Brian has never kept secrets from me before. Well, only a few. Very few.
He's never told me much about Lindsay. I remember how scared I was of their relationship all those years ago when Brian was out of my reach at college. They are good friends; I suspect they were lovers, though he never told me and I never asked.
And he never told me about his relationship with Justin. He always denied, to me and to everyone else including Justin, that there even was a relationship. I was stupid about that kid and what he meant to Brian. Well, I didn't want to know. You can choose to be blind to things you don't want to see. I remember being jealous of Justin's confidence, his beauty, his sexuality; but it never occurred to me that a skinny, incredibly bratty little teenager could mean anything more to Brian Kinney than a few hot fucks.
Brian's always bragged to me about his conquests, his hundreds, his thousands of men. Yet he never talked about Justin, not after that first night. Whenever the kid showed up, barging his way into our group, I stood back and waited for Brian to flip him off, to snub him so harshly the kid would run away in tears. And he was harsh, Brian was harsh with Justin, yet Justin never ran away. Again and again the two were together, and when Brian continued not to talk about Justin, I began to suspect something was up.
Even so, I managed somehow to remain blind to the hold Justin had over Brian. My own life had got complicated, I was working hard at my new management job and trying to make things work with David, and Brian supported me. We've always supported each other. Despite Brian fucking his teenager in my bedroom, despite Brian arranging for Justin to live with mom and to work at the diner, I still refused to see what was going on under my nose.
Brian was falling in love.
The man who denies the existence of love was head over heels. Oh, he denied it. He did not act like a lover, but the evidence began to mount. The fact that he'd let Justin live with him for a while was amazing by itself. And always, always Justin was there, showing up at Woody's, at Babylon, and many times Brian took him back to the loft. Not openly at first; usually they would just slip away at the same time, but it wasn't hard to figure out where theyíd gone. Emmett and Ted and I often talked about Brian taking advantage of Justin's infatuation just to satisfy his urges, but gradually it became clear, even to me, that more than sex was going on.
I think the age difference between them worked for good and bad with Brian. Maybe Justin reminded him of being young and carefree; or maybe it just made Brian feel the weight of years pressing on him. I remember the night Gus was born, how Brian kept saying ďtick-tick-tick,Ē reminding himself that his son was ticking away the hours of Brianís life. Did Justin slow down the ticking of that clock, or did he speed it up?
Mel always says I make excuses for Brianís outrageous behavior, and sheís right. But I understand him. Or anyway I used to. We were so close in college, and he confided in me. Iím the only woman heís ever let get close to him. But Iím not sure that I understand him any more.
Was it a coincidence that Justin came into Brianís life the same night as Gus was born? I know that Brian senses drama in all the ordinary things most people take for granted. I can see Brian imagining some kind of symbolism surrounding the two events. Birth and rebirth? I don't know. In the past I tried to get him to talk about it, but all along he's denied he was even having a relationship with Justin.
When I saw him in the hospital corridor, I almost fell down from shock. Brian himself was in shock, his face wet with tears, his eyes unfocused. He was beyond comfort, he wouldn't let anyone near him except Michael. We all stood far back in the hallway, huddled together, it was like watching a train wreck Ė we couldnít tear our eyes away from the unbelievable sight of Brian Kinney derailed. Until Debbie had the good sense to round us up and move us away, into a waiting room, make us all stop staring at Brian. Not that he even knew we were there.
I was sure that if Justin survived, Brian would be a changed man. Mel says I'm an eternal optimist, but the fact is that Brian really is a changed man. Just because he continues his frantic lifestyle, his sexual conquests, his abuse of drugs and liquor, does not mean anything. The others can't see it, but I can. I don't pretend to understand what's going on under the surface, but I can sense the depth of his pain; Brian is suffering.
Yet I feel bound to chastise him, especially since he takes it from me better than from anyone else. And I love Justin. He needs Brian, and Brian is not there for Justin, not the way he should be. Not the way Justin needs him to be. Still, in spite of everything, I believe in Brian, and I believe he is doing the best that he can.
I've always had a soft spot for Brian, ever since he was a teenager - gangly and awkward but always beautiful, his sensitivity reflected in his murky hazel eyes. I've lived long enough to know a lot of men and I've known men like Brian, men who fuck frantically, fuck almost anybody, fuck as fast as they can. Some are afraid of dying, some are afraid of living. I don't think Brian's afraid of dying, though he's desperately afraid of something.
Oh, I know him all right, I've watched him for years - from afar, when I lived in New York, and up close, once I moved back home to Pittsburgh. People would laugh if I tried to tell them that Brian is a good man, Brian himself would deny it. But it's true. He takes care of the people he loves - quietly and anonymously usually, or sometimes in grandiose gestures, like Michael's 30th birthday party. That's the reason I can't understand why he's not taking care of Justin. Brian loves the boy. No matter what he says. No matter what he does. It's like he's determined to convince himself and everyone else that Justin does not matter to him. What is he afraid of?
