This is Part 1 of Chapter 61 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "My Back Pages", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Jennifer Taylor, Molly Taylor, Philip, Kenroy Smith, Sir Kenneth Fielding, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian and Justin travel to London. July 2002.
Author's Note: Susan -- thanks again for the comments!
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
"Justin! PLEASE! We'll be late!"
"I'm coming, Mom!"
"Now, here are the keys and the codes for the loft and the studio," Brian hands my mother the envelope. "Also, some numbers you might need. Keep in touch with Cynthia about the bills and everything should be okay. Oh -- and don't have any wild parties up here."
"I'll try not to, Brian. Justin!"
"I'm coming! I'm right here," I say. Molly hoists my carry-on over her shoulder and I lift my new suitcase. Filled up, it's heavier than I thought it would be.
"That message I took -- did you call him back?"
Brian looks away. I know they are talking about Ron. He called looking for Brian last night and my mother answered.
"No. I'm sure if it was important, I'll hear about it."
"He...," she starts, but then changes her mind. "I hope I didn't give him any information you didn't want him to know."
"About the hotel? No problem. He'd have found out we weren't at the Dorchester eventually. And he'll also find out where we're 'hiding' -- he's like Sherlock Holmes when he wants to be. Don't sweat it, Jennifer."
"If you say so, Brian." She turns to me. "All right then -- let's get going!"
The Pittsburgh International Airport is teeming with cars and people. It's the height of vacation season and people are heading out of town in droves. It's also stiflingly hot and I'm nervous, so I'm like a drenched rat before I even get out of the car. Brian, of course, looks cool and perfect in a new dark-grey Versace suit he brought back from Los Angeles.
Mom drops us off at the terminal and goes to park.
Brian leads the way to the Liberty Air counter. Luckily, we've caught a lull and don't have to wait that long in line. The woman behind the counter is the nice, dark-haired woman who was there the day I flew with Brian to New York City. I don't see any sign of the bitchy woman who gave us a hard time. The dark-haired woman recognizes us and smiles.
"Transferring to Trans-Con International for London? Change terminals when you get to JFK. Your bags are checked through."
Usually Brian likes to claim his luggage and keep his stuff with him, but since there are two of us, he's sending them through directly to London.
"Here are your tickets and your boarding passes." She winks at me. "Have a nice trip."
As Brian, Molly, and I come away from the counter, Mom arrives.
"What a mess in that parking garage! Are you all ready? So quickly?"
"No problems at all. Not like last time, right, Brian?"
"Why? What happened last time?" She looks puzzled.
"A lady gave Brian a hard time." I realize that I've never told my mom that I flew to JFK with Brian that day. It seems awkward to mention it now. There are a lot of things I realize I've neglected to mention to my mother. And now it seems too late for a lot of them. I promise myself that when I get back from England I'm going to do a few of those things Mom wanted to do. Go up to the cottage, maybe. That might give us a chance to talk about the things we've left hanging for so long.
That's why I'm glad that I took Brian to the picnic at the club for the Fourth, regardless of what happened with my dad there. I can't say that it didn't freak me out, because it did -- my heart didn't stop pounding until I fell asleep that night, wrapped in Brian's arms.
But the way my mom confronted my father. The way she defended ME! The way she even defended Brian. The things she said about the way my dad has treated me -- they were things I've been wanting HER to admit for a long time. It had seemed like she was denying what Dad was doing for so long, rationalizing his behavior. And all the while blaming Brian for so many things. That wasn't fair, not at all.
But now she and Brian have come to some kind of agreement. There's a different feel between them. It's still wary, but I don't sense that the wall separating their worlds is as impenetrable as it was even two days ago. I feel that now I might be able to move back and forth between them, without betraying either one.
When my mother speaks to me now, I don't get all defensive anymore. I can look her in the eyes and not hide who I am. And if I don't have to hide from her -- then I don't have to hide from anyone.
We walk down to the security gate at the head of the concourse.
"I guess there's no sense in waiting around. I'm sure you boys are anxious to get started on your trip." My mom looks like she's about to cry and I suddenly feel really guilty at the way I've been blowing her off lately. Now I'm going to be gone for weeks and not see her or Molly.
"I'll call you when we get to the hotel."
"Don't forget to send lots of postcards!" Molly says. "I'm going to make a collection!"
"Take care of yourself, Justin. Don't get into any trouble."
"What kind of trouble could I possibly get into, Mom? I have Brian watching out for me."
Somehow, that doesn't seem to reassure her all that much.
