|Gap-Filler for Episode 2-15|
I never doubted that Brian loved me.
I never doubted that Brian loved me ever since the morning after our first time together. I knew it even though he denied it when I went to his loft and he sent me away crying.
I never doubted that Brian loved me through all the months that I threw myself at him, followed him, forced my way into his life. Sometimes he said terrible things and did terrible things, but I never doubted that underneath all that, Brian loved me.
I never doubted that Brian loved me because, for every time he pushed me away, another time he pulled me in. For every time he kicked me out, next day he came and rescued me. For every hurtful thing he said to me when we were around his friends, there were his quiet, whispered murmurs when we were alone.
Oh, he never said he loved me. And I was okay with that, because in my heart I knew it was true. I never doubted it for a moment.
Brian proved his love in so many ways. He stood up to my dad for me. He put himself between me and Chris Hobbes that night on Liberty Avenue. He was always pushing me to go after what I wanted, and when I was going to throw away art school, he forced me to question my reasons. He did all that out of love, I never doubted it. Not for a moment.
When I lay in the hospital, weak with longing for Brian, desperately fighting back tears when day after day he never came to see me, still I never doubted that he loved me. I knew there was a reason he didn’t come and I thought I knew that reason. I was sure he blamed himself for the bashing, and when I got well enough to go after him, I was proved right.
When I was going insane at my mom’s, Brian rescued me again, and took me to live with him. He helped me find my memories, or some of them anyway. When I almost lost art school, Brian bought me an amazingly expensive computer, so that I could find my will to draw again. When I left Brian after the zucchini guy, he asked me to come back. Still he didn’t say, ‘I love you,’ but when he said he wanted to come home to me every night, I knew that was what he meant.
In all this time, almost two years of being in love with Brian Kinney and knowing that he loved me too, I never had a doubt.
I cannot believe what I did.
I can’t even blame the drugs, the alcohol, the anger I felt when my loft was being, as I thought of it, trashed.
I did it because I wanted to hurt them.
When I saw them asleep on my bed, that was the final insult. All week they’d been excluding me, lost in their world of creation, spending hour after hour playing with comic book heroes instead of being with me. They didn’t miss me. They didn’t need me.
For Christ’s sake, Justin fell asleep while I was kissing him. I couldn’t fucking believe it. And next morning he didn’t even remember. I know that’s what set off my drinking binge. He didn’t even remember.
I told myself it was okay. And I tried to act like it was okay. But when I came home late and found my loft strewn from one end to the other with scraps of paper, and Justin and Michael hunched over the computer sucked inside their silly comic-land, I almost lost it. I wish I had lost it then, instead of keeping my anger inside. Except I didn’t know how much anger there was.
They promised to meet me at Babylon. I stayed till almost two, then I picked up a couple tricks to bring home with me. A surprise for Justin.
To punish him, really.
Yes. Maybe yes.
I don’t know why I brought them home. Maybe I wanted to fuck somebody who wouldn’t fall asleep. That’s not so terrible, is it?
And then I saw them. Justin and Michael. Asleep on my bed, their bodies touching, Michael’s hand on Justin’s hip. Shit.
I sent the tricks packing. I slammed the door but Justin and Michael didn’t wake up. When I turned from the door to see if they were awake, I slipped on a pile of drawings and almost fell down. That did it. I kicked the drawings. I ripped and tore and kicked and smashed and pulled down and crumpled the comic pages. It wasn’t enough, that wasn’t enough. So I pulled out my dick and I pissed on them.
Exiting the loft, I felt high on revenge, I slammed the door extra hard when I went out and I never even locked it. My revenge-high lasted almost long enough to reach the bottom of the stairs. Then it crashed in on me what I had done. I wanted to go – somewhere. Get in the jeep and start driving and maybe never stop. But I didn’t. I went to the diner, and I started drinking coffee.