I have enough distance from the group of friends to see them more clearly than they see themselves. Brian works hard to maintain his image of cold unfeeling fuck, and most people buy it. I've watched the way Michael protects Brian by helping him maintain that cool, uncaring faÁade. And for months now it has amused me to watch Justin wriggle past Brian's faÁade, slip under Brian's guard, assault the previously impenetrable fortress of Brian Kinneyís heart. I was so sure Justin was winning. In fact, Iím still sure that Brian loves that boy. I just wish I could help him, but Iíve lived long enough to know that you canít change people, canít make them see whatís staring them in the face, if they donít want to see it.
I love Brian Kinney. I love him in the way a mom always loves her kids, even if they turn into serial killers. But I could murder him myself, and with my bare hands. He's hurting little Sunshine.
From the beginning I've been torn about those two. I always knew Brian was no good for that kid, I always knew Justin would be used up and tossed aside, but after while, I started thinking maybe I was wrong this time. Heís a persistent little bugger, that Sunshine. And finally something about Justin got through to Brian. I saw him start to soften, to lose that cruel edge he keeps sharp to hold people off from him.
Thereís a saying for that but I canít remember it, something about a knife cutting both ways. I think thatís whatís happened to poor Brian. Heís turned the knife on himself. Heís bleeding. But heís making Justin bleed, too.
I could kill Brian for that, I think I really could. Or at least smack him upside the head. No, he got enough of that rough stuff when he was a kid. I need to go talk to him instead. Or maybe not. Hell, look what happened the last time I pushed Brian Kinney to do something! Michaelís birthday party. I better stay out of this. But God, itís killing me to watch my little Sunshine suffer.
In my old life, I felt good all the time. I knew what my body could do, I knew what my brain could do, I remembered everything no matter how important or how silly. Now I doubt myself, physically and mentally. When you can't count on your brain or body, it destroys your self-confidence.
In my old life, I loved my job at the diner because I enjoyed meeting people, flirting with cute guys, and zipping around from booths to kitchen to cash register. Now I have to force myself to greet strangers, who all seem to look at me with curiosity or pity or sadness.
In my old life, I felt sure my dad would eventually come around, would accept me for myself and love me once again. Now I know my dad is gone. If a man won't come to his unconscious son's bedside, he's gone forever.
In my old life, I could pick up my sketchpad and pencil and draw. One-two-three. Draw anything I wanted. Now. . .
In my old life, I could find Brian at Woody's or Babylon and feel pretty sure he'd take me home with him, at least a few nights a week. Now I know he is avoiding me.
In my old life, I could push him. Now I can't push.
In my old life, I knew in my heart that Brian loved me. Now I don't know any more. Now I don't know if I want him to love me. I don't know if I want anybody to love me.
That probably sounds like self-pity. Maybe it is, I donít know.
Brian. . .is Brian. For a while I thought he was becoming somehow different. Opening up to me a little, letting me get closer. Now I almost smile at how naÔve I was.
Once I went with my mom to the bank when she needed something from her safe-deposit box. I watched the clerk lead her into the vault where boxes lined the walls, and I remember noticing the door of that echoing chamber. It revealed the vault wall, several inches thick, impenetrable polished steel. That's how the wall around Brian feels now. I used to think I had the key to his door, but now I wonder if there even is such a key. And if I had the key, would I use it?
If only I could remember that night, maybe there would be clues to help me deal with the aftermath, with all the aftermaths. God, I wish I could remember.
God, I wish I could forget. Every time I look at him, I remember. Fuck, I don't have to look at him to remember.
The crack of a wooden bat connecting with a fragile human skull. The sound of a soft body collapsing onto concrete pavement. The sight of a beautiful boy's lifeblood pouring out in a red stream across the garage floor. The sound of my own scream echoing in the garage, echoing inside my head, the overwhelming feeling of helpless fear. Sometimes I wake up hearing that scream. I don't know if that sound is inside my head or if it's real, but it bounces off the walls of my loft. I won't let anyone sleep with me, in case I wake up screaming. I fuck them and send them away as soon as possible.
Justin knows I am avoiding him. I see it in his eyes. I see it in the eyes of all of them, accusing and angry. Justin's eyes don't accuse. His eyes are not angry, they are sad, sad. The bashing is not my fault. But the sadness in Justin's eyes is my fault. And I can't separate the two.
When I was a kid the nuns always said, ďThe wages of sin is death.Ē They lied. Death is the easy part. The real punishment is to keep on living.