...those desires- how they glowed,
He turned over onto his belly, could feel the sweat trickling down the middle of his back. Pinned down inside a dream, it was the most he could do to escape, and not nearly enough.
Standing in the rain. Water falling upon his upturned face. The sound of a thousand pairs of wings enveloping him. A bright light blinds him.
Moaning, he sat up, awake, a cry on his lips which he barely stifled in time. His heart raced. Beside him, Justin stirred. Awoke. "What's wrong?" he asked.
Throwing back the sheet, he mumbled, "Nothing." Then, sharply, "Don't touch me!" as Justin reached for him. The teen snatched back his hand. As if he had startled himself, Brian rose suddenly and stumbled towards the bathroom. Paused in the doorway and leaned against the frame, trembling.
A worried tone colored Justin's voice. "Brian?" He wanted to go to him but made himself stay put in bed.
"Go to sleep," he grumbled and entered the bathroom. Turned on the faucet. The sound of the water hurled him back into his dream and, for a moment, he couldn't see anything, a square of emptiness unfolded before him and expanded with a snap until it whited out everything else. He grabbed the sink to steady himself. Glimpsed his face in the mirror. He was as pale as the Italian modern furniture that populated his loft. His skin felt cold and clammy. He turned off the faucet. Heard Justin approaching before he turned.
"Can I come in?" Justin asked, hovering on the periphery of the bathroom.
"I'm okay," Brian assured him although his voice failed to inspire confidence in his partner.
"You look like shit."
Brian stared down at the empty basin, his attention drawn to the black hole of the drain. He swayed and caught himself, but Justin was also there, his arm around his waist. Brian shook him off, unable to stop himself from shuddering.
"Tell me!" Justin pleaded.
But Brian could only shake his head and back away. He sat on the toilet lid and raked his hair from his forehead. His hand shook. He shivered as if he had been caught out in the rain on a cold day.
Justin lay awake, aware of Brian's every movement. He could see him
pacing in the living room. Then he stopped. Stood in front of the window.
Drew back the curtain. Let it fall, its gauzy material obscuring his view
of the world. Finally, he sat in an armchair, a forgotten shot of whiskey
on the table before him. That Brian hadn't taken a sip was further proof
of his agitated state. Justin watched as he slowly succumbed to
exhaustion, his head falling forward, senses plunging into unawareness,
body claimed by sleep. And then he jerked awake again and looked around in
alarm, as if he had forgotten where he was, expected to be somewhere else.
He rubbed his lower face and stood. Made a bee line for the bathroom and
rummaged through the medicine cabinet. Shook a couple of pills from a
bottle and cupped his hand beneath the spigot. Caught a palm full of water
and took the pills. Without a word of explanation, he climbed back into
bed and turned onto his side. Justin cut off the lamp nearest him and
settled down. Dawn would arrive soon enough.
Emmett, Ted, and Michael were already seated by the time Brian arrived. He had gone home and changed into his play clothes although he lacked the usual sparkle which appeared in his eye whenever he was anticipating a night of food, fun, and fucking. Instead, he slumped down in the booth next to Em, not bothering to glance at the menu. Emmett caught Justin's eye as he appeared with another glass of water. "How about you give Papa a break and let him actually sleep a few nights a week?"
Instead of smiling, Justin replied, "I didn't keep him up."
"Oops," smirked Em. "Maybe that's the problem."
As Ted and Michael grinned, Brian turned to Justin. "Chef salad." He paused. "I'm not going out tonight."
Justin gathered the menus. "Okay." Left.
Ted looked after the departing teen. "Room service. Must be nice."
When the expected, 'Fuck you,' didn't materialize, they all stared at Brian, worry creasing their brows. He felt their scrutiny. "What?"
Cutting off Michael, Ted said, "Did you ever notice in Godzilla films how he slept until someone woke him up and then he stomped the shit out of Tokyo?"
"Yeah?" replied Michael.
"Let him sleep."
Emmett smiled. Caught Brian's eye. "You all right?"
"Yeah," he answered. Stood. Stopped Justin on this way to serve someone their dinner. "Bring it when you come," he said, stuffing money in Justin's pocket. He left without another word.