To Justin, I want to lie and say, I knew all his work was safe on the computer. But I can’t lie. It never even occurred to me, not till later. And what does that make me, but the biggest shit in the universe? All those hours and hours of work, even harder for Justin with his weak hand, and I pissed all over it.
What’s funny is this: In the back of my mind I heard a voice, my mother’s voice. The voice said, ‘You’re just like your father. You’re just like your father. You’rejustlikeyourfather.’ Over and over. It made me so fucking angry. It’s not true. It’s not.
When I stared into my coffee cup, I could see him. See him lurching in a drunken rage through the front door, the door slamming back against the wall with a loud bang. I always jumped, no matter how many times I heard that door slam, I always jumped. And waited to see who’d be the first one he came after. Usually me. Sometimes it was Mom; sometimes it was Clare, when we were little kids. But as we got older, he focused on me. Till I got big enough to stand up to him.
I was still drinking coffee when Debbie showed up for her breakfast shift. She gave me a smiling hello but she was quick to read my face, and after that she left me alone, except to keep refilling my coffee cup.
Of course I knew they’d find me there. I wanted them to find me and get it over with. Whatever ‘it’ turned out to be. I didn’t fight back. What was there to say? They left in a fury and then Debbie took over. When she shoved the piss-soaked drawing in my face, suddenly I realized that it was me. The comic hero was me.
Oh, I knew they were using bits of me, somewhere in the corners of my mind I knew it, but I didn’t know that I knew it. They excluded me from their conversations so I made sure not to listen. They were so excited, they were so enthusiastic, they were having such a fucking good time, I made sure I didn’t listen to them.
When I stared at the drawing of their comic hero Debbie shoved under my nose, I saw that it was me. The hero was me. In spandex with impossible muscles and a face as grim as death. All comic heroes are grim, I remember from way back, all those hours spent in Mikey’s room while we read his Captain Astros over and over. Superman was grim, Batman was grim.
The Brian Kinney comic hero was grimmer than all the rest. And why not? Grim is definitely me.
Finally I went home. I hoped they would not be there, I wasn’t ready to face them, but I was dead tired, I hadn’t slept all night and I needed a shower; finally, there was no place else to go. When I slid back the door and glanced quickly inside, I breathed a sight of relief. They weren’t there, and they’d left the place in the exact fucking mess I had made of it. Seeing it in daylight, sober, was incredible. This is what they saw when they woke up; this is what they knew I did to their work. Christ.
I took a piss – in the toilet this time. I had a long hot shower, keeping my mind as blank as possible. I toweled off and headed for the bed, pulled back the duvet and slipped between the cool sheets. But I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop seeing their faces. Justin and Michael, glaring at me in the diner.
Michael would forgive me. He always had, he always would.
But would Justin?
After ten, fifteen minutes, I gave up and got out of bed, pulled on jeans and a tee and went to the kitchen for a beer. Walking through the piles of crumpled papers, I glanced at the computer, it was still turned on. I paused and studied the image on the screen. It was their hero, jumping off a tall building. It was then I realized that all of Justin’s art was stored in the computer. What I’d destroyed could be re-created. When he got home, I could offer to help him.
If he came home.
Of course he’d come home. Even if he hated me now, he’d have to come home, he lives here. I hope he still lives here.
I grabbed a mop from the closet and a bottle of cleanser and mopped up the floor where it was still damp from my piss. I gathered up all the torn and crumpled drawings and put them in a pile on the counter. Then I sat down at the computer and figured out the title and numbering code Justin had created, and started reading the comics on screen, from Issue One, Number One.
Jesus. They were good, they were really good. Justin’s artistic ability should not still amaze me but it does. Comics are so different from the art he usually creates, yet he’d already mastered the techniques in the week or so he and Michael had been working on their comics. And the story, the writing. . .not only was it good, but it was so fucking personal. Their hero, Rage, rescues a boy named JT who’s been gay-bashed. Jesus.
