Chapter 10: Justin’s POV
Getting Brian dressed was like trying to cram a giraffe into sweats. His tall lanky body was suddenly completely inflexible, and he created expletives never heard before as I stuffed him into the clothes I brought over from the hotel. This wasn’t exactly the way I pictured our reunion as the van drove me from the airport to my destination. When I checked in, I decided to beard the lion in his den and immediately let Brian know we were victims of a conniving female plot. I asked the guy behind the desk to leave a message for him and he looked curiously at me.
“Do you know Mr. Kinney?”
And that’s how I found out what happened. Security went to his room with me to retrieve his sweats. I guess they wanted to make sure I didn’t steal anything else while there. I left my stuff in my room and then took a cab to the hospital with his clothes shoved into my messenger bag. It took me awhile to find his room. No one was anxious to help me, and when I did find it, I walked in on the kindly and patient old doctor who was being harangued by a grumpy and hurting Brian Kinney. Few things are more formidable than a grumpy and hurting Brian Kinney.
The way Brian looked at me, I know he thought he was hallucinating. After outing him to his doctor, and shoehorning him into his sweats, a nurse wheeled him to the front door. I had arranged for a cab and when he resisted my helping him into it, I put a strong hand on his good shoulder before he could even try to stand.
“It’s icy out here, Brian. Slick. You’re hurt. You’re woozy. You can barely move. If you’re going to be a macho asshole the whole time, I’m just going to leave you here in the hospital where they can drug you or restrain you or something. I’m not here to be abused by you because you’re mad at yourself and in pain. Are we clear on the concept?”
He glared up at me and then sighed. “Just help me into the car, Clara Barton.”
Helping him is not that easy. I can’t really put an arm around him, his mid-section is too sore. I can pull on his good arm, but his knee is torqued, so he’s very unsteady. I plant my feet and extend my hand, saying, “You pull yourself up, using me to steady yourself. That might be easier.”
Somehow we get him into the car and he turns as white as the snow, the pain of movement is so excruciating. I have a fresh bottle of Advil, courtesy of the hospital, but he can’t have a dose for another hour. I feel like Shirley MacLaine in that weepy chick flick where Julia Roberts is in such pain and her mother, Shirley, demands drugs for her. Wait, I think I’m combining two different young-girl-dies movies. He says,
“What are you thinking?”
“Whether you’re Julia Roberts or Debra Winger.”
“Swell. You’re mental. When did you go mental?”
I smile. “Forget it. Merry Christmas, by the way.”
“You followed me here?”
“Not exactly. My mother gave me this all-expense paid ski vacation to Banff. Isn’t that a coincidence?” Our eyes meet. He shakes his head.
“That fucking Cynthia. She is so fired.”
“Yeah. Like you can get along without her.”
“What were they thinking?”
“I don’t know, Brian. Who can understand how women think?”
He moans as he leans against the far door. “Are we almost there? My ass is killing me.”
“Now you know how I felt all those years,” I tease him, but the response I get is a glare. He doesn’t have much padding to protect his bruised tail bone. We can’t all have the benefit of my bubble butt. At the hotel, he walks across the lobby in a great, if unintentional, imitation of the mummy meets Frankenstein. I know I sound glib, but I really do feel for him. It’s just that with Brian, the worst thing you can do is to appear overly sympathetic. While they were checking him out of the hospital, I arranged with the hotel to cancel our rooms and give us a single suite with a recliner in the sitting room area. They moved our luggage, so the suite was ready when we arrived.
I fetched a pillow from the bed and used it to soften the leather recliner before guiding him into the chair. I cover him with an afghan from the sofa and light the electric logs in the hearth. He’s so pale. I’m really worried. I put on a good face, though. He’s playing with the incline on the chair, trying to find the least painful position. When he decides on something, I hand him the remote control to the television.
“If you’re settled for the moment, I thought I might take a shower. I feel grungy.”
“Justin, I’m here, I’m fine. I can call room service if I need anything. You don’t have to stay.”
I smile at him. There’s a shocker. Brian Kinney telling me he doesn’t need my help. “I’m staying,” I declare and walk into the bathroom for that shower. Wrapped in a robe, revived, I walk out to find him asleep, the television still off, the remote slipped from his hand to the floor. I take a chance and lean over to kiss his clammy forehead. He stirs but doesn’t wake up. I’m supposed to make sure he isn’t sleeping too deeply for the first twenty-four hours.
I turn on the television, at low volume. Outside, the snow has turned into a blizzard. Couldn’t be on the slopes even if I wanted to be right now. The wind screams at the windows, but we’re safe and warm and…together. How I’ve missed being in the same room with Brian. Glancing at him now, pale and miserable, I still feel a sense of relief that he’s here.
I’m crying through my one-hundredth watching of “White Christmas”, because the scene about “following the old man” always gets to me, when he awakes with a groan. “Jesus X. Christ, get me something for the pain!” he demands and I hand him a banana and three Advil with a bottle of water. He glares at the banana. “When did the pain reducing qualities of bananas become known?”
“They said not to take Advil on an empty stomach. Here, I’ll peel it for you.”
“I’m not eating it,” he downs the green capsules and I shake my head at his stubborn determination.