"What the fuck?" asked Michael.
Justin, hands full of food, shrugged, unwilling to share Brian with
Michael, now that Brian had decided who it was he needed to comfort him.
Rain falling on his face. A thousand, invisible birds fluttering around him. And the sun blinding his eyes.
With a cry he awoke. Justin turned over, eyes open, afraid to say anything, to move for fear of sparking his anger. But he was too shaken to flare up at anyone. Saying nothing, Brian left the bed, grabbing his robe as he did, and padded on bare feet into the living room. Justin sat up in bed, arms wrapped around his knees. After a moment he got up too, naked, and joined Brian. Said not a word, just put on a CD, volume turned down low, and sat on the far end of the sofa.
Without turning, Brian said, "I don't know what it is, so don't ask me."
Although he hated to suggest it, he did. "You want me to call Michael?"
"What's he gonna do? Hold my hand while I sleep?"
"I'll hold your hand." He crawled closer now that the acute crisis was over. "Or anything else you want me to," he added, blue eyes dark with mischief.
"I just want to get some rest," Brian said, weariness permeating every breath.
Justin got the bottle of sleeping pills, removed a pint of mineral water from the fridge. Brought both to Brian who accepted them with undisguised relief. "Don't let me oversleep," he told Justin as he washed down two of the pills.
Leading Brian back to bed, Justin promised that he wouldn't,
double-checking the alarm clock to make sure.
Despite his promises, Justin had found it difficult to rouse Brian from his drug-induced slumber, so that he arrived in his office a little later than usual. Cynthia was already there with his appointment book in her hands. Before he could set his briefcase down she had begun reciting today's appointments. "Your meeting with Ryder's been pushed up-"
"Fuck!" He had forgotten about that meeting. Most of the time Ryder gave his people free rein to do their jobs but sometimes he slipped into micromanaging mode, especially when it came to top-priority accounts and the Old Pitt account was a biggie. So far nothing they'd done had improved sales; Brian could have told them that they were wasting both their money and time because nothing would improve their sales. The problem was their product sucked. And not in a good way. It was worse than piss. At least with piss you might actually have a chance to get it from the source. "The only way we could sell Old Pitt would be if we sent the model out to give free blowjobs to everyone who bought a case of that shit," he growled. "What's the word on it?" he asked, referring to the agency's rumor mill.
"That you fucked the model and the sales rep from Old Pitt," she grinned. "Which you did."
"That had nothing to do with business."
Cynthia closed the book. "You fucked the sales rep in the company bathroom. And you did the model at the photo shoot."
He took out his notes for the campaign. "When's the meeting?"
"Forty-five minutes. And I'll bring in a pot of coffee," she offered as
she left. "You look like you've been out prowling around all night."
Fifteen minutes into the meeting Brian knew his ass was in a sling. Ryder looked pissed. Probably had heard the rumors about him doing the sales rep. Who had yet to meet either of their eyes. Fuck it, he had only done the guy once. Married men were the worse. Once they got a taste of the good life, it was hard to go back to the suburbs. So he made it a firm rule never to do a married guy more than once. Now, the model, he had fucked at both photo shoots. Said it improved his performance. Whatever. He remembered it had rained that day and he'd come from outside of the building-
Water falling on his face-
"Brian?" Ryder leaned forward, alarmed by the way the ad exec's face suddenly turned bone white.
The room stopped spinning long enough for him to get his bearings. Everyone was staring at him. He hoped he hadn't said anything during the episode. It happened so fast, or seemed to happen so fast, he thought he was safe.
Then Ryder spoke again. "I think we should postpone this meeting until Brian's feeling better."
Shit. What had he done?
After the team from Old Pitt had gone, Ryder called him into his office. "I don't know what you're on-"
"I'm not on anything. I've been having trouble sleeping-"
"When? In between fucking and clubbing?"
Biting back his first response, Brian took a deep breath. "I've been having these dreams. I can't seem to get much sleep."
As if he completely understood, Ryder asked, "Dreams about what?"
Feeling foolish, Brian replied, "Rain. I've been dreaming about rain."