"I'll take care of him, Jennifer. You have my word," says Brian, seriously. In fact, he looks extremely solemn. It's almost funny, watching this interaction between Brian and my mom. But maybe it isn't so funny, after all. After all, they have one thing in common -- protecting me. In that, they are allies. Maybe they still aren't friends, but they are somehow linked through me and they seem to accept that about each other.
Molly hugs me and reminds me again about the postcards. Then Mom hugs and kisses me. You'd think I was going off to war or something. I guess it's a mother thing -- like she thinks she'll never see me again. It makes me feel all self-conscious. And now I'm glad I convinced Debbie and Vic and everyone NOT to come out to the airport to see us off, because I'm starting to tear up and I don't think I could have taken a huge, emotional send-off. It's just across the ocean, after all. It isn't to the moon!
"Goodbye, Brian," Mom says, and she hugs and kisses him, too. That surprises me. He still has that serious look on his face. He even gives Molly a hug. It's very un-Brian-like, but I like it.
And then we go through security and leave Pittsburgh behind.
The flight to JFK is uneventful. Brian spends most of the time going through his paperwork. He has all kinds of letters and documents saying that it's okay for him to enter the country and work on Sir Kenneth's film. That he won't be a drag on the government's resources. That he provides a 'unique service' that can't be duplicated by anyone else. Otherwise, he says, they wouldn't let him in. Brian calls this his 'Deadbeat File.'
"A 'unique service that can't be duplicated'? I'll testify to that!"
"You just keep your mouth shut. When you go through customs just smile that patented 'Sunshine' smile, hand them your passport, and tell them you're a tourist. That's all you have to do. You'll get by just fine."
"What about you?"
"They'll scrutinize me a bit more carefully. Sir Ken warned me about that. But there shouldn't be any difficulty. My lawyers and my agent worked everything out in advance."
But Brian still seems uneasy. I know that he's nervous about facing a new situation in London -- doing this film without Ron, without Jimmy. I know he has no faith in his acting, which is such bullshit. I know he'll be great.
I guess that's my main job right now -- boosting Brian. It seems so strange. He should be the last person in the world who lacks self-confidence, but he does. Luckily, I have enough belief in him for both of us -- and I'm not afraid to pump him up whenever -- and in whatever way! -- necessary.
But I think that lack of self-confidence is at the root of all his other problems. It's that lack of belief in himself. I know it's all tied into the abuse he suffered from his father when he was growing up, and the indifference of his mother. His certainty that they rejected him over and over again -- and that they had good reason to reject him. He truly believes that. And then there is what happened to him in New York City. All the 'Red Shirt' stuff. I KNOW that is at the bottom of his weird feelings about Ron. He's still all mixed up about that. I saw it in his face when my mom told him that Ron had called the loft, wanting to talk to him. It's like he didn't know whether to be happy that he called, or angry, or scared. I think he felt all those things and more. But he won't talk about it, even to me.
The Liberty Air flight is short and uneventful. I can't believe how nonchalant about flying I'm getting, especially after my L.A. trip. I feel like a professional traveler now, with my passport, my portable DVD player, and my travel diary. This last thing is a gift from Lindsay. We stopped over there last night to see Gus before we left, and Lindsay gave me one of those blank books that you see in fancy stationery stores.
"You can draw in this, but I think you should also use it to write down what you see, what you hear, eat, feel -- everything! Going abroad for the first time is an incredible experience and you'll want to remember it all. So that's what this book is for. To record all your experiences. Start with the first day and fill it up. When you get to the end buy another and fill that one, too. Then when you come back, you can share everything with all of us boring stay-at-homes."
"Be forewarned," said Brian. "You might get two hundred pages of descriptions of my dick."
"Well, I'm just saying."
"Justin, I hope you'll be broadening your horizons beyond...," Lindsay paused. "What Brian just said. Do you know what I mean?"
"Don't worry, Lindsay. I'll try to get SOME sightseeing in -- and I promise to write about it in detail. Between the descriptions of Brian's dick." I smiled slyly at Brian.
"He IS a little twat isn't he?" said Brian, pinching me.
So, I open my new journal as I sit on the Liberty Air flight and write the date, July 6, 2002, on the first page. Then I sit back to wait for the rest of my adventure to begin.
"We won't have the long wait here that we did last time we came through," says Brian as we walk through the Trans-Con terminal at JFK. "Check the time."
I look at my watch. "It's just after 6:30."
