This is Part 1 of Chapter 79 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "White Light -- Part 2", the previous section.
The narrator is Brian Kinney, featuring Justin Taylor, Rowan Conley, Charley Weston, Dorian Folco, Hughie Marsh, Helene DeMarr.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Brian is faced with his worst fear. London, July 2002.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.
Good intentions, right? The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
That, and self-control.
I have plenty of good intentions and absolutely no self-control. Why the fuck not? I have plenty of reasons to try and control myself. I used to be proud that I was the master of control of every situation. But little by little, it's all broken down. And I don't think I can put it back together again.
Yes, after all my promises to myself after last Friday's fiasco at the bar. After dodging a bullet with Dorian. After... after all the guilt over Justin's illness. Fuck -- he wasn't even fully recovered before I went at it again.
But it's so easy. So simple to just stand there and have someone slip you something. To join in when everyone else is doing it. You have to show them all that you can do more and handle it better than anyone else. To show that you're better. That you're not some weak faggot who can't take everything they can dish out and more. To show them that you're as much of a man as any fucking one of them.
Standing on the brink and daring someone to knock me off. Like the time I pulled Mikey with me onto that hospital ledge and told him that I could fucking fly! I could have killed both of us and it wouldn't have even taken a minute of thought. How many times do you have totter on that edge before you finally go over -- and then you really can't get back? Because it's over. Finished.
And Justin thinks that if he comes with me and 'takes care' of me everything will be all right. Like I would bring him into the middle of that scene! No fucking way! I brought him into a situation I couldn't control at Ron's -- I won't make that kind of mistake again.
I never should have brought him with me here. I realize that now. Another example of my selfish thinking. If I want something for myself, then to hell with what is good for the other person. What's good for Justin! The best thing for me to do would be to send him back. As soon as these scenes are finished. Put him on the plane and send him home. Where he'll be safe. From me.
Then Justin won't be caught in it when the shit hits the fan. Because it will -- one way or the other. I've been courting this trouble for a long time. Now I've invited it in to take up residence.
I revved myself up to go on stage last night. Because I was scared out of my mind. False courage in a snort. That did it. And a couple of pills, too. Perfect. I was flying and that's the way to do it. Because nothing can stop you. Because then you're like a god. And that's how you feel.
But then I looked down and saw them. Justin, right in front where I expected him to be. But not with Hughie. Not Hughie at all. That fucking Rowan, with his hairy arms and his smug red Mick face! With his tongue in Justin's ear and his big hand down his pants. Nice work if you can get it, huh, Rowan? Where the fuck was little Hughie? Justin was supposed to be groping HIM! Not Rowan groping Justin. And Charley told me I'd never even notice the fucking audience -- but that's ALL could see! The two of them. There weren't any other people in the room that I could see! But I could see THEM clearly. Justin and Rowan. So clearly. It was no hallucination.
I went out in the break and took another snort. But it didn't take the edge away. It just took away the physical pain and not the pain that was going on in my fucking mind! And then there was nothing but a big crash. And I don't remember fuck after that! "White Light, White Heat'! Not the end of the set, not what happened afterwards. Only the next day. Waking up here in the hotel.
Somebody always seems to make sure I get home. Mikey. Wait for me. Drive me home. They just do it. Someone always does. Only Justin never came to get me. Never waited to take me home. What was he thinking? What did he SEE that caused him to recoil from me? To be afraid of me? Disgusted by me? To want to fucking escape NOW? He's probably off somewhere with Rowan. And who am I to say he isn't better off?
Because after last night's shoot at the Roundhouse, he's not speaking to me. He passes right by me and the look on his face tells me that he's thinking. Thinking about something important. Something that he can't share -- doesn't want to share -- with me. And so he keeps ignoring me like I'm not even in the room.
"Justin, I...." And he brushes by me. The fucking cold shoulder? Is that it? Or something more? That he knows -- or suspects -- something else?
