This is Chapter 27 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, and features Brian Kinney, Carmel, Leslie, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Things get complicated. Los Angeles, July 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"Say the word and you'll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I'm thinking of,
Have you heard the word is love?
It's so fine, it's sunshine,
It's the word: 'Love.'
In the beginning I misunderstood,
But now I've got it, the word is good.
Spread the word and you'll be free,
Spread the word and be like me,
Spread the word I'm thinking of,
Have you heard the word is 'Love'?
It's so fine, it's sunshine,
It's the word: 'Love.'"
"It's leaking!" Brian yells.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kinney," the contractor says. "That's why we're here on a Saturday. It was our screw-up. We'll fix it right away."
"Right away?" I can see the steam coming out of Brian's ears. "You've had five fucking months to work on this house and it's still not right! I just spent six weeks in the fucking desert and now I come back to a fucking house that's got a fucking leak in the skylight of the fucking poolhouse! Is that what I'm paying you for? Is it?"
"No, Mr. Kinney." The guy is backing away. An angry Brian Kinney is not someone you want to stand too close to. "We'll get on it immediately."
"All I wanted was a little peace and quiet when I got home!" Brian turns to me. I'm standing behind him, and behind me are Leslie and Carmel, both shaking their heads in sympathy, but also standing way out of the fallout zone. "Is that too fucking much to ask for?"
"I'm sure they'll do the work correctly, Brian," I say soothingly. "I don't need to move my stuff in today. I can do it as soon as they're finished."
"That's not the point!" Brian flares. "They should have been finished by now! And I mean finished with everything! With all the time they've had and all the fucking money I've spent to remodel this house, I expect things to be right! And that means no fucking leaks in the fucking poolhouse!"
"It'll be fine, Brian," I reiterate.
But Brian is out for blood. He's tired and irritable after coming back from location and the last thing he wanted to see is workmen still in the house.
"My partner is going to be working in there and he doesn't need a leak in the roof to ruin his paintings! Do I make myself clear?"
"Certainly, Mr. Kinney." The contractor is sweating bullets, while his crew stands in the background waiting for the reaming out to end so they can get to work on the poolhouse roof. "We aim to do the job to your satisfaction."
"You better!" Brian turns away and the contractor motions for his crew to get back to work.
And that's when I hear it. I'm sure it was meant to be said under his breath, but somehow the word rings out in clear air of this bright July morning.
Unfortunately, Brian hears it, too. His eyes are like lasers picking out the guy who said it. It's obvious, because he gulps and shrinks away, aware that he's been busted. And Brian is on him like a Doberman Pincher on a rat.
"What the fuck did you say?" Brian roars, grabbing the guy by the front of his work shirt and practically lifting him off his feet. And the guy isn't a squirt, either -- he's young and short, but he's also well-built. Kind of hot, in a crude, redneck way. Oh, and completely terrified.
"I heard you, you fucking asswipe! How dare you come onto my property, into my home, and say that to me and my partner!"
"I... I didn't say nothing. I swear to God!" the guy yelps.
"What's the matter, tough guy?" says Brian, eye to eye with the quaking workman. "Think you can take this faggot? Think you can get the better of a queer, huh? I can snap you in half like a twig!"
"Mr. Kinney -- please!" pleads the contractor. "Let me handle this."
"Handle this? I've already seen the half-assed way you handle things! You want me to throw the whole bunch of you out on your butts?" Brian retorts. "I'll sue you for breach of contract and also tell every queer design firm, interior decorator, remodeler, and house flipper between San Diego and San Francisco to avoid your company like the plague -- and I'll tell them why! Because you hire punk homophobes like this little weasel." Brian releases the guy, who scrambles away in a very weasel-like manner. "Carmel!"
Carmel glances at me dubiously, but she steps right up. "Yes, Mr. Brian?"
"Open the front gate and make certain this jackass is on the other side when you close it."
"But how am I gonna get home?" the guy whines. The crew came in a van driven by the contractor and Creekside Canyon is up high in the hills, miles from the main drags.
"Walk! A big macho man like you should be able to find your way back to your hole." Brian scans the rest of the workmen, who are standing stone-faced. "Anyone else want to join him?" But there's silence. "Good. That leak better be fixed before lunch or you'll have to tell me why personally."
