This is Chapter 77 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "Orphan of the Storm", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, featuring Marc Gerasi, Stan, Ron Rosenblum, Justin Taylor.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: No matter how fast he runs, the Past is always catching up to Brian. London, July 2002/New York, February 1988.
Author's Note: Another of the William Blake inspired chapters.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright In what distant deeps or skies
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?"
In what distant deeps or skies
from 'The Tyger' by William Blake
The last thing I need to do with my time, thinks Marcantonio Gerasi, is to run around this damned city, chasing down one of Ron's old hustlers. I must be out of my fucking mind!
But here he is, anyway, walking up to the hotel that even looks like a fancy whorehouse from the outside. The Chatterton. These hotels are always named after some supposedly famous limey that nobody ever heard of. This one is no different.
Ron is going to owe me, BIG time, for this one, thinks Marc. Big time.
I walk into Nick's pizza place and Stan is already waiting for me.
"Just the man I want to see."
"Great," I say. It isn't even noon yet.
"Special request." He hands me a slip of paper with an address on it. "Just for you."
I glance at it and shove it back. "No fucking way."
I turn to leave, but Stan has me by the back of my neck.
"You're doin' it. So head out. Now."
"Forget it. I told you I wasn't going there anymore! No way!"
"Listen," says Stan, tossing me into a booth and sitting down next to me, trapping me in. "This guy called me about YOU in particular. He wants a special deal, see?"
"Not with me, he doesn't."
"Yes, with you. Exclusive rights."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Gravy, you little asshole! Fucking gravy! He wants to fucking BUY you. I get the cash payment -- I'll give you a cut of it. Six months solid. And you don't got to do nobody but him. He'll even put you up in a place of your own. East Village. If he likes the deal after six months, he might want to make it permanent. Then I get a bigger payout. And I'll give you another cut, of course. I want to be fair about this. But we're talkin' some good money. A nice fucking piece of change."
I stare at Stan like he's insane. "No fucking way!" I try to get up out of the booth, but he has me pressed in.
"And I say you're doin' it! What's the problem? This guy has bucks. He ain't so bad looking. And he likes you plenty."
"He's a fucking freak, Stan! You don't know what he wants to do -- what he wants ME to do! No wonder he wants an 'exclusive' agreement -- he can't get anyone else to go over there anymore!"
"Well, you're goin' and you're staying there! If I say so, you are!"
"Stan... he...." How can I explain it to this moron? I don't want to think about the details, let alone talk about them. "He hit me -- more than once. I don't need that shit! I left home to get AWAY from that kind of thing!"
"Only 'cause you weren't with the program. He won't do it again. He promised me."
"Yes, he WILL, Stan! That's his thing! Plus -- he won't use a fucking rubber! I told you about THAT stuff! Maybe somebody else will do it raw, but I won't. Especially not with him!"
"Listen up -- you're goin' there and you're doin' what he says, okay? If I have to break your fucking leg so you can't run away, then I'll do it? Of course, that reduces your value, but I'll still get something out of the deal, hear me?"
"I hear you, but I'm still NOT doing it! If that guy doesn't kill me outright with his sick little games, then he'll kill me the other way." I can't even say the word that my fucking mind is thinking. AIDS. The reason I go to the Free Clinic every other day and stuff as many of their free condoms in my pocket as I can get away with. "Because that's not the way I'm planning to go, Stan! I'd rather have you kill me now -- right here!"
"Shoot, Jack! If he's only fucking YOU, what difference does it make?"
"Just me? Ha! Sure, just me! He goes to those sex clubs uptown. You know what they do there, don't you? Stuff I wouldn't do if you paid me a million fucking dollars! And you think they worry about anything? About getting any disease? No way! And you think your 'friend' is going to care what happens to some kid he picked up on the street? Some kid he bought from a local scumbag? Forget it! I have to look out for myself, because no one else will. Six months? Fuck! I won't last six weeks!"
Stan grins at me. It's a scary grin. "You think you are SO smart, Jack. I'll take the dope away from you. That's one way of keepin' you in line."
"I'll just get it somewhere else, then. On any fucking street corner in this city. You aren't the only game in town, Stan."
"You're a tough guy now, huh? Well, you're not going to fuck up all this money for me, hear?" Stan pulls me close to him so he's whispering in my face. "I know you been holdin' out on me. Bleeding away your fee a little at a time like you think I don't notice. You got some money stashed away. Maybe quite a bit of money. Well," he says, slipping his switchblade out of his pocket and snapping the blade in my face. "I'm gonna find it, I swear I will. You're gettin' awful independent awful soon. And I don't like that. You understand me, Jack?"
