|Photo copyright SHOWTIME 2002;
QUEER AS FOLK, Episode 204
|What I Need To Know|
"Hey, Gus, Daddy just called you 'sweetheart.'"
I turn at the sound of Lindsay's voice as she shoves Gus into my arms. She wants me to watch him while she joins Mel in the parade. "Whoa, mama!" That makes her smile. She looks damn hot, about the same as when we met in college. Good, I'm glad she decided to climb on the back of Mel's bitch-bike and stop being The Perfect Mother for a little while.
Ted's at my elbow, so of course I have to pretend to be annoyed that I'm stuck with the baby. The gorgeous hunk I've been eyeballing takes one look at Gus and makes a disgusted face. I almost laugh, but I decide to let Ted enjoy needling me for a change, he's had enough aggravation from Troy for one Pride Weekend. Then somebody bangs into the baby's stroller that Linds parked at my feet - I'd been so busy ogling the hunk I never noticed, and now somebody tripped over the stroller and whacked it into my shins. Fuck, that hurts.
Gus is crying and struggling in my arms. I manage to stick a finger into his diaper, and sure enough it's wet. "Wait a minute," I tell him, straining my neck to see if the PFLAG contingent is coming. It is, just a block away. "Wait till Justin goes by," I tell Gus, and amazingly, he stops crying and twists his head around, scanning the crowd. He's looking for Justin. Cute AND smart.
"There he is!" I exclaim, and turn Gus in my arms, hold him over my head so he can see. Not that he has a clue what's going on, and I know he won't see Justin in the mass of people passing by. But Justin sees us and waves. He's smiling and holding his mother's hand. I swallow hard, suddenly there's a lump in my throat. I hold up Gus' chubby little arm and make him wave at Justin; of course Gus doesn't see him and starts fussing again. That's okay, Justin saw Gus waving, that's the main thing. Justin saw me holding the baby, so maybe he'll come and help me when PFLAG reaches the end of the route. He's good with Gus.
Now I go in search of a gaggle of lesbian mothers, I need to change Gus and I can't do it in Woody's men's room - it's a dicey place to visit at the best of times, and today it's probably wall to wall with sticky evidence of queer high spirits. Luckily, the ladies are so taken with Gus that several of them offer to change him for me. Just a year old and already Gus can use his beauty to get what he needs. He's my son all right. While I'm fending off a dozen sperm-donor requests, I think about Justin taking care of Gus.
Justin remembers helping his mom take care of his baby sister, he was ten when she was born. He says that's why he's good with the baby, but I know it's more than that. Justin loves Gus, which is amazing to me. I never gave a shit for any baby I ever saw, before Gus was born. And he's not just pretending, to impress me. Justin doesn't do shit to impress me. Oh, he likes to please me. He anticipates my needs and tries to fill them, which is sometimes gratifying and sometimes a pain in the ass. But everything he does is real. No artificial ingredients in that boy.
He's made great progress the past couple weeks. Debbie gave him a limited shift at the diner, he's able to walk around alone now (though he still gets a little jumpy in crowds; he denies it, but I'm not blind). He's able to talk to people now, if not normally, pretty damn close. And he's determined to start school, to push himself - bang! - into the full schedule of classes at PIFA this coming semester.
I don't think he's ready. I can't tell him that though. He has the courage, he has the determination. But I don’t think he has the stamina yet. I tried to suggest he wait out one semester, but he went ballistic on me. Seems his mom suggested the same thing. So I backed off. Even though I think she's right.
We're avoiding each other. Mrs. Taylor - Jennifer - and I, we're avoiding each other. I don't have any great need to see the disgust in her eyes when she looks at me, and I - well, I haven't forgiven her for ripping Justin away from me when he needed me and I needed him. That was fucking hell, those days after she told me to let him go. And I can't forget the look in Justin's eyes when I slammed the door of my loft in his face. So I don't want to see her and she doesn't want to see me.
I'm glad Justin's reconciled with her though. He's close to his mom, like Mikey and Deb. I was glad to see Justin marching beside her in the parade. As much as I know she hates me, as much as I knew she was wrong to push me away from him, still I know he's fucking lucky to have a mom like that. Deb's done a lot of mother things wrong, and Jennifer has too. But nobody can deny they love their sons and try to do what's right.
