The Loft by Tagsit




Back at the loft, Justin was finally falling into bed, almost completely exhausted. He had not had nearly as pleasurable an evening as his landlord. The blond had pulled the swing shift at the diner that evening, which meant that he barely had time after finishing his correspondence with Brian to shower and get to work. The diner had been packed - it always was on a Friday evening what with the happy hour crowd as well and the clubbing set - and the young man had been practically run off his feet all night.  He hadn't really minded, though. The constant demands of the diner's patrons had served as an excellent distraction. But, now that he was home, lying in his lonely, empty bed, there were no more distractions and Justin dreaded the thoughts that he knew he could no longer avoid.


See, it hadn't been his need to get to work that had caused him to break off his exchange with Brian earlier in the evening. It was Brian's question about his hand.


Thinking about the prom and bashing wasn't difficult for Justin. He still had no memories of those events. Recounting what other people had told him therefore took no emotional toll. It was when he started to think about what happened after the bashing, about the consequences of that night and about his future, that the panic started to take control.


When Justin tried to respond to Brian's query about his hand and how he could continue to pursue his art, the dread and fear had erupted so unexpectedly that he had felt nauseated. He didn't want to think about how his hand still had so little strength. How it would begin trembling whenever he attempted to draw. Oh, he could still draw - months of physical therapy had restored most of the fine motor functions - but he had no stamina and would tire after only 20 minutes or so.


Justin had been determinedly avoiding all thoughts about his hand and the pending start of the fall term at PIFA. Funny, he had been so excited when he had first received the acceptance letter from the prestigious art academy. All through the last two months of his senior year he had thought of practically nothing except how eager he was to start school. Even his father's disdain at Justin's refusal to attend Dartmouth in favor of a 'waste of time art school' hadn't dampened his enthusiasm.


Now, though, the thought scared him so much he was almost paralyzed with dread each time he thought about how fast the term was approaching. He had deferred his enrollment at PIFA the previous year. He hadn't been in any shape to start school a mere three months after the bashing - it had taken almost that long just to regain the ability to hold a pencil, and much, much longer before he was able to stand leaving his house or being in crowds. But, he didn't have that option anymore. If he didn't follow through on his enrollment this fall, his acceptance would expire and his life's dream of being an artist might be permanently lost.


Fuck it all! He would do this. He was going to start classes and he would somehow figure out how to get through even with his gimp hand. Justin had always had a strong stubborn streak and wasn't going to give up now. As everyone kept telling him, at least he was alive, and as long as he was alive he could still keep trying to reach his goals. Not everyone had been that lucky . . .


Tossing about and messing up the bed sheets though wasn't getting him anywhere. If he laid there he knew he would just keep stewing. Gawd he wished there was an 'off' switch for his brain! Realizing sleep wasn't going to be an option without pharmaceutical help, Justin reluctantly got out of bed and rambled around the loft looking for something productive to do. The young man's gaze landed on a pressboard box sitting under the coffee table. It was the box he had found in the bedroom closet when he was moving in the other day. The box of mementos which presumably belonged to Brian Kinney. He decided that while he was up, he might as well satisfy his curiousity and shamelessly snoop through the other man's belongings.


Justin seated himself on the couch and pulled the cardboard box towards him. Reaching down, he grabbed a handful of the box's contents and leaned back into the cushions while he perused the assortment of items he found there. His prior assumptions were proven to be correct; the box appeared to hold all sorts of clippings, photos and other memorabilia all devoted to this landlord. Justin sifted through various newspaper clippings documenting Kinney's achievements in the world of advertising, a brief obituary for someone named 'Jack Kinney' (a relative?), some wine bottle labels, playbills from a couple off-broadway theatrical productions, and other random odds and ends. He separated out the few photos he found and returned the rest of the items to the box.


Justin reached across to the nearby armchair and pulled over the ratty old crocheted afghan his mother had insisted he take. He wrapped the soft, comforting throw around him and snuggled down into the couch cushions further while he studied each photo at length.


The first one appeared to be fairly old - it had that yellowed patina to it and the white border strip that was typical of photos from the early days of colored photography. Judging by the clothing the people in the photo were wearing, as well as the swirling brown, olive green and orange geometric shapes on the wallpaper in the background, the picture had to have been taken in the late sixties or early seventies, Justin thought. The focus of the photo was a thirty-something man with noticeably thinning brown hair, dressed in a plain white dress shirt and shapeless brown trousers and holding a small brown haired child wearing 'footy pajamas' who appeared to be about a year old. The man was smiling at the camera with a strained expression. The child was merely staring with a somewhat blank expression off into the distance beyond the camera. Flipping the photo over, Justin noted that someone had written in the upper left corner, "Jack and Brian. Thanksgiving, 1972".


Setting that photo aside, Justin picked up the next, which showed two teenaged boys in an outdoorsy setting. The taller of the two boys was grinning directly at the camera. His auburn hair looked windblown and his skin was a golden tan color as if he had recently spent a long day out in the sun. The tall boy had his right arm draped around the shoulders of a shorter boy with darker brown hair cut rather short. The second boy was looking up at his taller friend and smiling adoringly at the handsome young man. All his attention was focused on the tall teen, who in turn seemed oblivious of the focus of his friend. Justin again turned the photo over to see if there were any more comments documenting this picture but was disappointed when he found nothing more.


The last was a college graduation photo. Under a banner reading, 'University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1991', stood a tall brunet man clad in the traditional royal blue cap and gown ensemble. Justin recognized the man as the same tall boy from the previous photo. This photo was a much better quality, though, which allowed Justin to get a better idea of what Brian looked like. 'The man was simply gorgeous,' thought the young artist. The man's chestnut hair shone in the sun. His eyes, slightly crinkled up to protect from the sun glare, were a bright russet green color. The nose was straight and aquiline. The lips were full and burgundy red. The jawline was strongly drawn and the neck was long and graceful. The whole package put together was breathtaking. Too bad the billowing gown hid the rest of Brian's body from view. Regardless, Justin was fascinated by this portrait and stared at the man's visage for a long, long while.


When he finally tore his attention away from the photo, Justin looked over his shoulder and noted by the kitchen clock that it was almost three am. While he didn't feel sleepy yet, he was at least more relaxed and thought he might be able to get some rest. With that goal in mind he hoisted himself off the couch and plodded up to the bed. As he laid down, he carefully set the graduation photo of Brian Kinney on the bedside table. Glancing at the picture one last time, Justin brushed his fingers over the cowry shell bracelet still clasped on his left wrist, and finally closed his eyes.



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