After that dream (or was it?), I'm back to digging. What a surprise when I end up in Sharon's trailer! Not at all like Debbie, she is a beautiful and serene blonde, who is completely at ease with my intrusion. "Honey," she says in that Cagney and Lacey voice. "Give it up. Sometimes keeping your dreams are better than making them reality." Man, Deb would never say THAT! "Why? Is Gale an asshole?" "Gale is absolutely divine," she insists. "As sweet and talented as he is beautiful. And that's saying a lot. But he's leading man material, sweetie. He can't be burdened with a blond boyfriend at this stage in his career. Hollywood is still homophobic. " "Um, he's straight, right?" Sharon smiles sweetly. "Oh yeah, that too." I leave with her autograph, but no directions. She didn't feel that would be fair to Gale. Here I go again...
Last week on Transitions:
Brian shows up drunk at Trevor's penthouse after an argument with Michael. Trevor takes him in but, the next day, tells Brian he must get professional help to deal with his demons, or they can't see each other anymore. Trevor says he cares, but he is not an enabler. Brian runs into Justin at Torso. They kiss and more begins, but Brian sees the bruises and Justin goes nuclear on him and accuses him of not protecting him from Hobbs. Brian is devastated, and turns to Vic for help.
Scene 1: First class cabin of a jet, somewhere over the Atlantic.
Trevor noticed that Brian was holding the champagne flute the flight attendant had given him, but he hadn't drunk from it. Brian was preoccupied, his long legs stretched out in front of him on the first row of first class. Trevor had the window seat beside him, but had long since given up trying to engage Brian in conversation. Instead, he began reading his suspense novel, knowing that they had a long flight before reaching London. Sooner or later Brian would open up. They had talked very little since Trevor had laid down the law to Brian that morning in his penthouse. When they did talk, it was only about his account. Trevor wondered if he had gone too far. If so, he wouldn't retreat because he knew he was right, even if it was painful for them both.
"I feel like I left something undone," Brian said suddenly in the middle of dinner. Surprised by his speaking, Trevor glanced at him.
"What would that be, Brian?"
"I don't know. Something."
"Turn off the oven? Stop the mail? Engage your alarm system?"
"Yeah, all of those things are done. Mikey will go over to the loft occasionally to make sure everything is okay. But something's nagging me."
"You have your passport, or you couldn't have boarded. You have your laptop. Perhaps you forgot some article of clothing. If so, have no fear. You can find everything you need or desire in London."
Brian shook his head. It wasn't anything so mundane. "What did you do with Sam?"
"I have a lovely housesitter who stays at my place when I travel. She's a college student, completely reliable. She cares for the dog, brings in my mail, generally looks after things. Sam doesn't do well if I try to board him. He's a very needy dog. He demands a lot of attention."
Brian nodded. He liked Sam. Once again, he wished for the amiable companionship of a dog. "It'll be nice for you to go home, right?"
Trevor nodded. "I miss London. It's a great city. But America has an energy I've never found in any other country. I'm drawn to its excitement and pace."
Brian had eaten very little of the surprisingly good meal by the time his tray was cleared away. He declined dessert. He had a book, but wasn't interested in reading. He had work with him, but couldn't concentrate. He closed his eyes and slipped into an imaginary scenario with Justin. They would be on this same plane, headed for the same city, but with Justin beside him instead of Trevor. Justin would be listening to his Ipod, scrolling through the thousand songs stored in its memory. Brian would watch his head bob and shoulders jive in time to the music, and pretend to be annoyed.
"Are you going to do that all night?" he would ask Justin, who would offer him one of his megawatt smiles.
"Not if you come up with a better idea."
Their eyes would meet. Brian would know what Justin meant by that remark. Somehow, they would find a way to pursue some physical intimacy, the fire between them always smoldering just beneath the surface. They'd kiss, ignoring the disapproving stares of the other First Class types, interested only in each other. Justin's cornflower blue eyes would hold Brian enthralled as he said, "Thanks for taking me to London with you, Bri. I love you."
