Want/Need You

Brian popped in a CD and let the music transport him to his bedroom where he kicked off his shoes and changed clothes, shedding the day’s tensions piece by tailored piece. Then, like a man reaching for a drink, he slipped on the comfortable jeans, the buckle-strap black tee. Stood for a moment feeling the solid hardwood floors beneath his bare feet. Lately he had begun to think he lived on a fault line, experiencing upheaval after upheaval in such a short space of time that he hadn’t been able to fully process every event at the moment it occurred, operating primarily on instinct instead of analyzing the situation and formulating a plan of attack. If his life had been an ad campaign, he would have yanked it weeks ago. Hell, it wouldn’t have made it past the story boards.

Having regained his center, at least momentarily, he set about making plans for the evening. Dinner. Definitely. Then… Go on-line for an hour or so. With his hand on the door of the refrigerator, he glanced around at his computer. He had spent hours last night surfing cancer sites and emailing contact persons. Looking for what he couldn’t say. Hope? He shook his head, amazed at himself. And if by some miracle his old man did survive a little longer, then what? Father-son nights down at the bowling alley? Appetite effectively suppressed for the moment he headed for the computer and checked his email. Glanced down the list of names and subject lines. Clicked on the first message.

“FROM: Bill@CancerCenter.org
TO: BrianK@ Pittserv.com
RE: Cancer Therapy

Dear Kinney:

Thank you for your queries about cancer therapies - both traditional and alternative. We're forwarding a package to the address you sent us. It's understandable that you are grieving at this time, and we invite you to join one of our support groups for relatives of those with cancer. Meetings take place here at the Cancer Center. If you are interested we have groups on both Monday and Wednesday nights. Contact Monica at ext. 347 if you'd like to join.

Director of Outreach”

Barely pausing for thought, he whipped off a reply.

“FROM: BrianK@ Pittserv.com
TO: Bill@CancerCenter.org
RE: Cancer Therapy

Thanks for the info.

B. Kinney”

He had way too many Father and Mother Confessors as is, no way was he going to spill his guts to a— “Fuck!” He read through the next message.

“FROM: HOThrd4Now@Pittserv.com
TO: BrianK@ Pittserv.com
RE: Hook UP

Nice profile. What are you into? Click link to see my pics. Let me know.


His fingers flew across the keyboard as if they had a mind of their own.

“FROM: BrianK@Pittserv.com
TO: HOThrd4Now@Pittserv.com
RE: NO hook up

Look "Tony"…last week you said your name was "Mike" and the week before that it was "Tom"…but it's all the same old - not too flattering - picture of you reading the newspaper in the nude: A) I don't accept headless pics, B) I don't do it with guys who send pics where I can see the date on a newspaper dated 1987 and C) I don't like guys who waste my time trying to sneak in under another name, hoping I'll be too drunk or drugged-out not to know it's the same old troll.”

Shaking his head, he shut down his email surprised there hadn’t been a message from Mikey. During the ride to and from work today Michael had rambled on and on about how wrong he had been about Hank and what a great kid he had turned out to be. He hadn’t asked Brian once how his weekend had gone, how he was coping with his dad, or anything. What surprised Brian the most was that it had actually hurt a little, that Michael was so oblivious to his subdued mood. He shook his head. Maybe Mikey had seen one too many dark clouds hovering over his head during the past fifteen years and figured if Brian wanted to share, he would. Only, he hadn’t known how to begin. He paused with his finger over the email program icon, debating. He could write Mikey, tell him everything, and… Nothing. He got up abruptly and moved to the sofa. Like Michael had said when he offered to give him a loan to help Deb with the mortgage, “She’s my mom and I have to take care of this myself.” Jack Kinney was his father and he had to take care of it himself. The problem was he didn’t know what to do. Writing a check wouldn’t solve this problem. And the cancer was only part of it, the other part was what to do about them, about their euphemistically called ‘relationship’.

The phone rang. Christ, he hoped it wasn’t his mom. He had promised his old man not to come out to The Warden and he’d keep his promise, but only if she stayed off his back. Snatching the phone from the cradle, he said, “Yeah.”

“Can I come over after work tonight?”

Justin. At least he had come directly to the point instead of beating around the bush like he usually did. He was learning. Unfortunately, Brian was in no mood to play. “Not tonight,” he said hanging up before he changed his mind, distracted by the memory of Justin’s eyes or lips. He had beautiful eyes, the same color as—

The thought rocked him, and he placed a hand upon the desk top to steady himself. He hadn’t thought about Cameron for a long time now. Years. Well, maybe not years, months. Christ, things had really gotten out of hand if he was thinking about Cam. Turning, he leaned back against the desk and took a deep breath. More than anything he wanted to go out dancing, out fucking. Forget everything. But he was too damn tired and needed to sleep and the drugs wouldn’t help, would only postpone the payment his body demanded. Besides that, he had an important meeting tomorrow, couldn’t show up hung-over or Ryder would take a chunk out of his ass. Since the sexual harassment fiasco his boss had seemed less inclined to forgive Brian’s foibles. No point in goading him. So he’d stay in.