I wonder if I'll fuck up with Gus? I'm nobody's idea of a father. What if he's straight, and I have to go to baseball games and all that macho bullshit? Well, I guess I'll just have to do it. Hell, I'll probably even cheer the little bugger when he hits a home run. Justin will make him a banner, and. . .whoa. Fucking whoa. Who says Justin will be around then?
So. . . now what do I do with Gus the rest of the day? He’s tired of the parade, I’m tired of the parade. Usually if I even come near Liberty Avenue on Pride day, it’s only to snag a trick or two and drag them back to the loft. Gus is a definite handicap to picking up guys. I watch them notice me, give me the eye, make the approach – then catch sight of Gus, in my arms or in his stroller, and they veer off at a hundred and eighty degrees. I should be annoyed, but somehow it only makes me laugh.
Soon Gus is wet again and I go in search of willing lesbian earth mothers. After they change Gus and I deflect more sperm requests, they direct me to the end of the parade route, where a rainbow-hued picnic is in full swing, with food vendors, political booths, craft sales. Small groups of dykes without their bikes wander around topless. I search for the PFLAG booth, Deb and Jennifer are both there. Deb throws her arms around me in a big hug. Jennifer nods graciously from her seat in a canvas folding chair behind the booth table. I nod back at her but our eyes don’t hold, they slide off each other, neither of us wanting to look inside.
Debbie tells me Michael showed up after all for the parade – in drag! I’m so pissed that I didn’t get to see him. She says he looked gorgeous. Biting my lip, I don’t tell her about the time, when we were kids, that Mikey made me watch him play with Debbie’s make-up, smearing on crooked lipstick and eyeliner. I remember my suppressed horror at the time, and almost laugh now, looking back. He was just fooling around, and he was a hell of a lot more open to experiment with his sexuality back then than I was. I was terrified of being a sissy boy, of having my dad find out I was a fairy. I lived in fear of suddenly going all limp-wristed and lisping at the dinner table. Christ, I was scared of Pop in those days.
Gus, who was asleep in the stroller, suddenly wakes up and starts fussing. I do the finger-in-the-diaper check and it comes out slimy beige. Christ, he would take a dump NOW, when I can’t foist him onto some willing lesbian diaper-changer. “He’s poopy,” I tell Debbie in a stage-whisper, hoping she’ll bail me out. I should have known better.
“Come through here,” Deb instructs me, lifting up a section of table so I can push the stroller into the booth. “You can lay him on the grass and change him here.”
I feel my face turning red; I not only have to change a disgusting poopy diaper, I have to do it under the interested – and no doubt amused – gaze of two real mothers. ‘Mothers’ in every sense of the word. Fuck. Trying to keep my back toward Jennifer, I spread one of Gus’ little blankets on the grass and lay him down on it, unfasten the Huggie and fold it up so the mess can’t slide out, which would be too humiliating to bear. Thankfully Debbie takes it from me and does something with it; I’m busy searching in the diaper bag for Baby Wipes. I clean him up, sprinkle on some powder, and get a clean diaper on him as fast as possible.
Not a perfect job, not a speedy job, but Gus is being an angel, smiling up at me, waving his arms. When I lift him up, he puts his chubby little arms around my neck and says, “Dada!” I search in the cooler bag for a bottle of juice and he gurgles with joy, grabs it out of my hands, tilts the bottle and starts to chug.
With Jennifer perched on her canvas throne I can’t ask where Justin is, so I decide to sit on the grass in the corner and listen for clues. Gus settles between my outstretched legs, leaning comfortably back against me as he swigs his juice. Deb and Jen are talking about the parade, the great weather, the good turnout. Then I feel Justin approaching, I know he’s there before I hear his voice.
“Deb, I can’t find Brian,” he starts right in, and Deb jerks her thumb toward me and Gus on the grass in the corner of the booth.
“Hey,” he smiles at me and I smile back. It’s enough. He throws himself down on his knees on the grass near me and says, “Gus! Did you like the parade?”
Gus urgently throws away his bottle, barely missing my head, and, using my bent knees as leverage, pulls himself up to a wobbly standing position. “Juch!” he squeals, and even from behind him I know that he’s smiling gleefully – he adores Justin. I’m holding his hands but I feel him tentatively pulling away, and when Justin holds out his arms and says, “Come to Juch!” Gus takes one step, then another, wobbles precariously from side to side, then heads full tilt – step-step-step rushing toward Justin, who catches him with a loud “Whoop!” and hugs Gus, and plants a big kiss on that soft pink cheek.
