Chapter 2 - Business as Usual.
Great, Michael’s finally here with the Jeep so we can get some breakfast and I can get to work. Although I’m not sure how productive I’m going to be with this fucking killer headache. I wonder if Justin made it to school . . . Fuck, I need to stop thinking like that. It doesn’t fucking matter. It was just a dream. It WAS just a dream, right?
“Briannnnn!” comes Mikey’s bellow from the street below.
It’s a good thing that my neighbors are rather understanding people since this is a pretty common occurrence when I’m too drunk or stoned to drive myself home. I tromp down the stairs and through the loft entrance doors and then notice the lovely new paint job the Jeep is sporting.
“Oh, that’s beautiful, Mikey. Just beautiful!” I comment on the word ‘Faggot’ spray painted on the side of the car.
“It’s not my fault. I told you about those two psychopaths down the street,” Mikey whines.
“It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s a company car,” I say as I get in to drive, Michael jumping into the passenger seat beside me.
“So what happened to Boy Wonder,” Michael asks as we head towards the Big Q.
“I sent him packing as soon as I was able to string together two words this morning,” I tell Mikey, trying for callous but feeling a little nauseous as I say it.
“Good. He was way too young for you anyway,” Michael comments.
I don’t say anything. I just sit there trying to convince myself that the weird dream was just that - a dream - and the coincidence of the Jeep getting vandalized like I knew it would be doesn’t mean anything. Luckily, Michael is too busy talking about Gus and me being a father and showing me the pictures he’s already printed out on his computer from last night to notice that I’m a little quieter than usual. He gives me a stack of photos to keep - like I’m the kind of sentimental fag who would make scrapbooks or something - and I toss them quickly in my briefcase without looking at them, then promptly forget about them as soon as I drop him off at his fabulous place of employment.
Then I’m off to Ryder to put in a regular day of advertising brilliance. Okay, I’m less than brilliant today, but I have a lot on my mind what with being a new dad and all - that and the hangover - not to mention this stupid knot of what-the-fuckever (fear/sadness/indigestion/whatever) in my gut all day. I down about twenty ‘Tums’ but they don’t seem to help much with the shit making my guts ache. I just have to buckle down and ignore it as best I can and promise myself that I will never do Anita’s shit again.
After lunch, I go to get into my briefcase for something and find the stack of photos Mikey dumped on me this morning. I decide to pull them out and look them over after all, still marvelling at the concept that I have a baby. Brian Fucking Kinney is a ‘father’ - it’s inconceivable! Looking through the photos, I’m kind of amazed at how cool it is to see this little nipper and I decide to keep a couple photos in my desk here at work.
That’s when I come across the photo with the twink in it. Fuck. He’s so goddamn beautiful. I’m still staring at that cursed photo like twenty minutes later when Cynthia comes in to tell me that I’m late for the Diverson strategy meeting.
“Is that the baby?” Cynthia asks, looking over my shoulder at the photo I’m holding.
“Yep. That’s Sonny Boy!” I answer in my best proud papa voice.
“Who’s the gorgeous arm candy next to you Boss?” Cynthia asks next.
Okay. How do I answer that one? I just sit for a few more moments, staring at the photo before I finally respond, “Nobody. Just some guy I met last night.”
“Too bad. He’s a doll!” Cyn comments, then starts to hustle me out of the office, so I shove the photo into the top drawer of my desk. “Anyway, come on, Brian. You’re gonna get your ass handed to you on a plate if you make Ryder wait much longer.”
God, the meeting seems to go forever and I still feel like shit when it’s over. My headache is gone but my gut is still tied in fucking knots. I’m probably getting ulcers or some shit like that. When Mikey calls me just before 5:00 pm to find out if I’m gonna meet the rest of the gang at Woody’s tonight I beg off, citing my ongoing hangover symptoms. Okay, maybe I’m also just a bit worried that the twink might show up at Woody’s tonight, since that’s what he did in my ‘dream’. I don’t want to even think about that and I know I don’t want to deal with seeing him. My resolve to stick to my rules is pretty weak right at this moment and I know I’m better off not tempting fate. So, a night with Marlon Brando on my DVD player sounds like a much better call.
