This is Part 1 of Chapter 78 in the "Queer Theories" series.
Go back to "The Tyger", the previous chapter.
The narrator is Justin Taylor, featuring Brian Kinney, Rowan Conley, Marc Gerasi, Dorian Folco.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin makes a discovery. 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.
I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad to see Brian go when he leaves for the studio on Monday morning. Because he's been driving me up a fucking wall!
You would think that nothing would be better than to have Brian catering to me, petting me, and paying attention to me every minute of the day. In fact, he's making me nuts. Every time I cough, he shoves a cough drop in my mouth! Every time I sneeze, he's there in my face with a Kleenex! I woke up in the middle of the night and he was staring at me, making sure I was breathing! Enough already!
Brian is never sick -- except from his various over-indulgences, of course -- so he has no idea that there are relative levels of illness and that a cold, even a bad one, really doesn't rank that high on the scale of emergencies. Plus, he's got this idea that he's responsible for me getting sick. Because I was out wandering around in the rain, like an idiot, without an umbrella. It isn't his fault, but try telling him that. It's like talking to a brick wall.
And then there's the Changing of the Guard -- before he leaves for the studio a nurse ordered by Sir Ken's doctor arrives to 'take care' of me.
"Brian, I don't need a nurse! I promise I won't leave the suite, I won't get out of bed, I won't do ANYTHING! But please don't leave me here with that nurse sitting here watching me all day!"
"She's staying. Just do what she says. I should be back around 5:00."
And the lady proceeds to poke and prod me, take my temperature every hour on the hour, and over-dose me with expectorant and cups of hot tea all day long. She even wants to give me a bath, but THAT'S where I really have to draw the line! I may LOOK young, but that's no reason to infantalize me. It's worse than my mother was when I first got home from the rehab unit. I thought Mom was protective, but this nurse, who has a friendly face and the no-nonsense manner of a drill sergeant, is more maternal -- and more forceful -- than about ten mothers.
Around 3:00 I manage to get the nurse out of the room. When she's finally satisfied that my temperature is back to normal, I send her out with a list of magazines and books to get up at Waterstone's. That's a hike up to Notting Hill Gate, so it should take her a while to walk there, get the stuff on the list, and walk back. I finished 'Maurice' in about two days because it was so good, but I'm still struggling with 'The Fountainhead,' so it's not really a lie to send her out of here to get me something else to read.
The minute she's out the door I pick up the phone and call my mom. It's about four or five hours earlier in Pittsburgh -- I can never remember which it is -- and I'm hoping that she is at home. But when there's no answer there, I call her real estate office and they put me right through.
"Justin -- are you all right? You sound funny!"
"I have a cold, Mom. But otherwise I'm okay."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, Mom. Don't YOU start, too! I'm up to my neck in nurses!"
"Nurses? Justin, is there a nurse there with you? Are you SURE you're fine?" I should have kept my mouth shut -- now she sounds alarmed. So I have to explain the whole story to her -- and then she wants to speak to the nurse! "I sent her out to get some stuff for me. I really just wanted to talk to you -- I know I haven't been calling much, but I've been really busy."
"Justin, maybe you are doing too much and running yourself down and that's why you got sick! Are you eating?"
"Mom, I eat plenty. And the food isn't as bad as Brian made out. It's pretty good, in fact. Especially breakfast."
"That's nice, honey. We've been getting your postcards -- Molly takes them to day camp and shows them to her friends! She loved the one of the horses."
"Hey, those got there pretty quickly! I sent her the horses because I've been taking riding lessons. In Hyde Park. I've been twice already. I'm supposed to go again tomorrow, but Brian will probably make me cancel because he thinks I'll have a relapse."
"Well, honey, you can't be too careful with your health, especially in a strange country."
"Mom, England isn't exactly the Third World. I had TWO doctors in here yesterday looking at me, and then the one came back this morning to check up on me, again."