Which was why he was now sitting in a therapist's office. Ryder had been adamant in his instructions. "Go see someone and get it taken care of. I don't want any repeats of today."
Like what? Like this therapist was going to listen to his dream, tell him what it meant, and everything would be back to normal? How could this guy know what his dream meant? He didn't even know. What a total waste of time, time he could have been spending at the gym, or Woody's, or at work trying to salvage the Old Pitt campaign. By the time the receptionist showed him into the inner sanctum, he was ready to tear someone's head off.
And the prime candidate sat in front of him, hands lightly resting on the arms of an easy chair. Brian took the one opposite the therapist. Checked him out. Not bad looking. Not a hottie either. Kind of like Ted. Same fashion sense too. A sweater vest over an Oxford and a pair of Dockers. Brian shuddered. He didn't know what he'd do if he couldn't afford to wear an Armani suit at least twice a week. And his shoes... The guy was definitely a card carrying member of Homo Normalis as Em called them, normal looking gay guys who could pass for straight and, not only straight, but boring straight.
"I'm Dr. Becker, but you can call me Drew," he said interrupting Brian's thoughts. "So, Brian-can I call you Brian?"
Brian shrugged. If he had to.
"So, Mr. Kinney, what's the problem?"
Brian crossed his legs and leaned back in the chair. "I've been having dreams. A dream. Every night this week."
Indicating his pad and pencil. "You mind?" Brian shook his head. "What happens in the dream?"
"I'm standing outside in the rain. It's falling on my face. I can hear birds flying around my head. Then everything goes white and I wake up." Said like that, it sounded harmless, even charming, but the hairs on Brian's arms stood up and he felt a little nauseous.
Dr. Becker must have observed his discomfort because he leaned forward and reached for Brian but the ad exec pulled away, not wanting to be touched. "It's okay," the therapist assured him. "Just take a deep breath." Brian did so and felt a little calmer but not much. "Let me tell you what I think."
Out of patience with the entire process, Brian circumvented Becker's spiel. "I know what you think. You think the dreams stand for something else, and I'm repressing it. You think that if we decode the symbols in the dream, we'll figure out why I'm having them. You think the dreams are symptomatic of a deeper problem."
Drew put aside his pad and pencil. "Must have gotten an A in Psych 101." Brian raised an eyebrow. "I got a B plus." The unexpected disclosure made Brian chuckle. "But you're right. I think the dream stands for something else. Something maybe that happened to you and you don't remember it. At least not consciously."
Brian pressed his lips together, then smiled. "See, Doc, problem is, I remember everything that's ever happened to me. I don't hide shit from myself. What's the point? I've never done anything that I've wanted to forget. Good, bad, or neutral."
A little angry that he was being patronized, Brian replied, "I face
things head on. So how do we find out what the dreams mean?"
Brian slid open the door to find Mikey on the other side. Which he had expected. Leaving him, he went to the fridge and got out two beers. Passed one to Michael.
"So where were you?" Michael asked. They sat at the dining table.
"Had to go to a therapist."
Michael nearly spat out his beer. "A what?"
"Ryder made me do it. I totally fucking spaced out during a meeting and he freaked."
"So what'd the guy say?"
"That I'm hot," teased Brian.
"Besides that, asshole." Michael knew he was joking but he also knew that the guy probably did think Brian was hot. Everybody did.
"I've been having these dreams. The same one. That's why I can't sleep." Brian knocked back about a fourth of his beer. "He thinks the dream is a metaphor for something else. Something that's happened to me."
"What do you think?"
"That it's total fucking bullshit," he said, suddenly angry at Ryder for making him go through with it. Then he calmed down. "But it's driving me crazy, Mikey. I can't sleep unless I take something and then I'm so fucking groggy in the morning, I can hardly see straight."
Michael was amazed. "You'd think after all the drugs you've taken, a couple of sleeping pills wouldn't do shit to your system."
"You'd think," agreed Brian. He set his beer down and stared at his hands.
Michael laid a hand upon Brian's. "It'll be okay.
"Yeah," Brian replied but neither of them was fooled.
"Tell me what you see," Drew instructed.