I lay low for the next week or so - probably not really necessary, I know, but that fucking dream really got to me, you know. I figure it’s better safe than sorry, right? So, I blow off Mikey and the guys when they ask me to go to Woody’s and Babylon.
Besides, I’m still feeling a little off - not sick really, but just not myself, you know. I still have this weird feeling in my gut and it gets worse when I look at that photo of the kid, me and Gus that I still have in my desk. It’s a really good picture of me and the baby and I think I’ll get it framed, actually. One framed picture of my kid on my desk at the office doesn’t mean I’m turning into a lesbian, right? And it’s a good photo. I kind of don’t mind seeing the kid in the picture either, for some reason, except for this sick, lonely, nauseous feeling in my gut sometimes, but I’m sure that will go away with time.
So, it’s a good thing that I’m just staying home alone. I’m NOT hiding. There’s nothing to hide from - it was just a fucking dream - it’s not like, if I go to the bar or the club I’ll see the kid, that’s just my superstitious Irish genetics trying to insinuate themselves into my psyche and I’m not going to listen to it.
I finally make it back to Woody’s after about two weeks and the guys act like I’ve been gone for months. And I mean both the guys that I refer to as my ‘gang’ as well as all the other guys who apparently haven’t had any other dicks to suck the entire time I’ve been gone. For the first couple of nights after I return from my self-enforced exile, I’m pretty much a fixture in the bathroom at Woody’s and the backroom at Babylon - so many tricks have apparently missed my singular attentions that I barely have time to recover between blowjobs before another needy fag is begging for my cock.
It’s quickly back to business as usual for Brian Kinney, Stud of Liberty Avenue - which is EXACTLY as it should be. If anything I’m even more ruthless when it comes to my personal rules than I’ve ever been before. No seconds. No tricks staying overnight. Nobody with a dick less than 7”. And, as always, no excuses, no apologies, no regrets and nothing even remotely resembling a relationship. It works for me. It always has and there’s absolutely no reason for me to change.
I decide to keep the photo of me, Gus and the twink on my desk at work, though. It’s a really good picture and there’s no reason not to keep it around. Okay, so it was a weird and completely improbable dream - me with a partner all settled down and everything *pffft* - but, there were some good parts to it, too. I still remember that dream so vividly - it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever experienced. I even dream about the dream sometimes - like I’m dreaming about things that happened in my past.
And the twink - well, he was pretty fucking fantastic in bed - so it doesn’t hurt to keep his picture around. If it’s a slow day at work or I’m stressed or anything, I even jerk off to the picture of him sometimes - of course I will never admit that to ANYONE. Some of those dreams about the dream are pretty hot, too - the ones with the twink in them, I mean. Some of the shit I imagined the two of us doing . . . well, okay, I jerk off to those too. Shit, who am I to turn away a good fantasy fuck, right? So what if I occasionally imagine it’s the twink I’m fucking instead of whatever random trick I’m plowing in the backroom - if it makes me cum harder, then who the fuck cares how I’m getting my rocks off, and the tricks never know the difference.
So, yeah, I keep the picture and I think about the kid every so often. But I don’t see him again so that’s that, right? After a few months the shitty feeling in my gut goes away altogether and everything seems back to the way it should be. I’m even starting to forget about the dream. Well, maybe not forgetting about it, but thinking about it less and less all the time.
By spring, I’m so busy at work that I haven’t got time to worry about the twink or the weird dream much anymore anyway. Ryder has promised to make me a full partner if I increase profits by not less than 10% over last year and I’m well on my way. That’s all I’m thinking about right now. I don’t have time for anything else - not the gang, not even Gus, just work, work, work, with a little sex thrown in to keep me sane, of course. I even manage to somehow ignore the fact that I’m about to turn thirty.
Well, I HAD forgotten about it until the guys show up at my loft this morning, pulling me out of bed in spite of my complaints and the second worst hangover I think I’ve ever had. If they think they’ve surprised me, though, they’re wrong - the ridiculous ‘Deathday Party’ they are staging is almost exactly like the one I remember from my dream, complete with 'RIP' cake and coffin. How unoriginal can they get?
