This is Chapter 40 of the "Queer Realities" series.
The narrator is Michael Novotny, and features Dr. David Cameron, Emmett Honeycutt, Ben Bruckner, Lindsay Peterson, Melanie Marcus, Justin Taylor, Dylan Burke, Brian Kinney, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Michael attends Justin's opening at the Warhol Museum. Pittsburgh. March 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Dinner with David is wonderful. Just like old times.
He takes me to his favorite restaurant -- Papagano's -- but I don't act like a jerk the way I did on our very first date. I have some decent 'grown-up' clothes of my own, and I now know better than to order Diet Pepsi with my filet mignon.
After splitting a 'Death By Chocolate' dessert, we head over to the Andy Warhol Museum to see myself immortalized in Justin's portion of the exhibit.
'Warholized' is being held in one of the galleries on the main floor. There's a big sign outside the museum directing people to the opening and I'm surprised to see just how many are going inside.
"Looks like a big success already," says David, with surprise.
"Yeah. I didn't realize it was this big a deal," I say. "Justin must really be excited -- and nervous, too!"
The first person we see inside is Emmett, sipping a glass of champagne. And when he sees me with David he almost chokes.
"Well, well, well!" Emmett exclaims. "Aren't we full of surprises, Michael? Hey there, Doc!" Em extends his hand for David to kiss, like a real drama queen!
"Hello, Emmett." David shakes Emmett's hand firmly. I know that David isn't exactly thrilled with Emmett -- or any of my friends -- but he's always polite to them. Wait until David sees Justin's portrait of Em as Jackie Kennedy! He's wearing the same pink lady's suit in it that he wore when the gang crashed our fundraiser for Senator Baxter. I'm sure that David remembers that night as vividly as I do!
David wanders over to check out the artwork while Emmett steers me to the corner for a 'talk.'
"What the fuck are you doing here with Dr. Dreamboat?" he demands.
"David just came back into town and, well -- here we are!" I reply.
"David's back in town and you didn't tell me!" Em almost screams. "What about Ben?"
I shrug. "What about him? We've only been on one date, Em. We aren't in a relationship anymore."
"And you never will be with the Doc around to fuck it up!" Em hisses. "Two men fighting over little old you! I swear, Michael, when it rains, it pours!"
"They aren't fighting over me!" I huff. But the idea kind of thrills me. "Ben doesn't even know that David is back in Pittsburgh."
Emmett shakes his head. "Well, he will in about two seconds -- because here he is!"
"Where?" I look towards the door and see Ben walking in with Lindsay and Mel. Lindsay is hugely pregnant and looks like she's going to drop Brian's kid right here in the middle of the Warhol Museum.
Ben is looking around -- for me. And he smiles when he sees me across the room.
That's when David comes back and puts his arm around me.
Ben stops smiling. David guides me over to the wall where Justin's portraits are hanging. But I keep glancing over to see where Ben is. To see what he's doing.
Ben turns away and walks over to a group of people on the far side of the room. That's when I see Justin standing there. His friend Daphne is with him and so is Marshall, another kid that he hangs out with at PIFA. Ben shakes Justin's hand and Justin grins up at him. Then Lindsay and Melanie go over and greet Justin, too.
Justin looks very grown-up and self-assured. He's wearing a pair of black pants and a blue shirt that is almost silvery in the bright gallery lights. It looks very expensive. I bet Brian bought it for him. It seems like something Brian would pick out for him to wear. Brian loves Justin in blue.
"I guess I better say hello to the artist," I tell David.
"I'm very impressed with his work," says David. And David isn't impressed with much. "He's a very talented kid."
"Justin isn't a kid anymore," I remind David. "He's not a kid at all."
No, not a kid, but Brian's partner. That gets to me sometimes. I think about the way Brian talks about Justin over the phone. Every time we talk, which is at least three times a week, half the conversation is about Justin. Brian's always asking me if Justin's been in the store or at the diner. How he looked. What he said. If he's busy with school. How the comic book is coming along. Brian would never admit it to anybody, but he's really in love with Justin. Yeah, hard to believe. Like a normal human being. But I suppose even Brian Fucking Kinney had to fall eventually.
I talked to Brian only yesterday and I know how disappointed he is not to be at the 'Warholized' opening. But the strange thing is that Justin told him not to come after Brian was planning on it and even got permission from his doctor to be away overnight. Brian was vague about the reason why Justin asked him to stay away. Something about it being Justin's night and Brian being a distraction and turning it into a freak show. But that didn't sound right to me. I feel like questioning Justin about it, but this probably isn't the best time.
"Michael!" Lindsay squeals. She has her hands folded over her big belly. "Did you see your portrait? And mine? And Emmett's? Aren't they amazing?"