"Yeah, I understand." Stan is touching the blade against the left side of my neck, right under my jaw. I feel it pricking into my skin there.
"All righty, then." He snaps the blade closed and puts it away.
The door of Nick's opens and someone comes in. It's Ron, the movie guy. Things are starting to look up a little.
"Hey! I was looking for you, Jack," he greets me, then nods at Stan. "Yeah, how're you doing, Stan?"
"Fine, Just fine. Sure, sure. You guys got filming to do." Stan smiles at Ron all smarmy and friendly. It's sickening. "I gotta go now. You remember what we talked about, Jack? We'll discuss this more. Later."
"Right. Later," I answer, unenthusiastically. And Stan books out of there.
Ron sits down in the booth across from me and smiles. "No filming today, actually. Jane and I have been editing like crazy. You should see some of the stuff we've got -- it's really great! You'd like to see yourself on film, wouldn't you, Jack? You look just great in it, you know that?"
"If you say so," I mumble.
"I can arrange to have you come over to the editing suite and look at the footage. I can take you over there myself. Okay?" Ron looks so eager about this stupid movie of his that no one is ever going to see. And meanwhile, my fucking life is going down the toilet!
"Yeah. That would be great." I keep my face down so he can't see me too well. The last thing I fucking want to do is cry in front of this guy. Cry in front of anybody. But I don't know what the fuck I'm going to do!
"You okay, Jack? Everything good?" His face is concerned.
"Sure. Good," I say. Yeah, my life is just dandy! What do you think?
"All right, then." Ron reaches over and pats my arm. And I feel something. Like a little shiver that goes from him right through me and then back to him again. I'm sure of it now. There IS something going on here. His hand lingers on my arm for a moment or two.
I look at Ron and begin to work over an idea in my mind. Actually, I've been considering this for a little while now. Because maybe there IS a way -- one way -- of getting past Stan. And away from the other guy -- the fucking freak. Because if Ron really DID like me. IF he did. If I could push it and MAKE him like me. Because I like him. He's smart and clean and funny. He has a calm voice. He's nice...
I look at his hands, folded on the table. They look strong and steady. I almost reach out and touch them, but I'm afraid he'll freak out. Then where would I be?
But if he'd help me -- I'd have a place to stay, at least for a while. I start to wonder where Ron lives. Probably up near NYU. That's far enough away from here. Away from Stan. Away from all the other shit. And I'd even have the money I've stashed away. I could buy some clothes and even some food. I wouldn't just sponge off Ron. I could pay him something every week for letting me stay with him. And maybe, if he really DID like me, then....
I smile at Ron. And he smiles back at me. And that's a start, I think.
On Tuesday Justin finally gets out of bed. He's feeling better -- much better, if the way he attacks my cock when I come home from the studio is any indication.
"Whoa, there! I think someone is feeling better! Should I take your temperature? I mean, with my personal thermometer?"
"Pervert!" he laughs. His voice is a little rough, but he's not coughing or sneezing. And he's joking around -- that's the best of all. And Justin wants to leave the hotel room badly. He's bored stiff -- in more ways than one! "I'm sick of lying in this bed all day, watching these English documentaries on TV and jerking off!"
"I thought you were reading and improving your mind?"
"That lasted about ten minutes."
"I knew I should have had that nurse stay with you today, too. At least I'd know that you were resting and not expending all your bodily fluids."
"What if I expend some of YOUR fluids?"
It sounds like a good idea. A very good idea. It seems like years since we've fucked -- actually, it's only been since Saturday night, after I meandered home from Dorian's and before Justin really got sick. That was kind of a guilt-ridden one, I think. I was trying to prove that everything was just normal and peachy and Justin was trying to pretend that he wasn't angry at me -- and that he wasn't coming down with a bad cold. In other words, we've had better times in the sack. But this makes up for it. It makes up for a lot.
"That nurse wanted to bathe me yesterday," says Justin, lying on his stomach. I cover him over with the sheet so he doesn't get chilled again.
"You spend quite enough time in that bathtub already without some woman coming in and sudsing you up even more! And I have to pay for it!"
"She wanted me to take my slave bracelet off. I told her it wasn't allowed."
"Great. Now the fucking nurse will think I'm some kind of sex freak!"
"So? I don't care what she thinks." He rolls over and looks at me. "Maybe she'll think you bought me at some kind of auction of nubile young boys and that I have to do what you say all the time because I really am your slave?"
