NEVER BROUGHT TO MIND
Note from author: This is a stand alone New Year’s story, from Brian’s Point of View. It takes place three years after the end of season two, where Justin leaves the Rage party with Ethan. In this version of the world, Justin never left Ethan.
My mobile rings the minute I switch it on, as the jet taxis to the gate at my destination: Pittsburgh. It’s a race to see whether it’s Mikey or Blaine calling me. It’s Blaine, but we don’t talk for three seconds before a second call beeps in. Mikey. Blaine says, “Tell me again why you’re in Pittsburgh and I’m in New York?”
He’s not trying to be a bitch, but he comes across as one, sometimes, even without trying. I understand his pique. It’s New Year’s Eve. You’d think he could rely on me to be there with him. But then, he should know better than to rely on me for anything. I’ve been honest with him from the beginning of this whatever the fuck it is between us. I gave him my mantra: I don’t believe in love, I believe in fucking. And I don’t do boyfriends.
Blaine is a model, a famous model. I met him during an ad campaign shoot shortly after I moved to New York a year and a half ago. My glorious partnership in BBD&O that I so coveted may pay a shit load of money, but sometimes I get a little tired of it. It’s hard to make a dent, even at the Vice President level, in a monolith this huge. Everyone is too anxious to share the credit on a winning idea and pass the blame on a losing campaign. I don’t appreciate either technique. Yeah, they pay me a fucking fortune and they all tell me I’m doing great, and I love living in a real city, but…I don’t know. The grass isn’t always greener, I guess. But wait, it’s not so green on the side I left, either. I guess the moral here is that grass is just never fucking green, no matter which side of the fence you’re standing on.
“Blaine, I told you. I promised my old friend Michael. You remember Michael. We took him to dinner at Daniel’s a couple months ago when he visited.”
“Oh yes, he ate with the table manners and cutlery skills of a two year old and he’s obviously madly in love with you.”
“Hold on a second, Blaine,” I switch over to Mikey.
“Are you HERE?” He squeals in my ear and I wince.
“Just pulling up to the gate. Are you at the airport?”
“Almost, traffic was a bitch. Did you check a bag?”
“For two days? No, Mikey, I carried on.” I never should have let him pick me up. Thank God I didn’t agree to stay at his place with the school teacher and the former hooker. The Four Seasons had far more appeal. I’ll be desperate for my own space after the glow of reunion fades after five minutes. “Hold on a second.”
I cut over to Blaine. “It’s Mikey, isn’t it?” He sounds mad. I sigh.
“He’s picking me up. And he’s in a committed relationship with a live in lover who just happens to be a hunk, Blaine. Mikey’s crush on me is ancient history.”
“You are so kidding yourself. Most people come to New York FROM Pittsburgh to celebrate the New Year, Brian. Not the other way around.”
“Blaine, I’ve been so busy I haven’t even had time to see my son. I only visit him if his mom brings him to the city. I have a couple days off, for a change, and I need to touch base with my kid. The Christmas season was insane, as you know. I hardly had time to talk to him on the phone.”
“You could have flown up tomorrow. After the party.”
“You enjoy the party. You should have a bird’s eye view of the ball dropping. Of someone balls, anyway.” The party is in an exclusive hotel overlooking Times Square. The only way to survive that melee. The invitation was highly coveted. Blaine was thrilled when I told him we were in. Now this.
“If you think I’m not going and having a good time because you aren’t here, think again, Brian.”
I know he will go and I know he will have a good time. I fully expect it. He’s twenty-five and gorgeous. Why shouldn’t he? “Hold on a minute,” I click over to Mikey.
“Where are you now?”
“Are you talking to that prissy model of yours?” He sounds whiney and miffed. Welcome home.
“He’s not prissy and he’s not mine. Where are you, Mikey?”
“Turning into the airport. Traffic here sucks! Are you off the plane yet?”
“Walking off,” I say, slinging my leather Tumi over one shoulder. The beauty of first class is exiting before the masses. “Hold on.”
I click over to Blaine. “I’m here. I’ll call you later, before you leave for the party. Will you be at my place or yours?” Lately, the two residences have become rather blended. That worries me a little.