"Pretty amazing is right," I answer. I keep staring at her stomach. I remember before Gus was born. Lindsay got so big I thought she was going to explode! She doesn't look quite that big now. Maybe because she's having a girl this time. But what the fuck do I know about babies?
"I was hoping Brian would be here!" Lindsay pouts. "I wanted to see him! He told me that he'd be here when the baby was born. I hope he doesn't forget to show up for that."
Melanie sniffs. "He missed Gus' birth. Too busy getting his dick sucked -- as usual!"
Justin stiffens. "Excuse me, Melanie, but Brian was with me that night -- in case you've forgotten! And we WERE at the hospital that night to see Gus. Brian cares about his son and he'll care just as much about his daughter, too!"
"Now, Justin," says Lindsay. "Melanie didn't mean it like that."
But Justin glares at Mel. "I'm sick of people taking potshots at Brian when he isn't here to defend himself! So fuck you!" And Justin stomps off, leaving everyone staring at their feet in embarrassment.
It isn't like Justin to be so touchy, especially at animportant event like his opening. So I go after him. "Justin...."
"Don't ask me to go back and apologize, Michael!" he says, his face bright red. "I meant what I said. And Melanie is a bitch for bringing that up and throwing it in my face! I'm not some fucking trick who Brian slept with that night and then dumped! I'm Brian's partner!"
"I know you are, Justin," I try to calm him. "So does everybody. Don't let Melanie ruin your evening. Please? Your pieces are so great. You should be enjoying your success."
Justin softens a bit. "Do you really like your portrait?"
"It's wonderful! I can't believe it's here in the museum!"
"Only for three weeks, but a lot of people will see it in that time, Michael."
"The one of Em as Jackie Kennedy is a hoot, Justin. And Lindsay looks beautiful as Marilyn Monroe. But the one of Brian... it's amazing! I've never seen him look so intensely... sexual. Did you take the original photo?"
"Yes, I took all of the photos and then used my computer to do the 'Warhol' look on them." Justin smiles slightly. "That's one of my favorite shots of Brian. Of course, I have hundreds of pictures of him, but that one -- I had to use that one."
"Good choice!" I laugh. "Everyone is commenting on it. It's too bad Brian's not here. He'd be so proud of it. He's proud of all your work, you know?" I watch Justin's face, trying to understand why he would tell Brian to stay away. But Justin's face is impossible for me to read. He seems happy and sad and confused all at the same time. Or else I'm just imagining it.
"I know he'd be proud, Michael." Justin bites his lip. "I took some pictures of the exhibit before all of the people got here so Brian can see how the pieces are laid out. I'll have those to show him the next time I see him. John Hamilton of the Austin Gallery was talking to me about having some prints made to sell. That is, if there's enough interest."
"I'd like to buy one of those!" I exclaim. "I want to hang it in the store! And I know Ma will want one!"
"And me, too," says David, coming up behind me. "Hello, Justin. Fine work."
"Hello, Dr. Cameron. Thanks." Justin cocks his head at me slyly. "I'm surprised to see you here."
"Just got into town," David nods. "My son and I have moved back to Pittsburgh."
"That's really nice...." Justin begins, but then he stops. He looks over at the entrance and I see his face change drastically. Surprise? Fear? I'm not sure what.
I follow Justin's glance, almost expecting to see Brian standing there, big as life. But it's someone else. A tall, dark-haired guy. He pauses in the doorway, looking around. Looking for Justin. It's so fucking obvious!
Justin's face pales. "Will you excuse me, please?" he mumbles.
And he goes directly to the new guy, grabbing his arm and pulling him out of the room.
"What was that about?" asks David.
"I don't know," I tell him. "Something weird."
Very weird. The way Justin's been acting lately is totally weird. And now this guy....
I need to find out what's going on.
"I'll be right back, David. I have to find the men's room."
I have no idea why I decide to follow them, but I do. There's a sick feeling in my gut. I walk out the door of the gallery and down the hallway. There are several small galleries along the hall, and I see the two of them slipping into one of them. Justin and this strange guy. It's dim in there, but I can hear them talking softly.
I'm not proud of eavesdropping, but something has been going on with Justin. Why would he tell Brian not to come down here when Brian was looking forward to it? Why?
Maybe this is why.
It's crummy to think that, but....
"I can't believe you showed up here, Dylan! After I told you not to!"
"It's a free country, Just," says the other voice. "I wanted to see your pieces."
"You could have seen them during the week. We could have come over here on Monday or Tuesday and I'd have shown them to you!"
"But I wanted to see all the people admiring you on your big night. And this is a big night, Just. Don't you think?"
There's silence. I'm afraid to look around the corner and into the room. Afraid they'll see me. And afraid of what I'll see.
