Part 2: Three Forevers
I kept my word to Justin, saying nothing to Michael about the birthday party, but I dropped by to see Vic one night when I knew Deb had a shift at the diner. I took a six-pack of his favorite beer and found him watching an old Bette Davis movie on tv. We sat in silence, in Vic's case reverent silence, till the movie ended, sipping beer and munching fat-free pretzels. Normally I don't eat carbs at night but I ate a couple to keep Vic company. During a commercial break, I kidded him about the pretzels, which are called ''rods" and are long and thick. He said they were as close to sucking dick as he'd been for a very long time. We laughed but I knew it was true, and it made me sad for him.
After Bette finally died, I tactfully ignored the tears Vic wiped surreptitiously away by going to take a piss and when I came back, the tv was off and he was ready for conversation. Of course he knew I had a purpose in being there, for a long time I haven't dropped by like I used to do sometimes, when I'd get him talking about his happy days in New York. He was pretty wild back then, and Mikey and I used to love hearing his slightly risque stories when we were teenagers. Of course then he used to clean them up, but now he cuts loose, and it's great to get him talking - his face changes, seems to grow younger; the wrinkles almost disappear and his eyes twinkle when he shares some juicy tidbit of his youth. I made a mental note to come and visit Vic more often, he doesn't go out very much and I'll bet he gets fucking lonely.
"Well, Brian," he greeted my return from the bathroom, opening his second bottle of beer and taking a swig, "I don't think you've come by just to shoot the breeze. What's on your mind?"
Luckily Vic does not expect me to be polite, so I didn't deny it. "I saw Justin a couple days ago."
Vic nodded, losing his smile, his eyes seeming to zoom in on me suddenly. "Something happen between you?"
"No. No, I didn't mean - I just meant, I saw him, talked to him. About Deb's party."
"Ah," Vic settled back into his chair, raised a leg and rested his foot on the coffee table. "Is he coming?"
"He wants to." I took another beer from the six-pack on the floor. "But he's probably bringing his - " and at that I stopped. "He's probably bringing Ethan. But he's afraid some people might be. . . 'uncomfortable' was the word he used."
Shaking his head, Vic replied, "Brian, did it occur to you that it was YOU he was worried about?"
"Yeah. Yes, of course. I told him I was okay." Which is not strictly true, but close enough. "But I think he's also worried about Michael. That Mikey might say something, or do something. I don't know."
"You could talk to Michael," Vic suggested.
"I promised I wouldn't." Then I laughed. "Christ, people are so fucking complicated." Vic just smiled. "Justin asked me not to. I thought maybe you could do it?"
Taking another swig of beer, Vic said, "Deb and I already discussed this, actually. She was afraid if she invited Justin and his - friend, that you wouldn't come. She wasn't worried about Michael, but it seems like you are?"
"Justin says they're barely speaking, just enough to work together. I think he's afraid if he shows up at the party with Ethan, Mikey might go off on him." I paused, then hurried on, "Justin didn't say that, exactly."
"But you think he might?"
"Yeah, it's a possibility. Yeah. Michael's very proprietary about his family and friends. Justin's never really been his friend."
"Why didn't you get Deb to speak to Michael?"
"You have to ask?" I laughed, and Vic laughed along with me.
"Yeah, don't send a Marine to be a school crossing guard."
We heard Deb's car in the driveway, and Vic jumped up, grabbing the rest of the six-pack and shoving it in the back of the hallway closet. He's not supposed to drink much with all the meds he takes though a beer or two is okay, but I'm sure he prefers keeping Deb off his back by hiding the beer. I took our empties and buried them deep in the kitchen garbage can, then we sat innocently sipping a single beer each, and Vic was suggestively licking a pretzel rod when Deb came in the door.
"Hey, kiddo, what're you doing here?" Deb greeted me, dropping her totebag in the hall and pulling off her jacket as she came into the living room. "Something wrong?"
"Does something have to be wrong for me to visit Vic?" I gave it an edge.
