This is Chapter 93 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "What's the Story, Morning Glory? -- Part 2", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Lindsay Peterson, featuring Brian Kinney, Justin Taylor, Melanie Marcus, Gus, Earl, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: August 2002. Brian and Justin, with Lindsay and Mel, take Gus to the Cedar Point Amusement Park.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Mel pulled the Toyota up to the Oak Point pier and parked it. While she was getting the stroller out of the trunk, I walked Gus along the dock to Brian's boat slip. I kept a tight hold of Gus' hand to make certain he didn't toddle off the edge and into the water. He is so fast now and can take off before you even know it!
Justin, wearing a teeny, tiny blue Speedo that left absolutely nothing to the imagination, was crouched on the front of the boat, a large sponge in his hand.
"Are you taking a bath up there, Justin?"
He looked up. "Hi, Lindz! I'm washing the boat!" He indicated his red plastic bucket and held up the sponge. "Brian wanted the 'Colleen' to look really nice to cruise over to Cedar Point."
Mel joined me on the dock. "Justin is washing the boat," I informed her as we watched him climb all over it, sloshing as much water on himself as on the craft.
"I think this must be the way gay porno films start -- nubile, half-naked boy and a bucket of water, waiting for the orgy to begin," said Mel. "And speaking of Brian...?"
"I don't know where he is, Mel," I said. "But Justin is right here, so he must be nearby."
Justin stopped and pointed down the pier. "Brian is on Earl's boat. They're watching the Weather Channel on Earl's TV. Brian wanted to check the forecast for today before we sail."
Mel and Gus and I moved down the dock to the larger boat. I didn't see a sign of anyone.
"Maybe Brian is getting 'acquainted' with Earl. Those two have been getting pretty buddy-buddy," Mel commented.
"Isn't Brian allowed to have any friends who aren't tricks? Be serious, Mel! Earl is straighter than Bob Dole!" I leaned over the railing of Earl's big cabin cruiser. "Ahoy there! Anybody home?"
Earl opened the cabin door. "Ladies! Come aboard!"
"We wondered if Brian was here? He's supposed to take us over to the amusement park today."
"I know. We're just checking out the charts. Step on, ladies, and I'll give you the tour." Earl reached out to take Gus.
"He doesn't have his lifejacket on."
"We'll take care of that, darling. Hey! Justin!" Earl yelled over. "Can you bring over the lifejacket for the little squirt? Mom is concerned."
"I'm just being careful," I added.
"And you're right to be. It's easy to fall overboard on a boat. These decks are slippery as hell. The boy fell overboard just last night."
"Justin? Oh, my God!" I looked over and saw Justin climbing out of the 'Colleen,' bringing Gus' jacket. "Was he hurt?"
"Of course not!" Earl laughed. "You're on the water -- you fall in! It happens. Of course, I'm not asking what was going on over there BEFORE he fell in! Some things are none of my business. But let's say that no permanent damage was done." Melanie snickered and Earl winked at her. The two of them seemed to be sharing some naughty joke together. But I wasn't amused.
Justin stood on the pier and handed me Gus' lifejacket. "You want me to put it on him?" Justin offered.
"Sure," said Earl. "Let the First Mate do it. You ladies come in and have some refreshments before you cast off." He unlatched the cabin door and opened it out. "Pull these back and the salon becomes part of the back deck. Great for parties."
Mel and I followed Earl into the cabin. It was quite different from the tiny crawlspace on the 'Colleen.' This boat had a main salon with a table and reclining chairs, and a galley with full-sized refrigerator, stove, and microwave. An open door beyond disclosed a bedroom. There were some maps of the lake spread out on the table.
"I've got a bathroom with a shower, too, ladies," said Earl, proudly. "My wife insisted. When she stays on the boat, she wants her creature comforts."
"Earl's is the pussy-boy version of a boat. Mine is the man's man version." Brian was sitting in one of the recliners, drinking a Bloody Mary and watching CNN. He was wearing his faded jeans and a white sleeveless tee shirt. He also hadn't shaved. Again.
"I thought you were on the wagon, Brian," Mel observed, taking the glass out of his hand. She took a sip. "Damn it. A Virgin Mary. I thought I'd caught him backsliding."