"Did you tell the doctor that you'd been in the hospital recently, Justin -- I mean if it's something serious."
"I've been out of the hospital for over a year, Mom. I don't think my bashing is relevant to me having a cold.
"I just want you well taken care of, Justin. If Brian can't keep an eye on you...."
"Mom -- I'm fine. I got a cold, end of story. It has nothing to do with Brian, so don't blame everything on him. He's worried enough about me -- that's why I have more health care here than I can handle!"
"If you're sure, honey. Justin, I hate to cut you off, but I have a client coming in right now. Are you certain you're feeling better?"
"I am, Mom. Say hello to Molly for me. I'll send more postcards." I sign off. And I'm more depressed after talking to her than I was before. I guess I'm feeling homesick. And lonely, too. Being stuck in the hotel room doesn't help much. And waiting for the nurse to return and start poking me again makes me feel even worse.
There's a knock on the door and I groan, thinking that my nurse can't be back this soon. But it's Rowan.
"Heard you were ill. Here's a magazine." He shoves an old photography journal in my hands and strolls right in.
"Rowan, I'm not really in the mood for entertaining anybody right now." That's an understatement. I'm still pissed off at Rowan about his attitude when we went to the Portobello Road market. I'm sick of paying his way.
"I'm just doing my Christian duty," he says, plopping himself down on the couch and putting his feet up. "I'm visitin' the sick."
"Gee, thanks." As long as I'm up, I start to make some tea. I even offer Rowan a cup.
"Sure, but none of that herb stuff. I want real tea. This." He comes over and pulls out a packet of Irish Breakfast tea. "Nothing but tea bags in this place. You can't even make a decent cuppa anymore in this friggin' country."
"If you don't like England why don't you go back to Ireland?" I say, shortly.
"Nah, it's as bad there. I want someplace livelier, where I've got a future. Like the States. Like California. Where you live. And the tall fella."
"I live in Pittsburgh, Rowan, not California. Brian lives in California -- part of the time. Why don't you just go there, then?"
"Money. You've got to have money to go anywhere. On a busboy's wages you don't get far."
"Tell me about it. I made more in tips than I ever made in salary. Of course, it helps to work someplace like the Liberty Diner where the guys tip you better if you're young and cute."
"You're awfully straightforward, aren't ya? I mean, about that kind of thing?" Rowan says, blowing on his hot tea. "I wouldn't be bragging about waving your bum in people's face to get money if I was you!"
"Why not? I didn't do anything but clear the tables and take orders. I certainly didn't do anything I'm ashamed of. I was the best busboy they ever had at the Liberty Diner! I deserved the tips I got."
"You think I should get a job like that and let a bunch of poufters pinch my bum for a fiver?"
"Why not?" I say, thinking that sponging off your friends is a lot worse! "You want money, don't you? Although, truthfully, your butt isn't all that great, Rowan. So I wouldn't count on THAT getting you ahead."
"Cheeky bugger, aren't ya?"
"Maybe I am." I sit on the edge of the bed and cross my legs under me. I decide to be blunt with Rowan. Why not? Even when I insult the guy he just keeps coming back! "Brian thinks you're just another fag trying to get into my pants. So how come you haven't come on to me, Rowan? What are you waiting for? Don't you think I'm hot? Or are you still telling me you're straight?"
He frowns and wriggles around on the couch, clearly not happy with this conversation. "I told you all about my girlfriend, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but it's funny I've never seen any sign of her. Not even a picture. You're either working or going to classes or hanging out with me. She must not need a lot of attention. That's not like most girlfriends I've ever heard of."
"Well, she's kind of my ex-girlfriend." He stirs his tea and glances away from me.
"Sure. I have one of those, too. Daphne. I even fucked her. Have you managed that one?"
Rowan looks shocked. "It must be them cold drugs you're takin' because I've never heard such shite coming out of your mouth before!"