Since I’m prepared for their shit, I manage to not let it get to me too bad. The only thing I miss is that there’s no blond twink here to give me the celebratory birthday fuck after the idiotic party that I remember from my dream. In my dream it seemed like it was one of the top ten fucks of my life - but no twink means no fuck so I just end up with mediocre fucks at the baths instead. Happy Birthday to Me! At least it’s not so bad that I feel compelled to do the one other thing I remember from my birthday in my dream - no scarfing for me, at least not this year, I decide.
I’m pretty proud of myself that I manage to survive my thirtieth birthday relatively intact and without too much melodrama - the Deathday Party notwithstanding. Okay, I do admit to feeling a little stressed out and jumpy all day, but what the hell, I was turning thirty and I never actually expected to make it this long.
That ulcer might be coming back too - I have that weird feeling in my gut again that I thought I was over. But anyone in my situation would feel a little stressed, right? I’m probably just still suffering the consequences of the hangover from last night again, too. Great, one more thing to enjoy about getting older - the hangovers are worse.
So with the stress and the ulcer, or whatever it is, should I really be surprised that I can’t sleep at all? Every time I do start to drift off, I dream about the fucking dream again. In the dream, the night after my thirtieth birthday was not a good night for me. Or for the twink. It was probably the worst fucking night of my life - well of my dream life at least. After the third time I wake up almost completely freaked out, I give up on sleeping altogether and get up and watch movies the rest of the night.
At 6:30 I drag my ass down to the Liberty Diner to get some breakfast, some coffee and some company. I know that Deb is scheduled to work the breakfast shift and she’s usually a perfect way to get your mind off anything you’re thinking about since she never shuts up talking for even a second. It’s still way too early for any type of crowd so I have my pick of seating and decide to pull up to a stool at the counter where I can more conveniently chat with Debbie while I let her feed me. Deb of course thinks that I’m just up late after a night of bars, clubs and tricks rather than getting up early after a night of not being able to sleep due to nightmares, which is good because I DON’T want to try to explain this all to her.
At about 7:15 the newspaper delivery guy comes by and drops off the Diner’s three regular copies of the morning edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I grab one before anyone else can get to it and start to read. I’m still feeling way too tense and hyped up to go home and sleep so I read the paper with more than my average care - which means I don’t just scan the headlines and then look over my competitions’ various ad campaigns - I am actually reading the stories.
It’s when I get to the front page of the Metro section that I’m thrown for a fucking loop. That ball of stress or whatever in my gut practically explodes as I read the headline - “Local Teen Murdered at High School Prom”. And there, right below the headline is a picture of the hotel where the prom was held and next to it a picture of the victim, one Justin Taylor, showing a beautiful, smiling young man with bright shiny blond hair and sparkling blue eyes.
“Brian, honey. What’s wrong,” Debbie asks me.
All I can do is point to the article in the newspaper. Deb picks the paper up and starts to read the story about the kid who was killed at his prom.
“Says here this Taylor kid was found dead in the parking garage of the hotel where they were having his Senior Prom. Police have no suspects yet. Fuck - it says they suspect it was a hate crime ‘cause the kid just recently came out and had been suffering lots of harassment at school because of being gay. Poor fucking kid. I’m going to go call the rest of my PFLAG group right now and see if we can’t reach out to the kid’s parents. They have to be just devastated.” Debbie says, hustling off to the phone and forgetting about my little outburst.
I snatch back the paper from Deb as she starts to walk away and I read through the entire article. Then I read it again. Then again. It just can’t be true. He’s so young and so talented and so full of life. He can’t be dead. Justin can’t be dead.
It was just a dream, right? I mean, I know that in the dream he is bashed. I guess I was worried that this might happen - that would kinda explain why I’ve been so weirded out all night - I knew that in the dream this was the night it would happen. But, even in the dream he doesn’t die - he was bashed, yeah and it was iffy for a while but he doesn’t die and he’s okay after a while. I take care of him and he ends up being okay. He can’t be dead.
This just doesn’t make any sense though. The way I remember it, the reason Hobbs gave for the bashing was because I came and danced with Justin. That’s what he said to the police and at the trial. But I wasn’t there last night. So Hobbs wouldn’t have had any reason to hurt Justin. Right?