"It'll be done, Mr. Kinney," says the contractor. "I promise."
"Don't make fucking promises. Just do it!"
"Come with me! I let you out," Carmel orders the workman. She marches off into the kitchen to open the electronic gate, the guy following behind her like a whipped dog.
"On that note, I'll be in the office. I have calls to make," Leslie announces. And she disappears.
Brian makes a snorting sound and strides into the house, heading upstairs.
I count to ten, take a deep breath, and go after him.
I find Brian in our new bedroom -- all of the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs have been completely reconfigured and remodeled. Our room is now bigger and features a king-sized platform bed in the center. Just like in the loft. What a surprise! Brian is ripping through his suitcases, throwing stuff on the bed and grumbling to himself.
"Brian, what are you doing?"
A jockstrap flies through the air, followed by some socks. "Unpacking." A Marc Jacobs shirt flies and lands on the floor. We got back from Texas very late last night and didn't have time to do anything but fall into bed.
"Here." I gently take a pair of 501's out of his hands. "Let me do this."
"I can do it!" he huffs.
I pick up the Marc Jacobs shirt and hold it in front of his face. "You want this sent out to be cleaned or do you want me to hang it up? Or are you just going to dump all of your clothes on the floor and hope for the best?"
Brian stops. He sinks onto the bed and rubs his forehead. "Shit. What the fuck is wrong with me?"
I sit next to him and slip my arm around his waist. "You're exhausted. This has been a strenuous shoot and it's not over yet. You wanted to come home and relax. But they'll be finished soon. Really. Then we can have some peace and quiet."
"No," says Brian, shaking his head sadly. "Have you looked at my schedule for the next month? Or the next year? There's no fucking time for any peace and quiet! We have interior scenes next week at the studio. And Outfest begins on Thursday. 'Hammersmith' is having its American premiere Saturday night, so there will be a ton of press. I'll have to do interviews with both the gay and straight media. Then next Monday pre-production begins on 'The Eastern Front' -- costume fittings, camera tests, rehearsals, you fucking name it! Why do I get myself into these things? What am I doing to myself?"
Sometimes I wonder the same thing myself, but I can't tell Brian that. I'm here to support him, not to put doubts in his head.
"Face it, Brian, if you weren't so successful you wouldn't be so busy. Everyone wants your time. It's like Burr Connor said -- it's an illusion, but it's all part of acting."
"That guy -- that workman!" says Brian. "That fucking homophobe! He says that right in my house! In my own home! It's like no matter what I do I can't escape it. None of us can. No matter how successful we are, no matter what we accomplish, we'll always be faggots in someone's mind."
"Everyone has to hate someone, Brian," I say. "But you can't let it get to you."
Brian laughed bitterly. "Look who I'm bitching to about hate! I don't have a dent in my head and a fucking scar to match because of some homophobic son of a bitch."
I nod. This is something I try not to think about. But it's hard. Or impossible. Especially when I have another nightmare. Or when I get tired and can't control my hand. It happens less now, but it still happens.
"I get angry sometimes," I say slowly. "I think about Chris Hobbs and how he got off with a slap on the wrist and it makes me furious. I... I feel like I want to take a gun and blow away him and all of his stupid fucking friends who harassed me every day at St. James."
Brian smirks. "Sunshine with a gun. That's something I can't even picture."
"I can," I admit. "I used to lie awake nights at Deb's, thinking of ways to get back at Hobbs. Then, after I was bashed, just thinking about him made me... start to shake. Then I wanted revenge. I wanted someone to come to my rescue and help me get justice. I think that's why I wanted to work on the comic with Michael. 'Rage' was a way to get out all of my frustrations. But... it was only a piece of paper."
Brian touches my cheek. "It's still a good idea. When you go back to the Pitts you might want to talk to Michael about working on the comic book again. Your drawings were really good. I saw the sketches the other guy did. There's no comparison."
"I doubt Michael will want to work with me again," I say. But the words that stick in my head are 'when you go back to the Pitts.'
"Think again. You two worked well together and created something unique. You both need to forget whatever it was that made you mad at each other. It's not worth fighting about."
I don't want to remind Brian that it was Michael finding out about me and Dylan Burke that caused the rift. Or to point out that he and Michael aren't exactly fast friends at the moment, either.