Brian had gone under quickly, much faster than the therapist had anticipated. People with such strong egos rarely made good subjects for hypnosis because their need for total control usually precluded giving anyone else even temporary authority over their psyches. But Brian had surprised him by sliding under almost immediately. That was a good sign. It meant he actually wanted to get to the root of the problem. "Tell me what you see," Drew prompted again.
"I'm standing outside. And it's raining. I can feel the rain on my face."
"How does it feel?"
Brian turned his face towards the ceiling. "Warm. It...it feels warm," and he began to shudder and fought to catch his breath.
"Brian, it's okay. I'm going to bring you out of it now. Okay? On the count of three. One. Two. Three."
He opened his eyes, moist at the corners. There was a wild look in his eyes.
But Drew talked to him, calmed him more with the timbre of his voice than with anything he said. Like Justin sometimes did, talking about school or his future plans.
When he felt normal again, he asked, "What the fuck happened to me?"
"You were trying to remember something but you couldn't. Not all of it."
Bringing his hands to his face, he touched his skin cautiously. "I
remember the rain. The rain was warm." And one of the tears held in
abeyance fell, streaking his cheek.
Brian had told him that he wasn't in the mood to play but he hadn't forbidden him to come over. Now, lying next to him as he tossed about in an uneasy sleep, Justin was glad that he had done so. Even if they hadn't fucked, only watched TV together and gone to bed. Brian moaned in his sleep but he was under too deep, the sleeping pills had done their work too well, and he struggled against their hold, wanting to escape his dream and unable to do so on his own. Justin grabbed hold of his shoulder and shook him. "Brian? Brian, wake up." He shook harder.
And the rain fell. Hot now. Scalding him. So hot it stripped skin from flesh. He looked down and saw the white of his bones and screamed.
Justin's voice jolted him out of his nightmare. Only this time, instead
of pushing Justin away, he crawled into his arms and lay shivering against
the teen's warmth.
"Imagine that you're watching someone else. Someone else is standing in the rain. Tell me what you see."
"He's standing in the rain. And it's warm." He paused. "Like a shower. I can see the sun but it looks different."
"It's dark. And it has holes in it. The rain is coming out of the sun." His lips began to tremble.
"Remember, it's not you. You're just watching," cautioned Drew.
"He's standing in the rain and he can hear a sound. Like a thousand birds flying around his head. Like a waterfall. Or thunder. Like like blood rushing from your head. And there's something white. A white square. And it snaps open and everything goes white."
"How does it snap open?"
"It just does. Someone snaps it open and everything goes white."
"Someone? Brian, who? Who snaps it open? Is it the man standing in the rain?"
Brian hid his face and murmured, "Not a man. A boy." Tears fell alongside his nose. "It's a boy."
Drew called him back. "I want you to be calm when you wake up. Understand? Calm. On the count of three. One. Two. Three."
Brian opened his eyes and closed them again. "No," he whispered. "No." He rose on unsteady legs.
But he continued walking, hurried past the receptionist, and into the
men's room. Went inside a stall and sat on the toilet, covering his face
with his hands. He shook all over, tears coursing down his face. And over
and over he whispered the same thing, "No. I remember. I remember. No..."
The rain ran down his body, loosening his skin. It slipped from him
and pooled at his ankles. Looking down at his hands, he saw his muscles.
And then the sun burned the flesh from his bones and he was just a
skeleton standing in the rain.
Haggard, he took his accustomed seat across from Drew. But refused to look up at him. Softly, Drew asked, "How are you?"
"They're getting worse."
"I want them to stop."
Drew reached for his coin. "Are you ready to go under again?"
He raised his head and looked at the boy standing in the rain. At himself standing in the rain. His face turned towards the sun. And the rain poured from holes in the sun. He watched as the boy cowered, the sound of birds flying filling his head until it felt like it would burst. And then a square of whiteness appeared and snapped open and whiteness obscured his sight, hiding everything from view.
"Look deeper," Drew said. "Closer. Look closer."
He turned away, not wanting to see.
"Look at him," Drew instructed him. "Tell me what you see."