“He’s walking!” Deb exclaims, hurrying over to add her own noisy raspberry kiss to Gus’ face. “When did this start?”
“Last week,” I tell her, standing up and stretching. “He took eight steps the very first time.” I feel obscurely proud and silly at the same time.
Deb starts in on mother stories, baby stories, Jennifer chimes in and I look at Justin, catch his eye and we grin; both of us have tuned out. Careful not to let the women see him, Justin smiles slyly and silently mouths one word, “Bo-ring!” He walks closer and whispers so that only I can hear, “If you want to take off for a while, I can watch him.”
I glance at him, almost tempted. But I shake my head. “I want to find the mommies. I’ve had him all day, it’s their turn.” He nods and I look at him more closely. He’s paler than usual. “You’re tired,” I accuse, still being quiet. He shakes his head, no, but I know I’m right.
I want to take him away from the heat and the crowd and the dust and the noise and carry him up the stairs of my loft and lay him down on the bed and take off his clothes and pull the duvet over him. Naturally I want to lie down beside him, but I erase myself from that image and picture him sleeping instead.
Knowing I’m going to piss Justin off, I turn away from him and ask Deb, “Could you watch Gus for a few minutes, so I can take Justin to the loft? He needs to lie down.”
“Brian! I do not, I fucking do not!” He’s pissed all right.
Deb throws me a suspicious glance but after looking at Justin’s face, she nods. “Yes, Sunshine, time for a rest.” From the corner of my eye I notice that Jennifer, very wisely, keeps her lips closed tightly together. Hmm, I think to myself, she’s getting smart. If she’d chimed in about Justin needing a nap, the brat would have gone into full riot mode. He’s grumbling enough as it is.
Deb’s not letting me off easy. “You coming right back here to take care of your son?” she asks loudly, more an order than a question.
“Of course.” I turn to Justin and pull Gus from his arms, pass him off to Deb. Gus starts to cry, he loves having Justin hold him. I lean down and give Gus a harsh look. “Be good! Daddy will be right back!” He hushes and stares up at me, his bottom lip trembling. Christ, he’s almost irresistible when he does that. I turn away quickly.
“Come on, you’re wasting time arguing,” I tell Justin, and in spite of Jennifer sitting there, I put my arm around his shoulders, which are slumping in defeat, lead him out of the booth. Both women say good bye to him, he gives them a wave, but I can see that he’s upset. As soon as we’re out of sight I stop and pull Justin into a hug. “Hey,” I whisper, “I had to think of some way to get you alone so I can kiss you.”
He smiles then, that beaming Sunshine smile, and we kiss. But just for a moment. Then I lead him over the grass, wondering where I left the jeep. Miles away, probably. At the edge of the park we run into Jerry Boggs, a guy I’ve known since college. We’ve never fucked and I don’t like him much, but I see him climbing into a car so I hurry over, pulling Justin along behind me. I make with a few words of small talk and get Jerry to drop us off at the loft; it’s too far for Justin to walk, though of course I don’t say that to Jerry, or to Justin. Inside the building, inside the elevator, I feel Justin slump against me. He’s very tired.
“Shower first, or sleep?” I ask, though it’s rhetorical. I help him up the platform steps, making it seem like affection not assistance, and he almost falls onto the bed. I pull off his shoes and he lays down with a deep sigh. From the fridge I bring a bottle of water and make him take a pain pill, then pull the duvet over him. “Sleep!” I command, and turn to leave. “See you later.”
I stop at the bottom of the bedroom steps and look back at him.
“I don’t want it to be over.”
He struggles to sit up. “Today. My first Pride. I don’t want it to be over yet.”
I shake my head. “It’s not over. Sleep for a while, have a shower, then come back to Woody’s. I’ll wait for you.”
“Sure,” I nod. “Eventually the mommies will come and claim Gus.” I think for a minute, then change plans. “Better yet, call me on my cell when you wake up, and I’ll come get you, we’ll have dinner.”
“Great!” He’s smiling, and he manages to wave at me with his good hand as he slides down in the bed. I don’t leave for a few minutes, I watch him sleeping. Then I grab a bottle of water for myself and hurry out of the loft, locking him safely inside, and rush back to the park before Debbie sends out the Marines.
