"Now why don't you come and fuck me, before I pass out?"
Stunned into silence, I sit there frozen at the new computer terminal, watching Justin stomp off into the bedroom. I see through the mini-blinds that he smacks his arm against the tall chest and hear him mutter a curse, before ripping back the duvet and throwing himself down on the bed.
I've known that he's been worried about school and upset at the problems with his hand. But I had no idea he was so angry. Incredibly angry, furiously angry, fucking angry. Angry at ME.
No, not angry at me. Angry at the world, angry at life, at the unfairness, at the pain. I just happen to be here, to take it out on. That's okay. It's not about me.
Or maybe it is. When I asked, "Aren't you even going to give it a try?" he erupted into rage.
"What for?" he demanded. "To make YOU happy? So you can tell yourself you fixed little Justin's problems and made them all better?"
When I accepted responsibility for Justin, when I agreed to Jennifer's request to let Justin come stay with me a while, I was glad to. I wanted to. No matter that Justin wasn't blaming me for the attack, I blame myself. Maybe Hobbes would have attacked him that night anyway. But it's likely that my showing up at the prom and dancing with Justin pushed that bastard over the edge. And I couldn't stop him.
No matter that Justin doesn't blame me. No matter that Jennifer does blame me. What matters is that I blame myself, so I do feel responsible for helping him now. Is Justin reading something into that? Is Justin thinking, that's the only reason he's here with me?
Well, it is, isn't it? Isn't it?
Fucking no. I want him here with me. I want him with me.
I don't join Justin in bed right away, I leave him alone to fall asleep, or pass out. I turn off the computer, pick up his scattered clothes that he threw all over the place, stack them in a pile on the sofa. Then I tear off a wad of paper towels and clean up the water Justin splashed all over the kitchen counters and floor when he poured a bottle of water over his head.
He laughed, and I laughed with him, but uneasily. I knew he was making a joking reference to our first time together, and I think back now to the way I showed myself off to him that night. He was so innocent, so scared. I enjoyed teasing him, making him want me, making him come to me. That was not an accident. I didn't put the moves on him, I made him come to me. The thrill of power was exhilarating. I've done it so many times and I've never gotten tired of it. Making them want me, all the pretty boys, all the beautiful men.
The thing is, I've never wanted them back. Not the same way. I've wanted to fuck them, usually once, sometimes a few times. But I've never wanted anybody to stick around, I've never wanted to get to know them, to care about them. Or anyway, not since. . . No. Not ever. Not till now.
When I picked Justin up from Jennifer's condo and brought him here to stay, he asked why I was doing it. I didn't answer. He joked that it was because I loved him - 'madly, deeply,' he said. I didn't answer; I couldn't. Or wouldn't. Justin has seemed to realize that I care about him though. At least I thought he did.
We started off walking the streets together, holding hands, letting him get adjusted to being around other people. He made rapid progress, he really pushes himself to do things, hard things, scary things. Soon he was walking alone. We started making short visits to the munchers, to Deb's, and finally to Woody's.
The Pride Parade was a real test for Justin, and I knew he was ready for it. Or he was till he ran into that son of a bitch at the hospice. What kind of sick fuck assigns a gay basher to community service at an AIDS hospice? Even so, with a little push from me, Justin agreed to go to the parade and he even had the guts to join his mom in the PFLAG contingent. I was so proud of him for that. I didn't tell him I was proud. I wonder why?
So he's been getting gradually better, stronger, more confident. He's working at the diner again - not a full shift, and always under Debbie's watchful eyes - she promised me that. I knew he was excited about school, but I was afraid he wasn't ready. I tried to get him to wait, but Justin is not good at waiting, he goes full-tilt into everything. All or nothing, that kid. More balls than brains, as Pop would say.