Cameron. Now that the name had surfaced, he couldn’t push it back down below his normal level of awareness. Telling himself that he would only have one drink, he fixed a shot of Jim Beam and curled up on the sofa. Took a sip and set the glass on the coffee table. Looked longingly at the telephone. He could call Mikey and Mikey would come over and… And Michael was in a relationship, which meant that he couldn’t drop everything and come running when Brian called. Not anymore. And he couldn’t, wouldn’t call Justin back at the diner. God, if he even hinted that he needed him, the teenager would take it as a sign from God that they were meant to be together. So he’d have to tough it out alone. And it was a tough one.

He and Cameron met their senior year in college. By then Brian knew what he wanted to do with his life. Advertising. He had interned at a firm the summer after his junior year and found that he loved the excitement, the energy generated by a roomful of creative minds throwing out ideas, the high he felt when all of the pieces fell into place and they had a plan, a strategy with which they could channel random desire into a concentrated need, focused on their product. One of the first lessons he had learned was that the point of advertising was to make the consumer want something so badly it hurt. Your relationship with your spouse gone sour? Can’t talk to your kids? Boss on your ass? What you need is X. Fill in the blank. It didn’t matter what it was. All that mattered was that the consumers went out in droves and bought it.

Senior year he returned to the university with a renewed sense of purpose. He intensified his studies, determined to be recruited by a top firm in the city so that he could start his climb to the pinnacle of his profession. That he would reach the top was a given, he only worried about the length of time it would take him. He wanted to enjoy the power for a goodly number of years and then retire young and still capable of enjoying the fruits of his labor. He and Cameron met in a marketing management class. Seated across from the smoky-haired, blue-eyed young man, Brian recalled having seen him around the College of Business Administration but apparently their paths hadn’t crossed frequently enough for them to have become acquaintances. Taking in Cameron’s dark good-looks Brian decided he’d have to change that. Fortunately, their instructor helped in the matter: he assigned them to the same work group. After class the members of the group exchanged telephone numbers and as he took Cameron’s and handed him his own, Brian caught a glimpse of interest in the other’s eyes. Giving his chewing gum a couple of chaws, Brian smiled.

It took a month and a half for Cameron to call him about something other than class. By then Brian knew two things: that Cameron was gay, and was definitely interested in him. He could tell by the way Cameron would steal glances at him during class or while their group was supposed to be working on their marketing strategy. Head bent over his notepad, Brian could feel Cameron’s eyes on him, the attention was like a beam of energy striking the crown of his head and traveling to the soles of his feet. His entire body tingled under Cameron’s gaze. On more than one occasion he had stopped himself from calling Cameron and inviting him over. Cameron would have to make the first move.

So when Cameron called and asked him if he wanted to come to a party he and his housemates were throwing, Brian combed his closet for something suitable to wear. He had already begun to assemble the wardrobe that would see through the early years of his career: youthful yet restrained, creative without screaming non-conformist. Pushing aside the modest-priced, yet stylish suits he had purchased during the summer on his intern paychecks, he found what he was looking for: a black sweater and a pair of grey pin-striped slacks. He had worn the outfit to a casual dinner held at an ad exec’s apartment and garnered appreciative looks from men and women alike. An hour later he had showered, shaved, run his fingers through his hair and was ready to head over to Cameron’s.

Despite the fact that a roomful of gyrating, bouncing, twisting people separated them, he immediately knew where Cameron was. He could feel him. A girl he knew from class grabbed at his arm and tried to pull him onto the dance floor but he deftly maneuvered around her and kept on target. He caught flashes of Cameron’s face through breaks in the crowd. From the impassive look he gave the world, no one would have guessed that Cameron was having to restrain himself from pushing through the dancers and grabbing Brian, but Brian could tell that was exactly what he was doing. Coming to a halt just a foot from Cameron, he glanced around before speaking. “Great music,” he commented.

Cameron gestured with his head towards the DJ. “Frank’s friend. Frank’s one of my housemates. They’re both total computer geeks. Won’t play anything but techno. The crowd’ll get ugly after about an hour.” His eyes had never left Brian’s face. “You want something to drink?”

“What have you got?”

Not put off by Brian’s circumspect reply, Cameron asked, “What do you usually drink?”

Brian grinned. “I’m Irish, so it’s faster for you just to say what you have,” he teased in an Irish brogue he affected from time to time.

“Come on,” Cameron said chuckling, “I’ll show you where we keep the good stuff.”

Through the back of the house and up the stairs they traveled, coming to Cameron’s room in the attic. It was locked. “I can’t fucking stand going to bed after one of our parties and lying down in somebody else’s cum.”