Brian would smile and respond, "I wouldn't want to see London any other way."
As if. As if he would say that. As if Justin would profess his love for him. As if they were still a couple. As if...
He felt Trevor's hand close over his forearm, squeezing gently. Only then did Brian realize silent tears ran down his cheeks. Brian brushed them away, embarrassed. He opened his eyes and exhaled slowly.
"That's what I forgot," he said in a half-whisper, more to himself than to Trevor. "I forgot to bring Justin."
"I know, I know. He's not mine to ask. Sorry, Trev, every once in awhile it just hits me like it's brand new."
"And I'm worried about him. Something's going on with him. But he hates me now. I never thought he'd hate me, but he does."
"Of course he doesn't hate you, Brian."
"You weren't there. You didn't hear what he said."
"Alright, so tell me. What did he say?"
Brian recounted the argument in Torso, and Trevor sighed. "It's classic displacement, Brian. It's not you, it's the man with the bat who makes him so angry. But the man with the bat is not here, so he blames you, thus displacing his anger from the abuser to the one he felt should have protected him. I went through this with my ex, only it was something from his past that haunted our relationship. I bore the brunt of it. The shrink tells me it's very common. The victim is angry at what happened to him, and he has to vent that anger. Unfortunately, it is often the one closest to him who is his target. Intellectually he knows you did everything you could to protect him, Brian. But emotionally, he feels there was a failure because, despite your best efforts, he was injured."
"And now? What if those bruises weren't caused by a fall or whatever excuse he gave me? What if that asshole is abusing him?"
"Then all of those fears from the bashing would be intensified, don't you think? And the fact that he's being hurt again, and you aren't protecting him, those feelings of betrayal would be enhanced. Illogical, of course. He left you. How can he expect you to protect him? But he has placed you in that role in his mind, so you're culpable."
Brian winced. "If he is hurting him...no. Why would he stay with him? He has places he can go, even if it's not with me. Deb, his mom, Daphne."
"Brian, you're attributing logic to a man suffering from trauma and, possibly in terror. You can't expect a rational reaction. His self esteem had to have been deeply impacted by the bashing. He feels vulnerable, victimized. A person can fall into a routine of victimization and worthlessness just by the very idea that they failed to defend themselves against an attack. People who get mugged or raped often experience such psychic pain. Your Justin is desperately in need of psychiatric help."
"That seems to be your answer to everything and you sure know a lot about it. Was it your minor in college or something?"
"Confession. Not only have I been through analysis but, additionally my sister is a shrink. I've discussed my impressions of your situation with her. So some of this ‘shrinkspeak' is from the source."
Brian sighed. "I see. A high achieving family, the Rainers."
"Oh, we have the ne'er do well brother with gambling debts and a cocaine addiction, never fear. The youngest in the brood. Isn't it always? But he thinks my sister and I are the failures, because I'm a faggot and she's divorced twice. Perhaps we're all a bit fucked up."
Brian smiled. It was nice to see Trevor, who was almost too perfect, admit to some fallibility. "I feel so guilty leaving the country if Justin is in danger. Believe me, if I was convinced that asshole was hitting him, I'd..."
"You'd what, Brian? Go tearing over there and confront him? Justin would deny it. Ethan would deny it. The police would be summoned and you'd be the one who's in trouble. The person who must rescue Justin, if it's that bad a situation, is Justin. He has to recognize he has a serious problem and remove himself from the danger."
"But what if he can't? What if he's too fucked up to see clearly what should happen?"
"Then his friends and family should probably intervene and cut through his denial. It's a tricky situation, Brian. If he doesn't respond immediately, the abuser could be enraged by that intervention and make it even worse for him. Or he could be stalked; that's fairly common. We should ask my sister about it."
"I feel like I should be there."
"Perhaps your going away will cause Justin to focus more appropriately on the true source of his problems. You may be doing him a favor."
"Trevor, if I find out Ethan has raised a hand to him, I honestly don't know what I'd do. Do you know how hard it was for me to stop myself from hunting down Hobbs, the guy with the bat, and beating the shit out of him?"
