrative shots."
That means me. I'm playing the young artist in the video, while Brian plays the man of his dreams. Art imitating Life. "You can see me in your dreams." For some reason those words come into my head and sound so fucking ironic. This whole song sounds so ironic now.
Heather, who's doing our continuity, plays back 'Don't Dream It's Over,' and we all listen while I show everyone which scene we'll do first, indicating it on the storyboard. I'll be sitting in the grass, drawing the man I'm dreaming of. Someone I've never seen before, but who I'm waiting for. The man I'll always be waiting for. The man I'm destined to love -- always.
I open up my sketchbook. It's full of drawings of Brian. I've been doing them in preparation for the shoot. Fuck. Who am I kidding? I've never stopped drawing Brian. From memory. From my dreams. From everything.
I see a shadow cross the page of the sketchbook. I look up. The face of God.
"Are you ready to get this show on the road, Sunshine?" he asks softly.
I nod. "Yes, Brian. I'm ready."
"Hey now, hey now,
Don't dream it's over.
Hey now, hey now,
When the world comes in.
They come, they come,
To build a wall between us --
We know they won't win...
Don't ever let them win."
(From "Don't Dream It's Over" by Neil Finn)
Continue on to "Fall at Your Feet".
©Gaedhal, August 2005.
Posted August 10, 2005.