“They don’t break the lock?”

Cameron shook his head. “Too much effort. We’ve got four other bedrooms.” Unlocking the door he switched on the light and waited for Brian to come inside the room before locking it behind them. Brian noted the action without comment. Cameron squatted in front of a dark wood cabinet.

“No secret combination?” Brian quipped.

Without responding, Cameron removed a couple of bottles from the cabinet and stood. “Kentucky bourbon and Jamaican rum.”

“Who says Scots are cheap?”

Setting the bottles on top of the cabinet, Cameron hunted up two glasses, then took a seat on the bed. Waited. Brian located a chair out of the corner of his eye, picked it up and placed it in front of Cameron. Sat. Legs apart. Casual. Unscrewed the top on the bourbon and poured a healthy measure into his glass. Glanced inquiringly at Cameron who gave him the go ahead.

Glasses of bourbon in hand, they drank a toast. “To Marketing and Advertising,” suggested Cameron.

Brian agreed. “To making you want something so badly it hurts.”

“Only if you don’t get it,” added Cameron.

Over the rim of his glass, Brian asked, “Do you always get what you want?”

Glass held at his lips, Cameron replied, “I’ve got a 3.7 gpa and a kick-ass job lined up after college.”

Knocking back the last of his drink, Brian placed the glass back on the cabinet. Crossed his legs at the ankle and looked directly into Cameron’s eyes. “You’ll have to work harder.” He raked his hair back from his forehead and reached lazily for the bottle of bourbon. “It’s good.” Poured another shot, this time a smaller amount. Cameron hadn’t finished his first yet. Brian sipped the whiskey, savoring the burn.

Cameron didn’t need Brian to explain what he needed to work harder at. The challenge laid at his feet, Brian watched Cameron as he formulated a new strategy. After a moment, Cameron asked, “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Do you always get what you want?”

Brian balanced his glass on his knee. “I don’t know what my gpa is right now and I don’t have a job lined up yet. I interned at Wexler and Finneman this summer but who knows.”

Pouring a second measure of bourbon, Cameron remarked casually, “You’re the best student in class.”

“I know.” Finishing off his drink, Brian set the glass down. “Better.”

Cameron placed his glass, the second round untouched, back down as well. “Good enough?”

The corner of Brian’s lip curled in a half-ass smile. “I told you, you’re gonna have to work harder.”

Leaning forward, Cameron said, “Maybe I need some feedback. Tell me what I’m doing wrong.”

Brian uncrossed his legs and stood. “Where’s the challenge in that?” He turned his back to Cameron, began to walk around the room. He knew Cameron was looking at his ass, his shoulders, his slender thighs and legs. Stopping in front of a certificate of merit hung on the wall, he pretended not to hear the mattress creak as Cameron rose. Then he felt Cameron’s hands around his waist, his lips on his neck. “See,” he whispered, “you’re a smart boy after all.”

Fifteen minutes later they were wrestling on the bed, arms and legs entwined; mouths devouring whatever bit of flesh they could find; hands grabbing, kneading; cocks hard, leaking precum. Brian lay on his back as Cameron unrolled a condom over his dick, raised his hips as his partner spread lube along the shaft. Shifting positions, Brian on top, Cameron on his belly, they joined for the first time, Cameron catching the pillow in his teeth and holding on as Brian pushed inside him with a cry.

The bed complained as they thrust against one another, muscles straining with the effort to drive their bodies closer together. It was almost as if they wanted to become one person, for one to open up and the other to crawl inside, protector and protected. Brian licked a bead of sweat from Cameron’s jaw and pumped his hips energetically, responding to Cameron’s cries of encouragement, to the squeezes Cameron’s ass gave his cock. At last Cameron gave a low moan and grabbed hold of the sheets in his fist, his cock ground against the bed, cum flowing beneath his groin. As Cameron’s sphincter muscles gripped him in a series of contractions, Brian gasped and came.

Resting in one another's arms, the sheets thrown back, their sweaty bodies cooling in the night air, they listened to the party raging below them without really hearing the music, or the laughing people. Instead, they could only hear the sound of their two hearts beginning to beat one in time with the other.

Brian reached for the glass of Jim Beam and drank half of it in one gulp. As the liquor burned his throat, he pondered retrieving the bottle from the bar. After looking at it longingly for a few moments, he got up and put on a CD instead. The music soothed him a little, but there was still so far to go and the night stretched before him like an endless highway, winding away down a ill-lit stretch of country.

They were almost inseparable: Brian making time only for Mikey and Lindz, Cameron begrudgingly showing up for his fraternity’s monthly meetings, which were mandatory since he was an officer. The rest of their time was spent either working on class projects or fucking. The spring semester of their senior year passed in a haze of sweat-inducing, physically-exhausting sex. Sometimes Brian awoke after one of their bouts to muscle aches and bruises, each one of which he valued because it meant that they were holding nothing back, that if necessary they would fuck each other to death.

