Brian was becoming very worried. He hadn’t been able to contact Justin for two days now and he had no idea what to do about it.
Monday night, Brian had been eager to connect with his boy again – especially after having been with him in the flesh so recently – he was still craving more Sunshine. But when Justin hadn’t shown at their normal meeting time, he’d just figured his Sunshine had been working or maybe he’d gone out with his friend Daphne or something. It was a little odd though. Justin usually told him in advance when he wouldn’t be here or at least left a note. It was especially weird after all that had happened with the art show shit and everything they had discussed that night. He figured they still had a lot of unanswered questions and he would have thought that Justin would want to find the answers too.
But, whatever, he thought, the kid was only nineteen – shit, when he was nineteen there was no way he’d be spending hours every night writing letters to some old geezer he couldn’t even fuck. He was sure Justin would be back the next night.
Tuesday morning Brian again checked the box, just in case Justin had left him a note when he hadn’t been around. Nothing. Brian did leave another note for his boy though about a fun new game he thought they would both enjoy later tonight.
It was now well past 7:00 pm on Tuesday and there was still no sign of Sunshine. ‘This is not good,’ Brian thought. 'Justin wouldn’t just not show without leaving a note. He wouldn’t. Where the fuck is he.' Something was definitely wrong, but what could Brian do? Nothing - that was what. Shit – Brian hated doing nothing.
(October 6, 2001 – 10:30 am)
Brian was right, of course. It was not good. Not good at all. In fact, Justin was sure that, except for the few weeks immediately after the bashing, it had never been this bad. That first panic attack on Sunday night had struck out of the blue. Justin hadn’t had any panic attacks at all in months – not since the one he’d had the day he moved into the loft. He’d been doing so well, he had decided not to refill the prescription for the anti-anxiety meds he’d been taking ever since the prom incident.
In perfect 20/20 hindsight, he now realized that had been a major mistake. These attacks had been so bad, so debilitating, that the terror-filled young man had not been able to leave the loft since Sunday.
To be honest, he hadn’t even really been able to leave his bed – the few times he’d tried to get up and think about getting moving, he’d ended up tossing his cookies or curled up in a ball on the floor. The stabbing migraine headache had not abated at all since the first attack and he found it hard to even think straight with so much pain. He hadn’t been able to keep down any food and very little water. The most productive thing he’d done in two days was to call in sick to work and school. Fuck – Justin had absolutely no idea what had happened to bring this on – especially as bad as it was.
The worst part of it was that he was too afraid to leave the apartment to even go down to the lobby to meet with Brian. In fact, sometimes merely thinking about Brian would, in itself, bring on another round of panic. One time, while he was standing in the kitchen trying to convince himself to attempt eating something, he’d glanced at the cowry shell bracelet still laying on the counter, flashed again on an image of Brian wearing the same bracelet and had proceeded to pass out when a wave of something – terror, pain, panic, something – hit him. It was easier to just not think about Brian – or anything really – than to try to fight the pain and fear. He figured that Brian was probably pissed at him for not showing up for the past two nights, but there was little he could do about it.
This morning, though, had been not just bad - it had been absolutely horrible. He’d had another night terror episode and had again lost several hours, waking only to the exhaustion and sadness that made him feel as if someone was crushing his soul. It had been beyond bad and it made him finally realize that he needed to get help – this was not getting better, he was not getting over it, he needed to somehow get control over whatever was happening to him. When the night terror had finally abated enough that he was able to function at close to normal levels, he’d reluctantly fumbled around on the floor next to his bed, digging through the discarded clothing he’d been too tired to take to the hamper, and eventually found his cell phone.
That had been about a half hour ago. And, right on time, he heard someone knocking on the loft door - eventually sliding the door open when there was no response. “Justin, honey. It’s Mom,” Jennifer Taylor called out as she entered the apartment looking for her son.
“Here, Mom,” a cracked, weak voice answered from the direction of the bedroom.
“Hey, sweetheart. I’m here now. It’s going to be okay,” came the age old words of motherly comfort. Justin thought to himself that even at nineteen the words still worked.
Jennifer was all efficiency and action. She quickly assessed the scene, decided that the first order of business was to create some order, and began cleaning up. Justin simply stayed where he was, comforted by his mother’s mere presence to some degree, and willing to let someone else take over for a brief while. After picking up the randomly tossed clothing, attacking the reeking toilet and starting a load of laundry to deal with all the dirty toweling, she started in on the invalid himself. Helping Justin up from the bed, she directed him to the shower while she changed the sheets and then made some herbal tea. Justin had to admit he did feel better after a shower and a change of clothes. He didn’t even mind the weak herbal tea – which amazingly enough seemed like it would stay down. Finally satisfied that her baby was okay for the moment, she headed off to get the meds refilled and run some other errands. Justin just laid back on the couch in a grateful doze.
“Justin, honey. I’ve got your meds. I called the doctor and he said to go ahead and take one right away, even though you normally should only take them with food. He said that, as bad as this attack seems to be, it was important to get the meds started as soon as possible. Let me get you some water first though.” Jennifer said upon her return while she bustled about. Justin was very groggy and only got about every fifth word out of his mother’s mouth, but thankfully, he didn’t really have to know what was going on since he knew his mother was going to take care of everything.
“Oh, I also picked up your mail on my way back. The mailbox was practically overflowing,” she commented as she neared the couch with her arms full of a bottle of water, a small white craft paper bag from the pharmacy, her purse and a moderately large stack of mail. “It looks like mostly junk, I’m afraid,” she said as she went through the pile without even consulting her son. “There are a couple of bills – I’ll put those on the counter for you. What’s this – it looks like . . . hmm.” That comment revived Justin’s attention.
