Summary of Part 8:  The Important Bits:   The Tomato Man finally calls and Brian admits that he visited the doctor in Boston. Justin insists that as partners they must now share all the important bits of their lives.  Brian agrees, but turns the tables when he discovers that Justin has also been withholding information.

Part Nine:   Chocolate Cake


I have not tried to be monogamous this week, it just kind of happened that way accidentally.  Work has been intense, we’ve had three new clients to dazzle this week and I’ve stayed at Kinnetik till nine or ten every night, rolling home thinking only of a hot shower and a hot fuck with Justin before sleep.  Now it’s Friday and I’m starting to feel insanely claustrophobic, I have to get out of the loft tonight, I need to drink and drug and dance and blow off some fucking steam before I explode.  When we talked about this, I told Justin I probably couldn’t do it.  It’s not like I promised him or anything.

As the afternoon progresses, I’m getting more and more bad-tempered, until finally Cynthia literally pushes me out of the office about eight-thirty, threatening to blow up Kinnetik if I don’t leave her and everybody else alone for a while.  When the doors shut behind me, I choose to ignore what sounds suspiciously like cheers echoing in the background, and once I’m out the door and headed down the alley toward the ‘vette, I acknowledge that just possibly I might have been a tiny bit heavy-handed with the staff this afternoon.

Justin’s surprised to see me, he’s hunched over the illuminated table working on a sketch when I push back the door of the loft and shut it closed with a bang behind me.  “You’re home!” he cries, jumping to his feet and launching himself toward me.  With a huge effort of will I bite back a sarcastic rejoinder, like “You noticed,” or “No shit.”  Instead I open my arms and catch him as he flings himself forward.  Being welcomed home so enthusiastically isn’t as much of a hardship as I used to think it might be, but tonight I’m juggling mixed emotions:  the feeling of satisfaction of having this undeniably gorgeous man rubbing up against me, which is warring with the more-than-a-decade-long habit of hunger for action, for new blood, for the thrill of the fucking hunt.

I sound like a vampire.  I feel like a vampire, I feel the blood-lust coursing through my veins demanding to be quenched.  Justin senses it.  Or anyway, he senses something, because he pulls away finally and studies my face, tilting his head to one side, before asking, “What is it, Brian?” 

“Nothing,” I say at first, then I shake my head and look away from those damned blue eyes.  “I feel like going out,” I keep it casual, off-hand, as I pull gently away from him and move across the loft toward the bedroom.

Justin follows in my wake, saying nothing but taking my suit jacket as I remove it and hanging it up for me.  He’s waiting for my pants too but I say irritably, “I can do it,” reaching for a hanger as I kick off my shoes.

“Do you,” he shrugs, “Want company, or do you want to go alone?”

I want to go alone, God damn it.  I want to smoke a few joints, drop a few tabs of E, I want to gather crowds of sweaty half-naked men around me in the middle of the dance floor.  I want to feel them aching for the chance that I’ll drag them into the back room to worship my cock.

“You can come if you want.”  I’m still not looking at him as I lay jeans and the new sleeveless midnight blue tee I bought last week on the ledge of the bed.  I feel his indecision, I feel him trying to decide if I want him to go with me, or not. 

“I need to finish this project I’m working on,” he says finally.  “Maybe later.  Do you want to eat first?”

I don’t, but probably I should line my stomach with something before I belt down the booze and pills.  “A sandwich,” I mutter, “But I can fix it myself.”

Justin hovers for a moment before turning away.  “Okay.  I picked up some of that fresh sliced turkey you like from Strassers Deli on the way home.”  Then he returns to the living room and resumes sketching.

In the shower I acknowledge that I’m acting like an asshole, but that doesn’t change anything.  With a towel around my hips, I pad across the floor to the kitchen, make myself half a sandwich and grab a beer, then carry everything back with me, munching while I shave, comb my hair, and put on what Justin always calls my tricking clothes.  Pocketing my wallet and grabbing my keys, I pause by the door and look at Justin for a moment, till he raises his head and looks back at me.