After graduation Cameron went to work in the marketing division of a local computer engineering firm; Brian was recruited by a high-profile ad agency. Feeling that they needed a few years to really establish themselves in their careers, they agreed not to move in together, reasoning that although they would have less time together they would also be less likely to grate on each other’s nerves if they didn’t share living quarters. Having witnessed some of his parents’ more spectacular battles, Brian was willing to sacrifice a few hours together for the sake of overall peace.

Still, they found plenty of time to be together. Most weekends from Friday evening to Sunday night they spent holed up in one or the other’s place, making rare appearances at the clubs during which they danced seductively with any and everyone, breaking hearts as they left together, so hot for one another they invariably stumbled into the backroom for a quickie before heading home.

Looking up as Cam’s key turned in the lock, Brian knuckled the sleep from his eyes and stretched. Raised his face for a kiss. “Hey.”

“You ready?”

He cracked his neck. “Can’t, babe, I gotta go to work in the morning. Those assholes on my team are way behind. I got two, three hours work to do tonight just to get ready to go in tomorrow.” He stood, running his hand along Cam’s arm in passing, and put on the coffee “You go without me. Have a good time.”

Cameron nuzzled the back of his neck, stroked his hip. “You sure?”

“Someone should have some fun around here,” Brian muttered.

“Tomorrow evening? Dinner?” suggested Cam.

Brian turned in his lover’s arms. “Just dinner?” They kissed. “Throw in dessert and you got a date,” he added. Both smiling, Cameron took his leave and Brian turned his attention to work.

Next morning Brian got up, hastily dressed, and grabbed his papers. It was still early enough that he could drop by Cam’s house and have breakfast together before heading into the office.

He knocked on the door and waited. Cam’s housemates were notoriously early risers. Even on Saturday. Frank never slept. At least none of them had ever observed the phenomenon first hand. True to form, the techno geek answered the door.

“Hey, Frank. Cam still in bed?” He started to push past Frank but the other man wasn’t budging.

“Bri…” He hesitated, unsure of what to say.

Chalking it up to too much house music, Brian repeated his question. “Is he still in bed?”

Frank glanced back into the house as if he were hoping Cameron would appear over his shoulder. “Yeah, he’s still in bed.” Although the answer appeared simple, the look he gave Brian filled in the subtext. And the subtext was that Cameron wasn’t alone.

For a moment Brian thought he had made a mistake, that somehow he had gone to the wrong house and by some freakish coincidence Frank was there answering the door and talking about some other guy named Cameron, who was upstairs with someone other than Brian. But the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach told him that he hadn’t made an error in navigation, although the world had suddenly become a strange land. He took a step backwards and paused. Found his voice crouching somewhere in a dark corner of his body and said, “Tell him I stopped by.”

He didn’t remember driving to work or parking in the garage or riding in the elevator to the eighth floor and getting off with Murphy, even though when he looked around Murphy was standing there next to him at the door to their office. The other members of the team were already seated around the conference table that occupied most of the floor space. As was their boss. So bullshitting time was over. Before he could put down his stuff, Hill was already rising and issuing orders, calling him into his office. He went as if he moved through water.

Hill looked up from Brian’s boards. “This is good work. Excellent really.”

Brian hadn’t heard a word he said. He was still standing on the front porch of Cam’s house wondering why Frank wouldn’t get out of the way and let him by.


The voice finally reached him. He looked up and blinked.

“I said this was excellent work.”


Flipping the cover on the board, Hill studied his protégé. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he lied. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night. Working on this.”

Hill glanced out of his office window at the other members of the team scurrying about on the various tasks he had set them to, then back to the young man seated across from him. “You go on home. Get some rest.”

“You sure?” he asked, alert for any sign that Hill might be testing him, might be expecting him to refuse and to stay, performing some mindless, menial job that could wait until Monday.

“You’ve done your part. Good work.” Hill stood and clapped Brian on the shoulder as he passed him and opened the door to yell at Chambers for standing around like an ape in a cage.

It had taken all of his reserve energy to stop by the grocery store and pick up something to eat. Bags in hand he climbed the stairs to his apartment and found Cam seated by the door. Why he sat outside and hadn’t used his key to go inside they both knew. Saying nothing, Brian unlocked the door and pushed through, leaving it open for Cam. They didn’t speak as he put away his groceries and then shrugged off his jacket and tie, his shoes and socks. He hated wearing anything on his feet. Cam used to tease him, saying he had the toughest soles in all of Pittsburgh. In the middle of unbuttoning his shirt, he heard Cam say, “I’m sorry.”

