Summary of Part 7: Boomerang: Justin’s surprised to discover that Brian went to Boston but doesn’t push for details. While Brian spends an unsurprising Saturday night at Babylon, Justin is surprised to find himself enjoying a party with other art students. Later Brian is surprised to discover that Justin has brought someone home from the party and Justin surprises Brian and himself by asking Brian to consider monogamy. No one is more surprised than Brian when he sort-of agrees to possibly try. Maybe.
Part Eight: The Important Bits
I was fifteen minutes late to work this morning and Debbie chewed me out. I could have explained that Brian wanted a shower fuck even though we'd overslept and I was already running late, but I don't think she'd consider that a valid excuse. Brian insisted that, if I expect him to cut back on the tricking, I'm going to have to put out more often.
He was joking, sort of. Since when have I ever turned him down? Not very often, that's for sure. And I decided not to comment on the way, overnight, Brian has downgraded "trying to be monogamous" to "cutting back on the tricking." Partly because there wasn't time to argue, partly because I knew he was rattling my chain, but also because I am not going to pressure him about it. Since being monogamous is an on-your-honor type of thing for any couple, I need to show Brian that I trust him. I trust him to do his best to honor his semi-commitment to partial monogamy.
In spite of everything, this is a huge deal for Brian, and what's more important is that he made the offer freely. I didn't beg, I didn’t threaten to leave him, I just finally had the guts to tell him I didn't like him fucking around, and he offered to try and change his wicked ways. I’m not sure that he can change, but I believe him when he says he will try.
He's folding laundry when I get home – his cleaning service does the sheets and towels but we do our own underwear and jeans. Usually I end up doing laundry but sometimes he surprises me and takes care of it. Anybody seeing the great and powerful Brian Kinney folding socks would probably fall down dead from the shock. Naturally I don’t say that to him – otherwise laundry could become my permanent assignment.
We eat a late lunch of sandwiches I brought from the diner and then we adjourn to our desks to work for a few hours, agreeing to stop at eight o'clock to watch a DVD I picked up on the way home. I get so involved in reworking a class assignment with my new software that it takes a while to register that the phone is ringing and Brian's not answering it. Twisting my head around, I see that the loft is empty but the door is open, Brian must have gone into the storeroom or down to the basement, so I jump up and hurry over to his desk to pick up the phone.
"Brian?" an unfamiliar male voice asks.
"No, this is Justin."
"Is this the right number for Brian Kinney?"
"Yes," I confirm, "But he just stepped out. Can I take a message?"
"Yes,” the man agrees. "Would you tell him that Dr. Shaughnessy called?"
For a moment I’m struck dumb, then I ask, "Dr. Gerald Shaughnessy?" There's a long pause, then I repeat, "Dr. Gerald Shaughnessy of Boston?"
"Yes," he answers. "I'm sorry - who is this?"
"Justin," I repeat, then quickly I add, "Wait a minute, I'll go get Brian. Can you hold on?" Without listening for an answer, I drop the phone on the desk and rush out the open door. The storeroom door is closed, where the fuck is Brian? Then I hear the elevator coming up, so I wait impatiently, practically tingling with anxious anticipation.
Before Brian has finished pulling up the gate, I burst out, "Brian, you have a phone call!"
He's holding a thick manila folder, he must have retrieved some work papers from the car. He takes one look at my face and asks, "Did I win the lottery? Why are you so excited? "
"Brian - it's him!" I interrupt, hissing, "It's The Tomato Man! He's on the phone!"
I watch the shutters roll down over Brian's eyes until he looks utterly cool, completely unconcerned, but I see his Adam's apple bob as he swallows a couple times, so I know he's not as calm as he looks. Then he nods and I follow him as he turns and enters the loft. Clearing his throat as he drops the folder on his desk, Brian picks up the phone and says, "Hello?" He gives me a dismissive look, probably he expects me to leave, but I want to eavesdrop on this call.
“Brian? It’s Shaughn. Dr. Shaughnessy.”
“Hello,” I repeat, turning my back to Justin and walking away, going up the steps to the bedroom and coming to a halt by the closet.
“Brian,” the doctor’s saying, “I’m sorry I couldn’t call before now.”