“Yes, you are, Brian. Do you want the drugs to burn a hole in your gut? Think of it as a nice hard cock and open up.”
He takes the denuded banana from me and deliberately deep throats it, reminding me of his phenomenal technique before he bites off half of it and chews it up. I smile, satisfied, and throw away the peel. “Want to tell me what happened?” I ask as I sit down cross-legged on the rug beside his chair. He stares down at me. He tries to shrug, but his body doesn’t cooperate.
“I was on my fourth run and it started to snow. I guess it obscured my vision because I didn’t see the tree until it was too late. I swerved, so at least I didn’t have a solid impact. At that speed, it would’ve killed me.”
“Stupid. Let’s just say of all the shitty Christmases in my life, this is one of the worst. First the crap with the lesbians and now this.”
“People do care, you know.”
“You said no one cares about you, when you were at the hospital. That’s not true. Besides me, any one of your friends would come here to help you out and so would Debbie or even my mom. Lots of people care about you, Brian. The real issue is your pride. You’d rather shrivel up and die in a dark cave than ask for help.”
“So what’s your point?”
I smile. “Point made. There’s something weird that goes on in your head that makes it so impossible for you to seek any kind of assistance.”
“Redundant. This we know.”
“It’s all about control, Brian. And you have to give up a little control to be in a real relationship, right?”
“I’m not in the mood for this, Dr. Phil.”
“Ok, that’s fair.”
“I have to piss. This should be fun. Will you help me up? See? I asked for help.”
“Sure you want to get up? I could get you a…”
“Just help me up, piss queen. No games today.”
I laugh at his twist of my offer and together we get him on his feet with a lot of swearing and a lot of grimacing. He insists he can make it there on his own, and it takes him a long time to make a short trip. When he comes back, he’s sweating as if he had been running for miles. I help him back into the chair and he drains the rest of the water in the bottle. I get him another. “I need real drugs,” he says and I shake my head as a knock interrupts us. I open it to find an attractive man dressed in ski clothes. He stares at me and then asks,
“Is this Brian Kinney’s room? The desk clerk…”
I sigh. Trick, I suppose. Some cruise from the slopes, from the spa, from somewhere. “He can’t see anyone.”
“Who is it?”
“Brian, it’s Brent.” He walks past me and I see Brian grimace as he focuses on the man. “I heard you were injured. I thought I’d…”
“You jinxed me.”
“How did I jinx you?”
“You predicted it and here I am. Happy? And did you follow me here?”
I watch and listen and don’t like it very much. “Brent” says, “I told you I thought a ski vacation sounded good. Mind if I have a look at you?”
“Yes, I mind. Can you prescribe something stronger than Advil? If so, look as much as you want.”
“Excuse me?” What’s with this looking stuff? Who the hell is he?
“I’m a doctor,” he throws over his shoulder at me as he lifts up Brian’s sweatshirt and gently prods his bandaged ribs. Brian cries out and I say,
“You’re hurting him!”
He ignores me. The man then tortures Brian’s shoulder and his knee and shakes his head. “You’re a mess.”
“Is that your medical opinion?” Brian asks with a snarl as he pulls the afghan over his legs. “So where’s my scrip?”
“You have a head injury, Brian. I can’t give you anything. Maybe tomorrow. You need to force yourself to breathe deeply. If you let the pain of those ribs shorten your breath intake, you’re just asking for pneumonia. Especially since you’re virtually immobile. Coughing your guts up when you have broken ribs is no fun.”
“Breathing is no fun.”
“I’ll make sure he breathes,” I interrupt this little diagnosis. I perch on the arm of Brian’s chair and rest a hand on his forearm. Mine, I want to say. But is he?
“Who are you?” the doctor is all set to dismiss me. Asshole.
“I’m his partner.”
“I thought you said you were single?” he asks Brian, who doesn’t even blink as he says,
I give him a cold stare and the doctor leaves after telling us his room number in case we need him. I’d rather call Dr. Santa. At least he wasn’t after Brian’s bruised ass. “You told him you were single?”
“Is that how you see yourself?”
“You did leave. You do live in another city. We are separated.”
I reach out and smooth his hair, feeling him tense beneath my touch. “I still love you, Brian.”
He stares down at the floor, refusing to look at me. This isn’t going the way I planned. “Do you still love me?” I venture and he finally meets my eyes.
“Yes,” he says and then adds, “But so what? It’s like loving a ghost. You aren’t here.”
Nothing’s changed for him. He hasn’t really made any progress in figuring out what a relationship means to him. He’s just feeling abandoned and angry, now. I fucked it up. I feel sad as I kiss the top of his head. “I’ll get the room service menu. We’ll order some dinner. Did you fuck that guy?”
“Do you plan to fuck him again?”
“He’s hot for you.”
“That’s his problem, not mine. Look, did you really expect me to be celibate?”
“No, Brian. Not at all.”
“Good. I’m not hungry, just order what you want.”
I order a meal for me, soup and crackers for him. If time and distance isn’t the right answer, what is? I’m playing out of my league. I don’t know how to fix anything anymore. I slump onto the sofa, flipping through the channels with aimless misdirection. He calls out to me.
“I’m having a hard time with this, Justin. I won’t lie.”
“So am I.”
We stare across the room at each other, trapped in separate, but equal, hell.