He laughed, the inadequacy of the remark standing out as clear as black and white, as if it were painted across the wall of his apartment. “Sorry’s bullshit.” Aware of Cam’s eyes on him as he changed, he slipped out of his slacks and into a pair of jeans, not bothering to put on a shirt. “It was one night,” he said not looking at Cam. “The first night I didn’t go out with you and you went and picked up some trick and fucked him.”

“I’m sorry.”

Something in Cam’s voice told him that he had left something unsaid, that there were other details to unearth. Throat tight, he faced Cameron and studied his face. Forcing the words out, he asked in a tiny voice, a voice so small that it couldn’t have belonged to him, “This was the first time, wasn’t it?”

To Cam’s credit , he didn’t try to lie. He didn’t say anything, just shook his head.

The breath Brian had been holding rushed forth and he felt limp. Turning away, he reached blindly for something to steady himself and gripped the back of the couch. When he heard Cam moving closer, he held up his hand, palm outward, warning him to stay back.


“Get out.” He waited for Cam to comply and when he didn’t, repeated in a much stronger voice, “Get out!”

Cam shuffled to the door and left, the sound of the lock catching a faint click in the quiet of the apartment.

With him gone, there was nothing for Brian to do but to sit and cry, tears falling in silence.

Michael looked up across the boxes of comic books to see Brian standing there. “What are you doing here?”

He was wearing a pair of sunglasses. “I knew you would be,” he said looking around the store at the other milling customers, at the garish displays, anywhere but at Mikey because if he did, sunglasses or not, Mikey would know.

Mikey knew anyway. Could hear it in his voice. “What’s wrong?”

He shook his head. “Nothing.”

Placing the comic back into its protective sleeve, Michael went around and took Brian’s arm, tugged on it. “Come on.”

They sat in his mom’s backyard at the worn-out picnic table. Deb was at work so they wouldn’t be disturbed. Michael had fixed them a couple of turkey sandwiches. No mayo. Appetite having vanished with Cam, Brian just picked at his.

“So what’s wrong?”

He removed his sunglasses, rubbed the bridge of his nose. Michael could see the bruised-looking skin around his eyes which meant he hadn’t slept for a while, or that he had been crying, or both. Wincing at the sun, Brian replaced the shades. “I found out Cam’s been cheating on me,” he said, only the last three words were barely whispered.

If someone had told Michael that the moon had turned blue he would have believed them before he believed that Cam would cheat on Brian. Why would anyone cheat when they could have Brian in their bed every night? Angry for both Brian’s and his own sake, Michael said, “Well, it’s a good thing you found out now, before you wasted any more time with him. I hope you told him to fuck off.” He stroked Brian’s forearm. “You should just forget about that asshole.”

But Brian, instead of concurring, began to cry. Tears spilled from beneath the edge of his sunglasses and he shook like an old man with the fever. “I can’t, Mikey. I can’t.”

“Christ.” Michael moved next to him and held him. “You can do better.”

“I love him.”

Michael removed Brian’s Ray-Bans and forced him to look up. “Listen. Don’t let him do this to you. You fucking tell him to straighten up or to fuck off. You hear? You wanna end up like your mom, always wondering where he is and who he’s with?” Brian shook his head. “Then you make him understand. If you want to keep him, you do it on your own terms.” Brian pressed his face into Mikey’s shoulder while Michael stroked his hair.

They met in the park, at a neutral place. Took a seat on a bench away from the yelling children and the screaming parents. Sat far enough apart that they didn’t touch. Looked straight ahead. Brian began speaking without preamble. “If I find out you’ve been cheating on me again, that’s it, it’s over. There won’t be any second chances, Cam, I swear it. I won’t be a fucking doormat for you to wipe your feet on.”

Quietly Cam replied, “I’m sorry.”

“Do you understand what I’m saying?” Brian asked, eyes fixed ahead on an empty expanse of sky.

“I understand.”

Brian looked down at his hands and then back up again. Stood. “I’m going home.”

“Can I come?”

He paused and almost gave into the impulse, but he fought it down at last. “Not tonight.” Then, to show that he wasn’t being vindictive, he added, “Tomorrow. Come by tomorrow.” And he left.

What’s this?” They lay snuggled together in the afterglow of making love, the first time since their big blow up, and Cam had reached into his jacket where it lay discarded on the floor, and drawn something, two somethings, from the pocket. He handed them to Brian, who looked at them and said, “What’s this?”

“Bracelets. Made with cowry shells,” explained Cam.

Brian smiled. “What? Like wedding rings only bigger?”

Nudging him, Cameron answered, “Yeah. So no one can miss them.” He held out his arm. “Put it on me.”

Solemnly, Brian tied the rawhide bracelet around Cameron’s right wrist and knotted the laces. That finished, he kissed Cam’s palm, let Cam draw him up for a more serious kiss. And then Cameron placed the other bracelet around his wrist and knotted the laces and kissed Brian’s palm.

