WORKING OUT

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Part 2 of Chapter 64 in the "Queer Theories" series.

Go back to "Working Out -- Part 1", the previous section.

"Room service, please. Yes. May I have some food brought up? Room 303. Right. What about soup? And an assortment of sandwiches. And can we have some fresh milk for the coffee? Sure. No, there's instant in the room. Yes, I'd prefer freshly brewed. Thanks."

I hang up the phone and go over and turn off the coffee-maker in the room. "They are bringing up fresh coffee, so you don't have to drink this instant."

Brian is sitting on the chaise lounge -- the fainting couch, he calls it -- and holding his head against one of the big, garish pillows. He really looks fucked up, but not as fucked up as he's going to be when I finish with him.

"Brian -- get undressed."

He raises his head, painfully. "I can't. I have that meeting at 4:00."

"Well, tell me who to call to cancel, because you're going to miss it."

"I can't fucking cancel! It's the first day!" Brian thinks he's yelling, but he's barely whispering. That's one of the ways I know he isn't just drunk. Besides his eyes being fucked up, his perception of things is all out of whack. His perception of space, for instance. It's the way he's clinging to the couch -- he's afraid to walk.

I stand in front of him, as close as I can and bend down. "You're NOT going out like THIS -- so you're going to have to cancel. That's all there is to it."

"But...."

"Tell me who to call!" I raise my voice so slightly, but he still winces.

"All right! Just -- quietly, please...."

Brian points to his Filofax and I bring it to him. He leafs through some pages and opens it to a section labeled 'London.' There are some phone numbers carefully printed in his curly writing. "This is the main production office number. They set up the meeting with the band."

"Musicians aren't going to freak out if you miss a meeting, Brian."

"Maybe not." He lies back on the couch. "I feel fucked up."

"I think you're lucky that I happened to come along and not someone else. Maybe someone who would have robbed you -- or worse."

"It was broad daylight in the middle of Covent Garden! What was anyone going to do to me?"

"Then you're lucky the cops didn't pick you up for public drunkenness. They DO have laws against that in England, don't they?"

"I guess they do. But I wasn't THAT drunk! Really, I wasn't."

He looks miserable, but I have to be firm about this right now. I can't just lie down on the floor and cry and let everything roll over me -- let Brian roll over me -- like a steamroller. Because then I might as well pack my shit and go home and never see Brian again. And I can't do that. So I have to stay here and fight.

"Sure. Tell that to the cops, Brian. Or the Bobbies -- or whatever they call them here."

I pull off his boots and toss them on the rug. They are still damp from resting in the gutter. His shirt is already unbuttoned, so I ease it off of him and stuff it in a plastic bag I'm using for dirty clothes. Then I undo his belt and loosen his jeans. "Move your butt up." He raises his hips and I ease his jeans down and pull them off the end of his legs. He's letting me undress him without protest or comment, his face as blank as he can make it. His allowing me to do all this must seem like he's admitting something -- something I'm not sure he's ready to admit. I fold the jeans and hang them in the closet.

I look over at Brian, lying on the couch. He's holding his head with one hand and his stomach with the other. He really does look sick, but I'm finding it hard to have a lot of sympathy with him right now.

"How long do you think you were you sitting there in the gutter, Brian?" I ask him, quietly.

"What? Was I sitting in a gutter?"

"Looked like it to me."

"I... felt so dizzy -- and I sat on the curb. I... I can't remember."

"That trick took off awfully fast. I don't think he wanted to be around when you keeled over."

"The what?" He blinks a couple of times, but he doesn't look away. Instead, he stares at me, puzzled.

"The trick, Brian!" I say it precisely, so he won't mistake my meaning. "The guy who beat it when you sat down and wouldn't get up. The one you were walking across the plaza with. Don't tell me you don't remember?"

Rowan and I saw the two of them crossing in front of us as we were headed for the pub on the other side of Covent Garden. I recognized Brian instantly -- and also recognized who -- or rather what -- the guy with him must be. I stood for a minute with my mouth open, feeling like someone had just sucker punched me, only to watch Brian go down. And watch the guy -- the fucking trick! -- take off. By then I was running across the plaza to reach Brian, with Rowan at my heels.