"Is that your fantasy?" I stroke the brass bracelet on his wrist.
"Maybe. One of them, at least."
"I think this harem-style room is putting too many ideas into your head. We better move to a little less fantasy-oriented hotel. Like the Holiday Inn."
"No! I like the Chatterton. I LOVE it, in fact."
It stays light out a long time in England in the summer and the weather is clear and warm, so it doesn't seem that a walk up to Notting Hill Gate to get something for dinner would be a problem for Justin. Frankly, he's more sick of me fussing over him than he is really ill, but I don't want to take any chances. Sir Ken's doctor scared me with that pleurisy thing. I had it the winter I was here as a student and was sick as a dog for weeks.
We go down in the elevator and are almost out the door when I hear a familiar voice.
"Jack! I need to talk to you!"
It's Marc Gerasi. Who else? But how the fuck he tracked me down here at the Chatterton, I have no idea. Unless he called Ron. Which I'm sure he must have. So, Ron knows where we are. Has probably known since the first day we were here. And he's just been waiting to spring something like this on us.
We should go back to the room, but it's too late now. I grab Justin's arm and urge him along a little faster out the door.
"Is that guy talking to us?" Justin starts to turn around.
"Just keep walking and ignore him. He's a stalker."
"Who's he stalking?" Justin tries to look around at him, but I hold his head against me so he can't look at the Past, fucking chasing me down the street!
But Justin can't go too fast before he starts to wheeze a little and we have to slow down. I really consider going back now, but Justin insists on continuing. And Marc Gerasi is right behind us -- right on my tail.
"You might as well stop and talk to me, Jack."
I spin around. "Will you fuck off, Gerasi? And stop calling me Jack!"
"Who is this guy, Brian?" asks Justin.
"He's nobody. And he's going now," I say, trying to push Justin behind me. I don't even want Gerasi to look at him.
Gerasi comes up to us. He's puffing a bit. You'd think he'd be in better shape, climbing over those Afghan mountains. "Why don't you want to speak with me, Jack? What's the problem with you?"
I just stare at him like he's a lunatic. "What's the problem with ME? Why the hell are you following me? Don't you have any wars to cover, Marc? And there are still plenty of bars in town. You don't need to follow ME around for your entertainment!"
I try to move on, but he's right along side of us now. He's looking me up and down. And now he's looking Justin up and down. The stupid fuck!
"So how come you won't return Ron's calls?"
"Is THAT what this is all about?" I answer. "Now you are Ron's messenger boy? Or are you spying for him?" At this point I'm just disgusted. "I thought you were a better guy than that, Marc. You're a cameraman, aren't you? Maybe it was YOU who set up his video system for him? Did you set it up so he could spy on me, is that it, Marc? On US? Seems like a waste of your fine talents! Or maybe YOU get your kicks that way, too -- just like Ron!"
"What video system? I don't know what the hell you are talking about, Jack!"
"Sure you don't! Tell me another tale!"
I'm trembling as I make my way back down to the Bowery. I'm in big shit trouble and I don't know what to do about it.
Stan made me go and visit my new 'owner' -- the fucking freak. Oh, he was glad to see me. He had made a bunch of promises to Stan. That he won't hurt me -- at least not radically. Because Stan wants to get SOMETHING back after the six months of this deal are done. Something back. But it won't be anything recognizable as me. No way. Not after this guy is finished with me.
The guy lives in a pretty nice place in the East Village. He must make a lot of money. He must have regular friends. A family somewhere. But he's a sick fuck. I can't describe it any other way.
Stan escorts me there. To make sure I really go. The guy is all smiles. He offers me a drink. Shows me around. But I've been there before. I know the drill. He's just waiting to get out the handcuffs to keep me in place. Forget that! Let somebody else wear them! I don't mind something a little kinky if it just goes so far. That, I don't mind -- which is why Stan sent me over to the guy in the first place. He knew I wouldn't freak out.
But this guy doesn't want to play a game. He wants to keep you in prison. He wants to see how much you can take before you start yelling. And then he doesn't stop when you do. And the biggest reason he wants to hold you down is so he doesn't have to use the rubber. And you know he's been everywhere and done everything with anybody. You just know that if you're going to get IT, this is the place. Yes -- THIS is the guy who is going to murder you, one fuck at a time.
When he's looking the other way, that's when I bolt for it. Before he can get me where I can't get away. And I'm off. But I'll be fucked over again if Stan gets hold of me. But that's the chance I have to take.