“Have fun,” he says, and though my ear bends around his words seeking any whiff of censure, I don’t hear any.

“Later,” I nod without smiling, then I’m out the door and pounding down the stairs toward fresh air and freedom.

Babylon is everything I knew it would be.  I’ve had three doubles, I’ve swallowed a couple tabs of the finest E, and I’ve been writhing alone in the center of the dance floor for what seems like hours, drinking in the beat of the music, the heat of the bodies around me, the smell of sweat and sex and urgent desire.  Men have approached me as they always do, some too old, some too young, some not nearly gorgeous enough to earn a glance from me.  I’m waiting for just the right one.  A man who deserves me, a hotly sensuous man who is a match for my own ferocious hunger.

And then he’s here.  Dancing slowly into my orbit, I feel him before I see him.  I slit my eyes open and glance at him – so young, so beautiful and giving off a fuck-me vibe so intense I can feel my blood pressure rise along with my cock.  “Justin.”  I reach out and touch his shoulder and he smiles lazily up at me.  I didn’t know it was Justin I was waiting for, but, “What took you so long?” I murmur.

Justin cocks his head in the direction of the back room.  I nod agreement, he grabs my hand, then we turn as he moves across the floor with me close behind, admiring his really very fine ass.  The dancing men move aside as we pass by them and I’m vaguely aware of their whispering voices – disappointed, jealous, thick with longing.  Some follow along behind, there’s always a few who want to watch.  And I like to be watched.

We stop in a dark corner and he moves his body close to mine, gives me that sultry smile again, and whispers, “Wanna fuck?”

“Of course.”

Justin laughs then, the breath catching in his throat.  It’s an exciting sound and makes my cock pulse and grow harder.  Then he reaches into my back pocket and pulls out a condom, and playfully he gives the foil packet a teasing bite as he glances at the shadowy crowd gathered around us.

“Open it with your teeth,” he whispers.  “They love it when you do that.”

“So do you,” I smirk, and he laughs.

“Yeah,” he murmurs, “You’re right.” 

I grab the condom from him, rip it open, and snarl, “Turn around.”  Then I fuck him against the wall, to the delight of our appreciative audience, and finally when he comes with a loud shout, I grab onto his shoulders and hold him steady.  When finally he’s still, when the watchers begin to move away, I lower my head and breathe into his ear, “Ready to go home?”

“Sure,” he agrees, “You coming?”

“Yeah,” I agree.  “I’ve had enough.”


Following Brian to Babylon last night was a bit of a gamble, I wasn’t a hundred percent sure he wanted me to be there, he’d been so antsy and irritable when he got home from work.  But I gave him a couple hours and then just showed up, moving slowly around outside the circle of men who were watching him and waiting for a chance at the great god Kinney.  I stayed in the background, not wanting Brian to think that I was checking up on him, but after a while I realized he was not interested in any of the guys clustering around.  Finally I moved forward.  When he opened his eyes and saw me, he immediately smiled, dispelling my concern.  I led him into the backroom, and afterwards he came home with me.

For breakfast I cook myself some eggs and bacon.  Brian drinks a glass of orange juice and accepts a single slice of well-done bacon, ostentatiously squeezing it inside a paper towel to remove any last vestige of God-forbid grease.

“Gym and Kinnetik today?”

Brian nods.  “Yeah.  And I won’t be home for dinner.”

“Oh!” I sit up straight on my stool.  “Is this the day you’re seeing the Tomato Man?”

“Stop calling him that.  And yes.  Probably.  If he shows up.”

I lay down my fork and lean an elbow on the counter, studying his face.  "You said you only talked to him for a minute or two, in Boston.  Does he seem like a nice man?"

Brian shakes his head at me.  "Your entire world is divided into two groups:  nice people and meanies."

"I just wondered - "

"Justin, I have no idea if he's 'nice' or not.  I don't even know why he wants to see me.  Probably he sells used cars on the side or something, and he's looking for new customers."

I pick up my fork and spear a mound of egg.  "You always expect the worst of people." 