“I love you.”

Brian leaned over him and kissed him lightly on the lips. “How much?”

Pretending to think, Cam said, “More than the ocean.”

“Fucker.” Another kiss. “Not good enough. How much?”

“More than ice cream.”

Another kiss. “Better. But still… not good enough. How much?”

Cam held Brian’s head still and kissed him deeply. “More than my life.”

Brian touched Cam’s lips with his fingertips. “Liar.” But he seemed satisfied and laid in his lover’s arms.

Absentmindedly he ran his fingers over the cowry shells on his bracelet as he watched Cam dance with some guy. Tried to suppress the surge of jealousy he felt when he saw the man take hold of Cam’s arm, his right arm, his hand around Cam’s wrist. Looking away for a moment, he thought he caught a glimpse of the man putting something in Cam’s pants’ pocket. A flash of something white. A phone number maybe. And then Mikey came up behind him and dragged him onto the floor to dance and he changed his mind, thought that a light had probably flashed in his eyes at that exact moment, that was all.

Cam held his hands as he pressed down with his hips, impaling himself on his lover’s cock. His knees on either side of Cam’s waist, Brian threw back his head and panted while he rose and fell, rotating his hips, squeezing his muscles. Sweat fell from his hair onto Cam’s chest. He cried out as Cam wrapped his hand around his cock and stroked him. Shouting, he came, keenly aware of Cam’s dick swelling inside him. This was where he belonged, with Cam. He had no other home, no other place in the world.

Afterwards, he crawled from the bed and sat on the floor staring at Cam’s jeans while he slept. A white tip showed, peeking out of the pocket.

Hearing Cam’s key in the lock, he put away his work and reached for his boots. “We going out or staying in?” he asked, hands around his Doc Martens.


“We can stay in,” he continued, as if he hadn’t heard Cam speak, as if the world hadn’t shifted on the pivot of one word, his name. “I could fix something.”


He held out his hand. “No.” Blinked back the tears. “No, goddamnit. No.” How many times could he do this, listen to Cam confess some indiscretion? Cause he knew that’s what was coming. Despite everything. Despite the assurances and the promises.

Without coming any closer, Cam began, “Let me explain—”

“You promised me,” said Brian so quietly, in such a hurt voice that Cameron began to tremble. “You said it wouldn’t happen again. You said you loved me—”

“I do love you.”

“Then why? I should be enough!” He rose and stood with his back to Cam. Cameron could see his shoulders jerk as he cried.

His mind reeled. What was he going to do? He didn’t think he could stand being in the same room with Cam much longer and, at the same time, if Cam left right now he thought he would just lay down and die. He had to do something and the old ways of dealing with it just wouldn't work anymore. The situation called for something drastic.

“Brian. Baby…” But there were no words to explain why.

He wiped the tears from his face roughly. “I don’t care.”


“I don’t care what you do.” He turned and faced Cameron. “I don’t give a fuck who you do. I don’t care. You go out there and do whatever the fuck you want. I just—” The implication of what he was saying unnerved him but he forced himself to continue. “Just come home to me.”

Cameron gaped at him in disbelief. “Is that what you want?”

“I want—” he started but he couldn’t finish because if he said it aloud he didn’t think there would be any room to retreat, to compromise, so he took another tact. “I need you in my life,” he confessed, “more than I need you to be faithful to me.”

“I am faithful to you. I love you. They don’t mean anything.”

Brian just stared at him. And then he said, “You’re right. They don’t mean anything.” His voice was flat, devoid of any emotion.

Sensing that the time wasn’t right for a complete reconciliation, Cam announced that he was going. “I’ll come by tomorrow.”

The door closed and Brian clamped his hands to the side of his head and wailed. A white-hot pain flared up in his belly and he cried out involuntarily, unable to keep his lips sealed. Falling to his knees, he crouched by the sofa and wept the way he never had all the times his father had beaten him, or all the times he had felt totally alone in the world, because even during those horrible moments he had remained true to himself, and now he had finally betrayed that truth and there was no one to blame for it but himself.

When tomorrow came and Cam didn’t show, Brian wasn’t too concerned. He didn’t know if he was really ready to start again. Each time he looked in the mirror he was startled by the face that looked back at him. He was ashamed of the compromises he had made and yet he would have made them all over again if he had to. Still, it was difficult to face. He began to avoid looking people in the eyes, afraid they’d see him for the coward he was. He lied to Mikey, made excuses, told him he and Cam were fine, they were both just busy.

A week passed with no word so he decided to go over to Cam’s place, again making the necessary sacrifice, putting aside his pride for love. Frank opened the door, clearly surprised to see him.

“He’s not here, Bri.”

Brian went inside. “I’ll wait.”

“No,” Frank began again, “I mean he’s gone.”