"Nope," she flicked it right back at me, even edgier, "I'm glad you realize that."
"Now, Deb," Vic tried to deflect her, "Don't get your titties in a twist. Brian was just here for dinner a couple weeks ago. Besides, you start nagging my visitors and they'll never come see me."
"Hmm," Deb responded, patting Vic's head and tugging his ear affectionately. "You boys hungry? I've got leftover lasagna from the diner, it was good today."
"Save it for breakfast," Vic joked her, and I used that as my cue to stand up, pull my jacket from the back of the sofa.
"I've got a project to finish tonight, I've got to get home."
Deb was at the fridge and turned around to demand, "You coming to my party Saturday?"
"Yes. Probably." I zipped up my jacket and moved toward the door, but Deb headed me off and grabbed my arm.
"No 'probably.' You be there, or else. Got it?"
I bent down and kissed Deb's cheek. "Got it." I waved at Vic and he raised a hand in salute, then I was out the door. I really did have a project due the next day, but my cock was demanding a detour, so we headed cross town to a bar called Sure Thing, where I could get a quick blowjob and be on my way home in the shortest possible time.
Ethan didn’t want to go to the party, he didn’t even want me to go. He doesn’t understand that all these people are my family, he thinks only blood relations are family. Finally I was tired of arguing and told him I was going and he was welcome to come with me and left it at that. In the end he came along, but later I was sorry I'd strong-armed him.
Debbie's PFLAG group hosted the party an the GLC, in the same room where the art show had been held. The ladies had gone a little crazy, decorating the place with every rainbow-colored thing they could find and blaring Seventies disco music as loud as any night at Babylon. We got there a little early, just after eight; I wanted to get the introductions over with and blend into the background before anybody got there fashionably late. Brian had told me he was okay with Ethan coming, but it worried me a little.
Of course Debbie greeted Ethan warmly, and Lindsay and Melanie welcomed Ethan like an old friend, they'd had us over for dinner once. Even Michael was okay; his greeting was chilly and stilted, so unlike the way Michael used to be with me before I left Brian. You'd think he'd be glad I was out of the picture, I know he's still in love with Brian even though he tries to cover it up; I wonder if Ben knows? He'd have to be blind not to guess. But all along Michael has been acting like an outraged lover, like it was him I cheated on, so I was not surprised that he didn't welcome Ethan with open arms. I wish Mom could have been at the party - she had to go to Altoona to visit my grandmother who was recovering from a mini-stroke.
After the ordeal of meeting people was over with, Ethan and I concentrated on the refreshment table. Vic found us there and he laughed and said we were eating like starved puppies. There was a ton of food and we nibbled on all kinds of delicious things for what seemed like an hour. Ethan wanted to dance - we'd never danced together before - but somehow I didn't want to be in Ethan's arms when Brian finally appeared. But when it seemed like he wasn't coming after all, I finally gave in and moved with Ethan onto the dance floor. Naturally it was then that Brian showed up.
Not that I was watching the door, it was just a coincidence that I saw him come in. He stopped in the doorway and swept his eyes around the room, and almost immediately he saw us. I wanted to look away but I couldn't. His eyes barely paused before moving on, moving away, moving over our heads, but I felt a squeezing in my chest and I'm surprised I didn't walk all over Ethan's feet. I looked away then, and when I glanced back, I saw that Brian was headed for the bar.
I didn’t mean for it to happen. I meant to go early to Deb’s party and be sober and totally cool and sanguine and then, if for some reason I needed to leave, it would be okay, no big deal. I was all right Saturday morning, I went to the gym as usual, in fact I spent an extra hour working out, getting as exhausted as I possibly could. I got a blow job in the sauna, and I ran a lot of errands, the health store, the cleaners, and kept myself busy till late afternoon. Then I started drinking. I didn’t mean to, I just kept finding myself back at the liquor cart with my empty glass. I couldn’t seem to settle down at the computer, couldn’t concentrate on work, so in the end I just sat on the sofa, drinking and not thinking, until it was time to get ready for the party.