“Hunh,” Brian snorts.  “And you expect the best.  Guess which of us is never disappointed?”  Before I can say anything, he adds, “Give me a bite,” so I move the fork to his mouth.

While he’s busy chewing, I ask tentatively, “When you were a little kid, were you always disappointed?”

Brian just looks at me and I know he’s not going to answer.  But after he swallows his purloined bite, he changes his mind and shrugs.  “What do you want me to say?  That Santa and the Easter Bunny always passed me by?”

I think about that for a moment, then I can’t help asking, “Well, did they?”

“Justin,” Brian stands up abruptly and carries his glass to the sink.  Before turning on the faucet, he says over his shoulder, “I learned early on that it was safer to expect nothing, from anybody.  That being a good boy never earned any special reward.  And that if you want something, you damned well better get it for yourself.” 

I sit unmoving on my stool, just looking at Brian.  He loathes pity so I try to keep my face from showing the ache in my heart for the unhappy little boy that Brian must have been.  Of course he reads me anyway, and I’m not surprised when he moves from the sink to tower over me, frowning heavily.  “Don’t,” he warns.

“So, umm,” I change the subject, “Where are you going to dinner?”

“Your favorite restaurant - the Colony.  But don’t ask me to bring you a doggie bag.”

“Oh, the Colony!  Let’s go there again soon.  They have the world’s greatest chocolate cake.”

I watch Brian move up to the bedroom to grab his gym bag, and he stops beside me again on the way out.  “Later,” he says, bending down to plant a quick buss on my lips.  Then the buss turns into a kiss, and when my arms slide up around his neck, Brian drops the gym bag and pulls me hard against him.  His lips are so warm and I love the feel of his bristly unshaved chin rubbing my cheek.  “Mmm,” we both murmur when Brian pulls away.  “Let me go, I’m late,” he says brusquely, ignoring the fact that the kiss was mostly his doing, but he flashes a tiny smile as he turns away and heads for the door.

Once I finish breakfast, I organize the class assignments I need to finish this weekend.  I have an afternoon shift at the diner tomorrow but all day today is free so I can get a lot accomplished.  My ringing cell phone interrupts me about noon.  I don’t recognize the number and I’m tempted to ignore the caller but curiosity gets the best of me.


“Justin Taylor?  This is Alexander DuPont.”


“Professor Grant gave me your number, and he said you might be interested in working with me while I’m in Pittsburgh.”


“Is this Justin Taylor?”

“Uh, yes,” I assure him, gathering my composure and trying to remember how to speak coherently.  “Yes, this is Justin, and yes, I’d love to work with you, I’m a great admirer of your painting.”  I probably sound like an idiot.

“Thanks,” he says before going on, “If it’s not too short notice, I could meet with you today.  Are you available this afternoon?”

“Absolutely.  Yes.  No problem.”

“I’ve got the use of a friend’s house while he’s in Tuscany on sabbatical.  Do you have a pencil?   You can write down the address.  And the phone number.”

“Yes, go ahead.”  I scribble down the information and he tells me to come by about three.  Before hanging up, he asks me to bring along my portfolio, so he can see my work. 

That sends me into absolute panic mode, though I stay cool while we’re on the phone, but the moment I hang up, I start freaking out.  And I spend the next two hours laying out drawings and sketches and paintings and graphic artwork over every surface of the loft, trying to pick out my best stuff.   But the more I look at it, the worse it all looks.  An amateurish, poorly conceived, schlocky bunch of horrifyingly bad crap. 

There’s nothing left to do now but throw myself out the window.  But the loft’s on the fourth floor, probably not high enough to kill me, just break my legs and fracture my skull.  And I really, really, really don’t want to be in a coma ever again.  

Suddenly the door is pushed open and Brian walks in.  “What the fuck?” he stops abruptly and eyes the mess of papers spread out all over the loft, it looks almost like the night that Michael and I started Rage.

“Brian!” I rush over to greet him, jumping gingerly over several piles of papers and skidding to a stop by the door.  I grab his arm and shake it.  “Alexander DuPont called!  I’m going to see Alexander DuPont at three o’clock!  And I’m supposed to bring my portfolio.”  I stop to draw breath and when he doesn’t comment, I urgently explain, “Brian - I can’t possibly show any of this fucking garbage to Alexander DuPont!”