Unless, of course, that was all just fucking bullshit - I know that Justin had been having trouble with Hobbs all last year. Maybe it wasn’t that dance at the Prom that made Hobbs do it - that was just his convenient excuse. But I wasn’t there last night and he hurt Justin anyway. So, it wasn’t ever really my fault after all.
Except that now it is my fault. I wasn’t there last night. I wasn’t there to stop Hobbs. Instead of hitting Justin only once, he could have hit him multiple times. And I wasn’t there to call the ambulance. Fuck. I wasn’t there to help him.
Justin’s dead because I wasn’t there to help him. I wasn’t there because I kicked him out of my loft that morning. I didn’t want to get involved with him. I didn’t want him to mess up my well ordered life where I get to fuck anything that moves without repercussions. I didn’t want to risk my feelings getting hurt. I was mad at him for rejecting me, again, and leaving me and trying to change me. So, I went back to those stupid rules and kicked him out of my life and now he’s dead because of me.
“Brian? What’s wrong, Brian,” I hear Mikey’s voice and I look over to discover him sitting on the stool next to me. “Ma called and said you’ve been sitting here for like two hours not saying anything. She said you were upset about that gay bashing that’s on the news? I don’t understand, Brian. What’s some stranger getting killed out in the suburbs got to do with you?”
“It’s not a fucking stranger, Mikey. It’s Justin,” I try to explain, but it’s hard to talk because of the huge lump in my throat.
“What’s just in? The new Armani Summer Collection?” another voice chimes in and I notice Emmet seating himself on Mikey’s other side. “What’s wrong with you, Brian? You look like shit. I’d ask if someone just ran over your dog, but first of all I know you don’t have a dog and secondly, even if you did, I still couldn’t see you getting this upset because I’m not convinced you have a heart.”
“Shut the fuck up, Em. Brian’s upset about this gay bashing thing,” Michael reprimands his joking friend and hands Emmett the newspaper section I’m reading, which he pulls out of my hands as I protest with a moan. “I think Bri must have known the kid that was killed.”
“Let me see. Ooooh! Too bad - that boy was a cutie!” Em comments on Justin’s photo. “You know what? He does look kinda familiar. Hmmm?”
“Who’s familiar?” Ted says as he walks in and leans over Emmett’s shoulder to see what the other man is looking at.
“Hey, Teddy. Take a look. Does this kid look familiar to you?” Em shoves the paper at Ted for his opinion.
“Yeah . . . Bri, isn’t this that trick you picked up the night Gus was born? I recognize him from that picture you have on your desk.” Ted states authoritatively. “I was just looking at it the other day when I was at Ryder’s dropping off some tax docs.”
“He’s NOT a trick. He’s not a stranger. It’s JUSTIN,” I say, trying to explain as I grab the paper back, but I stop when I notice the splashing drops of moisture splattering the paper now and realize that these are my tears. "It’s Justin. Don’t you understand? Justin is dead.”
Mikey is totally freaking out now because, except for the 2 or 3 times that I had a really exceptional run-in with Jack, he’s never seen me cry and I’m bawling now. Ted and Emmett look concerned and confused - pretty much in equal parts - because I don’t think either one of the them ever thought I was physically capable of creating tears or even of expressing sadness at someone’s death. But I don’t know how to explain to them that this is JUSTIN who is dead and that it’s my fault. They don’t even remember him, really. I’m the only one who remembers him and God how I’ve missed him all these months and now he’s dead.
I can’t take this anymore. I get up from the Diner stool and literally run out of the building. Mikey and Em are trailing behind me and yelling my name, but I can’t hear them. I run out into the street and just barely avoid getting hit by the number 22 city bus that pulls around the corner right on time. Luckily the bus makes it impossible for Mikey and Em to catch me and I manage to get around the corner.
I run for about ten more minutes before I realize I’m finally safe from pursuit by the gang so I slow down. Images of my life with Justin are still inundating my brain - whether or not they are real memories, it doesn’t matter since they are killing me either way. I know it’s not even ten am but I need a fucking drink - NOW. I look around the area I’ve come to and see one bar that looks like it’s just opening for the day and I make a beeline directly for that source of comfort and oblivion.