“What are you talking about?” Brian went upstairs, closely followed by Frank. He threw open the door to Cam’s room and stopped in his tracks. Cameron’s room had been stripped. “Where’s his stuff?”

“He took it with him.”

“What the fuck do you mean?”

“I told you he was gone. He’s gone, Bri,” Frank explained, as if to a child. “He moved out two days ago. I thought you knew.”

“Where?” The world shifted again and he felt dizzy. “Where did he go?”

“I don’t know,” shrugged Frank.

“He had to leave a number, something!”

Frank backed away. “Nothing, Bri. He said he’d call.”

Brian whipped past him, paused in the doorway. “He calls, you get his number and you call me. You fuckin call me, Frank.”

When the phone rang two days later, he was expecting to hear Frank’s voice on the other end. Instead, Cam spoke. “Hey, Bri.”

“Where are you?”

“I don’t want you to try and find me.”

Brian squeezed his eyes shut. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I don’t want to hurt you.”

“This is hurting me,” he retorted through clenched teeth.

“Not as much as staying and fucking you over would.”

“I told you I didn’t care!”

Cam took a deep breath. “And we both know that’s bullshit. And unfair.”

Sensing that the conversation was ending, Brian grasped at anything to keep Cam on the line. “We should talk. Face-to-face.”

“There’s nothing left to say, Bri.”

“A year and a half together and this is all that’s left? A five minute conversation on the telephone?”

“I have to go.”

“Wait! Cam—”

“Good-bye, Brian.”

“Wait!” The line went dead. He sat holding the phone in his hands until it began to complain. Dropping the receiver into the cradle, he remained seated where he was. He didn’t trust his legs to carry him across the room. His hands shook but he didn’t cry. He didn’t think he had any tears left. So he sat there, trembling, until he felt strong enough to get up and go to bed. Tomorrow was a work day.

He was supposed to have dinner with Michael at his place. Even though he felt like shit he showed up at the appointed hour with a case of beer.

“Where’s Cam?” Mikey asked getting the opener.

Brian set the bottles on the table. “He’s gone.” Buying time, he pulled off his jacket and plopped down on the sofa, hoping Mikey hadn’t heard.

“Gone? What the fuck does that mean?”

“It means he moved out of the house and quit his job,” he said and the tears that he had kept at bay for three days spilled over his cheeks.

Michael sat next to him and took him in his arms. “Jesus Christ. Brian… Brian, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t know what I did, but I fucked it up, Mikey. I always fuck it up. I never do anything right.”

Michael shook him gently. “It wasn’t you, Brian, it was him. That fucker—”

Brian raised his head. “I feel like such a fuckin moron. I was willing to sacrifice everything and he wouldn’t give up anything for me.”

“Maybe he wasn’t the right one.”

“Then there’s never going to be a right one, Mikey.” Brian covered his face briefly. “Because he was everything I ever wanted.”

Michael thumbed away a trail of tears. “I’m sorry.”

“I’m never falling in love again,” vowed Brian.

Having heard Brian make impossible pronouncements before, Michael shrugged this one off as well. “Yes, you will.”

But Brian’s eyes hardened, as did his mouth. “There’s no such thing as love. It’s just lust dressed up in pretty clothes. And there’s no beauty. No goodness. No fuckin light. Just this ache inside where he used to be,” he said and he curled up on the sofa, his head in Michael’s lap, and cried for what he hoped would be the last time.

Only it wasn’t. For the first few weeks after Cameron left Brian would wake up in the middle of the night with Cam on this mind and cry himself back to sleep. At work he’d get up from his desk and race to the Men’s Room, secluding himself in a stall just seconds before the tears started to flow. He hated the control his emotions exerted over his life and he wanted nothing more than to just stop feeling anything—or that Cameron would change his mind and come back. Only Brian knew that he wouldn’t. He also knew that he was better off without Cam. Only his heart wouldn’t listen.

Then one evening he came home from work and changed into a pair of black jeans and a white, lycra shirt, put on his ass-kickers, and headed for the clubs. He lost himself in the seething mass of half-naked bodies. Danced the way he used to with Cam. And when he felt a hand brush his hip inquiringly, he didn’t push it away. Instead, he took hold of the wrist and led its owner outside to where he was parked.

They fucked in the bed where he and Cam had made love. And as he plowed into the trick, he didn’t feel any better, he didn’t feel vindicated, he didn’t feel anything at all, which was exactly what he wanted.

Years passed and he changed jobs, got promoted, and was well on his way to a senior management position, maybe division head, by the time he was thirty-one, thirty-two. Just eight or nine more years. He hardly ever thought of Cameron, not even when he glanced at the bracelet he still wore around his wrist. There had been too many tricks, too many drug-induced hazes for him to care anymore. Or so he thought.