“No big deal,” I shrug, turning to focus my attention on the brick wall outside the air-shaft window. “You’re a doctor, doctor’s are busy.”
“No,” he contradicts. “It wasn’t that.”
At least the guy’s honest – he was in no hurry to call me, no surprise.
Then he goes on, “It wasn’t work, I had a family emergency, my wife’s mother was ill – we had to go out of town.”
“Oh.” I hear the loft door bang shut and I look quickly over my shoulder to see what Justin’s up to. He’s gone – he must have gone out. Maybe to give me privacy. Or maybe he’s mad that I didn’t tell him about the doctor.
“Brian,” Shaughnessy says, “We need to get together and talk.”
“We don’t need to,” I respond quickly. “I told you that I was just curious, and - “
“But I want to. I want to see you.”
“Why?” I pull open the top drawer of the chest and look at the neatly folded socks inside.
“I’m sorry this is all so awkward,” his voice is gentle; does he imagine I’m upset or something? I’m not, and I’m not sure that I want to see him again. “There’s no precedent for this situation for me,” he’s continuing; “I don’t know what to say to you.”
“Me either,” I finally admit. “I didn’t expect you to call.”
There’s a brief silence, then the doctor repeats, “We need to get together, talking on the phone is no good.”
“It’s hard for me to get away, I’m running a business, I don’t have much free time for travel.”
We’re both busy, probably we should just forget the whole thing.
“Brian, I can come to Pittsburgh next weekend. We could do lunch, or dinner.”
He’ll come to Pittsburgh?
“Could you manage that?” he’s asking.
“I don’t know.” I shove the drawer closed, smashing my thumb. Silently mouthing, “ow-ow-ow,” I tuck the injured hand under my armpit. Then I offer, “Maybe.”
He’s pinning me down, I hate to be pinned down.
“I could take you to dinner,” he offers. “Is the Colony still a good restaurant?”
“Yeah. Yes, it is.”
“Brian, I forgot to ask if you’re married?”
“Why?” I feel myself bristling, he’s prying already.
“I was just going to say,” he explains, “That you could bring your wife to dinner Saturday, but that it might be best if we were alone this time. There are things we might want to talk about privately first.”
“Like what?” I perch on the ledge of the bed, kick off my shoes and stare at my toenails. I need to cut them tonight.
“Brian,” I hear impatience creeping into the doctor’s voice. “Are you being purposely difficult?”
That brings my head up, and I stare at the phone as if I’m seeing the man’s face. Surprised, I answer, “Possibly.”
“Is this especially for me, or is that a habit of yours?”
Hunh. “Some people might say it’s a habit.”
“Okay,” the doctor’s voice becomes brisk. “I’ll come to Pittsburgh this weekend. If you’re free, you can call me Saturday, I’ll book a room at the downtown Hilton, at Gateway Center. We’ll go to dinner. How’s that?”
“All right,” I reluctantly agree. “Probably.”
There’s a pause, then the doctor says, “Brian, I’m going to ask you to do something. If you don’t want to, I’ll understand.”
“I’d like for you – for us – to do a paternity blood test.”
“What the fuck?” I stand up abruptly and kick my shoes out of the way as I stride across the floor and into the living room.
“It’s not that I doubt you,” the doctor’s saying –
“Yeah, right.” Fuck that, and fuck him.
“Brian, I saw you, we are very much alike. But I’m a doctor, and I live and breathe empirical evidence.”
“No.” I’m shaking my head, for some reason my gut is twisting into a knot. “No, I won’t,” I repeat, “And fuck you.” Then I smack the off button, turn and lift my arm, I’m going to throw the phone against the wall. At the last moment, I change my mind. Dropping my head, I stare at the floor for a moment, then sigh and walk over to my desk, drop the phone onto its base and stand there with my hand on it.
Immediately I pick up the phone again and call Justin’s cell. He answers on the first ring. “Hey,” I say, “Where’d you go?”
“You wanted me to leave, didn’t you?”
“Where are you?”
“Downstairs. Can I come up now?”
He doesn’t respond but in a few seconds I hear his feet pounding up the stairs and he’s pulling open the door.