I've got to retrieve my money and get out of this town. Or at least out of this part of town. Because Stan doesn't travel outside his little area. The Bowery is his world and he won't bother to chase me farther than the Village. He's afraid to go up there. It's off his turf. But I'm not afraid. I can be a free agent anywhere. I have a commodity and I'm not afraid to sell it. But I have to be alive to do it.
I pass a deli just inside of Little Italy -- and I see Marc coming out. Ron's camera guy. He looks funny without all his gear, his cameras and bags and cords, hanging off of him. Normal. Like he's on his way home or something. He sees me. He'll talk to me, sometimes. Not like Ron talks to me, not like he thinks I might have anything to say, but like I'm human. Not like I'm a fucking thing. Not the way Stan or the freak talk to me, all orders and curses.
"Hey," he says, looking at me from top to bottom. "You hungry?"
"I don't know." Of course, I'm hungry! What does he think? But he knows. He's not as naive as Ron. He grew up on these streets.
"Here," he says, handing me a paper bag. It feels warm and I know that it's full of food. Real food. Probably his lunch or an early dinner. Now I wonder where he lives around here. If he lives with his parents. No, too old. He must have an apartment. Maybe a wife or girlfriend living with him. He's definitely not into dick. I can tell. So I'm not sure how I'm going to repay him for the food.
"But this is yours," I say, holding the bag against me. It smells really good.
"Forget it. I eat enough as it is. Look at this gut." He pokes his own belly. It isn't too bad. A little soft, maybe.
"Better than being too skinny."
He laughs. "You'll find out, kid."
He's a big man. Sort of a scary man. But I don't think he's a bad guy at all. I do know that Marc has big Mafia connections. His father was in jail, even. And his grandfather was some hitman a long time ago. That's what they say. Even Stan doesn't like messing with a Gerasi, so I feel safe with him.
"Marc? You ever whack anybody?" I ask as we go along. It's sunny, but a little snow begins to fall.
"Why? You got somebody you want whacked?"
I nod my head. "Couple of people." Right. Stan. Mole, the guy who brought me down to New York. The freak. My old man, maybe.
"You can't settle things with whacking, Jack. You have to use your brains. Or your talent. That's why I'm learning to use the camera. I couldn't whack a fucking fly!" He laughs again.
"Yeah," I say, frustrated. "But I can't whack anybody with my talent. Whatever that is."
He looks at me. He isn't laughing now. "You'll figure out what it is eventually. But it isn't to be found on these streets, that's for sure. Not on the Bowery. Go home, kid. Try to find it there."
"I can't. My old man tried to kill me."
He stops dead on the sidewalk and turns to me, looking at my face. Into my eyes, like he's looking for the truth. "There must be someone else, then? Some place else for you to go?"
"I don't know. I'm trying to think. Trying to figure out something."
"Well, do it, kid, before it's too late. Really too late." We continue walking down Mulberry Street. The food in the bag feels warm against my chest, my hands. It's awfully cold out.
"It's already too late," I say.
"Hey, listen to me, kid. You know, my family's been in this country for about eighty years and I'm the first guy to finish high school, let alone college! And they all said I was too dumb to do it! Ha! And now look at me? I'm getting my MFA at New York fucking University! But I had to, kid -- because I could never do the other. So, I had to think of an alternative. Another way of living. And if you don't think I didn't take any flak for it -- think again."
"But I don't know. I don't know of any alternatives."
"Think of some. And do it soon."
Marc goes on his way -- to his home or somewhere else. Maybe to get more food to replace the stuff he gave me. But I find an alley where I won't be bothered. Where I can eat and try to think of an alternative.
When I can't shake Gerasi, I realize that the only alternative is to talk to him. I try to send Justin back to the hotel, but he's like fly-paper -- he just won't unstick himself from me. In fact, he glares at Marc like the little pitbull he is, defending me! No Sunshine smile to greet this old pal!
We go up to Notting Hill Gate and get a table at a cafe that Justin and I frequent quite a bit. It's not a chain and you can get a decent cup of coffee here. I tell Marc that and he's grateful. Americans are always looking for good coffee in England. The Brits do the tea thing great, but coffee is more problematic.
It all seems so cozy, sitting here with our cups -- a latte for me, a cappuccino for Marc, and an Italian soda for Justin. But I know that Marc is boiling over with all kinds of fucking misinformation and I wonder if I even have the energy to set him straight.
"Okay, Marc -- it's your dime. Ask away."