"Maybe it IS the drugs. Or maybe I'm just more dubious about your whole rationale for hanging around here, Rowan," I answer. "Especially after Saturday's little fiasco. I don't like people pretending to be my friend and then using me. I don't need that kind of stuff in my life. I have enough to deal with." Right. Like Brian. Like his drugs. And his drinking. Because I have no fucking illusions that he's finished with them, no matter how remorseful he acts on any particular day. I know it could be a different story tomorrow. Or next week. I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop every minute.
"I just fancy being around here. I like you. And your friggin' boyfriend is cracked if he thinks I'd be trying anything with you. I don't do things like that!"
"Oh, no? Ever fucked a guy?"
Now Rowan's eyes bug right out. "Get YOU with this chat! What kind of question is that to ask?"
"A pretty direct one, I guess. I mean, we talk about photography and your classes and your family and Brian's money -- but not about much else. I'm just curious. I just want to know if Brian is right. He's right about a lot of things and I'm just testing out his perception of you. So, have you?"
Rowan grimaces, working his mouth around like he's chewing on something really tough. "Maybe," he says, finally.
"Maybe?" Okay, that's a start.
"Well, I have. But that doesn't make me a friggin' poufter!"
"Sounds like it does to me. I guess I owe Brian Pound10! So, do you suck dick, too?"
"Of course not!" Now Rowan is really stunned by me. I'm a little stunned by myself.
"Why not?" I ask.
"Because then I really WOULD be a pouf!"
"How do you figure that?" Getting this glimpse into Rowan's thought process fascinates me.
"Well, if YOU fuck and HE sucks and gets fucked, then you're not the pouf, HE is. That's it."
I burst out laughing. "In WHAT universe?
"In this one. It's a fact. Everyone knows that."
"They do? Only in your world of denial. In the real world of REAL queers, that just means you're a top and that he's a bottom. But you're still both gay! That's the truth, Rowan! You really are a trip," I say. And I can't help it, but I start laughing so hard I work myself into a fit of coughing, almost spilling my tea all over the bed.
Rowan gets up and takes my teacup out of my hand. "Are you all right? You're not chokin' are you, Justin?" He thumps me hard on the back.
"That's okay! I'm okay! You don't have to hit me!"
And, of course, that's the exact moment when the door opens and Brian comes in from the studio, about two hours early.
"What the FUCK is going on here!" he yells. Brian when he's yelling is a pretty amazing sight, especially if you aren't used to it. Brian, looms in the doorway like a Fury, his face red and his hair sticking up in all directions. "YOU!" he says, pointing at poor Rowan, who takes one look at Brian and flies out of the room, his eyes like dinner plates, his feet never touching the ground.
I'm still rolling on the bed, laughing my ass off.
"And what the fuck is so funny?" Brian stands by the bed, his hands on his hips. "I walk in here after a long fucking day at the studio, fighting with Dorian about my character and trying to reason with that stupid Charley Weston about the fucking songs, and I walk in on YOU rolling on the bed with Young Oscar Wilde! Jesus Christ!"
I catch my breath and finally sit up. "I was just proving you right, Brian! Old Rowan IS a fag -- he's just in heavy denial."
"Oh, is that SO? YOU were proving ME right? Thanks! Thanks loads! And just HOW were you proving me right? Did you let him FUCK you? Is THAT how you got the proof!"
"Brian, calm down! Come on...." I crawl over to the side of the bed where he's standing. "What do you think? I just asked him some questions. His answers were pretty amusing. You should hear his take on who is gay and who isn't -- it's very enlightening."
"I don't find that kid at ALL amusing OR enlightening! On any subject!" He seems to be winding down a bit. He strips off his jacket and runs his fingers through his rumpled hair."But didn't I tell you from the first day that he was queer? Jesus, no one ever believes me about anything." Brian mumbles, bending over to pick up the teacup that Rowan dropped on the floor. And that's when the nurse comes back. "And YOU! Where the fuck have YOU been?"