I cannot possibly be quoting my dad. I bark a laugh, then glance quickly at the huddled form in my bed. He's asleep. I tiptoe up the bedroom steps and quietly undress, then slip into bed beside him. I wait for a minute, holding my breath, but he doesn't wake up. Gradually I slide over, inch by inch, till I'm lying up against his back, slowly I slide an arm around him in a loose hug. I feel him sigh, I feel the taut muscles of his body letting go, relaxing back against my chest. Awake, in his anger, he might have pushed me away. Asleep, his body knows where it belongs.
Justin's dreaming, his body twitches, he mumbles incoherent words from time to time. I know he's struggling with decisions about school but he's not ready to talk about it. I tried, but I was ready to back off and he clearly told me to back off. I can't make his decisions for him, I don't want to and he doesn't want me to. He'll work it out. But meanwhile, he's agonizing, and all I can do is hold on to him.
Michael thinks I should interfere. He was shocked and upset the other night at Babylon when Justin grabbed a guy and pulled him off to dance. It bothered me too, but not the same way. I know what Justin's doing. I told Michael it's 'pain management,' and who would recognize that better than me? I don't like it, I don't fucking like it, but Michael wanted me to pull Justin off the dance floor, drag his ass home. I had no right to do that. Mikey doesn't get it. Michael couldn't tolerate an open relationship with David, so he doesn't understand that two men can give each other space the way Justin and I do.
Justin returned to the loft very late that night, and turned to me for holding onto in bed. We didn't fuck that night, and we didn't talk about Babylon or Justin's tricking. Then today he called me at work and said he was spending the evening with Daphne, and I was glad he was not home so that I could set up the new computer and have it ready when he came in. It really killed me that Justin repudiated my gesture so harshly. But the fact that I was so upset at Justin's reaction probably confirmed some of what he blurted out at me. Maybe he was right after all; maybe I was congratulating myself on solving all his problems by buying him an expensive toy.
The thing is, I think Justin really could use this computer program. But that's not my decision, I can only offer it to him. I'm going to leave it there in the living room, set up and ready. Maybe he'll try it later. But I won't push him. I don't have the right.
Next morning, we don't talk about it. We don't talk at all in fact - he stays in bed, incommunicado. I finish my shower and start to get dressed; I can tell he's awake, but he's not budging, the duvet is pulled up over his head. I'm ready to leave, and he still hasn't moved. I'm tempted to rip off the covers, pull him into my arms, kiss him and kiss him until he kisses me back. But I don't; instead I decide to keep giving him space.
Still, I can't leave him like this, untouched. Finally I sit down on the edge of the bed, slide my hand under the covers till I encounter his silky soft hair, slip my hand down to encircle the back of his neck. I squeeze gently and say, "See you later." He doesn't immediately answer, but finally I feel his head nod. I stand up and walk away, then wait by the door for a moment but there's still no movement from the bedroom. I reset the alarm and lock the door behind me.
I've got an early appointment this morning, and a full schedule of meetings all day. So I do what I've done all my life in order to be brilliant at work: I put Justin, and everything else important in my life, into a separate compartment and close the door.
Justin always calls me during the day, at least once, usually several times, but when I haven't heard from him by two o'clock, I try his cell. It's turned off. No answer at the loft. Swallowing my pride, I call Deb at the diner. He's not scheduled to work today and she hasn't seen him. I thought he’d be home, maybe still in bed, maybe cooking dinner, but the loft is empty when I get home from work. I spend some time on my computer, cruising the Pittsburgh M4M chatroom, just to keep my hand in, then give up and make myself a sandwich. Still no Justin. Well fuck, I’m not sitting around here waiting. So I shower and change and head to Babylon.
Ted's holding up the bar as usual; I see Emmett dancing with some tall guy in a cowboy hat. Hmmm, not bad. Mikey arrives, still crabby about his comix store closing. I have a couple bumps but I hardly feel them. I'm scanning the crowd, looking for tricks. That's a lie, I'm looking for Justin. Then suddenly he's standing in front of me, and we kiss.