"I see me in the shower. The water is warm. I can feel it on my face and hands and arms. But not on all of me cause I still have my clothes on." He turned away again and once more Drew coaxed him into taking another look. "Water is falling from the sun. From holes in the sun." Understanding flashed across his features. "From holes in the shower head. The sunlight's hitting it and bouncing off the metal."
"What else, Brian?"
God, him leaning against the wall, his chinos around his ankles, and his gym teacher on his knees sucking him off. The blood rushing to his cock and he felt dizzy, could hear the blood in his veins. It sounded like
"Like a waterfall. Like birds flying around my head." His face was wet with sweat and tears.
Drew paused, unsure as to how far to push him today, but there was one more image to decipher. "What about the whiteness? Do you see the white square?"
He nodded. The white square in the man's hands. It unfolds with a snap, obscuring his vision as he kneels on the floor watching his teacher unfold a towel.
"I'm bringing you back. On the count of three. One. Two. Three." Brian opened his eyes and stared into Drew's soft brown ones. The therapist could see the turmoil in his hazel eyes, dark, like storm clouds. "Brian-"
He shook his head. "I don't want to do this anymore." He closed his
eyes. "Not today."
Michael looked around to see Brian coming into his old room, Justin's room now. Without saying hello, Brian plopped down on the bed, not paying any attention to what Michael was doing. Then he spoke. "I called your place and the Doc said you were here, picking up some more of your stuff."
"Yeah, Ma says Justin needs more space. I swear, his wardrobe is almost as big as yours. No wonder the two of you couldn't stay in the same apartment." Brian said nothing. Michael laid down a model airplane he had found in a box in the back of the closet. "What is it?"
And Brian began to cry. Taking him in his arms, Michael held him as he wept. And wiped his tears when he was through. And listened to his story with growing horror. When Brian was done, he gave a choked laugh. "It's like I don't know who I am. I can't even trust my memories." Shook his head. "I didn't remember, Mikey. I swear. How do I know if anything is true, if I don't even remember?"
"But you did remember. Somewhere inside of you, you remembered the truth."
"So I live my life hoping that my body remembers? Is that all I am? A body with secrets?" Folding his arms across his chest, he tried to regain his composure, lost it again. Stood, out of patience with himself, and let the tears flow down his face, his back to Michael. "I came here. Afterwards. I remember."
"You weren't home. No one was home." He brushed at the curtain, setting it aflutter. "I sat in the backyard for an hour, waiting. Wearing wet clothes. And then I got scared. Cause I knew if Deb saw me, she would know something was wrong. So I went home. I ran all the way home, terrified that everyone was looking at me, that they all knew what I had done."
Angrily, Michael refuted his words. "You didn't do anything!"
"I snuck upstairs," he continued, "and I ran some water in the tub, and I just sat there. And the longer I sat, the less I remembered, until my mom called me, and I didn't remember anything the way it happened."
Michael stood and laid his head upon Brian's back, embraced him; gradually, Brian turned and wrapped his arms around Michael's waist, and they remained like that, taking and giving comfort the way they had so many other times. "What am I gonna do?" Brian asked and Michael said, "Shh." Brushed his hair. "Don't think about it. Not now."
Having heard voices, Justin went up to investigate. Saw Brian and Michael at the window, oblivious to the world, arms about one another: past, present and future in one moment. How could he have ever thought otherwise? Turning from the door, he eased back downstairs, his heart aching.
He ran down the street until his chest tightened and then he leaned his
back against a tree, in some stranger's front yard, and cried silently for
being too late, for being a stupid kid who had fallen in love with a man
who could never love him, for being someone other than Michael, and for
the gap of years that he could never get around. Or through. Or over. But
he didn't have any choice, because those were all things he couldn't
change. Not one damn bit.
For two days he stayed away from Brian, avoiding anything more than casual contact each time they met at the diner. For his part, Brian seemed to be avoiding him as well. That suited him just fine. Or so he told himself. And then on the third day Brian came inside the diner and sat at the counter. Taking out his pad, he waited for Brian to say what he wanted. But he didn't say anything, just sat on the bar stool taking deep breaths as if he needed to wait until he had enough oxygen to speak. And then Justin remembered the dreams. Remembered how stricken Brian had been by them. And the anger and bitterness fell from him like autumn leaves. "Are you okay?"