"I can only imagine."
"It was the fact that it was touch and go with Justin for so long, and I was so caught up in his struggle, that I didn't go after Hobbs. The rage fades. But if I saw Hobbs on the street today, I'm not sure how I would react."
"You'd do nothing, Brian. You'd want to hit him, but you wouldn't. Because you're a civilized man. And because you internalize your pain."
Brian shrugged, not at all sure if that was true.
Scene 2: A sushi restaurant in Pittsburgh.
Justin was surprised when Vic asked Ethan and him to be his guests at dinner. The sushi was cheap, but fresh, and throughout the meal, Justin felt as if Vic had them both under close scrutiny. When Ethan went to the men's room, Justin seized the moment.
"Did Brian leave for London?" he asked.
Vic nodded, not surprised by his curiosity. "Today."
"Isn't that sweet?" Justin pushed a California roll around in the blob of wasabi on his plate.
"What do you expect him to do, Sunshine? Stay home and do the washing while he waits to see if you come back? This is a business trip."
"So I've been told. It's just...he seems to be spending a lot of time with that British guy."
"Justin, you freed him to spend time with whomever he pleases when you left him for Ethan," Vic reminded him, making a mental note to inquire about the Brit.
"Are you mad at me, Vic?"
"Of course not. If I seem a bit protective of Brian, please allow me that luxury. I've known him since Hector was a pup. I know how hard this has been on him."
"Why do you say that?" Vic was surprised by his vehemence.
"Like he cares what I do."
"Justin, if you think Brian doesn't care for you, then Hobbs knocked more than a few screws loose in that pretty head. I know Brian. He's very worried about you, kid. And very lonely."
Justin leaned back with a smirk. "Sure he is, between trips to Buckingham Palace and the West End theatres. I'm sure he'll think of me often. Here comes Ethan. Drop it."
Vic did so, taking note of Justin's abrupt change when Ethan reappeared. Perhaps it was just to stop himself from hurting Ethan by discussing Justin's former lover, but Vic wondered if perhaps it could mean more. Justin's bitterness towards Brian seemed misplaced, but he was obviously angry about something. Vic wondered what it was.
Scene 3: London
In the back of the Rolls limo that met them at the airport, Trevor explained his view of jet lag to Brian. It was mid-morning, the night having been lost to travel. Buildings made familiar in movies and photos slid by as Heathrow gradually morphed into London itself. The weather was gray and chilly, just as it should be. There truly were red double decker buses, but few call boxes painted the same color, and the traffic rivaled the worst of New York City.
"You have to force yourself to immediately migrate to the time of the place where you land," Trevor was saying. "It may be three am by your internal clock, but if its eleven am where you land, adjust. Force yourself to stay up until a suitable local time for bed. You'll be useless day one, but by the following morning, you'll be almost native."
"I have such strange sleeping schedules that it won't matter to me. I'm constantly losing nights."
Trevor smiled. "I'm sure that's true. We're on our own until tomorrow at nine, when we meet with our executive team. Oh yes, except I've arranged an early supper with my sister, who wants to meet you, but the rest of the day I left open so you could fill it up with whatever you fancy seeing."
Brian smiled. He began to tick off his list. "I want to see the Churchill War Rooms, the Tate Museum, and the new Tate, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Greenwich Naval Observatory, the Tower, Tower Bridge, and I want to shop. Harrods, Jeremyn Street, Hamby's, that huge toy store where I want to get a couple things for my kid, Liberty's...oh! Then let's do the seedy part of Soho and..."
"Brian!" Trevor interrupted him with a laugh. "A day at a time!"
Brian laughed too. "I just want to see everything at once."
"In that case, I have an idea."
They dropped off their luggage at Trevor's Queen Anne styled rowhouse in Chelsea. Brian's bedroom windows offered a view of the Prince Albert bridge, spanning the Thames. While the rooms were small; they were elegant. Brian reasoned the property was worth millions, given its location and condition. At Trevor's suggestion, he dressed comfortably and warmly, and they went to the mews at the back of the house where a Jaguar sedan was stored. Since the steering was reversed, Brian had to reorient himself with the passenger side of the car. He was impressed with Trevor's ability to weave in and out of London traffic, driving them to a port on the Thames River, where they parked in a garage across the road from the water.