"I'll think about it," I tell him.
Brian pushes the pile of clothes off the bed, then pushes me back and pulls my tee shirt over my head. Things are just getting interesting when it starts.
"Boom. Boom. Boom. Pound. Pound. Pound. Boom. Boom. Boom."
Yesterday was the Fourth of July, but it sounds like fireworks are going off all over again. The men are working on the poolhouse roof. Hammering. Really loudly. Outside our bedroom window. In fact, if they really wanted to, they could probably look in and watch us making out. Well, maybe not right into the bedroom -- there is the pool between the main house and the poolhouse. But it sounds like they're right here.
"Fuck. Shit. Piss." Brian rolls away, moaning. "My head can't take it!"
"I have an idea," I say.
Brian sits up. "Shoot ourselves?"
"No." I smile at my own brilliance. "Let's go to the boat for the rest of the weekend."
Archie, the guy Brian hired to watch the boat has made sure that La Diva is clean, aired out, and gassed up when we get to Marina del Rey.
"It's running great, Mr. Kinney," he says proudly. "Motor purrs like a kitten. You takin' it out today?"
"Maybe," says Brian, stepping from the dock onto the deck. I hand him the bag of groceries and then step on myself. "But we mainly want to relax."
"You missed the big fireworks last night," says Archie. "And a party at the Yacht Club."
"Oh, we had plenty of fireworks at home this morning," I comment.
"I'm not a big Yacht Club guy," Brian adds. "We'll probably go out this evening for a while. The water looks pretty calm."
"Like glass," says Archie. "Weather's been beautiful. Of course, it's always beautiful here!"
Brian squints up at the sun. "I know. What did that woman say in that movie about rich, bored colonists in Africa? 'Another goddamn beautiful day.'"
"Some people like beautiful days, Brian," I say.
"Yeah, and some people like to live with their fucking eyes closed and their dicks in a vice."
"Huh?" says Archie, looking confused.
"Nothing," Brian replies. "La Diva looks great, Arch. You're doing a good job."
"Thanks, Mr. Kinney!" Archie is pleased. He's one of the many guys around here who lives on his boat. He's retired and doesn't seem to have a wife or children. He's got a little dog and he occasionally makes some cash taking people out fishing, but otherwise he just collects his Social Security and spends it on food, beer, and stuff for the boat. "You fellas have a nice weekend."
"We will," says Brian. "We'll be going home tomorrow night, so come around on Monday to check things out."
"A-okay, captain!" says Archie, saluting. Then he heads down the dock towards his own boat.
"You think that guy is trustworthy?" I ask. I hate to sound suspicious, but I remember all too well the hippie who sold the pictures of us fucking on the boat to the tabloids last fall. Archie doesn't seem like that type of guy, but you never know. Joe, our driver on location, didn't seem like a traitor either, but he also sold us out for cold, hard cash.
"I don't trust anyone," Brian says soberly. But he raises his eyebrow at me. "Well, with a few exceptions."
"You better trust me," I say, grinning. "I know too much about you. I could cash in!"
"They'll never find your body, Sunshine."
"Somehow, I'm not too scared," I answer.
Brian rolls his eyes. "Let's take this baby out where we can have a little peace and quiet."
Archie was right. The ocean is as smooth as glass. La Diva skims across the water like a dolphin, long and sleek. The sun is high and hot, but the breeze and the sea spray on my bare body feels cool and bracing.
"Put your shirt back on!" Brian yells at me above the roar of the engine. "You're going to get burned!"
"I put on plenty of sunscreen!" I yell back.
"Don't expect me to rub soothing lotion on your back -- or your butt," he counters. "At least put your pants back on. There's nothing worse than a dick-burn."
Brian's right, I guess, so I grudgingly slip on my blue Speedos. He also has his shirt off, but his body is already golden from weeks in the desert sun. Wearing nothing but a pair of white linen drawstring pants, his arms like iron, his pecs glistening with sweat, and his wind-blown hair streaked with light, he's like a fucking Greek god come to life -- if Greek gods wore expensive Gucci sunglasses.