Justin asks me for a bump and reluctantly I give it to him. Better he gets drugs from me than from strangers, and in this mood he's in, I don't trust his judgment. I’ve warned him that he shouldn’t be doing any shit whatsoever, he’s still on medication. But who am I to lecture him, I can’t say anything, especially in front of the guys, especially when things are not right between Justin and me. I drag him onto the dance floor but I can't hold onto him, he's flushed, his eyes are wild, he's jumping around like he's tweaked, though I don't think he is.
Suddenly he snakes his arms around my neck and pulls down my head for a kiss. "Take me to the backroom and fuck me," he demands breathlessly.
"Let's go home and fuck," I counter, "It's more comfortable. And cleaner."
Justin laughs but shakes his head. "I don't want to go home, I want to party! Let's go in the back."
"No." I feel my face stiffen, I can tell I'm looking sour with annoyance and disapproval, like some old fart. Like Ted.
"Okay," Justin agrees, laughing and sticking out his tongue. "I'll find somebody else!" And he twists away and dances madly through the crowd. I can only stand there watching.
Let him go, I tell myself. He's a man. He doesn't belong to me, and I have no right to tell him what to do. But I have to turn around and walk away; I can't watch any more. I join Ted at the bar, order a shot of Absolut and toss it down. Is this my future? Holding up the bar next to Ted, drinking shots, watching Justin do every trick in Babylon?
The fuck. I slam the glass down on the counter and scan the crowd for a looker. I see Cowboy Hat, he's alone, no sign of Emmett. I make my way over, grab his arm, whisper in his ear. He smiles broadly and slips his arms around my waist. We dance for a while, or rather we grind our dicks together till they're hard, then he whispers, "Let's go?" I follow him toward the stairs to the backroom but I can feel my dick drooping at the thought of finding Justin there.
Midway down the stairs I stop abruptly, then tell the trick I've changed my mind - he's pissed of course. I hurry back up the stairs and fight my way through the crowd toward the exit, get my jacket and explode out the door of the club. I pull out my cigarettes and try to light up; my hands are shaking. Fuck this. I climb into the jeep and slam the door, rev the engine and burst out onto Liberty Avenue. I turn the radio up as loud as I can and think about nothing, nothing at all, just concentrate on driving home, trying to avoid killing any pedestrians who get the fuck in my way.
At the loft, I take a shower. It's not even midnight, but I throw myself down on the bed and will myself to sleep. A few hours later I wake up, hearing the loft door open and close, but I keep my eyes tight shut. I can hear Justin making his way through the darkened loft, he doesn't turn on any lights. Then he's beside the bed, pulling off his clothes. He slides into bed and slips over close to me. I feel his warmth, I smell his sweat, and when he touches my back, I turn over, and he slides his arms around my neck and presses his body against mine. "Don't be mad," he whispers.
"I'm not," I lie, tightening my grip. I kiss his hair. "But it's late, get some sleep." He nods, he's almost asleep already, and I feel his body relax against me. But I lay awake for hours, holding him close, my face in his hair, breathing in his scent.
Michael calls me mid-afternoon, he’s quit his job and asks me to come over. I’m able to clear my calendar and leave early. Deb arrives before we get a chance to talk, and it turns out Mikey’s auctioning his Captain Astro comic on Ebay. He’s decided to buy Buzzy’s Comix shop. At first I’m skeptical, but then I can see it, I can see Michael, owner of his own place.
Deb and I mix it up, what else is new, but she shuts up when I help jack up the price of the comic, and he sells it for twice what I paid last year. We go to Woody’s to celebrate, and stay there drinking till pretty late. I try twice to reach Justin on his cell with no luck. I hope to Christ he’s being careful.
Justin’s already in bed when I get home, but he’s not asleep, and when I get in beside him, he slides over to snuggle himself in my arms. We kiss, and I start to caress his cock, I start to go down on him but he stops me. “Too tired,” he whispers. I doubt that, but I stop anyway. We haven’t fucked for days and my cock aches for him. But he’s not ready, so I just pull him close in my arms and I settle my chin on top of his silky hair, his head is bent and resting on my chest; and I hold on tight as he falls asleep.