"This is my favorite way to introduce someone to London," Trevor explained, looping his arm through Brian's as they crossed the roadway amid a never ending fleet of cars, buses and motorbikes. "From the water. A river taxi is cheap, you avoid the traffic, and the views are phenomenal. Much better than a tour boat. You don't have some yappy tour director who gets it all wrong anyway."
Trevor bought two tickets and they boarded the water taxi, which had only two other passengers despite room for many more. The other couple was smart enough to stay inside, avoiding the chill wind that rolled across the surface of the river. Trevor and Brian stood at the railing where Brian could see everything and Trevor could explain the view.
"The Thames is a tidal river, that is, it wanes and flows with the tides and its currents pull it to the ocean, where it begins and ends," Trevor explained. Brian leaned against him to break the chill, their combined body heat providing mutual comfort. Brian was fascinated by the scenery. The austere houses of Parliament were huge and gothic. The Tower of London was a walled complex on the opposite bank, not a single tower. Traitor's Gate, at the river's edge, was where the bad guys once began their trek to the Tower for an eventual beheading. Tower Bridge was bigger than he imagined, each of its spires several stories tall. He saw the starkly modern New Tate art museum, and the rebuilt Globe Theatre, where Shakespeare's plays were originally performed, a round structure with what appeared to be a thatched roof and an open center.
The Palace wasn't visible from the water, nor were the shopping districts, but they disembarked at a spot overlooked by the Greenwich Observatory. The trip had taken the better part of an hour. Brian's fair skin was pink from the damp, cold wind. With the ancient tall ship, the Cutty Sark, in permanent dry dock behind them, Trevor led Brian down a winding set of stairs to the mouth of a foot tunnel that crossed under the river to the Isle of Dogs, in London's east end. They were alone in the narrow tiled tube, the damp oozing from every seam, the lighting an acidic, pale yellow.
"This is creepy," Brian observed, and Trevor smiled.
"Easiest way to get to the opposite bank and head back."
Brian stopped and lit a cigarette. Trevor took it from between his lips and crushed it under his foot. "No smoking in here. Signs all over the place."
"Rules are meant to be broken."
Trevor spread his hand on Brian's smooth cheek and leaned over to kiss him. Brian let him, feeling a responsive rush of adrenaline. Their tongues touched. Brian pulled Trevor closer to his body, wondering how far Trevor was willing to go. Trevor moaned and stepped back, shaking his head. "Sorry, old man, I got carried away with how beautiful you look with your hair all windblown and your cheeks flushed with cold. It's not fair, really. You should come with a warning label."
Brian smiled, reached for him, disappointed when Trevor eluded him and began walking again. "Why are we pretending like we aren't going to fuck when we both know that we are?"
"We don't know that. At least I don't know that," Trevor countered. "I'm not sure it's the right thing, Brian. For me, as well as for you."
"It's just fucking."
"It's not though, is it? Not really. Not with us. Not anymore."
Brian considered that and shrugged, knowing he was right. Brian genuinely liked Trevor, and that changed things for him. No longer could Trevor be considered a trick. If they had sex, Brian wasn't sure what it would mean, but he knew it would mean something.
The tunnel opened into a park and they walked a few blocks to the ultra modern Canary Wharf area, where they caught a light rail train to an Underground station, taking the tube back to the car park. Each mode of transportation gave Brian a different perspective on London. Only on the subway car, which was nearly deserted, the dark and the motion lulled him into a catnap, his head resting against Trevor's shoulder. Trevor woke him gently when they reached their destination. They rode the escalators up to street level, then walked towards the car park.
"Let's hit a pub," Brian suggested and with the newly liberalized pub hours, they were able to find a quiet place to drink warm, dark ale, sit by the fire and watch the regulars play darts and the new video poker slot machines. Pleasantly buzzed and thoroughly thawed out, Brian leaned over and whispered, "I want your lips on my cock, Trevor. Let's hit the men's room."