“Brian!” he exclaims, out of breath, “What – “
The ringing of the phone makes us both jump, we turn and stare at it. When I don’t make a move, Justin steps forward to grab it before I can stop him.
“Hello? Oh yeah, here he is!” he exclaims, turning and holding out the phone toward me.
I shake my head no, and wave my hands, miming that I’m not going to answer.
Justin bares his teeth and hisses silently, “Take it, take it!”
Surprisingly, I do. Lifting the receiver to my ear, I mutter, “What?”
“Brian, I’m sorry that you feel insulted - forget the paternity test. Just meet me on Saturday. Will you do that?”
I don’t answer for a moment, then finally I murmur, “I’ll try.”
“Fine,” he’s concise. Then he adds, “Good Christ, you are one hell of a difficult man.”
“So I’m told.”
Shaughnessy disconnects and I hand the phone to Justin, turn and cross the living room to the liquor cart. By the time he joins me, I’ve poured two inches of JB and downed half of it in one swallow.
“Want some?” Brian raises his eyebrows at me and gestures with his glass; he’s delaying the inevitable.
Inevitably I ask, “What’s going on?”
Before answering, Brian raises the glass and drinks another gulp of JB. He grimaces and reaches for the bottle but I step forward and take it from his hand. He doesn’t argue, instead he sighs and sets the glass down on the table, crosses his arms on his chest. “That was Dr. Shaughnessy,” he says helpfully.
“So, you called him? When, Brian? You didn’t tell me.”
“There was nothing to tell. I went to see him, he said he’d call me, and he just did.”
“That’s ‘nothing?’ You went to see him and that’s nothing?”
“Justin,” he frowns, “I didn’t want to talk about it. I still don’t.”
“Well, that’s tough. You’re not going to shut me out, Brian. We’re not going to do that any more, we’re just not. I’m your partner and we’re sharing our lives, at least all the important bits.”
“Is that Merriam-Webster’s definition of partnership?”
“No,” I ignore his sarcasm, “It’s mine. Let’s sit down and talk.” Setting down the liquor bottle, I grab hold of Brian’s arm and lead him to the sofa. Surprisingly, he comes along and sits down beside me. When he just stares at me and waits, I insist, “Tell me.”
Swinging his head away and looking toward the windows, Brian dispassionately describes his visit to the doctor’s office. I know he’s leaving out details but I don’t push. He says that he and Shaughnessy have some physical characteristics in common and that the doctor admitted having an affair with Brian’s mother. Since he was busy with patients, the doctor said he’d call Brian later and now he finally did.
When Brian stops talking and looks back at me again, I ask, “Are you going to Boston to see him again?”
“He’s coming to see me. He’s coming to the Pitts this weekend.”
“Wow,” I breathe, “That is so cool. He must want to get to know you.”
“You don’t know his motives. Why should he want to know me? And anyway,” Brian hurries on before I can speak, “Why should I want to know him? He’s a total stranger. And he’s married. I have nothing in common with some old hetero guy in Massachusetts. I - “
Twisting my body sideways, I climb onto Brian’s lap, wrap my arms around his neck and smack my lips against his in a quick loud kiss. “Stop it.” I kiss him again. “What day is he coming? Is he coming here, or - “
“He’s staying at a hotel. He wants to meet for dinner.” Then he sighs and his shoulders relax. “Probably I’ll go. If I have nothing else to do.”
“Brian - “
“Don’t harass me.”
“No,” I agree, “I won’t. But, could you, maybe, try to be open-minded at least? About Dr. Shaughnessy’s motives?”
When I move sideways to get off Brian’s lap, he grabs onto my hips and holds me still. “Do you want to fuck before or after we watch this DVD of yours?”
“Before AND after.”
I’ve made him smile.
I’m feeling more relaxed as we straighten the bed covers, I pull my jeans back on and Justin dons his sweats, then he goes to gather snacks while I put in the DVD he rented. I’m surprised to discover that it’s Mutiny on the Bounty, the version with Marlon Brando. Strangely enough I’ve enjoyed introducing Justin to some of my favorite old films and I’m pleased that today he picked something he knew I’d like.