"Want to take the wheel?" he asks, motioning me next to him. He trades places with me and I begin to steer La Diva. Holding the wheel steady is harder than on The Colleen, which was a much smaller boat and smaller engines. La Diva isn't a fancy yacht, but it's got a powerful kick. Brian reaches over and puts one hand over mine, helping me to hold steady.
"One day I'd like to cruise down to Mexico," he muses. "We could follow the coastline around the Baja. Look for some place that no one knows about, a little port or fishing village, and stop there for a while. Just lie on the beach, eat the local food, drink a little wine. Leave the fucking cellphone behind. No TV, no radio, no newspapers -- and especially no fucking tabloids!"
"Mexico sounds great!" And it does. I'd love to take a leisurely vacation in a remote spot with Brian. "As long as we don't get Montezuma's Revenge from eating the food."
Brian sniffs. "The runs are for pussies! I've been to Mexico plenty of times and I've never gotten the runs. Crabs, yes, but never the runs."
"Look!" I point to the right of the bow. "I think those are whales!"
Brian gets out his binoculars. "Dolphins. Take a look, Sunshine."
I take the binoculars and train them on the shapes bouncing up and down in the water. He's right. They're too small and fast for whales. I see one leap high out of the water, its silver-blue skin shining like a torpedo. "Wow! It's like they're racing the boat!"
"They do that," says Brian. "Some dolphins like to follow boats. The Greeks thought they were the souls of sailors, guiding their friends back to port."
"Kind of like the Marfa Lights?" I reply.
"You and those fucking Lights!" Brian exclaims. "I'll take dolphins any day."
The dolphins chase around the boat for a while, then they move off, towards the open ocean. I have a strange feeling of deja vu, but I know this has never happened to me before. Maybe I'm remembering it from another life. Another Stream. Or from the future. Somewhere. Something. I feel a little shiver go up my spine.
"Cold?" asks Brian, wrapping his arm around me.
"A little," I admit.
"Let's find a place to anchor for a while."
Anchor. That means one thing.
"Yeah," I say. "Let's anchor."
La Diva rocks like a cradle.
There's something about the water that is tranquilizing. Hypnotizing. I turn over on top of the sleeping bag and throw my arm across Brian as he snores. The sun is just beginning to rise over the shoreline.
We are within sight of land, but also far enough out so no one can see us. Or take pictures of us. It's safe out here. Quiet. I wish time could stop. Freeze us here in this perfect moment. Just Brian and me. Alone in the world.
"Um," Brian mumbles. "I have to piss like a fucking racehorse."
"Ever the romantic!" I laugh as Brian hauls himself to his feet and pisses over the side rail.
"Romantic/shromantic." He shakes his dick dry and then scratches his ass. "What time is it?"
"Dawn. Is that close enough?"
Brian flops back down on the sleeping bag. "Fuck clocks. When we go to Mexico we'll throw out all the clocks! We'll wake up with the sun and only go to bed after we've fucked ourselves to a standstill."
"Sounds like a plan," I say, snuggling closer. "But I haven't brushed my teeth yet."
"I already know what's been in your mouth," says Brian, moving in for the kill. "You think a little morning breath is going to hinder me?"
It's nice to watch the sun rise. Along with other things rising.
After a dawn workout we head back in to the marina. It's Sunday morning and things are peaceful. Or as peaceful as they ever get in L.A. Most of the people who partied all Saturday night are hungover and sleeping it off. And the rest of us are just enjoying the last bit of calm before Monday arrives.
After a quick shower in the tiny bathroom (smaller even than the one in our trailer on location) I walk up to the convenience store to get the Sunday papers and see what they have for breakfast. I bring back a small bag of bagels, a fresh tub of margarine, and two large lattes. Convenience store latte isn't quite Starbucks, but it will do for now.
By the time I get back Brian has taken his shower and is relaxing on a deckchair, his head tilted back, his eyes closed.
"Did you get me a large?" he says without opening his eyes.
"Of course." I hand it to him and he takes a long sip. "Okay?"
I settle down on the deck next to him and drink mine, also digging into the bagels.
"Do you believe that exactly a year ago we were on our way to London?" I comment.
Brian makes a face. "No fucking way."
"Remember? It was right after the Fourth of July."
Brian nods slowly. "You're right. Jesus! It seems like five years ago! Or longer."
"A lot has happened in that time."