"I need... I need to see you." He didn't look at Justin. "Tonight."
Brian had never said that he needed Justin in any way. And yet he had looked haunted as he spoke. "I can come over after work. I get off in an hour."
Nodding, Brian got up and left.
Now that Justin was there, Brian found that he couldn't begin. God, there were so many things he had to say and none of them easy. Already he could feel the tears forming in his eyes. Afraid that if he waited any longer, he'd be bawling like Gus, Brian asked, "Do you remember me telling you about my first time?"
Justin grinned despite his apprehension. "The Most Famous Shower Scene since Psycho?" But Brian didn't grin in return. Instead, he looked as if he were going to break down. Justin fought the impulse to touch him. "Brian?"
"That's not what happened," he said softly. "I... I didn't remember until this week." A muscle in his jaw tightened but he forced his mouth to open. "I didn't go down on him. He sucked me off."
Justin couldn't understand. What did it matter? It was still pretty wild, a fourteen-year-old boy and a grown man.
"You asked me if I was scared and I told you I didn't remember." He paused. "I didn't. Justin- I didn't remember."
Suddenly afraid, Justin asked, "What are you trying to say?"
Brian stood and walked away from him. Then returned to the sofa and sat. "I didn't know what I was doing. I was just a kid. I thought- I thought that was it. I started to go and he grabbed me and pushed me against the shower wall."
And unbidden came the image of Brian pushing him against the glass stall, kissing the side of his face.
"I..." He swallowed. "I couldn't say anything. My heart was beating so fast, I thought I was dying." Sniffling, he continued. "He pushed me against the wall and he fucked me. And then he finished showering. I got out and sat on the bench... but it hurt so bad that I got on my knees and just... knelt there. He dried off, and never looked back."
Justin wanted to go to him and hold him the way Michael had but something told him Brian didn't want to be touched, not at that moment.
Ignoring the tears that streaked his face, Brian made himself continue. "The first time you and I..." He could hardly get the words out, wanted to be anywhere but here, asking this, but he did. "That first time we were together I didn't-" He squeezed his eyes shut and the tears began afresh. "I didn't force you- I didn't hurt you, did I?"
At last Justin understood. He shook his head vehemently. "No. Brian, no."
"Because I can't be sure." He took a deep breath. "I can't be sure of any-"
"No." Firmly. "Never. You've never forced me. You never hurt me." And
at that Brian did come to him and let him hold him as he wept from
gratitude, from relief. "Do you think I would have come back if you had?
That I would have wanted to be around you, be with you? Do you think," he
began, voice tight with emotion, wiping away the tears that had sprung to
his own eyes, "do you think I could love you if you had? If you had hurt
me like that?" But Brian couldn't answer, could only hold onto his strong,
young frame and shudder as the sobs racked his body. Justin raised Brian's
head from his shoulder and kissed him gently upon his lips. His tears fell
to mix with those on Brian's face. "I love you."
Brian settled down to sleep, Justin having dropped off already, curled like a cat against his chest and side, sated from sex. They had moved tenderly, slowly against one another, tentatively at first, then with greater surety, but still gently. Spending most of their time kissing, lips traveling over warm skin and firm flesh, they lay close together, Justin's leg thrown over Brian's thigh, slippery cocks sliding lazily one against the other until the urge to thrust harder overtook them, and they came against one another's belly. Remembering how sweetly Justin had cried out into his mouth as he came, Brian cast his mind back to the first time they had had sex. "I want you to always remember this," he had told the teen, "so that no matter who you're ever with, I'll always be there," thinking he'd be rid of the kid in the morning. He remembered how Justin had looked at him with desire in his eyes, not knowing his intentions. And yet, he was still here. He thought of the teen saying to him tonight, "I love you," in a strong voice, unlike all the other times he had professed his love in a whisper. Brian looked down at the blond head, pressed into his ribs, and felt afraid for his own heart.
But each of those moments, and a hundred more, he imprinted in his
memories, heedless of the danger.
Poetry: "Body, Remember," Constantine P. Cavafy, The Complete Poems
of Cavafy, translated by Rae Dalven, Harcourt Brace & Company,