“Chill.”  Just the way Brian harshly intones that word immediately calms me.  Then he puts an arm around my shoulders and pulls me tight against him.  Face close to mine, he snarls, “Your stuff’s good, Justin, and you know it.”

“Really?”  I start to smile, then suddenly I’m frowning again.  “No, it’s not.” 

Brian leans back to stare at me, wrinkling his forehead.  “Wait a minute,” he says, “Where’s that overconfident little snot who recently hobnobbed with the rich and famous in Hollywood?”

“This is different!” I insist.  “They were just movie stars and things.  Alexander DuPont is only like, one of the greatest living artists in the whole fucking world.”

“Really?”  He looks skeptical.

“Well,” I hedge, pulling free of Brian’s arm and shoving my hands in my pockets.  “Well, someday he will be.  And anyway,” I add, “Hollywood was all about Rage, about comic books and superhero movies.  Pretend stuff.  Not REAL art.”

“You’d better hope I don’t tell Mikey you said that.”

“Brian, you know what I mean!  Our comic book is great, I’m proud of it, and there’s really a lot of amazing comic artists and animation artists.  But that’s graphic art.  Painting is fine art!  There’s a difference.”

“Well, there’s the little snob I know and. . .”  Brian coughs.  “Look around.  Look at your shit, Justin.  Have you gotten less than an A on any ‘fine art’ you’ve ever done?”

“No.  But it’s mostly just school stuff.  I don’t have any, you know, knock-your-socks-off type of things.”

“This guy knows you’re still a student, that’s what he wants, right?  And your teacher recommended you – you’re in like Flynn.  So stop the drama princess routine, pick out a few of your favorite things and go with that.”

I take a deep breath and blow it out.  Brian’s right.  “I think I might have over-reacted,” I admit.

Brian barks a laugh.  “You think?”  Then he grabs my arm and twists it around to look at my watch.  “You’d better hurry the fuck up, it’s two o’clock now.  Want a ride?  I can drive you.”

“That would be great, thanks.”  I pull away from Brian and begin selecting a few drawings, one small watercolor, and at the last minute, I include some mock-ups for the first issue of Rage.  Brian was right, I was being a snob about the comic.  He’s in the kitchen getting a bottle of water when I call out, “I’m sorry, I won’t have time to put everything away.”

“Don’t worry,” he answers, “I won’t piss on it.”


I’d like to get a look at this world-famous artiste but I don’t get a chance.  Justin told me the guy’s staying at a friend’s house and the friend must be a fucking millionaire, it’s a large property surrounded by tall shrubs and an electrified fence.  I don’t actually see the house, I just drop off Justin at the gate at the end of a curving driveway.  There’s a speaker-box where he announces himself, and I wait long enough to be sure he’s buzzed in through the gate.  Justin turns to wave at me as I drive away, and I can see that he’s pale and nervous – his normal nonstop chatter was stilled on the way over here. 

I want to say, “Call me if he gives you any shit.”  I want to say, “Knock him dead.”  I want to say, “Don’t suck his cock.”  But I don’t say anything except, “Later.”  He nods, clutches his portfolio and walks briskly up the driveway.

Despite his excitement about Alexander DuPont, Justin remembered to ask if I’d called Dr. Shaughnessy.  I did; I called the hotel from my office phone this afternoon.  Shaughnessy wasn’t there, but he’d left a message with the concierge, asking me to meet him in the bar at the Colony at seven o’clock tonight. 

I don’t like what feels like a high-handed summons and I am briefly tempted to ignore the message.  Shaughnessy’s already called me difficult, maybe this brusque order to meet him is his way of gaining the upper hand.  But then I remember Justin’s admonition to give the man the benefit of the doubt, at least about his motives.  And maybe about his method of communication.

By seven I’m ready to leave the loft.  Justin hasn’t returned yet and I can’t decide whether to worry about that or not, he’s got his cell with him, he’ll call if he needs me. 