The party started at eight, I didn’t get there till nine-thirty, and by then I was wasted. I had no trouble driving to the GLC, in fact I don’t even remember driving there, but I parallel-parked on the street and you can’t do that if you’re really drunk, so I figured nobody would notice I’d had a few. The place was packed with Deb’s friends, regulars from the diner, and I saw Debbie dancing with Horvath when I came in. I saw Justin dancing too. That was a jolt I should have anticipated so that I could plan ahead of time how to feel about it. I needed a drink, so I headed straight for the bar and ordered a double Stoli.
When I felt an arm go around my waist I braced myself, but it was only Lindsay. I pretty much kept my back to the room for a while, drinking steadily, wondering how I'd ever been stupid enough to think I was okay with this. Almost everybody came by the bar to say hello to me, even Deb. I knew I should seek her out, wish her happy birthday, but I really needed to hang onto the bar by then, I was feeling a little unsteady. Eventually I had to take a piss, and very carefully I walked out the door, hanging a left, congratulating myself for remembering the location of the men's room.
Justin and Ethan were just coming out that door as I approached. Ethan had his arm around Justin's shoulders. We all kind of paused, and Ethan dropped his arm, as if he felt guilty.
"Brian, hey," Justin said, not smiling.
"Hey, hey, hey," I replied jovially, trying to sidestep them and get into the men's room before I pissed all over the floor. But my feet got tangled up; I can do straight lines when I'm wasted, it's the sideways moves that are tricky. I kind of leaned a bit too far to the left and shot out my arm to grab the wall and steady myself.
"Brian, are you okay?" I could hear the concern in Justin's voice. "Do you need a hand?"
"Nope," I replied with a grin, "Got two of 'em!" and I waved my hands in the air to prove it.
Justin turned to his loverboy and said, "Go ahead back in, I'm going to help Brian take a piss."
Ethan frowned and I spoke up quickly, "Don't need help to take a piss, but you can hold my dick if you want to." I peered down at my jeans trying to unzip them, but there was no zipper, only buttons, which are very complicated to maneuver when you're drunk.
"Go ahead," Justin urged the not-yet-famous violinist, "I'll deal with him and be right back in, okay?"
I could see Ethan reluctantly nod his head and move off. "Okay, Angel, if you insist."
"Yes, go ahead," Justin answered, giving him a little push. "I'll just be a minute."
I turned to watch the musician walk away, and looked down to find Justin's hand on my arm. "Come on, Brian, the bathroom's this way."
Allowing myself to be pulled along into the men's room, I watched with detached interest as Justin unbuttoned my jeans. "He calls you Angel?"
“Do you wear your go-go boy wings for him?”
"Can you hold your own dick, or not?" he was getting exasperated.
"Hold it for me," I pleaded in a sing-song whiny voice, then burst out laughing. Justin grabbed my hand and directed it toward my cock. That's something I don't need help with, I can find my cock in the dark.
"Cock in the dark," I repeated out loud, it sounded funny, and fed my laughter. Then I decided to spell out 'cock in the dark' on the wall of the urinal. My piss splashed all over, it was really a lot of fun, but Justin wasn't laughing.
Then I heard him say, "Oh thank God, can you help me?" Justin was talking to someone who'd just come in the door; I looked up in the mirror above the urinal and saw Michael framed in the doorway.
"Hey, Mikey," I greeted him with a big smile. "I can find my cock in the dark."
"So can half of Pittsburgh," he replied, making me laugh so hard I tilted sideways and almost fell over into the urinal, but Justin grabbed me and Michael rushed forward to help him.
"Time to go home," Michael informed me.
"For you it is," he answered.
With Justin on one side of me and Michael on the other, I was marched outside and somehow they got me down the stairs and up the street to where my jeep was parked. Justin fished the keys from my pocket and unlocked the door, and they managed to push-pull me into the passenger seat. “I can drive,” I insisted, but they ignored me.