We take up our movie-watching positions, me on the sofa, Justin on the floor in front of me with his array of snacking options set out in bowls on the coffee table. I accept a bunch of green grapes and munch on them while the film starts. Eventually Justin moves up to sit beside me with my arm around his shoulders, and later he stretches out on the sofa with his head in my lap while I caress his silky hair.
When the film’s over, he proclaims, “That was so good!” Pulling himself up and grabbing the remote to turn off the tv, he adds, “Marlon Brando was just amazing.”
“Yeah, well, I guess. For an older guy.”
“He was in his thirties when he made this movie.”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean. But he looked good.”
Grabbing the remote from his hand, I pretend to bang him on the head with it. “I’ve got a draft proposal to read and then I’ll be ready for bed. Christ,” I sigh, “Home in bed by midnight – I’m really slipping.”
Justin looks at me sideways but refrains from commenting. Instead he says, “I’ll be ready for bed when you are.”
“Hunh,” I snort, “Not fucking likely. You’ll be up for hours, just like every other night, doing homework for that teacher who won’t let you use your computer.”
“No,” Justin denies it, moving off the sofa and gathering up his snack bowls. “Not any more.”
Following him to the kitchen, I lean against the counter watching him rinse his dishes. “So the asshole finally gave permission?”
“No,” he says airily, tossing his head but not looking at me as he adds, “I’m dropping that class tomorrow.”
“Dropping the class?” I stand up straight. “What the fuck?”
“It’s no big deal.” Now he does look at me. His head is bent over the sink and from under his lashes he steals a furtive glance at my face.
I know that faux-innocent-angel look. He thinks he’s onto me; well, I’m onto him too. “What?”
“What what?” Justin shuts off the water and turns sideways, leans casually against the sink.
“What the fuck are you doing, dropping that class?” I spell it out. “You said you need it to graduate.”
“Yeah,” he agrees, “I do. But I can take it next term. Or even next year.”
“Justin. Number one, the class is fucking paid for – IFA tuition is expensive. But more important than that,” I emphasize, “Is that you’ve put several weeks worth of fucking hard work into this class already. You can’t just throw that away.”
“It’ll be easier, next time,” he insists. “Maybe I’ll get a different teacher. Maybe my hand will be better. Or I’ll have a lighter class load.”
“You know,” I reach out and tap his arm, “The real problem is that your schedule right now is too heavy. You’re juggling a full-time class load and a demanding part-time job.”
“The Diner isn’t demanding!” Justin insists, “It’s easy. And I can make my own hours.”
“Bullshit. You come home exhausted, working on your feet for hours, then staying up half the night doing homework. Justin.” I frown and lower my head, fix my eyes on his face and insist, “You can quit the Diner for a few fucking months.”
“No, Brian - “
“It won’t stifle your fucking independence to be a kept boy for the rest of this term. It’s only a couple months, for Christ’s sake!” When he opens his mouth to argue, I lower my voice, keep it reasonable. “Kinnetik’s doing well, I’m making a ton of money, Justin – you know I can afford it. What the fuck is money for if it’s not put to good use?”
Justin steps forward and slides his arms around my waist and gives me a hard hug. “That’s so generous of you Brian,” he murmurs, but just as I start to relax, he pulls back and insists, “But I do really have to drop this class.”
“Wait.” Now I’m getting suspicious. “Why do you ‘have to’ drop the class? Is there something else you’re not telling me?”
Justin’s face reflects the truth of my shot in the dark, though he tries to deny it. “No.”
When I just stare at him and stand silent, waiting, finally Justin capitulates. “Well okay, there’s more to it, but it’s no big deal. I – I’m mad at the teacher, that’s all, and I don’t want to be in his class any more.”
“Mad at the teacher?” I think for a moment and I can feel my shoulders tightening up. “What did he do? Did he make a pass at you or something?”
“Christ, Brian,” he’s annoyed, “Not everything is about sex, you know?”
“Then what?” When Justin just shakes his head, I growl at him, “Damn it, you stood right there not three hours ago and told me that we have to ‘share the important bits of our lives.’ So what the fuck are you doing now, holding out on me?”
“Oh.” Justin has the grace to look chagrined. “Maybe you’re right.”
“I’m always right.”