Maybe I'm NOT here. Maybe I'm really just a ghost who thinks he's here! What was that fucking movie with Bruce Willis! Shit! Now I'm imagining things above and beyond. But how do you make certain you ARE actually here? Because Justin won't look at me at all. And that MUST mean that I'm not here. I'm not fucking anywhere!
We get dressed to go back over to the Roundhouse. Wednesday was the actual gig, but tonight is for the fills and pick-up shots. The scenes with Sir Ken. I have to be fucking coherent for these. Justin puts on the same clothes he wore last night. That means more shots of him and Rowan. More shit. The car comes and takes us away. He still hasn't even acknowledged that I'm here. I haven't even acknowledged that I'm here, either. I have no proof of my own existence. Except the pain I'm feeling.
What did Lindsay say that time about how we know we are alive? That she knew because of Gus and how he needed her. Is that really how you know? By who needs you? Who the fuck needs ME, really? Whose life would be diminished even one little bit if I actually didn't exist? No one's. That's the truth. Isn't it? And isn't that the best way? Because I don't need anyone... anyone....
I walk through the scenes. There's not much required. My lines are minimal. Sir Ken carries it all. Hughie is lurking around, but he's not doing the scenes. Justin and Rowan are elsewhere, filming something outside the venue, then later I see them positioned to do some close-up shots in front of the stage. I'm more aware of what they are up to than my own damn scene. But it works for the character. Hammersmith is supposed to be fucking out of it, anyway. Real life or good acting -- what's the difference?
When I'm finished, there's Charley. With the guys and Helene. She's a hard bitch, but she knows her way around a dick. If you close your eyes you'd almost think that.... But eventually you have to open them -- and she's still there. And that grating voice. At least when she's got her mouth elsewhere she isn't talking.
Charley is yelling that we are a REAL band! Who the hell is he fooling? Now he's telling the guys that we should go on tour! Spain. Germany. Japan. His manager can set it up. Now that they have the most fabulous fucking frontman in the fucking world! He's hugging me, squeezing my head. He's crazy. I wouldn't last a month at this rate. Trying to outpace them all. Trying to drink and drug and fuck my way across Europe with these guys. Maybe it WOULD be an easy way to commit suicide. But...
Am I ready for that yet?
Haven't I already lived a long while on borrowed time? Or is there still something to live for? Or someone?
Helene's got a couple of lines set up on the mirror, too -- that always helps. She doesn't believe it, but she doesn't interest me, of course. But that never matters when you're stoned. Because afterwards you just don't give a shit at all.
I open my eyes. I'm back in the hotel suite. I see the big tent over my head. And all the draperies hanging around it. Fantasyland. I have to blink a few times to focus.
It's Justin. I guess I do exist after all. If he can see me, I must be here.
"It's 3:00 in the afternoon."
I try to sit up. My head feels like it's been cracked with a baseball bat... Shit! Wrong analogy. Always the wrong fucking analogy.
"What day is it?"
"Friday. There's no shoot today. No rehearsal. It's a 'free' day, Brian." The way he says 'free' is packed with so much irony even I can't miss it. Yes, I'm 'free' today. So fucking free! Do I really think I'm fooling anyone, let alone Justin, who knows me better than I fucking know myself? "I thought you might like to wake up a little and eat something before you begin your next binge. It's always nice to take a little break before making a complete jerk of yourself again tomorrow night at the big concert."
Fuck. The concert tomorrow. Opening for the Cure at the Hammersmith Apollo! And he's fucking right. Binge, huh? What the hell makes him think I'm planning some kind of fucking binge! Right. Then I remember. "How did I get home last night?"
"I don't know," says Justin, precisely. "They dumped the body off sometime after 3:00. They must have finished with you early." His voice is very flat. Emotionless.
I try to roll off the bed. I stink and feel sticky and pounded, inside and out, like I fell from a great height. That fucking ledge.
He has a room service tray with some toast, coffee, corn flakes. The coffee is still warm. He must have just ordered it. Breakfast in the afternoon. How decadent.
Justin watches while I try to eat, but my stomach is heaving. It's that edge. It's starting to build again. At least he's speaking to me today. At least I exist. Today.