“I’ll drive him home,” Michael piped up, reaching for the keys.
“No, I’ll take care of him,” Justin insisted.
“What about your boyfriend waiting for you, huh?”
Justin snapped back, “What about yours?”
They were fighting over me. I laughed and turned sideways in the seat, almost falling out. Both of them shot out their arms to keep me from toppling over. “Eenie meenie miney moe, you’re the one I want to go – home with me,” I pointed at Justin, then chuckled at my hilarious rhyme.
“He wants me to take him home,” Justin insisted.
“Fuck you,” Michael growled at him, then glared at me, “And fuck you, too.”
“Bye, Mikey,” I tried to raise my arm to wave as he stomped off, but my arm kind of hovered midair and I watched it just hang there, fascinated by the way my arm was defying gravity, till Justin grabbed it and shoved it into the car next to me, then he pulled the seatbelt over me and fastened it. I grabbed his head and pulled it into my lap, into my crotch, joking, “As long as you’re in the vicin – vicini – vicinity,” but he pulled away quickly.
“Stop it!” he ordered me, “What are you doing?”
What did he think I was doing? “Nothing.” Then I closed my eyes, only for a moment, but when I opened them, the jeep was pulling into my garage space. Somehow we got inside, I know I leaned heavily on Justin’s shoulder, but the trip from jeep to the side of my bed is a blur. When Justin pulled off my jacket and started unbuttoning my shirt, I lurched forward, grabbing his shoulders.
“I want to fuck you,” I whispered.
“No, Brian.” He pulled off my shirt and threw it on the floor.
“What’s a little fuck between friends?”
“I’m with Ethan now. We’re monogamous.”
Justin pushed me down onto the bed and I fell backwards. He pulled off my boots, unbuttoned my jeans and pulled them off me. Somehow he pushed and pulled until I was lying in bed, and he fumbled with the duvet and pulled it up to my chin. I shot out a hand to grab his arm.
Justin was bending over me smoothing the duvet, but he stopped and asked, “Don’t what?”
Don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me. “Don’t.” All I could do was stare at him, willing him not to go.
“Don’t what, Brian?” When I didn’t answer, he kneeled down beside the bed and gently smoothed a hand over my hair. “Tell me.”
“Go to sleep, Brian. You’ll be okay.”
“No, I won’t.”
We stared at each other, and finally Justin sighed. “I’ll stay with you awhile, okay? But we can’t have sex.”
“No sex,” I agreed, “Get in bed.”
He stayed kneeling on the floor, staring hard at me, and finally I had to close my eyes. “Bed,” I murmured again, and I felt him get on the bed and crawl up to lay behind me. I was almost gone then, but I felt him put his arm around my chest, and I relaxed back against him, his warmth seeping into me, melting some of the ice around my heart, and then I slipped away.
I didn't sleep all night. I desperately needed to play my violin, but the landlord had given me two warnings already, no playing after eleven or before nine. Instead I paced and I cursed and I fumed. By the time Justin knocked on my door about eight the next morning, I was beyond anger. I was livid.
Pulling open the door, I demanded, “What do you want?“
“Ethan, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Justin held out his arms to me but I backed away.
"If you had a phone, I would have called to explain. I had to get Brian home, he was going to drive himself, he could have been killed. I just drove him home and stayed with him a while.”
“No shit.” I crossed my arms and stared at him. His hair was tousled, his face looked messed up somehow. Splotchy. Whisker burn, or tears? I wondered. Or both.
“Ethan, nothing happened. He needed me to stay with him for a while, so I did. He passed out and I just fell asleep. Nothing happened.”
“Bullshit.” Does he think I’m fucking stupid?
“Ethan,” he tried to grab my arm but I pulled away and glared at him. “Ethan, we didn’t make love. We didn’t even have sex. Don’t you trust me?”
“Trust you!” my voice went up an octave. “If you cheat on one boyfriend, you’ll cheat on another.”