Deb never calls me at work, so when Cynthia announces that Deb is calling from the diner, I start to panic. But Deb just wants to chew on my ass for a while, demanding why the fuck I'm not helping Justin deal with his anger. Seems he went off on her at work today; had an accident with a coffee pot and went to pieces. Then I give it right back to Deb, chewing on her for a while, demanding why the fuck she's letting him handle hot coffee pots. When we hang up we both probably feel a lot better after tearing each other new assholes.
I don't expect to find Justin at the loft after work, but he's there, curled up in a chair and staring at a painting he has propped up on the couch. I walk over and stand behind his chair. "Hey."
"Hey," he returns, half-heartedly.
"Where'd you get that?" I ask, loosening my tie and pulling it off. He tells me a friend of Lindsay gave it to him. I can tell he doesn't want to talk; he's looking very tired and very sad. He seems less angry, but I can't be sure, and I won't ask. When he wants to talk to me, he'll talk.
I stare at the painting, which I can tell is a good one though I don't like it much. "You can hang it over there, if you want," I say, keeping my voice non-committal, pointing at the wall behind the lounge chair. "I'm tired of looking at those pictures anyway."
As I remove my jacket, I ask, "Going out tonight?" He shakes his head no. "Me either. I've got a report to proof. Work's been a bitch the past few days, I can use an early night." He says nothing, so I leave him alone, finish undressing and pull on jeans and a tank top. In the refrigerator I find a couple Chinese take-out cartons, open them and sniff. They seem all right. "You hungry?" I call out to Justin.
"Huh?" He glances over his shoulder at me, then shakes his head. "No, thanks."
I dump the noodles and rice onto a plate and nuke it a couple minutes, open a beer, and carry the food to my computer desk. For a couple hours I work on the Stanley report, proofreading and making some edits. When I log off, Justin still hasn't moved. I think he has fallen asleep, but after rinsing my plate and putting it in the dishwasher, I sneak a look at him as I go up the stairs toward the bathroom. He's still staring at the painting. Shrugging, I decide to take a shower.
Showers at night are so relaxing. Morning showers alone are usually rushed; morning showers shared with Justin turn into very wet and messy mutual blow-job sessions; evening showers are usually solitary and a way to wind down after a hard day. I stay in long enough to use up all the hot water, then come out and dry off, wrap a towel around my hips. Justin's still sitting there. I want to talk to him, but I sense he needs this silence. I'm still a little hungry after my dinner of left-overs, so I choose a perfect green apple from a bowl on the tall chest, and pull my switchblade from the drawer. Sliding down on the bed, I'm feeling very relaxed and getting a bit sleepy. The apple is crisp and juicy, tart and not too sweet, just the way I like them.
Movement catches my eye, and I notice that Justin has stood up. He's walking over to the new computer. Quickly I look away, concentrate on cutting another wedge of apple. I hear a clicking noise - he's turned it on. 'Don't look at him!' I warn myself; somehow I sense that I should remain oblivious of what Justin's doing. So I slow down the eating of my apple, dragging it out as long as possible. I have a feeling he is drawing me. Almost I'm holding my breath, afraid to interrupt. Finally I finish the apple, and sleep has nearly overtaken me. I manage to close my knife and drop it over the side of the bed, then I feel my heavy eyelids closing.
Sometime later, I don't know how long, I awake to find Justin rolling me over, pulling off the still-damp towel bunched under my hips. He's naked, and he slides into bed next to me, pulling the duvet over us. "Mmm," I mumble, reaching for him, and he snuggles up against me.
"Go back to sleep," Justin whispers.
I wake up enough to ask, "You okay?"
I feel Justin's head nodding yes. His body feels different in my arms, more relaxed, calmer than he's been in days. A moment passes and I'm almost asleep again when I hear Justin whisper, "Brian?"
I hold him tighter in my arms. "Welcome," I mumble against his silky hair. I think he's going to be all right.
|Photo Copyright SHOWTIME 2002
QUEER AS FOLK - Episode 2-05