How can they write about that? Justin never even talks about it any more. He used to try and talk about it but I always shushed him up. It was better not to think about it, not to talk about it. Then he could forget. Then maybe I could forget. When I explained that, he always agreed. Or anyway, he stopped talking. I thought he agreed.
Now here it was in black and white. I guess they add the color later, I’m not clear about the process. But here was Justin’s story in black and white, and it was fucking painful. Yet so real, so immediate. I knew for sure that fags would latch onto this comic, onto this hero, would love to read stories about gay boys in trouble and a superhero committed to rescuing them. With the right marketing campaign – on the internet – Rage could be a huge success.
Maybe I could print out all the pages I’d destroyed and put them back in order, before Justin came home. I checked the printer and discovered it was almost out of paper. I set it up and started it running, and left it popping out comic-covered sheets as I rushed to pull on my boots, grab my keys, and hurry out of the loft, racing to Office Depot to buy more photo paper and ink cartridges.
When Michael and I entered the loft, we were totally amazed. Brian had printed out and put in order all the pages he’d destroyed the night before. I never would have expected Brian to do that, yet it was not enough. It was big, but it was not enough. Luckily Michael felt the same way and we insisted that Brian apologize. Not only apologize, but mean it. And believe it or not, Brian did.
Michael forgives so easily. He’s had a lifetime of practice making excuses for Brian. I want to forgive him. I went along with Michael and accepted Brian’s apology. Later, when Brian was in the bathroom, Michael whispered to me that it was like the world’s most amazing miracle, for Brian to apologize for anything. And I know, I know in theory how hard it is for Brian, but fuck, why should it be hard to apologize for the shit he pulled? For ruining so many hours of our hard work?
And it’s more than that. For me, it is. Because Brian didn’t just destroy my drawings in a fit of jealousy. He pissed on them. He pissed on my art.
Nobody has ever been as supportive of my art as Brian has been. Not even Mom. If it weren’t for Brian trying to influence me, I might be at Dartmouth right now, majoring in business. If it weren’t for Brian buying me the computer, I might not have picked up a pen again. I never doubted that Brian believed in me, believed in and valued and respected my art. But now he has pissed on it, and I can’t forget that image. I can’t erase that image from my mind, even while my heart is struggling to forgive him.
Finally this awful day is almost over and we can go to bed soon. Eventually Michael figured out it was dinner time and left. I offered to call for take-out but he was supposed to meet Ben, they’re going to the new Thai place on Bullock Street. I hope Ben falls on a chopstick and pokes his eye out. Justin walked Michael to the door and gave him a hug when he left. They’re buddies now. I should be glad about that. I really should.
Justin said he wasn’t hungry, he just wanted some soup, so I offered to fix it for him. He gave me a surprised look that he turned into a smile. “You’ll burn it,” he said with a laugh, entering the kitchen and pulling a carton of butternut squash soup from the refrigerator. I got bowls from the cupboard, feeling a kind of awkward distance between us. I thought he’d forgiven me, but maybe not.
Would I forgive him, if he’d done what I did?
No. I’d have kicked him out of the loft. I’d done it before, for a lesser offense. When my place got robbed, I kicked him out on his ass and I didn’t care that he had no place to go. That’s not exactly true. I cared, but I didn’t care until the next day. Anger stays massed up inside me and doesn’t know how to drain out. Maybe Justin’s anger hasn’t drained out yet. Maybe it never will.
Justin poured soup into a pan and turned on the stove. He doesn’t like soup to be nuked, it has to simmer on the stove for a few minutes. One of his rules. I pulled a box of wheat crackers from the shelf, Justin only likes whole-wheat. He has a lot of rules about food. Lately we’ve been eating at the counter, since the table holds his computer and school books. And now it’s also covered with comic pages. Every inch of my loft is covered with comic pages, in fact I had to move a few piles from the counter to make room for our soup bowls.