Justin’s face went paper white then. I waited for him to yell at me, but he said nothing. He just turned away and slammed out the door.
I knew I’d pushed him too far, but at that moment I didn’t care. What I said was the truth. In a way I’d known it was only a matter of time till Justin screwed around on me, and I wasn’t even surprised that it was with Brian.
Sitting on the side of the bed, holding my head in my hands, I looked up when I heard the door of my loft being roughly pulled open. "Shh," I murmured, the clanging of the metal door echoed inside my aching head. I saw that it was Justin coming in, he was balancing two large paper cups from my coffee kiosk stacked atop each other, and he struggled to close the door one-handed.
"Hey," he greeted me, coming up the steps and handing me a cup. The smell was fantastic, and I peeled off the lid and took a healing sip of the strong brew. He sat beside me on the bed and did the same.
I turned sideways to study him, he looked angry, his brows drawn together, his mouth a hard line. "Everything okay?"
Glancing over the edge of his cup, Justin shook his head. "No. Ethan's pissed at me." When I raised my eyebrows, he went on, "He thinks I slept with you last night."
"Brian, you know what I mean. He thinks we had sex."
"You mean we didn't?"
"It's not funny!" He jumped off the bed and started to pace in the narrow strip of floor beside my bed. "He said - he said, because I cheated on YOU, he knew I was going to cheat on HIM."
There was a certain logic to Ethan's argument, but I refrained from pointing that out to Justin right now. Instead I said, "You didn't exactly cheat on me, we had an open relationship."
"I knew what I was doing, Brian. In my heart I was cheating."
"Just like Jimmy Carter."
"Never mind. But you know, if you're going to be convicted of murder, you might as well kill somebody."
"As long as he believes we fucked, we should have fucked. We still could."
Justin shook his head. "I know you're joking but that's a very twisted philosophy."
"Maybe. Are you going to make up with him now?"
"I don't know." Justin sat down on the bed again and looked at me intently. "Probably. Brian, I like being with him. He TALKS to me."
"Some people like to talk."
"Brian, I'm one of them."
"Well, there you go."
Annoyed, Justin stood up again and started to move away but I grabbed his arm, pulled him back down. "Everything doesn't have to be in words, you know?"
We stared at each other for a long moment, then Justin murmured, "Some things need to be in words."
"Maybe. But think about the loan papers we signed. If you hadn't signed them, you'd still pay me back, wouldn't you?"
"So we didn't really need words for that, did we?"
"Brian." Justin took my hand and held it for a moment, then raised his eyes to mine and repeated solemnly, "Some things need to be in words. For me."
And there it was again, that feeling of being backed into a corner. Justin had done it to me before, when he told me about Ethan, when he told me Ethan loved him in ways that I couldn't. "In ways that I won't," I remember telling him. I sat there wondering all over again what kind of perverse masochist I am. Why can't I just tell this boy that I care about him?
I said nothing, and finally Justin sighed and stood up. He took our empty paper cups to the kitchen and threw them in the trash. "I’m going to go now," he announced.
"Wait." He stopped at the door and I came down from the bedroom to stand beside him. I took him into my arms and he came willingly, our mouths met and we kissed, a long and deep and sad and almost unbearable kiss.
"Don't stay away too long," I whispered in his ear.
Justin leaned back and studied my face for a moment, then he smiled sadly. "Brian, I feel as if this time away from you is like an intermission. It doesn't feel like it's real-time, it doesn't feel like forever."
I couldn't answer him.
Quietly he asked, "Does it feel like forever to you?"
"It feels like three forevers already." That was the best I could do.
Then Justin straightened his shoulders, turned away and went out the door. I stood watching him, but before he'd gone down three steps, he turned and hurried back to my side. Surprised, I opened my arms and grabbed him, hugged him, kissed him again. Finally Justin pulled away and murmured, "I love you, you fucking asshole," then turned and fled down the stairs.
When I was sure he couldn't hear me, I whispered, "Me, too."