"Don't do that again, Dylan," Justin whispers. "I've told you before. I warned you! All of Brian's friends are here! Michael and Emmett and Lindsay. And even Ben Bruckner. What if... if....?"
"So the fuck what?" this other guy -- Dylan -- scoffs. "It's not like I'm fucking you in the middle of the big reception."
"That's not the point, Dylan, and you know it! You don't belong here!"
"You're here, I'm here. Make me leave. But you don't want me to leave, do you, Just?" The guy's voice is low and intimate.
"Fuck you, Dylan," Justin breathes.
"Don't be such a wuss, Just. You know that you wanted me to show up. You even gave me one of your flyers before you left my dorm room last night. Before you left my bed. So don't play games with me now."
"I... I didn't mean for you to come here." But I hear Justin's voice wavering.
"That's why you told Kinney not to come, isn't it? Because you secretly wanted me here instead. And here I am. Kinney should be getting the hint by now. So why are you still pretending?"
"Shut up about Brian, Dylan! He has nothing to do with this!"
"Of course he does. Because you can't make yourself let him go. Or should I say, you can't make yourself let go of his loft and his Jeep, and his fucking money! And I don't blame you, Just. It's a sweet set-up. Very, very sweet. Why not get everything you can, as long as you can?"
"Don't make it sound like I'm a fucking whore, Dylan!"
"You're not a whore, baby. But you're not 17 either. You don't need a sugar daddy, Just. You don't need Kinney to buy you. He's the one who treats you like a whore. You need a man who knows what you really are and what you really want. A man like me. And you know it!"
"Stop that, Dylan! Not here!"
"Why not? It's not like you haven't done it in public before. You have -- plenty of times. With Kinney. And in the backroom at Babylon with guys whose names you didn't even know. So don't play the trembling virgin with me! And you love it. So don't tell me you don't! Yes, you're a whore, Justin. And you love to be fucked like one. Hard and rough."
"Suck me. Right here. Don't be a pussy, Just. Do it now."
And I hear them. I don't want to hear them, but I do. Right here in the museum. Justin and this other fucking guy!
I stumble back down the hallway and into the 'Warholized' exhibit.
And I run right into Ben.
He sees my face and grabs me. "Michael! Are you all right?"
"No," I choke. "I'm not all right! Please, Ben -- I have to get out of here. Take me out of here. Take me home!"
"You came here with David Cameron," says Ben, quietly. "I think you should let him take you home, Michael."
"But, Ben! I...." But he's right. The problem is that I want Ben. I want Ben to take me home. Want Ben to make everything okay. Like it used to be. But the world is too fucked up! I hate it!
I see David standing with Emmett, laughing about something Em said. I walk towards them.
"David, can you take me home? I... I don't feel well."
"What's wrong, sweetie?" Em asks with concern.
"I have to go, Em. Now." I turn to David. "Will you take me?"
"Of course, Michael." And he takes my arm, very gently.
As we go out the door, Justin is coming back in. His face is flushed and his hair is messed up. There's no sign of Dylan. He's obviously taken a powder after getting his dick sucked by the guest of honor.
I glare at Justin. I know, you little fucking bitch. I know what you're doing.
And Justin gasps and steps back from me, his eyes wide. He knows that I know. "M... Michael," he stammers.
"Don't talk to me," I say to him. I want to push him away, but I also don't want to make a scene.
David frowns in confusion.
"But... but Michael...." says Justin, licking his lips nervously. "Don't go yet!"
"I said don't talk to me. Don't ever talk to me again. I mean it." I really want to shake Justin. I want to hit him. And I mean it when I say I don't want him to talk to me again as long as he fucking lives!
Because I do mean it.
I think of Brian, up in rehab. Stuck there for weeks, even months, maybe. Trying to get his life together so that he and Justin can be fucking partners! That's what he told me! That's what Brian said!
I think of how Brian was trying not to sound hurt when he told me that Justin didn't want him at the opening. Didn't want Brian to come to the Warhol Museum to see his portrait hanging there. The best one. The most beautiful one. Always the most beautiful.
And now I know why Justin didn't want him here.
I want to spit at Justin, but he stares at me like I've already done it. Stares at me in blank shock, his lips trembling.
"David, get me out of here. Please!"
And David sweeps me out of the museum and into the chilly March night.
I don't look back.
My hands are shaking as I hit the number of Brian's cellphone.
Maybe he won't answer. Maybe it'll go to voicemail. Maybe he's in some therapy session. Or doing whatever he does when he's not with that psychiatrist. Maybe....
"Hey, Mikey," comes Brian's voice. "What's up?"
"Nothing," I reply. "Just wanted to see how you were doing."
"None of that shit!" says Brian. "I know you went to Justin's art opening last night with Dr. Death -- I mean Dr. Dave. I want to know how your big date turned out. Did you get laid? Or wasn't his prostate pump working?"