-Hey, Sunshine. Come out and play. I’ve got a new game I want to teach you. You’ll have lots of fun – you get to wear a costume and there are props, too. B.
Jennifer had read the note aloud with a questioning look directed at Justin. “What’s this all about, Justin?”
“It’s just a joke, Mom. My friend has a weird sense of humor. Here, can I have it,” Justin tried to grab the note away from the rather nosy woman.
-Justin – is everything okay? Two days now and no Sunshine. Starting to freak a little here. Don’t make me have to cross the time/space barrier and come and get you. Just let me know you’re all right, okay. B.
P.S. My grades in Physics were for shit, so I probably couldn’t get to you anyway, even if you sent an instruction manual. I would try real hard though.
Jennifer continued to read the next note she’d come across. This time the questioning look at her son was accompanied by a ‘mother’s knowing smile’ type smile. “Hmmm – who exactly is ‘B.’?”
“I told you, Mom. It’s just a friend.”
“Well, your ‘friend’ seems pretty concerned about you”. And she proceeded to read out the last note.
-Fuck, Justin. Where are you? I can’t stand this - there’s nothing I can do to find you or help you. Please, I need to know if you’re okay or not. B
“Mom, give me the letters, please.” Justin grabbed the three notes out of his mother’s hand, opened the side table drawer to locate a pen and, completely ignoring Jennifer’s curious gaze, started to write a response to his worried lover.
-Brian. Sorry I haven’t been there. I’ve been sick again. Haven’t made it out of the loft since Sunday evening. Fucking Chris Hobbs! Wish you could be here. Or I could be there. There aren’t any fun games here without you. J
Justin then got his mother to bring him an envelope. He put the note in the envelope, making sure to seal it - mother’s are notorious snoops - and then asked his mother to please take the note down to the mailbox for him. He also reminded her not to forget to flip up the out-going mail flag. She was almost out the door when she asked, “doesn’t this need some postage?’
“No. It’s okay – he’ll get it,” Justin said. He was asleep already by the time Jennifer reentered the loft.
(October 7, 1999 – 9:30 am)
“Cynthia,” bellowed the boss-man as he entered his office. Without bothering to note whether or not his assistant was with him, he continued, “I need you to get me rates on a billboard.”
“No problem,” came the reply from the always-efficient Cynthia. “What kind of campaign do you need – Greater Metro Area, Downtown, what?”
“I don’t want a fucking campaign. I just want a billboard.”
“ONE billboard?” Cynthia wasn’t sure what this was about but she’d learned a long time ago to never question Brian Kinney’s ideas. She did, however, often need to question his sanity.
“Yes, ONE billboard. Are any of these words particularly difficult for you to understand? Hmm?” came the expected, sarcastic response from Brian.
“Okay . . . any particular billboard you had in mind or should I just pick a random one in, say, Outer Mongolia?” Cynthia was never one to take anyone’s shit – even Brian’s – lying down.
“Yeah, right. Actually, I want one on the southwest corner of Fuller and Tremont.”
“Isn’t that near your place?”
“Just get me the rates, Cynthia!”
Exactly forty-two minutes later, Cynthia rapped lightly on Brian’s office door, opening it without waiting for a response.
“Excuse me, Brian. I called both Crystal Clear Channels and AirPro, the only two outdoor media firms in that area and neither one HAS a billboard on the corner of Fuller and Tremont.” Cynthia informed her boss.
“Well, then, get me quotes on what it will cost to get one there. And I’ll need a two year minimum commitment on that spot when it is built”. When Cynthia just stood there, looking at Brian with utter confusion on her lovely face, Brian added, “I need this right away, Cynthia. Come on – get a move on!”
Cynthia turned and started for the door, but was pulled up short by another Kinney directive. “Oh, and Cynthia, get me what’s-his-name . . . Phil, from the art department.”
“You mean Frank?” Cynthia wanted to be clear on this one.
“What-the-fuck-ever - Frank – get him up here. He can start on the layout while they’re fucking around with the billboard,” added Brian as he rushed off to another meeting.
(October 7, 2001 – 5:00 pm)
“Hey, Justin” came a voice from near the loft windows. Justin walked towards his best friend, who had, as expected, shown up to bolster her friend’s spirits as soon as she heard what had happened. “I don’t remember ever seeing that billboard across the street. When did they put that up?” she questioned as she looked out the loft windows at the building across the street.
“What billboard?” asked the blond. “There isn’t any billboard . . .” he’d started to say before he looked out the window himself. He stood there, grinning. Then he laughed aloud.
“Brian,” was all he said.
“Huh?” Daphne responded, eloquently.
Justin didn’t answer because he was too busy admiring the billboard which was bolted to the side of the building across the street from the loft. On the billboard, was a colorful advertisement showing a large, cartoon-style sun, complete with smiley face, along with several musical notes scattered about randomly on the sign. The text on sign said:
“You are my Sunshine
My only Sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please, don’t take my Sunshine away”
“Brian? Isn’t that your pen-pal guy? What . . ." Daphne started to question Justin, as was expected of a best-friend. She was interrupted by a now energized Justin, sporting his famous ‘Sunshine’ smile.
“Come on, Daph. Let’s go get my mail.”
-Did you like the song I dedicated to you, Sunshine? B.
-God, where did you come up with that corny song! J.
-I prefer to think of it as ridiculously romantic, Sunshine. B.
-Thank you, Brian. It helped. J.