"Huh?" He really does look so confused that I almost believe that he didn't know what he was doing. Almost. But not quite.

"Where did you go? Where were you drinking?"

"I... I went back to that restaurant. On Old Compton Street. I just had a beer. Or a brown ale. I can't remember which. I was going to eat lunch. Then someone bought me a shot...."

"I thought you were at the production office?"

"I was. Then I saw Sir Ken. That fucking Gerry was there, too. They wanted to take me to lunch -- but I didn't want to go with them. They were being assholes. They said...." he stopped and grimaces. "I left and started walking around. I felt so funny."

"How many of those anxiety pills did you take?" The Xanax. It says right on the label of the container: 'Warning -- Controlled Substance.' That means deep, deep trouble. Brian is in deep, deep trouble.

"Two, maybe. I think. I can't remember. Maybe I took another at the office. Or it was something else." He starts to laugh, a little hysterically. "I believe in the power of prayer and LOTS of drugs!" he says in a voice like a crazed televangelist.

"Brian -- shut the fuck up unless you are going to cooperate." But he still looks so ill that I have to go over and touch his face. "Where are they?"

Brian points to the bathroom. I go in and look through his toiletries. His black kit is sitting on the sink. I unzip it and paw through his little jars of anti-ageing cream, containers of protein hair gel, and tubes of Swedish toothpaste, pulling out a bizarre assortment of pill bottles. He has a fucking pharmacy in there!

I line up the containers on the sink. Anti-spasmodics for his stomach. Anti-diarrhea pills. Laxatives. Allergy pills, with and without decongestants. Tylenol. Extra-strength Tylenol. Prescription-strength Tylenol with codeine. Ibuprofen. Vitamin E -- that's no surprise. Vitamin C. Multi-vitamins. Extra-strength multi-vitamins. Anti-cholesterol pills. Appetite suppressors. Appetite enhancers. Midol -- what the fuck is THAT doing in there? Diuretics. An assortment of prescription pain killers. Darvon. Percocet. Some kind of antibiotic. Flexeril, which is marked 'muscle relaxant.' A couple of different kinds of sleeping pills. Some amphetamines. One hit of E. And that's just what I can identify.

And the container for the Xanax. I hold that one up and look closely. The prescription was written by a Dr. Hall in Beverly Hills -- for R. Rosenblum. I pull out two more! He actually has THREE fucking containers of this shit -- all from this Dr. Hall, all written for Ron.

I check the other containers. Most of the prescriptions are from this Dr. Hall. And more than one of them is written for Ron.

Now, I have my own little drugstore of pills that I've taken ever since I got out of the hospital, including pills for pain and stress. But this is unbelievable. I try to imagine what would have happened if the British custom agents had searched Brian's suitcase and found this little stash.

There's a knock at the door. I go out into the main room of the suite and cover Brian with his blue robe. He looks like he's dozing a little, his mouth open. Then I answer the door.

It's the same bellman from the first day. He wheels a cart into the room. Fresh coffee. Milk. The plate of sandwiches. Soup.

"Thanks," I say, as the man leaves. I lock the door behind him.

Then I root through my own suitcase. It's a new one that I bought at Kaufmann's with my racetrack winnings. I have a bunch of plastic bags stuffed into one of the inner pockets. That was my mom's idea. For anything wet or dirty, she said -- or just because I might need some plastic bags. I pull one out and take it into the bathroom. And I sweep all the pill containers -- except for the anti-cholesterol pills, which I leave on the sink -- into the plastic bag. Then I push the plastic bag into the side-pocket of my new suitcase. A side-pocket with a little padlock. I lock it and hide the key in my carry-on bag.

"Brian."

"What?" He sits up suddenly and looks around, like he doesn't know where he is.

"The food is here."

"I'm not hungry." He looks at the food -- and me -- with a pained expression.

"Yes, you are."

"Did you call about the meeting? I'm going to be late, I think."