Trevor laughed. "Behave. One doesn't have outlaw sex in this type of pub unless one wants a head bashing." Their eyes met, and Trevor winced as he thought of Justin. "Sorry."
Brian nodded, leaned back. "S'ok."
They retreated to less intense conversation until Trevor figured he'd had enough ale. He still had to drive and they were only an hour away from meeting his sister for dinner. They left, but not before Brian eyed the pub food drying out under hot lights. Dire warnings about English cuisine rambled through his mind, as Trevor led him out to the car.
Scene 4: Chelsea, night.
Brian was polite enough to share an after dinner brandy with Trevor and his sister Shannon in the parlor of the Chelsea rowhouse despite his exhaustion. Brian's conversation was dwindling, his eyelids heavy with fatigue.
"Please go to bed, Brian," Trevor finally insisted. "I'm far more accustomed to international travel than you are. You've been bloody marvelous to stay on your feet as long as you have."
"Besides which," Shannon interrupted. "I can bore my brother with family business once you retire. I'm much too polite to do so with you here."
Brian nodded, relieved. He told her how pleased he was to have met her, waved goodnight to Trevor and retreated up the stairs. Alone, the siblings exchanged a knowing look. "Well?" Trevor finally said, and his sister sighed.
"He's fantastic looking, isn't he? Those eyes, that mouth, even his hands are exquisite. A very beautiful man."
"Yes, I know that."
"And he's quite bright and very amusing. Well-educated. He has a super sense of fashion."
"We're together so far."
"But here's the rub, my dear. You are ridiculously in love with him."
Trevor met her eyes and sighed. It was no good arguing with Shannon, she knew him too well. "I wouldn't say ‘ridiculously'."
"What would you say?"
"I don't know. I should just say nothing."
"Trev, help me again to understand the problem. Brian's gay, correct?"
"Sufficient age, gainfully employed, beautiful."
"And he's obviously fond of you."
"Do you think so, Shan?"
"Why wouldn't he be? Of course he is."
"Shan, he's in love with another man."
"Isn't that past tense?"
"The relationship appears to be past tense. Brian's former lover is living with another man. But Brian's feelings for Justin are still quite fresh. On the way over, he became teary because he had planned to bring Justin to London, and Brian's not the type to get teary."
Shannon sighed. "That is a complication, isn't it? Rebound relationships are often precarious, Trev."
"Yes, I know."
"Is it likely they will reconcile?"
"I can't judge that likelihood. His former lover is quite young, but in many ways, emotionally, Brian is even younger. He had a horrific childhood and his self esteem appears to be measured by two standards: his financial success, and the number of tricks he can pull."
"Are you lovers, Trev?"
"Not really. Once, long ago, when we met for the first time, but that was before I really got to know Brian. It hardly counts. Brian would like to have sex, he frequently makes that known. It's his weapon of choice, after all. And as much as I'd like to fuck him, I don't want to trick with him. I want more."
"So what's the plan, dear?"
"I've given him an ultimatum of sorts. I told him he must let up on the drinking and get some professional help for his emotional problems, if he wants to remain friends."
"Good advice. Has he heeded it?"
"He's not been drunk around me, and he says he's considering the shrink issue, but that he has little regard for shrinks. Sorry, darling."
She smiled. "You can't force him into therapy, Trev. He has to seek help because he knows he needs it in order to benefit most from it."
"I know, but I can't enable his destructive behavior."
"No, of course not. But how resolute are you? Will you really turn your back on him if he continues to act out?"
"I think I should have to do so, Shan, if I want to be a true friend to him."
"And so here you are."
"Am I a masochist, Shan?"
She reached over and patted his hand. "I prefer the term optimist."
Trevor shrugged, finding these distinctions unimportant when he thought of Brian sleeping just a door away from his bedroom at the top of the stairs.
Scene 5: Brian's bedroom.