"All right. Our plane is scheduled to leave at 8:10. So, if you have anything that you need to get, let's do it now, and then we'll go to the lounge and wait.
Brian buzzes through the magazine racks and picks out new issues of 'The New Yorker,' 'MetroSource,' and 'Esquire.' He also has a couple of books that he bought at Borders while we were out running errands yesterday. I have my DVDs, of course, but I also have a new paperback copy of 'The Fountainhead' that I picked up while we were shopping. I know this is one of Brian's favorite books and I've vowed to make an attempt to read it on this trip. It's long and kind of complicated and the last time I tried to get through it I gave up after about fifty pages. But this time I'm going to read the whole thing. A long plane ride might give me a good head start.
We walk to the VIP lounge and I have a definite feeling of deja vu here. Except this time I'm not being left behind. I guess that's SOME kind of progress!
Brian shows our tickets to a woman attendant and we go into the Continent Club. It's Saturday evening and there are quite a few people in there, waiting for flights. Brian looks around for a place to perch.
"I have to use the men's room," I say.
Brian raises an eyebrow at me. "If you are gone longer than twenty minutes I'm coming in there with the Vice Squad!"
I do my business pretty quickly and am standing, washing my hands, having a very hot flashback of leaning over the edge of this very sink while Brian drove into me from behind, when someone comes up next to me.
"My God. I know you, don't I?"
I look at him. It's the attendant from the last time we were at JFK. The one who 'guarded' the door of this men's room while Brian and I said our goodbyes. If that's what you'd call it!
"I'm Philip, remember? And you are?"
"Right! Justin!" He washes his hands. "So what are you doing here, Justin? Keeping someone company before their flight leaves?" This confirms what Brian had joked about before -- that Philip believes I'm some kind of rent-boy who specializes in airport fucking for selected travelers.
"No, actually. I'm going to England. With my boyfriend..." I LOVE saying that out loud with no one able to contradict me! "The guy who I was here with before."
Philip's eyes get wide. "The guy you were with before? Here -- in the lounge? He's here NOW?"
"Yeah -- he's waiting for me outside."
"And you're on the London flight?" Philip looks at himself in the mirror and straightens his tie. "You aren't going anywhere, are you? I mean -- you're both staying here in the lounge?"
"Until our plane leaves." I'm not sure what he's on about. But he bolts out of the men's room. I wander out and find Brian sitting on a stool at the bar. He's saved one next to him. But I also notice that he's drinking a soft drink, instead of the expected shot of Jim Beam or Absolut. He also has a soda for me. I hop up on the stool.
"Remember that guy from last time? Philip?"
Brian frowns. "The attendant? Sandy hair? About 5 foot 10? Sort of Southern accent?" He may not admit it, but Brian never forgets a cute guy.
"I see you've completely forgotten him," I joke. "He was in the men's room a minute ago."
Now Brian really IS frowning. "He didn't try anything, did he?" Suddenly, he's all possessive. This is an interesting development. I like this interesting development!
"No, he just said 'hello,'" I say. "To both of us."
"Well. Okay, then." Brian sips his soda. But he's got his eyes fixed on me.
From the corner of my eye I see Philip coming out of a room on the other side of the lounge. He has three other male attendants and one female flight attendant with him. He scans the room and I know that he is looking for us. He sees me and Brian at the bar and pokes his friends. They are all staring now. I start to feel a little uncomfortable.
"What's the matter?" says Brian, but before I can answer, Philip and his friends are on us.
"Mr. Kinney? Right? You were traveling to Los Angeles with us a few weeks ago?" Philip is a little too eager. His friends are leering at Brian. Looking him up and down. They glance at me, but seem to dismiss me.
"That's right," says Brian, coolly. I feel him recoil slightly, his body backing up against mine on the stool.
"If there's anything I can get you -- I mean before your plane leaves. Maybe you'd like some complimentary travel packets? We have some over here. We'd also like you to sign our VIP Guestbook -- if you don't mind?" Philip and his friends are drawing Brian over to their station to sign the book -- but really to cruise him. It's fucking obvious. He hesitates, but then allows himself be led over there, while I finish my soda.
The woman attendant is still standing by the bar. She smiles at me. From far away she looked really young, but up close I can see she's much older, as old as my mom. It's the make-up and hair that makes her seem young from across the room.
"Are you the kid who was here before? With the tall guy? The one they are wetting themselves over? You don't have to answer that, by the way." She has a soothing manner. I imagine her buckling my seatbelt and serving me nuts and soft drinks on the plane.
"Yes, I was the one."