"Ha, ha, Melanie," said Brian, grabbing away his glass and turning his attention back to the television. "Weather looks to be beautiful all day. Perfect for the run over to Cedar Point."
"I have regular V8 juice -- or the dirty kind, if you prefer." Earl held up his glass. "I'm drinking the dirty -- a real Bloody Mary right here!"
"Make me one, too," said Mel, sliding into the chair next to Brian's.
"Just orange juice for me, please. Thanks, Earl," I said, sitting on the couch. It was more comfortable -- and bigger -- than our sofa at home.
"Coming right up, ma'am." And Earl went to work at his wet bar next to the galley. He had a full assortment of liquors and mixers. This boat was like Party Central.
"So, cable TV, Earl?" asked Mel.
"I've got a little satellite dish up on the fly-bridge." Earl pointed overhead. "That's where the steering wheel is, in case you were wondering. I get all the channels and all the games."
"Yeah, especially the games," said Brian. "These guys do nothing but watch sports, drink beer, and take bets all evening, every evening. It's like a Macho Wet Dream around here -- if you're into old men with beer bellies."
"Hey, Brian -- the younger guys are all docked downtown on the other side of the island! Move your tub over there if you don't like the company here!" Earl handed Mel her Bloody Mary and began poring my orange juice. "Is he always this much trouble, babe?"
"Usually a LOT more, Earl!" answered Mel. I couldn't believe Melanie -- she and Earl were acting like they were old pals!
"I think I'll stay where I am," said Brian, switching the channel on the television. "I'm on vacation, remember? I'm supposed to be resting. And watching you guys looking at sports puts me to sleep in no time flat!"
Justin came into the salon holding Gus by the hand. Gus had his orange lifejacket strapped on nice and tight. "Gus is ready to go! And the boat is all swabbed. Oh -- and I polished the wood and the brass fittings with that creme Mr. Finn gave us. And I washed the windows, too."
"Hey, Brian," said Earl, smiling at him. "Where can I get one of these young boys to clean up MY boat?"
Brian turned around in his seat and raised an eyebrow. "I don't think you can pass the physical, Earl."
"And on THAT note," I said, standing. "Shall we head for the park?"
The boat ride over to Cedar Point was wonderful. It was sunny and warm and the water was smooth and flat -- no waves at all. I'd been feeling a little bit of morning sickness the last few days, so I was afraid I'd be seasick it the water was rough. But it was just lovely.
"What is THAT big thing sticking up in the air?" asked Melanie. She was sitting on the jumpseat, holding Gus on her lap, and looking through the front windshield.
"Looks like some kind of machinery," said Brian.
"That's one of the roller coasters!" exclaimed Justin, coming out of the cabin. He'd changed from his Speedo into a pair of white shorts and a blue and white striped sailor top. "Do you have any idea how many coasters there are in this park?" Justin pulled out a brochure he picked up in town. "There's the Blue Streak, the Mean Streak, the Gemini, the Corkscrew, the Mantis, the Raptor, the Cedar Creek Mine Ride, the Iron Dragon, the Magnum, and the Millennium Force. And the Wicked Twister! And I'm going to go on ALL of them!"
Just the names of the rides made me a little queasy. "Don't they have any low rides? You know -- something that doesn't lift too far off the ground?"
"There's a train ride. And a boat ride. Although that's a little redundant, I guess, since we are already on a boat." Justin shrugged.
"What about a nice place just to sit and WATCH the rides?" I asked.
"There's the Breakers Hotel," said Justin, showing me the map on the brochure. "It faces the beach. You could probably find a nice place there to sit -- if you wanted to. But you have to go on SOME of the rides, Lindsay! That's why we're going to Cedar Point!"
"We'll see." I felt my stomach lurch -- just a little.
But the problems started the minute we got into the park. Justin immediately began running back and forth, undecided about which roller coaster to go on first.
"Whatever you decide, you're going to have to stand in line," said Brian, pointing to a long queue snaking around from a nearby attraction.
"The Millennium Force! That's the biggest one. I want to start with that!" Justin resolved.