"Getting the magazines for the lad," she says, calmly. It's hard to fluster a nurse. I learned that in the hospital. They are pretty much completely unflappable, even in the face of an angry Brian!
"Well," he says, sounding appeased. "Okay, then." He has no idea what's going on, really, but Brian always goes with the flow. He grabs the magazines. "I'll take those. You can go now. Everything's under control."
"Do you want me to take the boy's temperature once more?"
"That won't be necessary," I say, from the bed. "It's been normal the last three times, Brian."
"If that's true, then I think it isn't needed. Thanks for everything. I'll tell Dr. Naughton what a help you've been."
The nurse picks up her bag, coat, and big black umbrella and goes on her way.
"What's this with all the books and magazines?" He sits down on the bed next to me and opens the Waterstone's bag, pulling out my haul of reading material. "Hm. Nick Hornby. This isn't bad. The new 'Esquire.'"
"I gave her some money and a list of stuff to get for me. Of course," I say, smiling fiendishly and running my hand down Brian's arm. "It was really just a way to get her out of here so Rowan and I could have a session of hot fucking under the tent."
The look on Brian's face is so good I wish I had my new camera near me. "You're shitting me!" he says, finally. "Aren't you?"
"But, Brian, you're always encouraging me to go out and do a lot of guys my own age. This seemed like a good place to start." I fall back on the bed, laughing. "Yeah, he has a thick red cock to match that fucking thick red HEAD of his!" Brian turns around and stares at me. "Almost as thick as YOUR HEAD, Brian if you think I'd let that guy touch me!" And then I brain him with a pillow.
"I should ream you out for that, you little twat!" he growls, reaching out to grab me.
"Why not rim me out instead?" I put my arms around him.
"No. Not tonight. You're still recuperating."
"Brrriiiaaan! Come ON! I feel much better now."
"I'm not taking any chances that you'll get overheated. Just tie a knot in your dick and we'll see about it tomorrow."
"I'll just jack off all night, then."
"Go ahead. Wear yourself out. But if you do, I'll have the nurse come again tomorrow. And I'll tell Dorian that you can't do the bit part Wednesday night. Or Thursday, either, since this location is going to take at least two days." He leans back and kisses me. "You want to do the part, don't you?"
"Then do what I say, Slave." He taps my brass bracelet. "Now get back into bed. I'll order room service for dinner."
A while later, while we're eating, Brian gets a call from Dorian. "Shit," he says, hanging up. "I have to go over to the fucking rehearsal hall for a couple of hours."
"Now. And they told me I didn't have to go tonight because we rehearsed this afternoon. Fuck!" Brian gets up and starts to pull out clothes to get dressed again. "They are adding new fucking songs. NOW! Two days before the fucking shoot at the Roundhouse!"
"But it isn't like you are really playing a concert, Brian."
"But it IS. It's exactly like that, Justin. Dorian is filming it like a real gig and we have to do it pretty much straight through, because on Saturday night we have to do it at the Hammersmith Apollo. That's a big theater and we'll be 'opening' for the Cure! The fucking Cure!"
"You didn't tell me that, Brian. Isn't that a group you used to really like? Are they still around?"
"Obviously they are! Robert fucking SMITH! Jesus. Do you know what kind of pressure that puts on ME?" He pulls on his jeans, almost falling over. "It could have been even worse, believe it or not. The Sex Pistols are playing the same night at another venue and Dorian tried to get us on THAT bill! Can you picture it? I would have been fucking paralyzed!"
"Geez, Brian." No wonder he's a little agitated.
"Dorian is filming our set just as it happens. No stopping, no retakes. And that stupid Charley is fucking with the songs NOW!" He finishes getting dressed, while I push the room service cart out into the hall.
Back to the band. Tonight. I try not to act like I'm worried at all. Or for him to know that it distresses me to see him all revved up like this. Over-reacting, I think. But this IS a big deal to Brian. This movie. His character. And he'll get it 'right' if it kills him. That's the part that really concerns me.