I didn’t want to go to the parade, but Brian kind of forced me. When he came home last night with Michael, I was upset to hear them talking because I could tell that Brian was drunk. I was not going to tell him about Chris Hobbes till he sobered up, till Michael left, but suddenly I just couldn’t wait another minute.
Brian hugged me, told me to forget it, like I knew he would. He’s right and yet, I couldn’t forget it. I’d been sitting there alone for hours just thinking, and I couldn’t let it go. I was so ashamed. How could I go to Pride when I was so ashamed?
They had an argument, Brian and Michael, I didn’t really pay attention, all I could think of was that scene in the hall with Chris. I sat on the end of the bed, I wasn’t even aware that Michael had left. Brian went into the bathroom, I heard him pissing, then he must have washed his face, maybe he was trying to sober up. He came and sat beside me on the bed, not saying anything for a long time. Finally he said, “Tell me.”
We don’t pretend, Brian and I.
“Brian. . .” I didn’t want to tell him. But I needed to tell him. He just sat silently waiting.
“Brian – I was – I was scared of him.”
Immediately he said, “So? Of course you were.” I turned to look at him. He nodded and said again, “Of course you were scared of him.”
“But – “
“Justin.” Brian rubbed a hand hard over his jaw, then put his arm around my shoulders and leaned toward me. “Justin, that bastard almost killed you. Remember?” He made a face, shook his head. “Wrong choice of words. But the fact is, you DO remember now. He almost killed you. Of course you got scared, seeing him face to face for the first time since that night. It was a gut reaction. It doesn't mean anything.”
When he said it like that, so matter-of-fact, suddenly it didn’t seem so terrible. Brian doesn’t lie. He wouldn’t say something just to make me feel better. He always tells the truth.
I looked at him and almost smiled. "Yeah. I guess."
"No guessing. Of course I'm right. Now get some sleep."
Nodding, I stood up, and together we pulled down the duvet, then got quickly undressed and slipped into bed. Immediately Brian slid over close to me, turned sideways and pulled me against him, so my back was against his chest and his arms wrapped around me. He kissed my ear and whispered one word, "Sleep." My eyes were closing, and finally I could let go of all the jumbled emotions that had tightened every muscle in my body. I let go and relaxed against Brian's chest, safe in Brian's arms, and slid into comforting sleep.
Next morning we got up early and showered together. Naturally we blew each other, we have to avoid joint showers when we're in a hurry. There's something about slippery soapy naked bodies sliding together that's irresistible. He made me eat some cereal and toast, he only had coffee and two bites of my toast; he doesn't eat enough. I need to cook dinner more often, he eats stuff I fix for him.
I still didn't want to go to the parade. I knew what Brian had said was true, it was natural for me to be afraid of Chris Hobbes, but I hated that feeling. I'm not used to feeling like a coward. But of course he wouldn't let me off the hook. He drove as close to Liberty Avenue as he could, there was no parking anywhere. Finally he made me get out and wait while he drove off to find a parking spot somewhere far away. We might as well have walked from Tremont.
The parade was amazing but at first it really turned me off. Brian snagged us a ledge to sit on near Woody's, and we watched a bunch of silly floats go by, and all kinds of groups marching in the most ridiculous outfits you can imagine. At first I was embarrassed - is this what being gay is all about? I asked him. Brian told me to stop being a condescending snot; he explained that it all just symbolized FREEDOM, freedom to do anything you've ever wanted. I nodded, but I still didn't want to be there.
"Did you expect to find 'pride?'" he asked, so I demanded, then why did we come?
Brian looked away. "So Chris Hobbes doesn't win," was all he said. That shut me up. And made me think. Then he sent me off to join the PFLAG march.
That's when I suddenly got it. Mom was wearing a purple PFLAG shirt and carrying a big sign. She took my hand and said she was proud of me! I never thought she would be proud of me again. I said I was proud of her too. And I am. Not only for this, not only for supporting me and doing the march.