"You aren't going at ALL, Brian. I'll call in a minute." But first I pour him a cup of coffee. It looks strong. I dump a lot of sugar into the cup and stir it up good. "Drink this." And he does.

I pull the coffee table up closer to the couch and arrange the food on it. I start with putting half a sandwich on a plate in front of him. If I can get him to eat a couple of halves, then he'll have practically a whole meal in him before he even knows it.

I take the other half of the sandwich I've just cut and shove it in my own mouth. Rowan and I never did get to that pub for lunch and I realize that I'm starving.

While Brian is attempting to eat, I call the production office and make up some story about a prior engagement that Mr. Kinney forgot about. I try to sound very businesslike, like a secretary or personal assistant. They buy it immediately and reschedule for him to meet with the band tomorrow afternoon. They seem used to dealing with scatterbrained actors and their personal assistants. No problem. No problem at all. I could get very good at this.

I'm also learning some of what went on out in California. Or I think I'm learning. And I don't like it at all. Some of the shit Brian is carrying around like candy is strong stuff. Especially the pain-killers. And the sleeping pills. And the Xanax. And this is for a guy who they KNOW is going to drink. And NOT eat! A guy who thinks he's fucking invincible and can take anything and everything and not have it affect him. Shit!

Why the fuck does he have all this 'medicine'? What was the need to medicate a healthy guy in the prime of life so fucking heavily? I don't understand it. There's nothing wrong with Brian. He's never been ill a day in his life -- and yet he's carrying around more drugs than my 78 year old grandmother!

I'd like to get my hands on this Dr. Hall. What does he think he's doing? And Ron, too. His fucking doctor should know better! Ron should know better! That is, if he even gives a damn anymore. It's almost as if they are TRYING to hurt him. Or keep him thinking that he needs this shit... But why?

Just like when he was in that hospital. It's a mystery to me what he was doing there. What happened there. Is this connected somehow? Brian -- sit up and explain it all to me! But I know he won't. Or can't.

His doctor. The hospital. Los Angeles. That makes me think of one person. The person who got him out of there. The only one who really cared. Diane.

***

This isn't like being drunk.

And it's not like a hangover.

There's only one thing that it's like -- and that fucking terrifies me!

That feeling that you are separated from everything. That you are somewhere else, looking down. That you can't feel any pain or grief or love -- or any other sticky, scary emotion. That's a feeling you can get to like too much.

It's just like smack. Straight to the brain with no detours.

It's this coming down that makes you want to kill yourself. That's a familiar feeling, too. A horrible, familiar feeling. One I wasn't expecting to feel anytime soon. Certainly not on this trip. Certainly not in front of Justin.

But the other disturbing thing is not remembering. That hasn't happened in a while. Not since after... Justin was in the hospital. That kind of 'pain management' can get you killed. Not knowing who you're with -- and not in a hot way, either. Not knowing what you are doing. Or remembering what the fuck you did. No wonder I was getting myself tested every three months. Fucking paranoia. No wonder Lindsay and her 'demands' were enough to make me crazy -- putting her off until a year had gone by -- when she was starting this shit about another kid as far back as before Christmas, before I even left Pittsburgh! Just another of those stupid little catalysts that nudged me from the frying pan into the fucking fire! Ron's fucking fire!

And now this. When I was trying so hard to be smart about this whole situation. Just trying to calm the nerves a bit. But it seems I can never go halfway. This time I came THIS close to throwing MYSELF over the fucking cliff. And not for the first time, either.

Justin thinks I don't remember that first night -- it seems so long ago and it was less than two years! -- but I remember wondering even then why I do these things to myself. Why am I STILL doing them to myself? Why can't I stop myself? Think for at least a minute before I dive off the precipice? There must be easier ways to fucking murder myself.

Justin is right. What if someone else HAD found me. Like the cops. THAT would be the perfect way to ruin this project. To self-sabotage the entire thing. Ron would love that. He'd love to be able to gloat over how I fucked up on the very first day! I'm sure he'd feel that was rough justice and only what I deserved.