"Asshole," I tell Brian. "David's prostate is working just fine!"
"Then you DID get laid!" Brian laughs. "Congratulations! It's about time. Your dick was about to ask your right hand to get married. So... how many times did you do it?"
"I'm not telling you that! That's none of your business."
"Oh," says Brian. "It's that serious already, huh? I guess that leaves poor Ben out in the cold."
"I don't know, Brian. It's complicated."
"Jesus, stop the world! Mikey's sex life is too complicated!" Brian huffs.
"Not my sex life," I say. "My love life."
"That's even worse." I hear Brian make a sniffing sound. "Fucking love. Fucking bullshit."
I swallow. "That's not what you were saying the other day. About love, I mean."
"I say a lot of things, Mikey. A lot of stupid things."
He knows. Or does he? Maybe he's only feeling down about Justin telling him not to come to the opening. Because he couldn't know anything more. Could he?
"So, Dr. Dave has once again come to your door bearing flowers and candy. Doesn't that guy have anything better to do with his time? Like cracking the backs of naked football players and charging indecent amounts of money for it?"
"Try to be serious, Brian! This is important!" He keeps coming back to David. That's why he thinks I called. Unless he's avoiding talking about Justin.
"I'm totally serious, Mikey. You better sell the store and buy an apron and some high heels because David will want a stay-at-home mom, like June Cleaver, to prepare cookies and milk for little What's-His-Name."
"Hank. David's son's name is Hank."
"Whatever the fuck!" Brian snorts. I can tell he's getting antsy and wants to hang up. Listening to me talking about David always makes Brian want to run in the other direction.
"Don't you want to know about the opening?"
Brian sighs. "If you insist on telling me."
"The pieces were great. Your portrait was the best."
"Of course," says Brian. "I knew it would be. It's me, after all. And the others... Justin did them, so I knew people would love them. I've seen all of his pieces at the loft, but it would've been nice to see them at the museum. But... fuck it. Justin will have plenty of art exhibits in the future. So, how did Justin look? What was he wearing?"
I hesitate. "Black pants and a blue shirt. He... he looked good. Real good."
"The blue Versace? With the silver thread through it?" he asks.
"Yeah, it had some silver stuff in the blue."
"Nice," he almost whispers. "That's a beautiful shirt. Beautiful." And he sounds so sad.
"Brian, I...." I want to tell him. About this other guy. This tall, dark-haired kid who is fucking Justin. Fucking Brian's boyfriend. But I can't do it! As much as I'm furious with Justin I can't say the words. I can't hurt Brian like that. Unless... unless he's already been hurt.
"You want my blessing for you and Dr. Dave? Is that why you really called, Mikey? Okay, you have my blessing, my son. But only if you really love this guy. Because if you do, then you know the right answer. You don't need me to validate the way you feel."
"But... what about Ben?" I ask. And I realize that's exactly what I want Brian to do -- validate my emotions. Tell me what to do. Tell me who to choose.
"What about Ben? Listen, Michael -- are you listening to me? If you love Ben, then fucking tell him! But if it's David who you really want, then don't hesitate. You have to go after what you really want. Don't let the moment come and go and find that you've been... been left behind. That you had a fucking lifetime to tell a person that you love him -- but you blew it. That when you were finally ready to say it, that it was too little, too late. And all you're left with is a shitload of regrets."
I almost drop the phone. He knows about Justin. If he doesn't know the details, then he knows it emotionally. Knows it in his heart. And it's killing him.
"Brian, I wish I was there with you! I want to see you so much!" I tell him, my fucking heart breaking. "When are you coming home? Please say it's soon!"
"I'll come home when I'm ready, Michael. And that's not yet. I have to know that I'm strong enough to... to get through anything I need to face. I can't fuck up this time. I can't -- or I'm lost. That's all I know."
"No, Brian, never lost!" I say, suddenly feeling scared for him. 'I won't let you get lost!"
"I know you won't, Michael," he says. "But it's not up to you. Or anyone else. It's up to me. That's the only way I'll be able to survive. My relying on myself. Or else my life is worth nothing. Nothing at all."
But he cuts me off. "I have to go now, Mikey. I have some things to... to do. Things to think about. I'll get back to you later in the week." And then he's gone.
I sit there holding the phone in my hand. Staring at it.
I want to help Brian, but there's nothing I can do. I haven't felt so fucking helpless in a long, long time. Or felt so damn confused.
I clutch the phone tightly.
And then I dial Ben's number.
The Brian "Warholized" print by Bob Steele ("Images of Steele").
Continue on to "Nowhere To Run".
©Gaedhal, April 2005.
Posted April 4, 2005.