Pairing: Brian and Justin
Timeline: Fifteen years into the future after 513
MEMORY LANE IS OPEN -- CHAPTER TWO
"Didn't you have Art Club this afternoon?" my mom asked, shocked to see me home in the middle of the day.
"I quit Art Club."
"You love Art Club. Just last week-"
"You don't know everything about me!" I snapped, interrupting her parental speech before she'd gotten too far into it. "A week's like a long time. Things can change in a week." I can meet the hottest guy on the planet and lose my virginity in a week, my mind kept going.
Falling in love with Brian at first sight had been positively dizzying, crowding out my previous time wasters in the blink of an eye. I willingly let my art take a back seat in response to all the changes going on in my seventeen-year-old world, my new priorities in life taking over with surprising maturity. I was merely a senior in high school, yet I can truthfully report, all these years later, that my 'managing' of Brian had begun then.
Always available, always engaging, I chipped away at the the walls surrounding him with a minimum of fanfare, uncovering fairly early on the true culprit for most of his lecherous behavior. It was simple, really. Intrinsically feeling unworthy of being loved, compliments of his flagrantly dysfunctional family, Brian's existence had always been about his long-term friendship with Michael, his ultra-successful professional career (with its attendant making of money hand over fist), and his personal favorite: the never ending pursuit of fresh meat.
While his insatiable thirst for any decent-looking specimen he hadn't yet conquered was non-negotiable, I learned in those first few weeks that it was also meaningless - amounting to little more than feeding a beast of an addiction to fun. Not presuming that I could fix anything, understanding made it easy to wait for him to come back around after every little junket to Fun Town.
I'd assimilated with ease into Brian's inner circle of friends, all of them immediately getting how hopelessly in love with him I was. They stood by and watched as I slowly and systematically melted his heart, Brian kicking and screaming, of course, every step of the way. (It's so unfair when maintaining your stud status has to compete with finding out what it means to truly care for one person.) He fights off love, I'd awakened to the great epiphany one morning. It made me want to give it to him all the more.
I knew I was making headway when Brian took me under his wing, looking out for me and keeping my best interests at heart. He always tried to be such a grown-up, but it was kind of amusing to watch him lose the constant battle he waged to resist me. The evening I strode into Woody's and stuck my chest out in his face as he lined up his next shot on the pool table was particularly entertaining. I asked him to guess what I'd gotten that day.
"A new bell for your bicycle?" He sank his shot like a pro and searched for the next one, carefully avoiding eye contact with me.
"A nipple ring!" I corrected him with pride.
"What makes you think I'd be even remotely interested that you have a ring through your tit?" His eyes never left the felt.
Turned out, he was actually more than a little remotely interested, sweeping me out of Woody's and back to his loft in record time. He entered me with a passionate cry as I crouched under him, gold nipple ring and all. I remember rhythmically grasping and releasing handfuls of slate blue sheets, my knees becoming calloused with the friction.
My heart sang when his long, slender fingers fell between mine.
The second time my art almost became a casualty of circumstance was when my mother informed me that her marriage had irretrievably broken down, and that she and my dad were divorcing. I'd gone home to tell her that instead of Dartmouth, where my dad was expecting me to attend college, I was going to enroll at the Pittsburgh Institute of Fine Art.
"They had over two thousand applications, seventy openings, and I got in!" My Nikes hadn't touched the ground since early that morning, Debbie quickly scanning the acceptance letter and giving me the good news.
My buoyant mood crashed and burned with a dull thud, however, as my mom dropped the bomb at the end of my visit. Suddenly, my confident, independent decision of what to do with my life had become a whole lot less cut-and-dried.
Debbie found the evidence of its complete abandonment in her trash can the next day.
"All of it...his sketchbooks...his pencils...everything. I found them in the trash this morning," I heard her telling Brian on the phone. If anyone could right the derailed train, in her eyes, it would be him. "Try to follow me here, Brian," she went on. "It was no accident. He told me himself that he feels responsible for his parents breaking up. Making himself happy is no longer important."
My mind wandered during every class that day. My father had never accepted my choices. Being forbidden to see Brian was the reason we no longer resided under the same roof. I blamed myself for the undoing of my mother's marriage, abruptly deciding to head off to Dartmouth to make amends. A closetful of suits and ties, I'd agonized, secretaries...business lunches...how will I ever make it through the next forty years?
"Jesus!" I shrieked later that night. "Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?"
Babylon's bartender had no intention of serving my irascible, fake I.D.-holding self.
"Me," Brian intervened, stepping up to the bar just before things got ugly. "Two beers," he ordered. "I'M THIRSTY!" he vowed when it looked like trouble.
Friday evening. Crippled destiny. Brian told me years later that he could have found his way to me by Braille. He let me have one of his Heinekens, along with a chaser of sage advice, neatly delivered in his trademark no-nonsense approach.
"Here's to your bright, shining future as Pittsburgh's new Andy Carnegie," he started, handing me the hard-won libation.
"I'll drink to that." I tipped the distinctive green bottle and poured its contents down my throat.
"Only, I thought you were going to be the next Andy Warhol." Brian's eyes pinpointed mine. They seemed to want something from me.
"I changed my mind." I drank more beer, knowing that wasn't what he wanted.
"And after all the trouble I went through to make you the best homosexual I could? I can't believe you'd blow it. And with the flimsiest excuse: 'I've caused my parents enough pain.' How can you even stand there and look me in the eye?"
Nope. Not what he wanted at all.
"It's true," I said. "I've caused them so much pain."
Brian was relentless. "They cause their own pain, just like everybody else. And now you're going to give up everything you want just to make them happy?"
"Shut up, Brian!" I tried to end the onslaught. "You don't know anything!"
He wasn't nearly finished. "I know it's scarier finding your own way than doing what's expected," he roundly arrived at the crux of the matter.
"I'm not scared." I peered into my empty beer bottle.
"You're terrified," Brian announced, "just like the night you met me. I was sure you'd run back home. But you didn't. And look what happened."
The past few months fast-forwarded across the canvas of my mind. I gazed upward into Brian's eyes, much the same as I'd done on that first night under the lamppost, markedly minus the heaping helping of trepidation. "I turned into a big queer."
His eyes and face oozed approval. The key to decoding Brian always lies in his eyes and face. "Yeah, lucky for you," he crooned, reaching his arm out toward me. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be wasting my time." He pulled me by the front of my shirt with him onto the dance floor.
I thought I was over the butterflies in the stomach phase. Evidently, not.
"But, it's too late now," Brian affirmed, a slight smile on his lips. "There's no turning back." He took my face in his hands. He seemed to have gotten what it was he'd wanted.
The kiss was soft and understated; I knew it wouldn't end like that. I pondered my future. And my homosexuality. Was it a choice I could have avoided?
Not while Brian was kissing me.