"Brian, I know you'll do great! Remember at the club? Everyone there thought you were a rock star -- and you were just STANDING there! Imagine how excellent you'll be on a real stage! I heard Sir Ken say how good you were -- I don't know why you won't at least believe HIM, if you don't believe me."
"I believe you, Justin. It's just that... I don't know...." He's putting on his 'rock' gear now -- his tight black leather pants and a white tee shirt that has been ripped apart and then pinned back together to look punky. And that bondage belt with the chains. He looks real and dangerous, I want to tell him. Too real.
"I should go with you," I say. "I mean, to the rehearsal. I'm supposed to be your personal assistant, remember? I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on you... on everything. I could hold your jacket while you are practicing."
Brian looks at me thoughtfully. "Justin, you still need your rest. And I told you when I started rehearsing with these musicians that hanging around them was NOT for you. I promised your mother I'd look out for you while you're here -- and staying up half the night with those guys is not the best... It's not the place for you, Justin. Believe me."
"Any place where you are is the place for me, Brian."
"That's not true. You have to trust me on this. You don't need to worry about me. I'm just fine." He turns away from me, not wanting me to see this face. "So, will you be okay until I get back? Should I call Sir Ken to send Hughie over to keep you company or something? Because I don't want to find 'Loverboy' here when I get back!"
"Right. Rowan is so terrified of you, Brian, he'll probably quit his job at the hotel so he doesn't have to face you!"
"Besides, I'm fine. I have all this stuff the nurse brought for me. Or I can call the front desk and order a movie. That's what I usually do when you're out at night." I try not to make it sound like I'm complaining, but it comes out kind of sad anyway.
He searches my face. "This is a fucking hell of a vacation for you. You would've had more fun staying in the Pitts."
"I doubt that. What would I be doing there? Working with Michael. Seeing my mom. Sitting by myself every night in my studio. Missing you." Plus, I want to add, who would be here to watch YOU, you big idiot, if I had stayed home?
Yes, who would have? And, regardless of what he says, Brian all alone is Brian in big trouble.
Tuesday it happens the same way. Brian leaves for the studio early -- after being out half the night at the rehearsal and coming back exhausted -- and I stay in the room all day, being quiet. I also miss my riding lesson. But when he comes home, he's in a good mood. A really good mood. So am I!
After we take advantage of all this good feeling with about an hour of serious fucking, we start to walk up to Notting Hill Gate to get something to eat. That's when the mood goes to hell. Because some old friend of Ron's -- Marc, a guy who actually knew Brian in New York City during the 'Red Shirt' filming -- has a confrontation with Brian right in front of the hotel.
Brian invites Marc to come and have a drink with us -- Brian pointedly doesn't invite him to dinner -- and they have a long and involved argument about Ron and the Past and all sorts of people and things that happened back then. Plus the fact that this guy thinks Brian is still 'in the Business'! That irks me, and I tell the guy so. I tell him what the truth is -- if he even believes it after listening to some of Ron's b.s.! Finally, Marc leaves and he seems to believe what Brian has to say, but who really knows? Especially if he's been listening to Ron and buying his take on Brian.
And Brian is way depressed afterwards. I can tell by how quiet he is as we are walking back from dinner. He starts to say something to me a few times, like he wants to apologize to me -- or confess -- but he stops himself each time. I know what that feels like. I desperately want to tell him about the video, but this is absolutely the worse time, when he's already obsessing about Ron and the Past.
And waiting for him, outside the Chatterton, is Dorian, with his car and driver.
"Not again! Dorian!"
"It's necessary, Brian. We have to go to the studio now."
"Fuck!" is all Brian says. He walks me up to door of the Chatterton and kisses me. Then, without another word, he goes down, gets into the car with Dorian, and they drive off. And now I'm really worried. Because the pressure on Brian is building and time is getting short.