Taking a deep breath and blowing out a gusty sigh, Justin leans back against the sink and nods. “Okay, it’s like this. I asked Professor Grant to recommend me for a job – an internship – at Techno/Vision.”
Ignoring the interruption, Justin continues. “He said he’d think about it, but later he told me no. That would be okay. Not really okay, but you know, I could accept it! But then,” he glowers, “Grant told the editor at T/V not to hire me, and instead, he recommended another student for my job!”
I’m reserving judgment about the job – which I also knew nothing about, but for now I tell him, “Well, that sucks. So, the teacher’s an asshole. But why is that reason enough to drop this class that you need for your degree? You’re only hurting yourself, not him.”
“I’m mad, Brian! You would be, too!”
“Yeah,” I agree, “But that’s life. You have to deal with shit like that in real life all the time. You just suck it up, make the best of it, and move on.”
Justin’s nodding. “Oh, I know you’re right. I know it! But the thing is, I really do have to drop the class now. I told Grant I was going to – and then I cursed him out.”
“Told him to fuck himself?”
“In so many words.” Then Justin grimaces. “In exactly those words.”
“Big deal. So, you go back to his office tomorrow and apologize.”
Justin swivels his eyes away and looks mutinous.
“Look,” I tell him, “It’s your call – do what you want. Just think about it. And,” I add, “Think about talking to me before you start looking for another job. I won’t try to stop you, but maybe I could offer advice. I’ve been working since before you were born, you know?”
“Brian,” Justin’s distracted, “You were working when you were twelve years old?” When I nod, he asks, “Doing what? Paper route?”
I shrug. “Paper route, mowing lawns, anything to earn a little money.”
“Wow,” he breathes, “You were a workaholic practically from birth!”
“I had incentive. It was either wear clothes from Sears that my mother picked out, or supplement my wardrobe with odd jobs.”
“A label queen at twelve! I had no idea.”
“Later. I’ve got a proposal to read. Meet you in the bedroom at midnight.” I give Justin a chaste kiss and move away, heading for my computer.
Brian was right of course, about the benefits of staying in Professor Grant’s class. I do need this course to graduate, and the kicker is that Grant is the only one who teaches it at the IFA. It galls me to apologize to the man who screwed me out of the Techno/Vision job, but if I want to stay in his class, I have no choice.
So in the morning bright and early, I knock on Grant’s door – he has an office hour at eight a.m. on Mondays.
He’s alone. “Mr. Taylor,” he greets me. “Come in.”
“I’ve come to apologize, Mr. Grant. For the rude way I acted on Friday.“
“Sit down.” He gestures at the chair and when I’m seated, he says, “I accept your apology. But perhaps if you’d been a bit less defensive (not to mention offensive),” and here he lowers his head and looks at me over the top of his glasses, “You might have waited long enough to hear what I had to say.”
“I’m sorry,” I repeat, though I feel myself getting defensive yet again; I hate lectures about my so-called behavior. Why should I care what he had to say anyway?
“Mr. Taylor,” he goes on, “When I said that you were overqualified for the T/V internship, I was serious. You have much more to offer an employer than simple research and drafting skills, which is what Ed Martin at T/V was offering.”
“Thanks, Mr. Grant,” I shrug, “But the thing is, I wanted that internship anyway. It pays more than my waiter job and it’s in my career field.”
“There are other jobs in your career field for which you’d be better suited,” Grant says somewhat pompously. “And which probably pay more than Techno/Vision.”
Ben once said that some professors live in their ivy-covered towers, out of touch with reality. Brian had agreed. “Yeah,” he’d added, “And other professors just have their heads up their asses.” I wonder which category Mr. Grant fits into?
“I check the student employment job boards all the time,” I explain to him patiently, “And the newspaper too, of course. It’s not that easy to find an art-related part-time job.”
“Some jobs don’t get advertised,” Grant says. “As in any field, sometimes it’s a question of being in the right place at the right time. And other times, it’s a question of whom you know.”
Like that’s news. “Yeah,” I agree laconically, scooting to the edge of the chair and starting to get up.
“Mr. Taylor,” something in Grant’s voice stops me. “Mr. Taylor,” he repeats, a slight smile turning up one corner of his mouth. “You are in the right place at the right time. And you know somebody.”