"Can't you start with the SMALL rides and work your way up to the bigger coasters?" Brian was looking uneasily at one of the massive steel monsters rising in the distance.
"Well, I know where Gus and I are starting," I said pointing.
"Oh, no!" Brian and Justin exclaimed as one. "Not the merry-go-round!"
"I know he's ridden the carousel at Put-in-Bay about a hundred times, but he LIKES the merry-go-round, so...." I led the way to the Cedar Point carousel. The boys took Gus on while Mel and I sat down in the shade. We'd just arrived and I was beginning to feel tired already.
"Is this going to be too much for you, Lindz?" asked Melanie, taking my hand. "Because we don't have to stay long. Really. I don't want you to wear yourself out this early along."
"I'll be fine. I felt great in the boat -- not sick at all!" I reassure her.
"You tell me the minute you don't feel up to things. It's easy for you to pretend everything is fine just so you don't disappoint everyone else. If Justin doesn't get to ride every roller coaster in this park it will NOT be the end of his life." Mel looked over at the merry-go-round. Brian was holding Gus on a black painted horse, while Justin sat on the horse next to them. She was watching me, watching them. "I don't want to start an argument with you, Lindz -- but I just wish that..." She looked over at the carousel again, observing then going around again. "I mean -- anyone but Brian! It's just that... it's always Brian! And it always will be. And he's here NOW. Playing Daddy. But that's ALL it is, Lindsay. Playing. That's always all it will be."
I didn't answer. Couldn't answer. Because I was afraid to tell Mel what I was feeling. How I really felt about the whole situation. About Gus -- and the new baby that was just beginning to make its presence known. Babies that only Brian could give me. Babies that I wanted Brian to give me. But I couldn't tell Melanie that. So I just watched Brian and his son -- and Justin -- go around and around on their painted horses.
Brian and I decided to take Gus over to Kiddy Kingdom, where the rides were tailored to little children, while Melanie and Justin headed up to the hardcore end of the park. "If we are going to go on the coasters, we better start standing in line," admitted Justin.
"I'll meet you two up there later," said Brian. He leaned down to kiss Justin -- but then he stopped, as if remembering where he was. He blinked and turned to pick up Gus.
A while later the two of us stood, watching Gus go around on a tiny train. Brian surprised me by taking out a camera and taking some pictures. "Brian! Family snaps?"
"Jesus, Lindz -- he's only little once!" Then he took a picture of me!
"Stop that! No pictures of ME! Please!" I tried to grab the camera away from Brian.
"I need something to show little Whatsis. Here's Mommy when you were just an upset stomach!" Brian snapped another picture as I led Gus off the little train.
"What about Gus on the Baby Ferris Wheel?"
Brian frowned. "I think that's too high. He's too small." Instead, we walked over to get him a mini ice cream cone.
"Maybe I could go somewhere and sit down for a while?" It was the middle of the day and getting very hot on the midway.
"There's that hotel Justin mentioned. Let's go there." And Brian led the way as we strolled down a broad walkway by the beach, heading for the Breakers Hotel. We found a small lounge overlooking the lake and Brian settled me and Gus at a table. I saw him talking to someone at the bar. Then he sat down with us.
"I talked to the manager. You can sit here until I get back. I told him that you were pregnant."
"Brian! Was that necessary?"
"Why not? I don't want them booting you out of here and having you and Gus wandering around the park in this fucking heat." He looked up at the bar. "I also greased a few palms, too. That never hurts."
"Brian! You are so bad!"
"It's just to cover the bases." He motioned the waiter over. "What do you want, Lindz? Lemonade? Pop?" He looked down at Gus, who was sound asleep in his stroller. "Nothing for the other gentleman right now."
"What about something with ice cream in it? Can I get one of those ice cream drinks -- but without the alcohol?"
"Sure," said the waiter -- but he had eyes only for Brian. I don't know what it is about Brian and waiters, but it never fails. "Coming right up."
"I'm not sure I like that 'Miami Vice' look on you, Brian." I reached over and touched his increasingly fuzzy cheek.