I thought I was dreaming when I looked up and saw Justin. I've had that dream before. When I was in the hospital and they were pumping me full of whatever it was that goddamn Dr. Hall thought was 'necessary' to 'control my outbursts.' Something about Justin coming and taking me away and everything was blue and soft and soothing.

But the look on his face when I gazed up at him was anything but blue and soothing. He looked like he was going to fucking kill me himself. He looked like I imagine he'll look when he's finally come to the last insult, the last humiliation -- and never wants to look at me again. That one makes me want to be sick.

He said I was sitting in the gutter and I guess I really WAS sitting in a gutter. Wouldn't be the first time, not likely to be the last. I just didn't think it would happen on this trip. Why can't things go right for at least TWO days in a row? I won't even ask for a fucking week! Just two days that I don't fuck things up!

And that Irish kid. That Rowan. Jesus, I know his type. 'I don't think he's gay'! Wake up, Justin! He's just waiting to pick you off. I know! I've done the same fucking thing myself! That's why I don't trust this kid -- I see too much of myself in him.

It's too bad that Hughie is such a little prick. I thought he'd be a safe bet for Justin to hang out with while I have to be doing other shit. But, hell, I guess I wouldn't want to spend too much time around Hughie, either. Especially if he's really the two-faced slut Justin says he is. So, he's cheating on Sir Kenneth. What a surprise. NOT a good role model for my boy. But look who is talking about role models for Justin? Especially after he literally pulled ME out of the gutter. Every time he even JOKES about following my lead, I start to get anxious again.

Whatever happened to that guy who didn't give a fuck about anything? Or anybody? Wasn't THAT a whole lot easier? And a whole lot lonelier....

That part about the fucking trick really threw me, though. I only vaguely remember him. I remember the restaurant. And the waiter -- but then I always remember the waiter. Ron says I'm so fucking predictable in that department that it's written in stone. But when I start picking up guys and can't recall who or where -- or what I did -- that is bad news. That's enough to make me sick on it's own. I haven't picked up a trick since -- well, the whole 'Candid Camera' fiasco doesn't count, does it? Why the fuck am I even THINKING that way? I NEVER would have picked up anyone if I hadn't have been so screwed up. Not with Justin in the same city. In the same fucking country!

So now Justin thinks I'm even more of an asshole. As if he needed further reasons. One step forward and fifty fucking steps backwards! Is that the way it always has to be?

"Please, don't make me eat this shit!" I realize that I'm whining now. Whining!

"You're going to eat it. And right now."

He's unyielding. I mean, who would think this little twink is like fucking General Patton? He's making calls and stomping around the room -- too loudly! -- and he's relentless. I don't even remember coming back to the hotel. But he's as cool as an assassin, narrowing in on his target.

He's narrowing in on ME. He must be furious, but it's not that hot, fucked up kind of fury that I'm blessed with. It's cold and focused. I've humiliated him -- yes! -- once again, but he's not letting that get in the way of his purpose. Which is to straighten me out. Oh, my God. I don't want to deal with the implications of that. I can't deal with them, not now....

I eat a little. And I drink the coffee. British coffee is usually bad. They do tea, not coffee. But this isn't bad. Justin has put plenty of sugar in it, the way I would have myself, which is giving me the rush I need to get all that shit out of my system.

I get up to piss and I'm still as unsteady as fuck. Justin rushes over to catch me. "I'm not going to fall, sonny boy."

"Let's not take that chance, okay?" He steers me into the bathroom and makes certain I'm solid enough at the toilet not to kill myself taking a piss before he goes back out into the main room of the suite.

Jesus. Who would think that a couple of those little pills could mess you up so thoroughly? And the booze on top of it, yes. But I've done it before. I've done a lot worse before. Why is it hitting me now? And why do I care so much more, now? Because I'm not just hurting myself, now. I'm hurting him, too. That makes the difference.

I look into my kit. I should have known that he'd take everything. The whole pile! Probably right down the fucking toilet! Even my Tylenol! But he left my Zocor on the sink. The cholesterol shit -- when I remember to take it. THAT he left. Who says this kid doesn't have a devious brain on him?