“Are you familiar with the work of Alexander DuPont?”
He’s only one of the most famous contemporary painters alive today. I really admire his work, it’s critically renowned and also accessible to the general public. Some of his paintings are in museums but others grace public buildings and even corporate offices. DuPont was on the cover of TIME magazine a couple years ago, in fact I ripped out the article and saved it, partly because I love DuPont’s work, partly because he graduated from PIFA, and partly because he’s a gay icon, one of us who has made it big without selling out.
Professor Grant is smiling like the cat who swallowed the canary. “Wait,” I gasp, suddenly catching on. “You know him? You know Alexander DuPont?”
“Yes,” the teacher answers proudly, “He was a student of mine here at the IFA fifteen years ago. He’s coming to Pittsburgh to work on a special project and he’s been in touch with me.”
“Wow.” I slump back in the chair, surprised and pleased. “He’s coming to the Pitts? That is so cool!”
Maybe I’ll get to meet him! That would be amazing.
“Yes,” Grant agrees. “And what’s more, Alexander told me that he needs someone to assist him with his project, he’s looking for an art student who can work with him for a couple months. He needs someone with demonstrated artistic ability of his or her own. I don’t know all the details, but - “
“Oh my God.” I’m stunned almost speechless and I scoot forward on the chair, grasping my hands tight together in my lap. “Oh, Mr. Grant! Are you – are you going to recommend me?” I hear my voice go all squeaky but I’m too excited to care.
“I was considering it,” he says. “If you are interested?”
“Oh, yes. Oh God, yes!”
Alexander DuPont! Alexander fucking DuPont is coming to the Pitts, and I might get to work with him! I think I’m going to fucking pass out!
“All right.” Professor Grant becomes brisk, he turns away to fumble through several stacks of papers on his desk. “Ah!” he exclaims, pulling a notepad from under a pile of books. “Here we go.” Reading from his notes, Grant says, “Alexander will be arriving next weekend. I’ll give him a call and see if I can arrange an interview for you. Mind!” he faces me again and gives me that serious over-the-top-of-his-glasses look, “There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the job. But you’ll have my recommendation; the rest will be up to you.”
That’s my cue to stand up. “Thank you, thank you!” I can’t wipe the smile off my face. “Shall I give you my cell phone number, or - “
“Yes,” he agrees, pushing the notepad toward me. “Write down all your information and I’ll pass it on to Alexander. If he’s interested, he’ll give you call sometime this week or next.”
Quickly I write down my phone numbers and then grab the strap of my messenger bag and move toward the door. “Professor Grant,” I enthuse, “Whether I get the job or not, thank you so much for recommending me! I really appreciate it.”
“Mmm-hmm,” he nods. “One word of advice, Mr. Taylor: Remember that your first priority is to your education. Make sure you keep up with your classes, don’t get sucked into overextending yourself with other distractions.”
“Yes, of course,” I murmur. “Thanks again!” Then I’m out of his office and practically walking on air as I hurry down the hall and out of the building. I am going to meet Alexander DuPont!
“Who the fuck is Alexander DuPont?”
“Brian, you know! He’s that painter who was on the cover of TIME a while back. He’s really famous, and he’s gay, and he’s coming to Pittsburgh! Mr. Grant is going to recommend me to work as DuPont’s assistant while he’s here. It’s an amazing honor!”
“What will this assistant be doing? And does this amazing honor include a paid salary?”
“Yes!” Justin enthuses, then he stops jiggling up and down and blinks a couple times. “Well yeah, I think so. I’m pretty sure that’s what Grant meant. And the job is, to help the artist with a special project he’s working on.”
“What does this special project involve? What will he and you be doing exactly? And where? And for how long?”
Justin shakes his head. “Well, I don’t exactly know. Grant says that Alexander DuPont will call me soon, I gave him my phone numbers. I can ask questions then. But,” he adds staunchly, “I want to do it anyway. Even if it’s not a lot of money. Brian,” he exclaims for the ninety-seventh time, “It’s Alexander fucking DuPont!”
I have a feeling that very soon I am going to be sick of hearing that name.