"You mean the stubble? It's just while I'm up here. You don't have any idea what a pain in the ass it is to shave every day. Justin is always bitching about being hairless, but he has no fucking idea how lucky he is. Dykes don't even have to shave their armpits or legs and nobody gives a shit! But I have to be smooth and silky at all times to preserve my image."
"Your 'image,' Brian? Please!"
"I know. It's bullshit. But that's the kind of thing they really say to you out in L.A. That's all they care about out there, Lindz. The image, never the reality." He stared out at the lake. "Never the reality," he repeated, half to himself.
Brian and I looked around to see the waiter and the bartender standing by our table. Both were young college student-types. Cedar Point seemingly hired nothing but good-looking college students and these two were no different. The waiter set down my ice cream drink in front of me.
"Are you...?" The waiter hesitated. "Brian...?"
"Kinney. Yes." Brian looked both guys up and down closely. "Do I know you?" I could see him leaning away from them. Brian hated to be approached by old tricks, especially now when he was mending his wicked ways. Supposedly.
"Yes!" exclaimed the bartender to his friend. "I knew it! I TOLD you, even with the beard!" He turned to Brian. "'The Olympian'! We saw the trailer Saturday night!"
"You did? Where?"
"In Columbus. Joel and I are both students at Ohio State! We were home last weekend and went to Yo Mamma's -- that's a gay bar in German Village."
"I figured as much."
"They had a big promotion there for 'The Olympian'! They showed the trailer and clips and had contests! I won a tee shirt." Both guys were beaming at Brian. "The movie -- it's unbelievable! It's... I can't believe you are here! Right here!" said the waiter.
"I told Joel it was you," the other guy gushed. "He said that was impossible. But it IS! It IS you! Can we get your autograph?" Some people at other tables were turning around, looking at Brian.
"I guess so," said Brian. He smirked at me. "This is a first."
"But not the last, Bri."
He stopped smirking. "You're right. Not the last." The guys brought over pieces of paper and a pen and Brian signed them.
"We're sorry we bothered you and your wife," said the bartender. "But we had to tell you! I mean, it was so great! You and Jimmy Hardy! Kissing and EVERYTHING! It was so HOT!"
"I'm glad you liked it," said Brian. But I could tell he was embarrassed by the fuss.
"And when you said that one line -- 'I run like I fuck -- with my whole body!' -- The whole bar was cheering! I thought they were going to have to hose the place down! We can hardly wait to see the whole film!" The pair babbled a bit more and then retreated back to the bar.
"'I run like I fuck'? Are those really the lines?" I chided Brian.
"Yes -- and Ron wrote every word. But I can't believe they put that line in the trailer!"
"Looks like that trailer got two thumbs up, Bri!"
"You realize, Lindz, that this means the studio is actually using some of my ideas for promoting the film? Special nights in gay bars and clubs? I wonder if they did anything with those women in the slash fandom? I've got to call Marty Ryder when I get back to Pittsburgh." Brian shook his head and started to laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"I just realized that it won't be long before America becomes intimately acquainted with my ass."
"You mean the ones who aren't already intimately acquainted with it?" I punched his arm gently.
"It isn't funny, Lindz. It scares the shit out of me."
"You should have thought of that before you made the movie, Brian."
"I wasn't thinking of anything back then. I just did it." He looked down. "Because Ron wanted me to do it."
"Poor baby," I said. And he looked at me strangely. Like he was thinking of something far away. A few minutes later Brian went out into the park to look for Mel and Justin. I stayed in the lounge and Brian's fan club took excellent care of me and Gus. I dreamed away most of the afternoon, looking at the beach and drinking creamy concoctions, until my three compatriots dragged themselves into the room and collapsed at the table.
"I'm going to KILL Justin," Brian stated simply.
"We went on the Wicked Twister!" Justin exclaimed. "And I got Brian on the Millennium Force! That's the biggest coaster in the park! After that Mel and I couldn't get him to go on anything else."
Brian groaned. "I'll never get my stomach back. It's up in the air somewhere over Ohio!"
With all the confusion around him, Gus woke up and started wailing. "I'll take him out!" Mel said.
"No, I'll do it," said Brian, standing up and grabbing for the stroller.
"I called it, asshole! I'll take him!"
"Listen -- why don't both of you take him? Right out there, by the beach? I can watch you from here."