"You know that I've been reading 'The Fountainhead,' Brian," he says, as I try to chew the toast. Everything is in slow motion. "I know it's been your favorite book since you were younger than I am. And I thought if I read it I could get some insight into how you think. Why you do the things that you do. How I could be more like you." He says this without any irony at all.
"No, wait." He picks up the paperback from the coffee table and turns it in his hands. "And it's hard. A difficult book. There a lot of things in here I just don't get. I have a hard time understanding the motivations of the characters. But one thing is clear. The main character, the architect -- his philosophy is that there's no such thing as love. That it's just something invented to trap people. To keep them down. To keep them from accomplishing their goals and fulfilling their dreams. Love is something for the weak-minded and people who can't cut it. The same for compassion and caring about other people. Empathy. That stuff just keeps you from being strong and independent. And it says that when you start caring, that's when you've failed. Proven you're just another weakling and that you deserve your Fate, whatever that may be."
"I'm not finished yet." He says it in such a brittle voice. Not a voice I've ever heard before. A voice without innocence. A voice I've created. "And this architect in the book would rather destroy his greatest creation, his biggest dream, than let anyone else touch it. Than let it be contaminated by another, lesser, weaker person. He'd rather destroy it -- and destroy himself -- than admit that he needs any other person. Wants any other person. That much I DID understand. I understood it almost too well."
"Justin, it's just a book. Just a story. It's fucking meaningless!" I throw down the dry piece of toast and push the tray away.
"Is it? Is it meaningless when that's exactly the way you've been trying to live? And being pretty successful at it. Until I came along and tried to fuck it up. Used my own weakness to worm my way into your life. Tried to drag you down with me. Ruin your independence. Ruin your success. No wonder all you wanted to do last December was to get away from me." He sits on the couch, looking at the book.
I walk over and take it from his hands. "It's FUCKED! Don't you SEE? It's a fucking LIE!" And I throw the damned thing across the room. It hits the door of the closet with a bang and falls on the floor, its pages fluttering.
"I don't believe you," he says. And he reaches into his pocket and takes out something else. That's when I really go cold.
It's a glass vial with a pink stopper. "Where the fuck did you get that?"
"From your pocket. The other night. Early Wednesday morning, after you came back from rehearsing and crashed. It was in your leather jacket." He holds the tube in his hand. It's about a third full of China White. Straight from Charley Weston's dealer. The best stuff in town.
"I'm sorry I snooped," Justin continues. "But I'm not REALLY sorry, right? Sorry is bullshit. Yes, that was the beginning of my real lessons in life. Sorry is bullshit. Never go after anyone. Never let them see what you really feel. Never care about anyone. It's hard, but I'm starting to get it." He tilts his face up at me. "See? I learn pretty quickly once I put my mind to it. Oh, and it's just fucking -- it doesn't mean anything more, so always remember that. It's honest and efficient and you get in and out, literally, with a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of bullshit. Right? It's just a fuck. YOU are just a fuck. Meaningless. I think that one will be the hardest for me. But I'll be able to do it -- to feel it -- eventually."
This is a bigger fucking nightmare than anything else I can remember. Because I don't know what to say when he's using my own words against me. What CAN I say? That it's ALL a fucking LIE? Everything? That I never meant any of it? Or that I've changed? Really? That I don't mean it ANYMORE? I realize that I don't fucking know WHAT I believe. What I think....
"Oh," Justin continues. "And if someone is in your way, it's not hard at all to push him off of a fucking cliff. You can even tell yourself that it's for his own good. Yes, his own good. Then you can feel good about it yourself -- especially after you hear the smash at the bottom when he hits the ground. Because that's what happens when you push someone off a cliff, Brian. He ends up all mangled at the bottom. Even when you push yourself."
"So, how did it feel, Brian? When you pushed Michael off the cliff? On his birthday? Michael -- who trusted you more than any other person in the world? What DID that feel like? And what about when you gave ME the shove? When you left for California and didn't even say goodbye? I'm still falling from that one, Brian. I'm still in freefall."