She smiles sympathetically. "You realize that Philip has been regaling us with... um... some stories about your last visit to the lounge. Any truth to them?"
Yikes. I'm infamous. "Yeah. Probably a lot of truth to them."
"Really? Philip does tend to exaggerate. But he didn't exaggerate the two of you. Not at all." She reaches over the bar and refills my soda.
"What did he say about us?"
"Darling, I don't usually USE that kind of language!" she laughs. "But he told us he had two very cute guys in the Club. A tall, dishy guy and..." she hesitates. "But you don't exactly look like you have a price-tag, honey. Not at all."
"Is THAT what he said?" That crummy Philip! Brian was RIGHT! Philip DID think I was some kind of rent-boy. The more I think about it, though, the more I'm getting into the fantasy of it. Although I know I'm not really the rent-boy type, I wish I was hotter. Dirtier, maybe. Maybe in London....
"I hope you don't mind that you've been Philip's favorite stroke fantasy for about the last month. And I think you two are adding a few more fans tonight. Or, at least your friend is." She nods over to where Philip and the other male attendants are drooling all over Brian.
"That's a little creepy. Don't you think?" We both watch them leaning and tugging at Brian. And I know how much he hates that -- people touching and groping him without his permission.
"Well, honey -- that's the chance you take when you use our 'facilities' here in the Continent Club!" She laughs and gives my cheek a little pat. "Just watch yourself. Philip doesn't mean any harm, but there are other people out there in the world...." She pauses. "I've got a son myself. He's only nine, but I'd want someone to be watching out for him. You know what I mean, hon? Someone to protect him?"
"I think so. But Brian takes good care of me." But I think about a few of those 'other people' who are just waiting to take advantage of me. Even to harm me. People like Ron. Chris Hobbs. Even my own father. I suddenly wish that Brian were right next to me instead of across the room.
"Does he? I hope so. I really hope so." She looks right into my face. "You're so young...."
For a second I'm afraid she's going to ask me exactly how old I am or ask something about my mother, but she doesn't. Instead, she picks up her flight bag and gives me a little wave. Then she collects the four guys and hustles them, protesting all the way, back into the other room.
Brian returns and sits on the stool, stretching out his long legs. He really looks like a movie star in his Versace suit. People watch us as we sit there at the bar, but no one else approaches.
"Trans-Con has been offering me some non-scheduled personal services. Ones that don't seem to be available to ALL ticketed passengers -- First Class or otherwise. Philip and his pals certainly TALK a good game. It's a good thing we didn't have another five-hour layover -- it might have given the word a whole new meaning."
"That's really gross, Brian."
He blows in my ear, playfully. "I'm only joking. There's wasn't a hot guy in the whole herd of them."
"I imagine that London is swarming with hot guys." It just kind of slips out, quietly.
He glances at me. "You worried?"
I shrug. "It doesn't matter whether I am or not, Brian. I know the score. I remember "The Rules."
"'The Rules,' huh? Are we still playing by those?"
"I don't know -- are we, Brian?"
"You made them up."
"I know." But I don't know what to say. I hate 'The Rules' now. I hate them because of what they imply. That we can -- mainly meaning Brian can -- fuck around all we want to and still be 'faithful' -- if that's the word for it. I wonder if he and Ron had their own version of 'The Rules'? If they did, then the whole thing failed miserably. And I don't want to fail like that.
"Listen, Justin. Why do you think I'm taking you with me to England?"
That stops me. I haven't really considered it before. I've been so excited just to be going that it's never occurred to wonder why Brian would want to take me. It can't be because he needs a convenient fuck. Cripes, he practically picked up four flight attendants and all he has to do is stand there! And, like I said, London is swarming with hot guys. Guys who look like Ewan MacGregor. Jude Law. Christian Bale. I could go on, but it's depressing. So, what IS the point? Why IS Brian dragging me along? Part of my queer education? But Brian has better things to do than waste his time and money 'educating' me. He's got a movie to make.
"I don't know," I say, finally. It's almost time to get on the plane. People are gathering up their carry-ons and getting out their tickets.
"Well, why don't you think about it? You'll have plenty of time to consider the question as we cross the Atlantic. And I'll have time to consider it as well. Maybe, on the other side, we'll compare a few notes." Brian pushes me off the stool and towards the door where people are beginning to board. "Let's go or they'll make us walk all the way to London."
Continue on to "Walking on Air -- Part 2", the next section.
©Gaedhal, July 2002
Updated August 1, 2002