Mel and Brian looked at each other -- and rolled Gus and the stroller out the door.
Justin sat down next to me, setting the large pink lemonade that Brian's fan club had poured him on the table. From the window we could see Brian and Mel arguing over which one was going to push the stroller. "It's funny to see Brian and Melanie interacting -- even if it is squabbling. But it's nice squabbling and not really fighting. It's nice for Gus when they get along," I said, watching Brian take over pushing the stroller, while Mel ambled along next to him, matching his long stride.
"I think the real problem," said Justin, sipping his lemonade through a straw. "Is that Brian and Melanie are too much alike. That's why they get on each other's nerves. Have you heard Ben Bruckner's 'lecture' on Alpha Males? It's one of his patented talks that he pulls out whenever there's a lull in the conversation at Woody's."
I laughed. Justin is such a little cynic sometimes! "No, I must have missed that one!"
"Well, it's similar to his lecture on tops and bottoms -- except that wouldn't apply to Mel, I guess. But Ben says that in any group there's only room for one Alpha Male -- and that's Brian, of course. But Mel -- she thinks SHE is an Alpha, too. An Alpha Dyke, which would be the same thing. In Nature, like on the Discovery Channel, there would be a fight to the death when two Alpha Males are fighting over the same herd. But here the fight is over Gus. And YOU, Lindsay."
"Me? Brian and Mel don't fight over me! That's absurd."
"Maybe it isn't always a conscious fight -- but it's there. Brian feels he has a prior claim to you -- even if he's supposedly 'just a friend.' But that's bullshit, Lindz, and you know it. He's MORE than just a friend. He's known you longer than Mel. He slept with you before Mel. He's Gus' father. And...." Justin looked down at my stomach. "And more, too, now. He slept with you to give you a new baby. Did it more than once or twice, I bet. That is a pretty big prior claim. No wonder Melanie feels threatened. And that's why she's totally in war mode whenever Brian is around."
"But Mel is my partner, Justin! She knows that! She's the one I love and the one I'm raising my children with!"
Justin looked at me with his level, cool gaze. "But you're in love with Brian. You can't fool me. Lindsay. I'm an expert on THAT and I know it when I see it. I can pick out guys in love with Brian at fifty paces! I've trained myself to be aware of them so that I can be on guard against them. But you're even easier than most. You don't try to hide it -- even in front of Melanie."
Of course, Justin was being silly. He's a kid and he's jealous of anyone who is close to Brian and knew him before he did. Michael. Me. But Justin sat back and observed me. "Brian and Mel are a lot alike. Smart. Temperamental. Assertive. And they don't put up with bullshit. Alphas. It's like you purposely chose a woman who was like a female Brian to be your partner."
"Now that really IS ridiculous, Justin! I love Brian as a friend and that's all!"
"Is it ridiculous, Lindz? You tell me the truth -- when you've figured it out yourself." Justin drank his lemonade and I watched him touch his necklace absently as he talked about Brian.
"Is that new, Justin," I asked, sure that it was. "Did Brian give it to you?"
"He bought it for me. But I picked it out. I saw it in a store in Put-in-Bay and wanted it."
"Those shells are just like the ones on Brian's bracelet." Poor, romantic Justin!
"I know. That's why I wanted it." He ran his fingers over the smooth white shells.
"Symbolic, Justin?" Now who had to tell the truth here?
He smiled a little. "Maybe."
"I wouldn't attach any more meaning to that necklace than as just a nice little gift, Justin." I said, gently. "You know Brian. He doesn't make 'symbolic gestures.'"
Justin cocked his head. "Sure he does. All the time." He held up his right wrist. "Like this bracelet he got me in London. It has meaning. To us. But we don't announce it to everyone. It isn't everyone's business."
"I'm sure you think that, hon -- but Brian doesn't really work that way. He never has."
"How would you know, Lindz? He's changing. He's already changed. A lot. More than any of you guys know. Some of it is subtle and some of it is like a fucking earthquake. But I think you don't want to see it. You and all the others. It's easier to imagine that he hasn't changed at all and everything will always be the way it's always been."