Brian slept fitfully. He awoke, felt warm, opened the window to cool off the room, and stared out at the river for awhile. He went back to bed, tossed around, began thinking of Justin and masturbated. He slept a little. He awoke, restless, thought of Trevor, masturbated, slept a little. The third time he awoke, he opened his laptop and dialed onto the internet, checking his emails.
Lindsay sent a photo of Gus wearing a t-shirt with a Union Jack flag on the front, and a voice bubble over his head that read, "Daddy, don't forget to bring Mommy those lavender bath salts from Harrods. Love, Gus". He chuckled at Lindsay's shameless pandering, and hit reply.
"Dear Gus, Tell Mommy that Daddy bought you a guide to the sex shops and whorehouses of Soho instead of her bath salts. In sixteen years or so, it should make you a very happy boy. Love, Dad."
Michael sent an email that read: "If you get a chance go to Vector Comix in Maida Vale, and look for episode 312 of Captain Astro when he goes to England and travels back in time to fight the Nazis. It's real hard to find over here, but they may have it there. I'll pay up to five hundred. Thanks, Michael. PS Can I borrow the five hundred? I'll pay you back."
Brian was prepared to sign off and try sleeping again, when his instant messaging system popped up with a message from blondbrat, Justin's computer identity. He said, "Brian, are you online? I show Studley1 as being online. That's still you, right? Brian?"
Brian responded, "Hi, can't sleep. Jet lag, I guess. What time is it there?"
Justin: About 11:15 at night. There?
Brian: 4:15. Early morning.
Justin: What have you seen so far?
Brian: Not much, just took a boat ride. Beautiful city.
Justin: Hit the clubs?
Brian: No, too jet lagged.
Justin: Tomorrow, then?
Brian: Business meetings most of the day, then we'll see.
Justin: Nice hotel?
Brian: I'm staying at Trevor's house in Chelsea. My room overlooks the Thames. (Brian felt as if he had to make it known they weren't sharing a bed, which, he realized, was a ridiculous compulsion.) Is Ethan home?
Justin: No, he had a gig. Why?
Brian: Just wondered.
Justin: Brian, I'm sorry for what I said at Torso.
Brian: Forget it.
Justin: Nooooo. You saved my life, I know that. I just seem to be getting angry for no good reason lately. I should never have said what I did.
Brian: Let's just forget it.
Justin: I was wrong.
Brian: What's more important, is, were you lying to me? Is Ethan hurting you?
Justin: (following a long pause) No.
Brian: Don't cover up because you're afraid of him, we can get help for you and make sure you're safe. Or because you're embarrassed to look like someone who can't defend himself. That's bullshit. Or because some may say you made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. Don't start lying about it, Justin, or you'll never be able to stop. I know. I've been there.
Justin: There's nothing to tell. Would you please stop asking me that?
Brian: Sure. Sorry.
Justin: You never say you're sorry. "Sorry is bullshit", remember?
Brian: I just said it.
Justin: It seems so weird to have you so far away.
Brian: Not so far. Phone call, internet, no such thing as distance anymore.
Justin: I guess I should go. He'll be home soon. Send me a postcard, okay? But send it to the diner.
Brian: Don't hold your breath.
Justin: LOL! Then bring me back a souvenir.
Brian: What would you like? A beefeater?
Brian: LOL!!! I love that name.
Justin: Very descriptive.
Brian: We wish.
Justin: Ok, well have fun with whatzhizname.
Brian: His name is Trevor, and we're here on business.
Justin: Riiiiight! Will you be checking your emails?
Brian: Yeah, daily.
Justin: ‘k. Go to bed, Brian.
Brian: You first.
Justin: ‘k. Night.
Brian: Night, kid.
Brian signed off, crawled into his bed and fell into a deep and sated sleep, encouraged by Justin's insistence he was not being abused. Brian knew he had to stop personalizing his own experiences and rely on the honesty of that report. Justin's apology soothed his hurt feelings, and that, too, helped him sleep.
Next week on Transitions:
Brian has a frank talk with Trevor's sister. Brian and Trevor face an important test of their friendship
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July 25, 2004