He doesn't get back to the suite until almost 4:00 a.m.
"Brian, this is ridiculous! You have to sleep sometime!"
"Right. After the shoot is over. Just like on 'The Olympian'!"
"But, Brian, you were a wreck after you finished that film!" I think about how he was when he came back to Pittsburgh the first time. How he slept for days and acted like a fucking zombie! And now it's happening again!
"I know. But I'm better now. I can handle it better now. You can help me, just like you did before. I'll be great. You'll be great...." But he's all fuzzy and practically nodding off on his feet. I get him into bed and pile his clothes on the couch. I need to send a bunch of stuff to the laundry because we are both running out of clean clothes again.
"I can sleep-in. No call until late afternoon."
"Thank God for that! If they change their minds and come any earlier, I'll tell them all to fuck off!"
"Right! Fuck off! Little pitbull...." he's mumbling again. And he crashes heavily. Now I'm the one who can't sleep. I lay there, staring up at the big tent over the bed, worrying like crazy.
The next morning Brian is still deeply unconscious when I get up. Just before 9:00 a.m. I go down to breakfast for the first time since Saturday. Right on cue, Rowan comes up to the table.
"Have ya got my ticket?" he says.
"What are you talking about?"
"For the concerts at the Roundhouse! Tonight and tomorrow. You said I could be an extra."
"Shit, Rowan. I forget to get it from Brian."
"But I told my family and everyone that I was going to be in the film! And since I'll be standing next to you, I'm sure to get my mug on the screen!"
"I'm sorry, Rowan. It's been so hectic. And then I got sick...." I really do feel bad, because I promised him. "Listen, you show up in front of the hotel at 5:00. That's when the car is picking us up to take us over there. You can just come with me. That way you won't have to have a ticket. Dorian said they need plenty of young guys. Just dress 1970's -- jeans and tee shirt, nothing too trendy."
"I've got an old Bowie tee shirt that belonged to my brother. How about that?"
"Fine, I guess. They'll tell you if it isn't okay."
"Right, then. I'll see you this afternoon." He starts to go on to the next table, but then stops. "Er, you explained to the tall fella, didn't you? I mean, about what he saw?"
"Sure, Rowan. I told him we'd already finished fucking before he came in."
Rowan gapes at me. And then he smiles, slightly. "Now you're really takin' the mickey out of me, aren't you?"
"You deserve it, Rowan, believe me." And he does.
After breakfast I go up and gather the clothes for the guy from the laundry service to pick up. Brian is still out cold. Really out. For some reason I start going through all of his pockets, especially of the jeans he was wearing last night. I tell myself that I'm not looking for anything, but I am. I really am looking. Some gum. Kleenex. Cough drops -- he always has those, his throat is so dry all the time -- a battered condom foil that looks like it's been in the pocket of his jeans a long time. But nothing else. Not even the remnants of a joint.
I sigh with relief and put the clothes in the plastic bag and tie on the tag. Then I print KINNEY on it. I want to get the stuff back, after all.
While I'm waiting for the laundry man, I pick up Brian's leather jacket, which he dropped on the chair last night. I get out a hanger and get ready to put it in the closet. But I can't resist dipping into the pockets, feeling around in there. First the outside pockets, and then the inner pockets, deep inside the lining.
And that's where I find it. The little glass tube with the pink stopper. About a quarter filled with white, sugary powder. I don't have to guess what it is, because it's exactly what I've been looking for. What I've been expecting. That other shoe hits the floor with a huge thud in my heart.
I take the vial over to where I've stored my suitcase and hide it in there, zipping the case up, locking it, and pushing it out of the way. Then I sit and try to think. Try to focus. Try to understand what the fuck I'm going to do now.
Continue on to "White Light -- Part 2", the next chapter.
Picture of Randy Harrison from Showtime.
©Gaedhal, August 2002
Updated August 29, 2002