"You realize, Justin," I said, putting my hand over his and squeezing it. "That as much as I love Brian and I want to see him happy, I know that he's a man who just can't change. That's how he creates his own difficulties. It's the way he is and, frankly, you are just going to have to learn to live with it. I've learned to, after all these years. So has Michael, and I think we are the two who know him the best. Much better than you, hon -- as much as you may think you know him."
Justin looked at me, unblinkingly. His eyes no longer looked blue, but a steel gray. I could see myself in his blue-black pupils. "I'm not sure Michael would agree with that assessment. We've talked about it and he knows that sometimes you have to move on in your life. HE has moved on. With Ben. Michael knows now that he's never going to have a relationship with Brian. He knows it. And he accepts it."
"Michael has always known that! They've always been just friends. Like me and Brian!"
"Has he? Then why has he been mooning around over Brian since he was fourteen?" Justin stirred the straw around in the dregs of his lemonade. "But Michael knows it now. He told me before I went out to Los Angeles with you in June. Michael TOLD me to go out there. That I needed to go. Because HE never had the courage to go after what he wanted. To go after Brian. And that I should go for it before it was too late." He paused. "Do YOU know when to move on, Lindsay? Brian does. He knows that everything is changing now. Do you?"
"You may THINK you know Brian," I said, kindly. "And he may let you know a part of him that SEEMS like it is changing. But I have to tell you, Justin, that it's an illusion. Brian doesn't DO change. He is what he is -- and you have to accept that. Learn to deal with it. To live AROUND it. And I'm just being honest."
"No you're not, Lindz. You aren't being honest, either with me or with yourself. Sometimes I also think, Lindsay," he said, quietly. "That with friends like you and the others, it's a wonder that Brian is even alive."
"Why, Justin! What do you mean by that?"
"Just what I said. You say you think he can't change. That's because you don't want him to change, isn't it? You want him to stay some 'symbol'! Some larger than life icon of how fucked up a person can be and still be walking around!"
"That is not true -- and you know it!" I was taken aback by the vehemence of his reply.
"Do I? Do I know it?" Justin looked away from me. "Everyone wants to see Brian damage himself. To be this emotional cripple, so screwed up he can't see in front of him. To be that 'no excuses, no apologies, no regrets' asshole everyone loves to criticize. It makes them so much happier with their own crummy lives to see him so much worse off. 'We're not as bad as BRIAN is, right?' That's what you can tell yourself and congratulate yourselves on how tolerant you all are and how nice you are for putting up with him. And when he screws up again, you can shake your heads and say, 'Oh, we knew that would happen! Poor thing! He can't help himself! I'm glad I'm not like that!' That's the real truth, Lindz. I see it all the time. From you. From Ted. Even from Debbie and Michael sometimes. At least Mel doesn't pretend to like Brian to his face. At least she's honest when she's insulting him!"
"Now, Justin, I don't know why you are so angry! I was only giving you a little warning. I've said it before -- don't expect too much from Brian. That's all I meant!"
"And why shouldn't I expect something from him? Why not expect EVERYTHING? He's already changed so much in the last two years -- only YOU don't want to see it. You don't want to acknowledge it. Because YOU didn't DO it. I DID! It was MY love that helped him change, while everyone else was grumbling and making jokes! And taking bets on how long our relationship would last. That was cruel. And unfair. You forget how thin the walls of Deb's house are, Lindsay."
"Justin! I never did that!" But I feel more than a twinge of guilt.
"No? But you sat there while the others did, Lindz. And you did other things to undermine us. You all did. But I WON'T be undermined. WE won't be! No matter what anyone else thinks!"
Justin stood up just as Brian and Mel came back into the lounge. Mel had Gus in her arms and Brian was struggling with the stroller. Justin ran over to Brian and leaned against him, whispering something. The waiter and the bartender stood behind the bar, all eyes. Brian smiled and then kissed Justin on the mouth, long and hard.
I saw the waiter reach into his pocket and pull out a ten dollar bill. He handed it over to the bartender. "I TOLD you he had to be gay!" said the bartender to his friend, nodding. "There are just some things you CAN'T fake!"
Continue on to "A Perfect Drift -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, October 2002
Updated October 14, 2002