“Not sure, call my mobile. Your place, probably. It’s closer to the party. Brian, are you going to see him?”
I act like I don’t know who he means, but I know. I know very well. He doesn’t mean Mikey or Gus or any of the gang. He means Justin Taylor, my ex…ex…whatever the fuck he was. “Shut up, Blaine. Hold on,” I switch to Mikey. “Where are you picking me up?”
He says, “At the curb outside the American Airlines baggage area. I’m in Ben ‘s car. It’s a silver Taurus.
I sigh. Of course it is. “I’ll be there in a few.”
Back to Blaine. He’s hung up. Swell. Drama queen. I put up the mobile and cross the crowded concourse, wondering again why the hell I’m in Pittsburgh after almost two fucking years of blessed absence. Depression rolls up to me in waves, each progressively stronger than the last. This is just self-punishing. I left this town to pursue a professional goal, that much is true, but what I didn’t tell anyone was that the offer came just in time. I was slipping into a vat of self-pity and clinical depression. Every time I accidentally crossed his path it was as if someone threw a lance in me. You can only bleed so much and then you either die or get better. I decided dying wasn’t an option, so I took the other route. If New York hadn’t loomed, I don’t think it would have worked, however. There had to be distance in order for the healing to begin.
Standing there on the curb, scanning the fleet of automobiles for a fucking Taurus, I feel conspicuous in my alpaca overcoat as I light a cigarette. So much down-filled Gortex here. Was it always so? So many people who spend way too much of their income on beer and cheese dip. It shows in their hips. Blaine says New Yorkers resemble survivors in a futuristic post-apocalyptic movie, there are so many lean and sullen people dressed in shades of black. If he’s right about that, Pittsburgh is the setting for a second showing of Supersize Me.
I’m relieved that Mikey is still a skinny little mite as he leaps out of the Taurus and into my arms, almost knocking me over. “Calm yourself,” I beg him, moving my cigarette from between my lips a split second before his mouth hits mine in greeting. I kiss him back, resisting the urge to wipe the surplus saliva on the back of my hand as I follow him into his car. Cloth interior. Not even leather, or pleather. Can it get much worse?
I crank down the eighties rock on the CD player so I can hear him as he babbles on about who Emmett is fucking, what career Ted is pursuing this week, how Debbie and her cop are living in blissful, overweight, middle-aged sin, and how he and Ben are still perfect together. I notice he is conspicuously silent on the subject of the Twink-Who-Dare-Not-Speak-His-Name. So I bring him up. I don’t want anyone to think they can’t mention him around me out of fear that I’ll turn morose.
“And Justin? Still holding the bow for the fiddler?”
He cuts me a furtive glance and chuckles like a nervous girl. “I guess so. Wow, you look great, Brian! Really great! So handsome and that coat is to die for!”
Smooth. Not. And now I have to hear about Hunter and the high school hijinks of a reformed hustler. When he takes a wrong turn, I interrupt his monologue, “Unless they moved Main Street, you should have turned back there to take me to the Four Seasons.”
“We’re not going there NOW!” he insists.
“Where are we going?”
“Where else?” he says with a gleam and I shrug. Too early for Babylon. Too early even for Woody’s. As we pass my old loft building on Tremont, I get a clue. He parks in front of the diner and I brace myself for the inevitable greeting from the gaudiest waitress in America. I’m not disappointed. Debbie, who may be a little heavier than when last we met, suffocates me against her monumental breasts and pats my back as if trying to coax a stubborn burp out of me. “You never write, you never call…” she’s chastising me when I not so gently remind her,
“The phones and the mail work both ways, Deb.” She wasn’t really there for me when I needed her most. When my life caved in. None of them were there, except for Mikey. He tried, he really did. The rest of them seemed to take some evil delight in the fact I got burned, publicly. I will never, never forget how that felt or forgive them for it. Never. The one time in my adult life when I could have used a kind word or a sign of friendship and instead they joked about my fall from the peaks of being king stud. Emmett, Ted, Melanie, Debbie, even Lindsay, the mother of my kid, they all left me there to suffer in apparent denial, even though each had to know how much I was hurting. To be fair, I think Mikey’s partner, Ben, tried to help. He let me borrow Mikey more than usual. That was at least something. While Debbie and the rest welcomed the fiddler into their little circle, no one seemed to watch old Brian slip out the back door.