I took my time getting ready and considered going grunge – not shaving, appearing in jeans and a tee shirt – as a way of showing that I attach no importance whatsoever to this meeting.  But in the end I couldn’t resist flaunting my persona of impeccable grooming and exquisite tailoring.  Wearing my Armani armor, I arrive at the restaurant at seven-thirty-five.  When I enter the bar, I see Dr. Shaughnessy at a small table in an alcove, he’s watching the door and as soon as I walk in, he stands up and moves toward me.

Shaughnessy smiles and reaches for my hand; it’s not easy to resist returning the smile but I manage, and my handshake is firm but perfunctory.  I’m expecting a complaint because I’m late and I’ve prepared a sarcastic comeback, but he just squeezes my hand, moving us toward his table in the corner and asking, “Let’s have a drink, shall we?”

Sitting down across from the doctor, I have leisure to study his face as he signals a cocktail waitress to our table.  He looks – amazing.  He’s tan and obviously fit, he’s got all his hair (which relieves one of my worries), and he’s incredibly attractive.  I realize that my ego is at work – how do you modestly compliment someone who looks very much like an older version of yourself?  Of course modesty’s never been a concern of mine, so what the fuck.

And I realize that he’s flirting with the waitress, obviously he’s a ladies’ man.  Like Pop.  Jack.  The girl – a petite blonde with breast implants and impossibly long eyelashes – flirts back at the doctor, her glance going from his face to mine, but she’s not getting any reaction from me.  He orders a Seven-and-Seven and I order Stoli.  I can drink twice as much vodka as bourbon and I want to keep a clear head.  When the girl leaves our table, Shaughnessy turns back to me.

“Thanks for meeting me, Brian,” he says, then leans against the back of his chair.  “I’ve had time to think about what you told me, and it’s – astonishing is the word that comes to mind.  Imagine finding out, at my age, that I have a grown son!  And seeing you again now, in the flesh, is all the more convincing.”

“There’s quite a strong resemblance,” I agree.

Shaughnessy laughs.  “I wish I could think that I looked like you at that age – you’re thirty-two, right?”  When I nod, he goes on, “But I was just finishing my residency at Mass General, struggling financially.  I was thirty-three when I married my wife.  Are you married, Brian?”


“Don’t be in a rush,” he advises.  “Marriage is theoretically for life, so be sure you’ve got it right before you commit.”  I have nothing to say to that but it doesn’t matter as the waitress arrives with our drinks.  I pull out my wallet but Shaughnessy waves it away.  He hands the girl some money and once she’s gone, he says earnestly, “Tonight’s on me, Brian.  The least I can do is buy dinner for my son.”

Then Shaughnessy shrugs and laughs.  “My son!  Christ, have you any idea how strange that sounds to me?”

“Do you,” I can’t help asking, “Have other sons?”

“No.  We have a daughter, Carolyn, she’s  fourteen.”  He looks sad suddenly.  “We had a son, but we lost him when he was a baby.  Three years old.”

Suddenly there’s a lump in my throat, choking me.  I’m thinking cancer, leukemia, some other horrible disease that attacks small children.  I need to ask but I can’t ask, my heart’s squeezing inside my chest.  Gus is three years old.

“I’m sorry,” is all I can say.

Shaughnessy nods.  “Thanks.  He was a beautiful child, and when he drowned, my wife nearly died of grief.”

He drowned!  Oh, thank God!

For a moment I’m horrified, afraid I said that out loud!  But I didn’t, Shaughnessy is going on:  “Then a year later we had our daughter, and that helped a lot, of course.”  He stops talking then and we each raise our glass and take a sip.  After a moment’s hesitation, he goes on, “Brian, I meant to ask first thing about your mother.  Did she ever remarry?”


“Yes, she was in the middle of her divorce when I knew her.  Brian,” Shaughnessy sets down his glass and leans both arms on the table.  Staring into my eyes, he proclaims seriously, “Brian, I'm sorry if this sounds unspeakably rude, but my affair with Joan was brief and. . .to be blunt, Brian, I was a very young man, twenty or twenty-one, and I barely knew her.  I'm embarrassed to say that it never even occurred to me to keep in touch, when I moved to Boston.  It was - at least on my part – it was a casual thing."