I wash my face and rinse out my mouth. It still feels so dry. Like someone has been walking around in there. Horrible.

I stumble back in and sit back down on the fainting couch. So well-named! Another cute brothel touch for the ambience of the room. Justin's put a bowl of soup down and stands there, his arms crossed, while I eat it. I think I saw that same look on the face of that nurse in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'! He's a fucking pitbull!

"Did you call me a pussy?" I ask, some vague light dawning.

"Just remembering that now?"

"I don't know. Am I remembering it or dreaming it?"

"Remembering. See -- it IS possible to recover your memory," he says cleaning up some of the sandwich crumbs. "At least SOME of it." He gazes at me evenly. "That's something I know a little about."

Jesus, THAT makes me wince. Say something to make me feel even guiltier, why don't you, kid?

"Brian, tell me something. Why did you bring all those drugs into the country? What if they would have searched your bags? You could be in jail right now!"

I just stare at him. "I didn't bring in any drugs, Justin. I wouldn't do that! I'm not a total moron!"

"Then what do you call all that stuff that was in your kit, huh? Halloween candy?"

"You took it all."

"Fuck RIGHT I took it all! Do you WANT to end up in a foreign prison, Brian? 'Midnight Express' isn't exactly a hot fantasy."

"This is England, not Turkey."

"What the shit difference does THAT make! Why take the risk?"

"I wasn't taking a risk! I didn't bring any drugs in!"

"Xanax? Darvon? Sleeping pills? Some shit with codeine? Other stuff I didn't know what the hell it is? It was like a dealer's warehouse in our bathroom!"

"That isn't drugs -- it's my medication! My doctor prescribed it!" What's he suggesting, the fucking brat? Then I add, "Most of it."

"Right -- that's why half the bottles have Ron's name on them."

Shit. I have no answer for that one.

Suddenly, my head is aching again. But if I ask for a Tylenol, he's going to bite my ass off. I know.

"Just finish the soup," he says. "All of it."

A fucking pitbull. And I'm a fucking pussy.

I eat the soup.

***

There are only two people I might feel comfortable talking to about Brian.

Certainly not Lindsay or Mel. Not Michael. Although he's cool about me now and has given me some valuable advice about my relationship with Brian. But he'd also get too hysterical if he thought there was a real problem over here. And not Deb, either. She's too judgmental about Brian a lot of the time because of what she thinks he's done to Michael over the years. She doesn't want to admit that it is really what Michael has done to himself. As Brian often says, it's always about what you do to yourself and not what others have done TO you. People cause their own pain. I think of that as I look at Brian dozing fitfully, making that awful sound through his nose. His drug-damaged nose.

Emmett -- I feel okay discussing these things with him. He's older, but still closer to my age than the others. And he's been through some of the same kinds of experiences. We even have Brian in common -- as far as Emmett can remember. But that also makes Emmett a little funny about Brian sometimes -- almost like a combination of lust and loathing, rejection and regret. I see a similar thing in Ted, sometimes -- a kind of jealousy mixed with distaste.

But Diane. She's the one.

I think he's told her things he would never tell me. Or Michael. Or Lindsay. And we are the three closest people to him.

I look at the clock and try to figure out what the time is in Pittsburgh, what the time is in Los Angeles. Around 7:00 a.m. or so. Maybe 8:00. I can't remember how many hours behind they are in California. Early in the morning, that's certain. Too early to call Diane?

But it's never too early to call Diane if I really need her. She told me that at the racetrack that day Brian and I won the feature race. "Any time -- day or night, Justin. Don't sweat it. Just pick up the phone. I'll help you kick the Queen Bee's butt long-distance -- if necessary!"

I get Brian into bed and pull the covers up around him, arranging the pillows behind his head. Then I clean up the room service tray and wheel the cart outside into the hallway. My busboy training is always coming in handy in the oddest situations.

"Brian -- I'm going to do a few things downstairs, okay?"