He was at lunch, alone, having met a client who had to leave abruptly in the middle. Since his client had paid for lunch, he decided to stay, finish his meal, and take a breather. The restaurant was fairly empty, so he was able to hear the conversation at a nearby table.

“So Cameron wants to have a commitment ceremony,” one man was saying to the other. “I told him, ‘Cam, that is so 1950’s,’ but I guess he never had a coming out party so here’s his chance to shine. You know how guys in Marketing are. Presentation is everything.”

From the moment he had heard ‘Cameron’ Brian had listened more attentively to the conversation. When the man mentioned marketing he found himself standing next to their table. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but I heard you say you were having a commitment ceremony. And that your partner’s name was Cameron and he was in marketing.” Before they could tell him to fuck off, he explained, “I used to know someone named Cameron who was in marketing. I thought it might be the same person.”

The speaker asked, “What was his last name?”

Pausing, unsure if he really wanted to know now, Brian answered, “McKenna. Cameron McKenna.” He remembered them laughing about the similarity between their names. McKenna and Kinney.

“That’s him, all right.” The man smiled at his companion. “How do you know Cam?”

“We were in school together. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude. Congratulations.” He walked away quickly.

Behind him, Cameron’s partner remarked, “What a babe. I wonder how well Cam knew him.”

“I think I saw a bracelet on his arm, like the one Cam used to wear.”

“Hmm. Maybe they were in the same fraternity,” the lover suggested.

Cynthia met Brian at the door of his office. “Ryder wants to see you. Fifteen minutes.”

Passing by her, he growled, “Fuck Ryder.”

Unperturbed by his outburst, she remarked, “So it’s going to be one of those ‘Fuck the world’ afternoons, huh?” She closed his door.

He wanted to scream. He wanted to throw something. At the very least he wanted to take off the bracelet he wore. The one Cameron had tied around his wrist. Taking out a pair of scissors, he inserted one of the blades beneath the strap. Although it was awkward using his left hand, he could very easily cut the band in two. Instead he sat there, the cool metal pressed against his skin, unable to complete the motion. He heard the lock click a moment before Cynthia stuck her head in the doorway. “Ryder’s waiting.”

Putting away the scissors, he gathered his notes from the aborted luncheon meeting and made his way to his boss’ office.

He studied the bracelet on his wrist. Underneath the band, the skin was pale. He hardly ever took it off. If someone were to ask him why, he wouldn’t have been able to say. Maybe that he had grown used to having it on, that he would have felt naked without it. And that would have been part of the truth. But probably the biggest reason was so that he never forgot what it had felt like. To be in love. To have his heart broken. Whenever he was tempted to let down his guard, to put his trust in someone who said they loved him (besides Mikey and Lindz), he only had to look down at his wrist to remind himself that there was no such thing as love. That it was just a lie people told each other to keep from being alone.

The phone rang and he sauntered over and answered it. “Yeah.”

“You okay?”

“Why?” Mikey.

“You were really quiet today.”

“I’m surprised you even noticed, you were going on and on about how wonderful your step-kid was.” And then he regretted saying it cause he knew Mikey would feel worse than he should. “Look, it’s okay. It’s just this shit with my old man.”

“You want me to do anything?”

“What can you do?” he asked. He could see Mikey shrugging.

“Bring you some of my mom’s meatloaf?”

He laughed. “So I can die of a heart attack?” Michael laughed too. That was better. No need for both of them to be down. Only, he couldn’t not tell Mikey about the strange mood he was in. “I was thinking about Cameron.”

Silence on the other end. Then, “Why?”

“I don’t know.” And he didn’t. Except that he felt vulnerable and helpless in the face of his old man’s dying and Cameron had made him feel vulnerable and helpless.

“You want me to come over?”

For a moment he was tempted to take him up on the offer and then he changed his mind. “Look after the doc.”

“Fuck you. See if I care about you anymore.”

With a small smile he said, “Pick you up around eight?”


He severed the connection. Went around and cut off all the lights except for one. As he reached for the last switch, his eyes fell upon the bracelet once more. He wrapped his left hand around his wrist and stretched open his right hand. There, in the middle of his palm, was the spot Cameron had kissed.

“I love you.”

Brian leaned over him and kissed him lightly on the lips. “How much?”

Pretending to think, Cam said, “More than the ocean.”

“Fucker.” Another kiss. “Not good enough. How much?”

“More than ice cream.”

Another kiss. “Better. But still… not good enough. How much?”

Cam held Brian’s head still and kissed him deeply. “More than my life.” Brian touched Cam’s lips with his fingertips. “Liar.”

Just as he was headed to bed, the buzzer for the downstairs door sounded. Justin. It couldn’t be anyone else. Pressing the intercom button, he released the lock. “Come on up,” he said without checking. Even if it wasn’t Justin, it’d be somebody and, sometimes—tonight—some body was all he wanted. All he needed.

Heels Over Head | Stories