"And now how does it feel when YOU'RE the one at the bottom, Brian? Like in the cartoon with the Roadrunner and the Coyote. And you're lying on the floor of the canyon, watching the big boulder coming down on YOU?"
"You're getting it all wrong! Fucking wrong!"
"Am I? Wrong, how?"
"Justin...." I can't answer.
"You're just trying to make excuses for yourself, Brian. You don't want to admit that you love anybody -- or EVER loved anybody. Because that would expose all your 'philosophy' and all your 'rules' as total lies! Then you won't have to deal with the whole meaning of 'Ron' -- back then and now, today. Then you never have to explain what THAT was all about. Or admit that it was love, somehow. Love that just went wrong. Which happens all the time. But people go on. They live. They try again."
"You're still looking for that great romantic gesture, Justin? I... I can't do it. I... I'm afraid of that! Don't you see?"
"Afraid of it? Why? What's wrong with it, Brian? Because of the prom? What happened at the prom had NOTHING to do with YOU! It had to do with Chris Hobbs and his fucked up mind! I... I may not remember everything that happened that night, but I KNOW what it MEANT. What it STILL means. That dance... that kiss... in front of my whole class..." he falters. "THAT was still a great romantic gesture -- whether you want to believe it or not."
I'm pacing back and forth, like he's got me trapped... Yes! Trapped! But what kind of choice do I have? I've trapped myself in this!
"Sure, Justin! The great romantic gestures! All that kind of bullshit! Yeah, I'm GREAT at those! And I inspire those great gestures, too!" I'm still moving, compulsively, back and forth. This room isn't big enough. This city suddenly isn't big enough!
"You can, Brian. You CAN!"
"Sure! And you know what Ron's great romantic gesture was, don't you, Justin? Scoring dope! Going down into Alphabet City like a fucking MORON and buying drugs for me! He should have opened the fucking window and dropped my ass out of it!"
But Justin follows me with his eyes. Quiet. Deadly calm. "And why did he do it, Brian? Why?"
"Why?" I stop in my tracks. Justin is still holding the vial in the flat of his hand.
"Yeah? Why did he do it? Buy the drugs, I mean?"
"I don't know." I start pacing again, trying to think of what to say. "I was sick. Puking and... other things." I'm uncomfortable with this line of questioning. This is not information that Justin should know. This isn't stuff I want to talk about. I think it's time to cut this whole thing off. End it all.
"Like... really sick? Sicker than I was the other day? When YOU were freaking out that something might happen to me? When YOU would have done ANYTHING to make me feel better?"
"But you were really ill! With a REAL fucking illness! I... wasn't."
"So? The effect is the same. The impact on the other person is the same! Seeing the person you... love in pain."
I stare at him. "It's not the same. Not the same at all.
"It is. And then what?"
"What happens to you after that drop out of the window? Is that like a drop off the fucking cliff? How mangled do you get, Brian? How damaged are you afterwards -- if you survive? And why DIDN'T Ron do it? Why couldn't he do it to you then?"
"I..." I'm at a loss for what to say to him.
But Justin shakes his head and stares down at the glass vial. "Fuck me, but I'm beginning to empathize with Ron! To understand Ron. Understand him all too well."
"Don't say that. You don't know! You can't understand that! Can't understand HIM!"
"But I do, I think." He stares at the wall, as if remembering something. "Brian, remember that movie we watched on TV?" says Justin.
"That old movie -- 'The Thin Man'?"
"What about it?"
"The woman goes into the bar, looking for her husband. He's in there, drunk. And she says, 'How many has he had?' and the bartender says four or five or whatever it was. And SHE says 'Line them up -- right here' -- as many as her husband had had. So that she can catch up with him. Get as drunk as he is. Or more so, since she is smaller than him. So, if one went down, they both went down -- together. And it makes sense, doesn't it, Brian?"
"What? What makes sense?" I'm wondering what he's getting at. What's this game all about?