He makes a grunting noise. I'm not sure if Brian is exactly asleep, but he's quiet. And he doesn't seem to be that much worse for wear from his little stunt. His resilience always amazes me. That body really is like a steel wall -- it holds under the most ridiculous punishments and excesses. But it terrifies me what may happen the day it begins to fail.

"I'll be back in a little while. I'm not leaving the hotel, okay?"

More grunts. Snuffling sounds. I go over to the bed. He's definitely sleeping. I feel a pang when I realize that he looks exactly like Gus when HE'S asleep. I reach over and touch the little red heart on the chain. Somehow that seems to tell me that everything is okay.

But before I can leave the room, there's a tap on the door.

I think that it must be room service. "I left the cart outside!"

"Justin. Open up. It's Rowan."

Shit.

I go to the door and crack it open. Rowan pushes it and walks right in.

"I came by to collect some of my things and I thought I'd see how the Rambling Boyo was doing." He stalks around the room with that possessive attitude again. Like he's picking up everything in his mind and taking it all with him.

He walks directly over to the bed and stares down at Brian. He's staring at him so oddly, like he wants to lean right over into his face.

"Rowan...."

"What?"

"Don't do that. He just got to sleep. You'll wake him up."

"I'm just curious, is all."

"He's not on display."

Rowan sniffs at me. "He was this afternoon. He was taking all the attention away from the buskers! We could have passed the hat and taken up a good amount of copper."

"That's not true!"

"It is, you know."

Rowan moves over and sits down on the fainting couch, like he's settling in for a long stay. Brian's tee-shirt is balled up next to the pillow, where I dropped it before he got into bed. Rowan picks it up and examines it. "This isn't from Marks and Sparks, I can see."

"What's Marks and Sparks?"

"Marks and Spencer. A store. A place where you buy cheap y-fronts and singlets. Not like this. This is posh."

"He got that in California, I think."

"You from California?"

"No. Pittsburgh."

He shrugs. "Don't know it. I'd fancy California, though. You been there?"

I'm not sure how much I want to share with Rowan. He's asking too many fucking questions. "Yeah, I've been out there."

"I bet you've been a lot of places, ay?"

"Not really. This is my first time abroad. And I went with my parents to Canada on vacation. And to Disney World."

"I didn't mean with your parents. I meant really traveling. With the tall bloke. Really seeing a bit of the world."

"Not too much. Besides, he's working while he's here. We can't just sightsee."

"Right. I can see how he's working. My old man used to 'work' like that when he was on the dole." Rowan has a disgusted expression on his face.

Now I'm starting to get angry. "I think you better go, Rowan. I have to make some calls and go downstairs and do a few things before it gets too late."

"I wouldn't leave your friend alone."

I stop. "Why not?"

"Gettin' over a binge like that -- he might puke and then choke on it. He'd be dead before you even got back."

"What the fuck are you talking about?" Now, Rowan is scaring me.

"Happened to my brother's best mate. They brought him home and put him to bed and he was stone dead in the morning."

Now he has me running over to see if Brian is still breathing. But everything seems fine. That little wheeze is as regular as clockwork.

I don't know what to do. I made Brian eat all that food and now Rowan says it might kill him! Now I'm really afraid to leave the room!

"How long are you going to be, doing your things?"

"I don't know. Not long, I hope."

"I'll wait here with him, if you like." He gets up and goes to the mini-bar on the side and helps himself to a Coke from the fridge. Then he sits back down on the couch and crosses his legs. "If you're not gone too long, I'll wait and make sure nothin' goes amiss. All right?"

"I..." I don't know what the fuck to do! I look at my watch. It's getting to be later in the morning in L.A. and I don't want to miss Diane. "One half-hour. I've got my watch. I'll be back then, okay?"

"Right-o."

I slip Brian's Filofax and the mobile phone -- and my key card -- into my backpack and head for the door. Before I close it, I turn and see Rowan sniffing at Brian's tee-shirt and I feel an ominous chill.

Continue on to "A Piece of My Heart -- Part 1", the next chapter.

©Gaedhal, August 2002

Send Gaedhal any comments, critiques, suggestions.

Updated August 7, 2002