But now that he has me right in front of him, he's hemming and hawing. "Jesus, Jack. I just don't know where to start."
"All right, I'll begin, then. Why does Ron have you spying on me? And why are you doing it?"
"I'm not spying on you, Jack! I... I saw you that night at the Dorchester and it... it totally floored me! I mean, how would you react if you saw somebody you thought was dead? What would YOU want to know?"
"Please don't call me Jack. It gives me the creeps," I say. "And I'd probably want to find out what the hell happened all those years ago. And what's been happening since then."
"Well, I'm no different. Ron told me a little when I called him up after I saw you, but that still doesn't explain... a lot of stuff." Marc's eyeing Justin. "Hey, is it really okay for this kid to be here?"
"Why not? I'm sure he'll find your perspective on the past very illuminating."
"But, I mean, this isn't very... you know!"
"Suitable information for impressionable young minds? I think he can handle it. After all, he's nineteen and I was sixteen -- and I lived it."
"So, is he your little protégé or something -- like, in training?"
Justin bristles next to me, but I squeeze his arm to keep him quiet. "Just what do you think I'm doing in London, Marc? What did Ron tell you?"
"Working, he said. But I understood. I know the score. I saw you 'working' at the Dorchester."
"You mean my meeting with Dorian? It's funny how people 'see' exactly what they want to see. Clue #1, Marc -- he's a director. A film director. Just like Ron. Clue #2 -- Ron just got finished with a movie in L.A. Where I just came from."
"Right. Starring Jimmy Hardy. Even I heard about that and I've been out in the boondocks!"
"And also starring?"
"Also starring? How the hell should I know who's his co-star?" Marc says, obviously puzzled by the line of questioning. "Somebody I never heard of before, I think."
"Brian is his co-star, you idiot!" says Justin, unable to keep still another second. "In fact, HE'S the REAL star of 'The Olympian'! And he's making a movie here in London, too. It's called 'Hammersmith' and he plays a big rock star! That man at the Dorchester was Dorian Folco, the director of THAT film!"
"Thank you, President of the Brian Kinney Fan Club," I say. I have to smile because Justin looks so indignant and so beautiful at the same time.
"You?" Marc spits out. "Don't give me that bullshit! You're no fucking actor!"
"Maybe you're right about that, Marc," I reply. "But you tell me -- who was the star of 'Red Shirt'? Huh? You shot the thing, you tell me!" I want to shake this guy to let some light into his head!
"Jack was -- Jack was the star..." His voice trails off, and then bursts out loudly. "Jesus Christ! Why the fuck didn't Ron tell me this before! What's he playing at?"
"I don't know, Marc. Pissed off at ME, maybe? Wants to use YOU to get any information he can about me? Using you for whatever he can get out of you?" I take a sip of latte, my hand trembling just slightly. The edge is creeping up on me. I should have gotten some herbal tea instead. But if I only had ONE Xanax -- just to steady my hands....
And, sitting here with Marc, I have to wonder how everything could have gone so fucking wrong with Ron? When it SHOULD have gone so right? It should have! But -- maybe it all had to go wrong. That it was right to go wrong? I don't know, but that somehow makes sense when I feel Justin rubbing his leg up against mine under the table, defiantly.
"But Ron is my friend! One of my best friends! Why would he steer me so wrong? I mean, the stuff we've been through together. Especially after Jack died...." Marc stops, blinks. "Jesus."
I raise my eyebrow at him. "I can't explain the workings of Ron's mind -- and at this point I don't want to. But I also don't want YOU wandering around thinking that you know the score when you don't know shit, Marc! And you don't know shit. About ME or anything about me."
"Listen, how am I supposed to know that some..." He lowers his voice. "Five dollar hustler is making some big movie now? How am I supposed to know that?"
"And how am I supposed to guess that the supposedly dimwitted son of a jailbird, whose family is on welfare half the time and supported by the Mob the rest of the time, would one day be traveling all over the world working for CNN? And, by the way, Marc -- five bucks is WAY too low. You never could have afforded me." I lean back in my chair and smile. "You STILL can't afford me."
Marc leans back in his chair. "Still a goddamn smart-ass, huh, kid?"
"Always," I say. Because Marc is right in a way. Even Ron is right, in his way. Because I haven't really changed one fucking bit. Have I? Not at all, really. Not at all. And that's going to be my fucking undoing.
"What the hammer? what the chain? When the stars threw down their spears
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?"
When the stars threw down their spears
Continue on to "White Light -- Part 1", the next chapter.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Updated August 27, 2002