Well, that door closed behind me, and it won’t be opened again by me. Fuck them. I ease out of Debbie’s flabby embrace and acknowledge the waves and smiles from a back booth where the rest of them are gathered. My son runs up to me and I’m genuinely glad to see him. I pick him up and swing him, bringing him back to earth to kiss him on the nose. “I’ve missed you, Sonny Boy,” I say and he whispers,
“Did you bring me a pezzant?”
“Maybe.” Of course I did. I brought him several “pezzants”. I kiss Lindsay in greeting, nod at the others, and squeeze in bedside Mikey and Ben with Gus still on my lap. We order food and I let them tell me how good I look. I do look good. I got a trainer, I work on the body, I watch what I eat, I’ve cut back drastically on the drinking and the tweaking. It was taking too great an emotional toll on me.
“Tell us about this gorgeous model in your life,” Emmett insists, spreading open the latest issue of GQ to a section of full-page black and white photos featuring Blaine in the new lines of various designers. I shut the magazine.
“I never kiss and tell, Emmett.”
“You don’t have to, Sweetie. Michael Musto calls you two The Beautiful Couple.”
“So there you go,” I watch Gus dig through my coat pockets for “pezzants” and inform him they’re all in my suitcase in the trunk of Mikey’s car. “Go geddit!” He says to Mikey, who glares at him.
“You’re not the boss of me.”
We all laugh over that, and I’m relieved the subject has shifted from my love life. I hear about Ben’s health, which seems stable, and the modest success of his latest book, of Mikey’s good sales with Rage, of Melanie and Mikey’s demon spawn named Rebecca or Jenny or something. I just block that kid, unable to conceive of such a genetic combination. Lindsay seems happy and successful at the gallery, and she and Melanie are together again after Lindsay’s ill-advised walk on the willy side. Emmett’s party business in burgeoning and he’s dating yet another closeted faggot. What a surprise. And here’s another big shock: Ted is without a lover and is struggling to find himself both a profession he enjoys and a man willing to stick. Why worry about leaving? Nothing ever changes. I presume Vic is still dead.
My mobile rings. I flip it open. “Brian.”
Blaine says, “I’m sorry I was so pissy.”
“Are you at the hotel? Let’s have phone sex.”
I sigh and look around at the others. “Nope, not possible.”
“I’m at the diner with a gaggle of dykes and fags and my kid.”
“Tell him I think he looks divine in Hugo Boss,” Emmett teases and we say a few more words and disconnect.
“Is it serious?” Lindsay teases and Ted harrumphs at that.
“This is Brian, Linds. It’s never serious with Brian.”
A strange silence descends over the table and I smile at Ted and say, “That’s right, Teddy. Brian has no heart. How convenient.”
Things are going well so far.
The party is at Babylon, invitation only. Not exactly the coveted invitation of the New York soiree. I think the only criteria is to have a dick and be willing to use it on boys. I spend some time giving Gus his gifts and catching up on his life. I’m beginning to feel better about things until I leave him and go to the hotel. Alone in a fancy suite, I feel suddenly blue and pick up the phone and call Blaine. No answer at his place. No answer at my place. He finally answers his mobile. A lot of noise in the background. “I’m taking you up on your offer,” I say, stretching out on the bed, trying to get in the mood. He laughs.
“Brian, I went out to get pizza with the guys before the party. You know party food is for shit.”
To be a model, Blaine eats more than any man I know and never gains an ounce. Youth. I let him off the hook, not really feeling very horny, anyway. I just wanted the connection. Pittsburgh presses in on me like that infernal canopy in that cheesy horror movie that crushes the guy when it descends from above to cover him. I feel suffocated, panicked, and then I force myself to get a grip, turn on my side, and fall asleep.
I’m awakened by the shrill ring of the phone. I’m disoriented, unsure where I am and who’s calling. Mikey says, “Are you dressed?”
