COUP DE GRACE
They stopped in Amarillo, Texas for the night. It was a town so flat you could roll a dime from one border to the other without a bump. The overhanging scent of the stockyards perfumed the air that was still heavy with summer heat, despite the season. Feeling as out of place as they had ever been in their lives, Brian and Justin entered the Big Tex cafť, where a sign informed them if a diner could devour a 72 ounce steak, in one sitting, it was free.
"A free heart attack," Brian observed as Justin smirked at the idea of his skinny, food-adverse boyfriend devouring half a cow. Inside the huge, barn- like structure were a collection of truck drivers, tourists and locals, all being serenaded by a sound system playing country and western tunes with a long vintage.
"There are more cowboy hats and boots here than in Babylon on line dancing night," Brian said as they were escorted to a booth by a woman twice Brianís age wearing twice as much makeup as Debbie Novotny. Scary.
"Yeah, but my guess is these cowboys donít suck dick in the backroom during a break," Justin observed with a smile as Brian shrugged.
"Donít be too sure."
Justin looked around and said, "Even if they did, would you really care? These guys are pretty scary looking."
Brian spent an inordinate amount of time describing in detail how he wanted his salad prepared, how his steak should be trimmed and cooked and what sides he wanted and how they were to be cooked. The waitress listened, then read back his order, "One iceberg with oil and vinegar, hold the tomatoes, one filet, sissy size, run it through the fire, and boil the broccoli. Got it. And you, sweetie?"
Justin beamed at Brian as he said, "A t-bone, medium rare, baked potato, loaded and Iíll try some of that steak soup."
Brian glared at him as she walked away. "When you weigh over two-hundred, you can start looking for another boyfriend. Oh, wait a minute. You already are."
Justin looked genuinely confused. "Huh?"
Brian got up, annoyed at himself for showing this vulnerability. "Forget it. I have to take a piss."
When he returned to the dining room, Brian noticed that Justin was in heated conversation on his mobile. Spying Brian, he quickly disengaged and pressed end. Brian slid onto his chair, swallowing his rage. He picked at his salad and Justin finally said, "Want to talk about it?"
"What?" Brian asked with forced nonchalance.
Brian didnít even like it when he said the name. Even the name was hurtful. He shrugged. "Not particularly. None of my business."
"Alrighty, then," Justin said with a smirk, knowing his lover better than that. Their main courses arrived and finally Brian spoke.
"So you talk to him a lot, do you?"
"Uh-huh, every day. No, Brian, this is the first time Iíve heard from him since I walked. Christ! Whatís wrong with you?"
"Not a fucking thing."
Silence again and then Justin said, "Please tell me you arenít jealous of him, Brian. Thereís no reason to be. I have no interest in him whatsoever."
"You lied to me about him before."
Justinís blue eyes narrowed. "Thatís way unfair."
"You still havenít let that go?"
"I donít give a shit."
"Yeah, I can tell."
They finished, paid, and never saw the half a cow devoured by any brave Texan. Their motel was small, right on the highway, allowing for a rapid escape when the sun came up. They both knew Amarillo wasnít a town where a gay couple could expect a warm welcome. Stretched out on a thin, lumpy mattress, Brian was certain he wouldnít sleep all night, but he fell asleep while Justin was watching Dawn of the Dead.
"A little pissy, are we, Brian?" Vic asked in a dream and Brian sighed. They were in Babylon, sharing drinks at the bar.
"What now, Vic? I donít want to go through that whole Ethan debacle again. I canít."
"Letís recap, shall we?" Vic suggested, his Hawaiian shirt beginning to annoy Brian, so in his dream he switched it to Versace. That was better. Vic looked down at the silk print and laughed. "Label Queen."
Brian shrugged. "Quality tells, quality sells."
"So, he left you all those ages ago because why, Brian?"
"I guess he liked the dipshitís dick better."
"You know that isnít it."
"He was in love with love. He wanted the big romance."
"Closer to the truth. And were you giving him even a hint of that romance?"
"I thought so, but clearly not."
"And now? Anything different?"
"I guess so. Heís my partner now. I thought he was then, butÖ"
"But it was a dirty little secret that you kept even from him."
Brian sighed. He couldnít argue with that. "So now Ethan is a success, not living in squalor, so he can afford to buy him roses."
"You can afford to buy him roses, too."
"We arenít the roses type."
"You mean you arenít the roses type."
"Ok, thatís exactly what I mean."
"Sometimes you do something for someone you love, even if itís not exactly what youíd do on your own. Itís called being caring and unselfish."
"You know me, Vic. Selfish to the end."
"Liar. I do know you, Brian. I know you almost killed yourself riding across the border when you were still recovering from cancer to prove something to yourself but also to raise money for that hospice you so kindly had dedicated in my name. Is that selfish? No."
"No good deed goes unpunished," Brian said with a scowl as Vic smiled and clapped him on the shoulder.
"Forget the fucking roses. Tell him what he means to you."
"The roses are easier."
"You never did anything the easy way, Brian. Donít start now."
"When are you going to go away and leave me in peace?"
"When I believe youíre on your way as a fully realized human being. This is my last chore on your plane, Brian, and Iím not going to fuck it up."
"What happens if you do? You have to go to hell?"
"Nope, you do. A hell of your own creation. The worst kind."
"I donít need you."
Justin shook Brian gently. "Who donít you need?"
Disoriented, Brian squinted at his lover and said, "Whereís Vic?"
"God, not that dream, again. Should I be jealous?"
Brian fell back on the pillow, covering his eyes with his arm. "At least your rival is dead."
"You donít have a rival, Brian," he switched off the ghouls and stretched out beside his lover, stroking his palm up and down Brianís smooth torso. "Why do you have to make everything so hard?"
"Complaining?" Brian said with a grin and Justin sighed.
"You know what I mean."
"I donít know why, Justin. I wish I did."
"I wish you did too, so maybe we could put a stop to it."
Brian pulled him down on top of him, kissing him hard, wanting to lose the misery of the day in the heat of their passion.
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July 25, 2004