I haven't said anything, I don't know what my face shows (nothing, nothing, my face never shows my feelings), but Shaughnessy sits up straight and asks, "Are you angry at me, Brian?  I suppose you must be, but I swear that I had no idea Joan might be pregnant."

"I'm not angry."  I'm not sure that's the truth, but I can't put a name to the mixed-up emotions swirling around inside my head.

Again Shaughnessy asks, "Did Joan remarry?"  

Clearing my throat, I reply, "She never divorced.  She and my - she and her husband, Jack, were married till he died, a few years ago."

"Oh!" Shaughnessy's surprise seems genuine.  "I was sure she told me. . .well, never mind.  Perhaps I misunderstood.  It was a long time ago."


"Brian."  I see comprehension dawning on Shaughnessy's face.  "Brian - did her husband - did he know?"

I shrug.  "Mom said she never told him.  But he might have guessed."

"Why do you say that?"

Once again I shrug.  "He didn’t like me very much."  I keep it offhand, raising my glass and forcing a smile.  "No big deal."
Shaughnessy's studying me and I'm annoyed.  He doesn't need to add two and two to get five.  "It was no big deal," I repeat, with emphasis.

"Okay."  We each take another drink and then the doctor's name is called, our table's ready.  We stand up and follow the maitre d' into the restaurant and we're seated at a banquette near the windows. 

We're handed menus and we study them for a moment, then Shaughnessy lays his down on the table.  "You told me that your mother's not well?"

I'm glad to lay down my menu, I haven't been able to focus on it anyway.  "She has liver disease," I confirm, keeping my voice level.  "She apparently needs a transplant, but she's not a good candidate, because of age and - other factors."  I feel no strong loyalty to my mother, but I won't discuss her heavy drinking with anyone.

"Who's her doctor?  How is she being treated?"

"I have no idea."  When Shaughnessy looks surprised, I sigh and explain, "Doctor - "

"Please call me Shaughn."

"Shaughn.  I'm not close to my mother.  At all.  I see her a couple times a year, normally."

"Yet she told you - "

"Only because she's dying, or thinks she's dying.  She feels guilty, I guess."  I shrug again.  "Maybe she wanted it off her conscience."

Shaughn nods.  "That's a pretty common thing for people to do.   Unload their conscience, when they think their life is about to end." 

The waiter appears and we glance at our menus again; I order a steak, it's always good here.  If I'm able to eat it; right now I feel vaguely nauseated.  Shaughn also orders steak, and he orders a Pomerol Merlot for the table.  "Good choice," I tell him grudgingly; obviously he knows about wine, probably a lot more than I do.

When the waiter's gone, Shaughn asks gently, "Brian, you say you're not close to your mother.  Did she also 'not like you very much,' while you were growing up?"

I don't answer, I just look back at him, keeping my face blank.

"You had an unhappy childhood, then?"

"Who didn't?  Like I said, no big deal.  I'm happy now, that's all that matters."

"Good, good, I'm glad you're happy."  Shaughnessy backs off, he unfolds his napkin and spreads it on his lap.  "You said you own your own business?  Tell me about it?"

So I do.  At first I'm brisk, keeping to the facts.  Then I feel myself relaxing and talking more about Kinnetik, almost against my will, I'm unbending slightly.  I'm fucking proud of Kinnetik and Shaughn seems genuinely interested.  While we eat he asks about college and I tell him I had a scholarship all four years, and I graduated with honors.  Christ, I’ve never mentioned that to anybody but Michael and Deb.

By the time we've finished eating, I realize that I've become positively fucking chatty, I must sound like Justin.  Which reminds me that he hasn't called and I wonder if he got home okay?  I pull out my cell phone and immediately Shaughn says, “I hope you don’t have to leave yet?  I was hoping we could spend more time together."