While I’m heating soup for our dinner, I can feel Brian kind of hovering around me. Somehow we have to get past this, put it behind us. I want to. I want to let go of these bad feelings, but I don’t know how. Well, I’d better figure it out, because Brian’s no help. If I can’t figure out a way to close this gap soon, he’ll pull further away. I know him. I’ve been on to him for ages.
As I pour the soup into bowls, Brian turns on the CD player, puts on some light jazz with the volume turned low. It’s nice; soothing.
“Good idea,” I say, as we pull up our stools to the counter. “Now we won’t have to listen to each other slurp.”
“But I like to hear you slurp.”
I elbow him and laugh. “I meant the soup.”
Brian leans his forehead against mine and whispers, “Slurp me, baby.” We laugh softly and I feel my shoulders relax slightly.
“I love this soup.”
“The gazpacho’s better,” he insists, and I shiver.
“Ugh! No cold soup.”
“Another food rule?” Brian raises his eyebrows.
“Then I’ll keep my cupboard stocked with butternut soup.” He looks at me and suddenly I have to look away. Now I know what’s wrong, what’s bothering me. “What?” he asks.
“Nothing.” I sip another spoonful of soup, bite off half a cracker.
Brian lays down his spoon, takes the spoon from my hand and grabs my shoulder, turns me to face him. “What?”
I swallow cracker crumbs, take a deep breath and look him in the eye. “Your cupboard. Your floor. Your bed. Your loft.”
He doesn’t get it.
“I thought this was my home too,” I explain, my voice wavering slightly, I can’t help it. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”
“It is. Of course it is your home.”
We stare at each other and I shake my head.
“I don’t pay for anything, so it’s not mine. Everything is ‘yours.’
“Bullshit.” He’s going to get defensive now, big surprise. “I never said that.”
“You say it all the time, Brian. No wonder you got so mad at me and Michael. We messed up ‘your place.’” I slip down off the stool and turn away; my appetite is gone. I get halfway across the loft before he grabs me from behind and whirls me around.
“Justin!” he’s staring at me intensely, I can hardly meet his gaze because of the lump in my throat, choking me.
“Justin,” he says again, “I – just because I say ‘my loft,’ that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve been saying ‘my loft’ for six fucking years, it’s only words, it’s only. . .” His voice trails off and he looks away, then I see his shoulders slump. “I’m sorry,” he whispers, turning back to look in my eyes, to lean his forehead against mine. “Of course this is your home.”
“It’s your home,” I tell him, and I realize that, for Justin, it has to be true. He has no other home, not really. His home is with me. I never meant him to feel. . .however it is he’s feeling. I put my arms around his shoulders and he relaxes against me. I touch his mouth with my lips and he slips his tongue into my mouth, his breath warm and tasting of squash and rootbeer and desire. I feel his hands slip under my shirt and I let him pull it up and off, over my head. Then we do our three legged undressing kissing step-climbing rush to the bedroom, finish pulling off our clothes and fall onto the bed. There’s a stack of comic books beneath my hip and I push them away – but gently. Gently.
Make-up sex is the best, they say. Well, that’s what Emmett says. And it is good, it’s great, it’s wonderful. Brian and I are both relaxed, wonderfully exhausted and sweaty, and he’s asleep about ten seconds after he comes. I don’t think he slept at all last night. I pull the duvet over him, over both of us. He’s sprawled out on his back, and I move in close, stretch out beside him, my arm thrown over his chest. I love the feel of the rise and fall of his chest as he sleeps. Soon he’ll start snoring, he always snores a little when he sleeps on his back. I don’t mind.
The bad part is over, now we can move on. Sometime tonight I forgave him. I felt myself letting go of my anger. Once and for all. Or anyway, I hope so. I don’t want to feel any doubt, but it’s hard not to. People can change, and Brian has changed a lot this year. Maybe now things will keep getting better and better.
Next week is my birthday. I can't help but think that Brian's planning something. Michael's having a surprise party for Ben - we have the same birthday, Ben and I, which is so amazing and kind of cool. And I have no doubt that Brian is planning something special for me, too. I can hardly wait!