"What you've always said -- that if one person is an addict, then the other person will become one, too, to keep up. To join the first person. That it happens like that all the time. That's why you left Ron that first time, isn't it, Brian? Why you ran away. You were afraid. YOU were trying to save HIM. Isn't that the truth?"
"It's all bullshit. You know that."
"Do I? Do YOU?" Justin gets up and goes into the bathroom and comes out with a small hand mirror and a razor blade from my kit. He sets it down on the coffee table and sits on the couch. "It doesn't seem like bullshit to me, Brian. Ron's great romantic gesture was going out to buy drugs. For YOU. To stop YOU from hurting. To make the pain go away. And then YOU ran away from him, so that he wouldn't have to deal with you and your addiction. And that wasn't bullshit. It was love, whether you want to admit it or not."
"That's NOT romance! It's... something warped. Something dependent... weak.... It's FUCKED!"
"Wrong, Brian. Completely wrong. Well, I can make the big romantic gesture, too. Because I love you and I'll prove it to you. Really prove it. So -- line them up, Brian, Right NOW. Line them up, so I can keep up with you. I'm waiting."
"Justin... Don't... You're crazy!"
"I know. That's why I'm here with you." He smiles. Then he opens up the vial and spills most of the powder across the mirror. "It's sort of like coke, right? You have to chop it up so it's smooth when you snort it. Is that it?" He looks up at me for confirmation. Then he pokes at the powder with a razor, cutting into it. "The only thing I'm not sure about is what is a lot and what isn't. I don't want to drop over dead the very first time, do I?" He forms the powder into two lines, one a little thicker than the other. "That one is for you because you're used to it more. But I'll catch up, right, Brian? It won't take me long."
I wonder just how long he's going to keep this up before I call his bluff. Before I stop him from continuing this grand and foolish romantic gesture. The fucking little twat!
Justin pokes the lines a bit more, straightening them out. Anal retentive. Everything in straight lines, exactly even. He looks up at me, expectantly.
"Well?" I say. He blinks once. Then he bends over and snorts the entire line, right up.
"Jesus Christ!" I grab the mirror out of his hands, throwing it down, sending the rest of the dope fluttering in the air like snow. "What the FUCK have you done?"
"I'm okay. It's okay," he says, slowly. He's looking at me. Not moving. "I'm okay," he repeats.
But I KNOW better! I fucking KNOW! I just stare at him, like he's going to explode.
"Whoa," says Justin. "I feel...." And then he's gasping. He leans a little forward, then farther forward, about to fall.
"Justin!" I take his arm and pull him up against me. His head is bobbing, loosely. I drag him into the bathroom and I turn on the water, trying to throw cold water on his face. But then he starts puking. I point him to the toilet and hold him over it. He's fucking heaving like a spent horse. Heaving and crying.
And I'm in a cold sweat of fear. Because once it's in you, you can't puke the dope out of you. Or shock it out of yourself. You can't get rid of it at all. The vomit is just the kickback that says it's working on you, while your fucking body is struggling to reject it. But that only lasts the first few times. Because then you NEED it -- and your body will struggle when you DON'T get it. Then you'll puke when it isn't there. The deadly paradox.
I dash out, snatch my cellphone from the desk, and hit a pre-set.
"Kenroy Smith here," comes a voice.
"Kenroy! Where the fuck are you?"
There's only a slight pause as he hears a madman on the other end. "On my way to South Kensington to pick up a gentleman."
"Well fuck THAT! Get over HERE to the Chatterton! NOW! Come right up to the room. 303."
"Are you all right, sir? Are you all right? Brian?"
"It's Justin. Come NOW, Kenroy. Please...."
"I'll be there immediately."
I run back into the bathroom and Justin is standing at the sink, staring at himself in the mirror. "I'm fine, Brian" he says. "Really fine. I feel like...."
But his eyes are all unfocused. And he takes one step toward me before he collapses on the floor.
Continue on to "White Heat -- Part 2", the next section.
Picture of Gale Harold from 'Flaunt.'
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Updated September 1, 2002