I never thought about my mom as a real person much before this past year. Now I can look back and see how hard it's been for her, dealing with me being gay and dealing with my dad's reactions. She divorced him - not because of me, she insisted on me understanding that. But because she couldn't live with a man who didn't love his children unconditionally. And for other reasons too, private stuff she doesn't share with me, stuff I probably don't want to know anyway. Now she's got her own home and works as a real estate agent, takes care of Molly, and helps support me. Walking next to her in the parade, holding hands with her, made my heart swell up in my chest. That's what PRIDE means, I thought; being strong, being your own person, standing up for what's right, and staring the rest of the world in the face.
When we passed Woody's, I searched the crowd for Brian, at first I couldn't see him and thought he'd gone inside for a drink (or a trick), but then suddenly I spied him! He had Gus, he was holding Gus over his head, making the baby wave at me. Gus looked so cute, he didn't see me of course, poor baby, he had no idea what was going on. But something jerked my heart seeing Brian hold his son up high, Brian wanted me to see them together. I glanced at Mom but she was looking the other way. She doesn't look at Brian if she can possibly help it.
That upsets me, but Brian has ordered me to leave it alone. He hardly ever gives orders or tells me what to do, so when he does, I listen. I respect his intelligence and his intuition about people. He denies having intuition, and the worst insult you can give him is to say he's 'sensitive.' But it's true, for all that. He hides it really well, most people don't see that about him.
Michael does. I wish Michael liked me better, so we could talk about Brian. We get along all right, we joke with each other, and he usually treats me okay. He used to be jealous but I don't think he is anymore. Sometimes Michael makes me angry but I try to stay nice to him. Partly for Debbie's sake, but mostly for Brian's. They have a lot of history, I know bits and pieces, you can pick up a lot of info if you keep your ears open and your mouth shut. But Brian doesn’t confide in me about Michael, and I try not to interfere in their relationship.
When the PFLAG group reached the end of the parade route, Deb and Mom asked me to stay with them, to hand out flyers and buttons and stuff. I wanted to head back toward Woody’s, but Deb insisted Brian would come soon and if I didn’t stay put, he’d never find me in the crowds. I wasn’t sure about that, we didn’t talk about meeting up afterwards.
I wanted to be with him, to tell him how it felt marching down Liberty Avenue; I wondered if he was proud of me for doing it. But you can’t ask Brian about his feelings – you have to wait for him to say the words, which, of course, he hardly ever does. I’ve been waiting so long for him to say some words to me. But even if he doesn’t say them out loud, he says them other ways.
After while I decided to tour the park area where all the booths were set up, to see if I could spot Brian. I didn’t see him anywhere, and I didn’t see Linds and Mel either. I felt sure he’d given Gus to the mommies and gone back to Woody’s. With so many hot guys wandering around, it wouldn’t take him long to snag one for himself. I didn’t blame him, he never promised to meet me afterwards, but I was disappointed anyway. Then I was totally surprised to come back and find Brian sprawled on the grass inside the PFLAG booth.
It wasn’t long before Brian figured out how tired I was. I denied it of course, but he insisted on taking me back to the loft for a nap. I didn’t argue too much, partly because I hoped we’d do other things once we got there; but by the time he helped me up the steps to the bedroom, I was ready to collapse. I’m practically back to normal, it was no big deal to march a few blocks, I don’t know why I was so fucking tired. And I didn’t want it to end, I wanted the day to go on and on. Brian promised it wasn’t over, that I could call him when I woke up and we’d go to dinner. But Brian’s plans are always subject to change, so while I was happy about it, I wasn’t holding my breath either. Yet when I woke up about eight o’clock and called him, he answered immediately and said he was on his way.
So now we’re at Luigi’s, and even though I am totally normal now, I was slightly uneasy about coming here. It used to be my favorite restaurant, and everybody likes me, they’re always hugging me and stuff. But lately I don’t like people rushing at me and grabbing, somehow it gets me feeling panicky - and Brian must have warned them somehow, because everybody hung back when we came in, they all just smiled and waved at me from a distance. I was even more embarrassed, because Brian must have told them I was fucked up.
“What?” Brian demanded, after we were seated at a small table near the back. Giovanni the waiter had handed us the big menus with a smile and a wink and disappeared. “What?” he said again, lowering the menu and giving me a harsh look.
“What did you tell them?”
“Who?” He looks around, all innocent.
“Did you tell them not to hug me, did you tell them I’d get all freaky?”
With a sigh Brian lays down his menu and leans back in his chair. His beautiful body makes sprawling an art form. I wish I could draw him like that. I wish I could draw, period. I can’t think about that now though. I wait for his answer.