I sit up, rubbing my eyes and trying to remember what’s happening. It slowly comes back to me. “Not yet.”
“Brian! We’re already late! We’re leaving now to get you. Get ready!”
I try Blaine. No answer. I take a quick shower and dress in what I brought for the party. Not black tie, like the New York party. Black leather pants, black silk shirt, boots. I stare at my reflection. I look good for 35, but I look 35. It’s ridiculous for me to be going to a party at Babylon at 35. I throw on a Prada leather jacket and think about pouring myself a swig from the mini bar but decide that would be a mistake. I try Blaine again. No answer. Damn him.
Mikey and Ben call from the porte-cochere outside the hotel and I tell Mikey to vacate the shotgun seat for me. His miniature size is more easily folded into the back than is my height. They try to keep the conversation light, and I realize I haven’t eaten a thing all day. Starving. And yet, not sure anything I try to eat would digest. As we reach Babylon, I realize how young the crowd is as I grab Mikey’s arm and ask, “Do you think he’ll be here?”
He gives me that puppy dog look that passes for empathy with Mikey and squeezes my hand as he says, “Don’t worry, Brian. They don’t do the club scene.”
They. The couple. Justin and Ethan. The partners. “THEY” don’t do the club scene. Is that a lance that just penetrated my back? I nod, forcing a smile as the doorman is very welcoming, telling me he’s glad to see me back and telling me how good I look. For an old man, I think to myself. It’s crowded inside, but except for some improvements in the sound system and a slight enlargement to the bar, nothing’s changed. I wonder if the back room is still in business. So many of the backrooms in New York have closed. Not because of the Nazis. Because gay men there are starting to shy away from the outlaw scene, except for the most hard core. The pendulum’s swung. I’m glad I was young and promiscuous when it was still allowed.
Emmett flounces over, a vision in pink, and Ted is hangdog at his side, wondering why no one seems interested in his fabulous self. I get a drink. I can’t do this sober.
I drink a little. Dance. Get hit on. Am starting to relax, believing I can get through it after all. I only check my mobile twice to see if Blaine called. He didn’t. Of course not, he’s having a great time at a fabulous New York party. Why would he call me, for fuck’s sake? And then I see him. Well, them, I guess, because they walk in together, accompanied by a third guy, a handsome kid of like age. All three are dressed in black tie. Obviously, this isn’t their first stop of the night. I haven’t seen Justin in black tie since the cursed prom. At least this tux fits him. Now if they would just play Last Dance on the sound system, all would be perfect. Add a baseball bat wielding homophobe and the nightmare would be complete.
If I could find Mikey right now, I’d kill him, but he’s lost in a sea of pecs and ass. Where I should be. Hiding in the flesh. Invisible. Justin keys on me immediately. Of course he does. I was born unlucky. When his gaze locks mine, I feel mesmerized, unable to move. He blinks, says something to Ethan, who follows his stare to me. Ethan sneers at me. There’s no other word that could encapsulate that expression on his smarmy face. It’s a sneer. He then kisses Justin on the lips, takes the other guy’s hand and leads him out on the dance floor as Justin walks in my direction. No slipping out the back, Jack, for me. No trick nearby to bury my face in. Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Up close, I notice that a few years wear well on the twink. Not really a twink, anymore, but still young, still beautiful. Still heartbreaking.
“I thought I was hallucinating,” he says. We don’t shake hands, we don’t kiss, there’s no appropriate salutation when reunited with someone who once shared what we had together.
“Drugs,” I say with a smile and he laughs.
“No one told me you were going to be in town.”
My gaze drifts to where his partner is dancing close with the other guy. His does not. “Seems like the kind of thing one would mention,” he says and I shrug. Why? Why would anyone tell him his ex was coming to town? So he could leave the city?
“Relax, I don’t plan to bother you,” I tell him and he winces at that remark.
“I wasn’t worried about your bothering me, Brian. You haven’t said a word to me in almost two years. Even when you were still living in Pittsburgh, you did everything you could to avoid running into me.”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” I say with as much cool as I can muster. He sighs.