"I just need to make a call," I answer quickly, then kick myself when I realize that I could've used this opening to get away from the man.  I don't want to be pals with him; I've got enough fucking pals.  I check the phone for messages (there are none), then excuse myself and move out into the lobby and out the front door so I can call Justin on his cell.  He answers right away.

"Hey," he's chirpy, "Are you having a good time?  Is he nice?  Do you like him?"

"Later.  Are you home yet?  Did your meeting go okay?"

"Yes, I'm home, I'll tell you everything when you get here.  Are you coming home now?"

"Soon.  What time is it?"

"Almost eleven."

Eleven?  Eleven fucking o'clock?  That's impossible, where’d the time go?  "See you soon."  I ring off and return to the restaurant. 

Shaughn welcomes me with a smile and again I have trouble not smiling back at the man, I don't know why.   He asks, "Do you need to go now?" I nod.  Then he smiles again and suggests, "Somebody waiting for you?"

I nod again.  Of course it's none of his business.  I'm not going to talk about Justin.  Then I realize that Shaughn doesn’t know I'm gay.  That should have been the first thing I told him, I should have gotten it over with.  Why didn't I tell him?  I wouldn’t have wasted all this time with the doctor, if only I'd told him the truth about me at the start.

The waiter returns to see if we want dessert.  We both shake our heads no, then suddenly I blurt out, "Bring me a piece of chocolate cake - to go."

"Certainly, sir," and the waiter's gone.

"Special request?" Shaughn guesses, and again I nod.  Then I decide, what the fuck.

Leaning back in my chair, folding my arms over my chest, I raise an eyebrow and look down my nose at Dr. Gerald Shaughnessy.  "It's for my lover," I say pointedly.  And though normally I avoid hetero terms like the plague, I want to be perfectly clear, so I add, "It’s for my boyfriend."

Shaughnessy's shocked, his mouth drops open.  "You're gay?"

I don't answer, merely flare my nostrils.

"Well, that's - that's a surprise," he says mildly.  "I had no idea."

"We're not all hairdressers."

"I didn't mean anything," Shaughnessy insists.  "Did I sound rude?"

"I'm used to it."

"No wonder you're so defensive then."

"What?"  I don't understand.

"You were expecting me to be rude, right?  That's why you announced it the way you did.  For shock value?"  When I don't answer, Shaughn smiles.  "Sorry to disappoint you, but it's hard to shock a doctor.  You caught me off guard, I wasn't expecting to hear that from you."

“Questioning your paternity again?” I make no attempt to keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“Actually,” Shaughn shrugs, “It’s probably more evidence of a connection.  My Uncle Roy was gay.”


“And my roommate in college was gay, too.  I’m not homophobic, Brian, if that’s what you were expecting?”

“I - “

“I’m surprised, Brian.  Not disapproving.”

Yeah well, talk is cheap.  I don’t say that, but I let my face show that I’m unconvinced.

The waiter returns to hand me a styrofoam box and both Shaughn and I stand up and walk out of the restaurant.  On the sidewalk we pause and Shaughn offers his hand.  When I take it and shake, Shaughn holds on to my hand and squeezes.  “I enjoyed tonight,” he says earnestly. “It was great getting to know a bit about you.  Maybe you can make time to come visit us in Boston in a week or so?  My wife is anxious to meet you.”

“Your wife knows about me?”

“Of course.  We have no secrets, Brian.  After your visit to my office, I told Barbara everything.  What happened in Pittsburgh was long before I met her, she has no resentment about my past relationships.  She told me to invite you to have dinner with us.”

I’m at a loss for words; I really don’t know what to say. 

Shaughn squeezes my hand again and lets go.  “Give me a call next week, we’ll set a date.  Okay?”  I just nod, neither yes nor no, and Shaughn heads toward the parking lot.  Then he stops, turns around and adds, “And you’re welcome to bring your boyfriend, too.  What’s his name?”


“I’ll ask Barbara to make a chocolate cake, for Justin.”  And with a wave of his hand, Shaughn walks off. 

Turning the other direction, I also walk away, though for the moment I can’t remember where I parked the car.

3/30/05  Rev. 4/5/05