“Justin.” He shakes his head and sighs again. “Justin, you would have got all freaky, wouldn’t you?”
I blink at him. He’s so blunt. Tact is a waste of time to Brian Kinney. Finally I have to look away. “Yeah,” I mumble, and pick up my menu to hold like a shield in front of my face so he can’t see me.
Giovanni is back with glasses of water and a wine list. “Chicken parmagianna?” Brian’s asking me. I agree, it’s one of my favorites. “For two,” he tells Giovanni, then orders a glass of wine. We used to share a bottle, but I’m not supposed to drink while I’m taking pain pills. Giovanni disappears with the menus and we’re left staring at each other.
“Stop looking pouty and tell me about the parade,” Brian says, a slight smile that curves the corner of his mouth taking the sting out of his words. My last vestige of rebellion drains away when he raises one knee slightly and rubs it on the inside of my thigh. My balls wake up and start to tingle, and I feel my face flush pink. Then I’m able to relax, and I tell him how it felt walking down Liberty Avenue with my mom, how I felt like that street really belongs to me, how my life really belongs to me, in a way. And how I finally understood why we call it ‘pride day.’
Brian’s a good listener, and despite his famous cynicism, he can be sincere too. As long as there are no witnesses.
After dinner we decide to walk the five blocks to Woody’s, the streets are still jam-packed and parking would be impossible. He holds my hand all the way and it helps me endure the crowded sidewalk. It’s really not a problem any more, but it just feels better to have somebody to hang on to. There’s standing room only at Woody’s, but we find a space at a side bar, and Brian orders a scotch, and a glass of water for me. I’ll be glad when I can drink again, I like doing shots with him. Woody’s is a madhouse, jammed with shirtless body-builder types, and naturally lots of eyes are on Brian. He doesn’t seem to be paying attention, but I’m sure he’s checking them all out.
“I’ll be glad when Pride’s over and we can all go back to being ashamed,” he jibes, making me laugh.
“You’re just mad ‘cause you had to watch Gus all day, and nobody hit on you.”
“Plenty of people hit on me,” he contradicts. “Unfortunately, all of them happened to be lesbians wanting my sperm.”
Just then I catch sight of two hunky guys at a nearby table ogling Brian.
“Here's your chance - it’s not too late,” I tell him, nodding toward the guys. Then I plant a little kiss on his shoulder and turn to walk away.
“Where’re you going?”
“I’m leaving you to your wicked ways. Go ahead, find a stud and ask him to dance.” With a smile I turn away and walk out of Woody’s. I don’t mind Brian’s tricks. Or not very much. It’s just sex, it doesn’t mean anything. But I don’t like to watch from the sidelines.
I pause on the steps of Woody’s looking out at the street, filled with people dancing in the glow of the streetlamps. I could join in, but I don’t really feel like it tonight. Maybe next year. I recognize the strains of an old ABBA song coming from a loudspeaker, a lilting melody that suits the mood of the night, as I walk past clumps of people embracing, kissing, singing, laughing. It’s been quite a day.
Suddenly I feel a hand on my shoulder and turn around abruptly, to see Brian with a strange little smile on his face. “Hey, stud,” he says, and I smile back at him. Then he says, “Want to dance?”
My breath catches in my throat. “Shut up,” I make myself laugh, turning away again, but he grabs me, pulls me around to face him. I look into his eyes and I’m almost afraid of what I see there. He wants to dance with me. He’s not making a gesture, he really wants to dance with me.
"I promise you won't forget this one," he murmurs. In a daze I step off the curb and out into the street, he’s pulling me with him, he’s looking into my eyes.
“Hey,” Brian murmurs, “Come here.”
And he puts his arms around my shoulders and pulls me into an embrace. I feel myself melt against him briefly, then I pull away to look at him again, to be sure, I need to look in his eyes to be sure what he is telling me. And then we’re dancing and he’s holding me and we’re talking, but I don’t know what we’re saying, words, murmurs, whispers, nothing-things. I can’t stop smiling, and he’s smiling right back at me. Now he’s kissing me, and I’m kissing him, and I know, in my heart and in my brain and with every fiber of my being, I know what Brian is telling me. I’ve waited so long. He still can’t say the words, but he’s telling me what I need to know.