“I wasn’t. I know you hate me, Brian. I’m sorry for that.”
“Don’t be a drama princess. Why would I hate you? Because you left me? There’s a surprise. The only real question is why would you stay as long as you did? I don’t hate you, Justin. I couldn’t hate you.”
He looks almost relieved. “I never meant to hurt you, Brian.”
Here’s a conversation we are so not going to have. Lying to me, sneaking around behind my back with loverboy, leaving me for him, and you never meant to hurt me? What was it you meant to do? I give him none of that bile. I just swallow it, as usual, and say, “So who’s the spare?” I nod towards the dancing queens. He shrugs, but a certain guarded look comes into those baby blues.
“That’s Johann Engle. He’s from Austria. He has the same manager as Ethan. He plays cello. He’s staying with us while he studies here.”
“Didn’t they invent that shit in Austria? Why would he come here to study?”
“Apparently one of the world’s best cellists is at Carnegie.”
“Live and learn. Staying with you, huh? In that little apartment you have?”
“We live in your old building on Tremont now, Brian. One floor under your former loft. Ethan’s CD’s are selling very well. His concerts are also quite successful.”
“Ah,” another lance enters my body as I picture them living within the shadows of our old place. Not the sentimental type, I guess. “And what is Justin doing? Mikey tells me you’re not working on Rage anymore.”
“Ethan didn’t think it looked right for his partner to be involved in the lurid comic trade.”
“Oh, so he’s out now?”
He nods. I force a smile. “Your mother must be so proud. So what are you doing?”
“I paint a little. I travel with him.”
“We’ve been to Europe twice just this year.”
“Nice,” I want to die. I just want to drop over dead on this bar, the victim of a sudden heart attack. Can’t one of those lances just put me out of my misery? “Maybe you should get out there before Ludwig moves in on your genius.”
He meets my look with cold complacency as he says, “The three of us are in a relationship, Brian.”
I take that in. I can damned well guess who’s idea that was, and he’s not standing here before me. “Did he give him a ring, too?” I can’t stop myself from being cruel. The look on his face makes me wish I could take it back. And then he steels up.
“I’m fine with it.”
“I learned from a master that sex is meaningless.”
“I never said that.”
He sighs, looks away. “No, you never did. That’s true. Brian, are you happy?”
There’s more behind that question, but how much more and what it is, I can’t be sure. I shrug. How do I answer that? “Are you?”
Ethan interrupts, ignoring me as he grabs Justin’s hand and says, “It’s almost midnight. Johann and I want you with us when the hour hits,” he pulls him away and I watch him watch me over his shoulder as he’s led off. The look in his eyes fills me with pain. People are maneuvering to be close to someone they want to kiss as the seconds draw near. I’ve never felt more alone than I do at this moment. I’ve never felt more forgotten. A hand closes on my shoulder.
“Happy New Year, handsome.”
The crowd is counting, ten-nine-eight…I turn to reject my suitor and find myself looking into the face of perfection, the face of Blaine. I blink, unable to believe it. “….five-four…” He smiles. “It’s really me.” His arms snake around my waist, as I grab him in a tight embrace. “How…? When?” I can’t seem to make a cohesive sentence.
He’s wearing a tux. A Zegna shawl-collared creation that looks like a million bucks on his frame. Dressed for New York. “Why go to Times Square when the only person I want to kiss on New Year’s is in Pittsburgh?” He says as the magic hour arrives and the cheers begin.
“No one has ever done anything like this for me. No one. Not ever,” I whisper against his ear and he takes my face in both hands as he says,
“It’s about time someone did.”
I close my eyes and kiss him. The pain inside of me begins to unravel and for the first time in too long to remember, I begin to feel alive.
End …or is it?
HAPPY NEW YEAR’S Y’ALL!!!!
|Disclaimer: The television show Queer As Folk and its characters are the property of Showtime and CowLip Productions. No money is being made. Stories and discussion are intended purely for the entertainment of fans of Queer as Folk, the Brian and Justin characters, and Randall's writings.
Contact Site Admin with questions or technical problems.
July 25, 2004