"You're telling me." Brian takes a bite of his bagel. "Almost a year since our road trip around England. And the week at Put-in-Bay with Gus and the girls."
"That was fun. Maybe we could do it again?" I suggest hopefully. "Or stay at the cottage at Cardinal Lake? I could call Earl. I know he'd be happy to let us use it."
Brian gazes at me. "You know that's impossible. With my schedule..."
I look away. "You never know. You might have time. A week off. A few days. There's Cynthia's wedding in August. Maybe catch some time after that?"
But Brian shoots down my hopes. "I'll be lucky if they give me two days off for the wedding. This project is going to cost the studio millions and I'm in 90% of the scenes. That's a big fucking investment. I won't have time to stop and take a shit unless it's worked into the official shooting schedule."
"I know." I stand up and stretch. I feel a breeze rising off the ocean, but the sun is already starting to burn my arms and back. "I was just dreaming."
"Come here." Brian pulls me into his lap. "Christmas. We'll have a break in shooting then. Ibiza. I promise. It'll be amazing!"
"Christmas is a long way off."
"The time will fly by," says Brian, nuzzling my neck. "You'll be busy with school. I'll be busy with the new film. You'll see."
I hesitate to say what's been preying on my mind for weeks. But I have to. "And when we're apart, Brian -- what then?"
"What about it?"
"We won't be... together. You know what I'm talking about."
Brian sighs. "We are together. The fact that we'll be physically separated is something we'll have to deal with. Are you afraid I'm going to fall in love with someone else? Are you -- really?"
"No." And I'm not afraid of that. "But things happen when we aren't together. Shitty things."
"You mean I'll start to fuck around and drink and get crazy?" says Brian. "Is that what you're afraid of?"
I don't say the word. I don't have to.
"You have to trust me," Brian says. "I can't guarantee what will happen or what I'll do. But neither can you. We're men and we're queers. And we're human, too. Shit happens. You can't obsess about things that haven't happened yet."
We sit there silently for a while. Then I slip onto the deck and open up the 'Sunday L.A. Times,' handing the entertainment pages to Brian, while I read the front section and the comics.
A chiming comes from the cabin. Brian frowns. "What's that fucking sound?"
The ringtone is the chorus from 'Don't Dream It's Over.' "That's my cell." I left it sitting on the counter in the galley. It's the new cellphone Avi got me. Only a few people have the number. I jump up and go inside to pick it up. It's Dorian.
"Justin! Is Brian there? I tried to call his phone without success. I wonder why he bothers to have a mobile, since he never answers it!"
"He's here. Just a sec." I carry the phone to Brian. "Dorian. He sounds upset."
"Crap," Brian says. "That's all I need. Put it on speaker. I can never hear the fucking thing otherwise." I press the speaker button and hand it over. "Dorian. What's up that you have to call me on a Sunday? Couldn't you find a good brunch to go to?"
"This is serious, Brian," I hear Dorian say. "I'm not joking. Will you be home this evening?"
"We're on the boat right now, but I can be there. Is there a problem with the picture? Is Clint all right?"
"Nothing like that," Dorian says. "I got word this morning that that damned Rexford Walcott has co-written an article coming out in the new 'Vanity Fair.' I was just faxed a preview copy of it."
Brian swallows hard, steeling himself. "So? What the fuck has that got to do with me?"
"The article is entitled 'Magnificent Obsession: The Strange Love and Tragic Death of Oscar-winning Director Ron Rosenblum.' It's about Ron, but it's all about you, too, Brian. Everything. And I do mean everything. It's your past in starkest black and white. And it's not a love song."
We look at each other. Brian's face goes pale.
"Shit," he says.
"Everywhere I go I hear it said
In the good and bad books that I have read:
Say the word and you'll be free,
Say the word and be like me,
Say the word I'm thinking of,
Have you heard the word is 'Love'?
It's so fine, It's sunshine,
It's the word: 'Love.'
Now that I know and I feel must be right,
I'm here to show everybody the light.
Give the word a chance to say,
That the word is just the way,
It's the word I'm thinking of,
And the only word is 'Love.'
It's so fine, it's sunshine
It's the word, 'Love.'
Say the word: 'Love.'"
©Gaedhal, October 2008.
Posted October 23, 2008.