Thank God for Cynthia.
Not that I would ever tell her that. But I think it at least once a week, often more. Tonight, she offered to drive me home in her comfortable, if boring, Lexus SUV, and Justin would follow in the Vette. It must be a mark of how very uncomfortable I am that I agreed to this plan. The idea of dropping into that sports car and then trying to drag my ass out of it held no appeal.
"I must be paying you too much," I opine as I look around the luxurious leather interior of her car. She laughs.
"You don't pay me a fraction of what I'm worth to you."
She's right about that. I close my eyes. The pain sort of rolls through me like waves hitting a beach. Intense, then retreat, intense, then retreat. I know this is probably the peak period of pain, when the ripped muscles and knitting bones are complaining the loudest, but I wish it would pass. I lean my head against the headrest and close my eyes.
"God, Brian, you really are in pain. Should you see a doctor?"
"Been there, done that. Sick of doctors. Nothing to be done but ride it out."
"Did he give you good stuff for the pain?"
"Nothing, the sadist. But I guess I'd rather keep my mind clear right now, anyway, and that shit tends to make me loopy."
"How's it going with Justin? You two seemed really good together tonight."
I open my eyes to glare at her pretty profile. "Nothing's settled. And don't meddle in my life again, in case I didn't make that point earlier."
"You made it, Brian. I can still feel the spear in my gut. Believe me. God, I'm so glad you're queer."
Okay, that one surprises me. "What do you mean?"
"If you were straight, I wouldn't have let up until you dated me and that would've been such a disaster. Titantic, iceberg, the whole sinking to the bottom of the ocean thing."
I chuckle, and it hurts to do so. "Thanks. A guy always likes to hear a woman say that dating him would be an epic disaster."
"It's true. I would've fallen in love with you, you wouldn't have fallen in love with me, you'd break my heart, I'd have to get another job and then I'd compare every man I dated after you unfavorably."
"How do you know I wouldn't have fallen in love with you?"
"Because I know you. You think being straight would make you any less promiscuous? No, you'd just be playing in a different arena. Women would be hitting on you the same way men do now."
"Women do hit on me."
"See? You're gay and they hit on you. Imagine if you were straight. I don't have Justin's persistence and determination. I could never wait you out. My ego wouldn't allow it."
"Is there a point to this fantasy disaster?"
She stops at a traffic light and peers in my direction. "The point is, you found a perfect partner for you, Brian. He adores you. You adore him. Quit being stupid about it."
"The light turned green. Generally means go in these parts."
"You know I'm right," she says as she gives it the gas.
"I know you're meddling again."
"You tried everything you could think of to get rid of him, to push him away, from brutal promiscuity to martyrdom. Total extremes. You still love him. He still loves you. Figure it out."
"Seriously, Cynthia, shut the fuck up. It's none of your fucking business."
"It's my business becasue I care about you, Brian. You've moved from the impossible dream to a friend. I've seen your pain. It all seems so pointless to me."
I stare out the window at my town. Pointless. The pain or the relationship? "We both want to be together, but making it happen and making it work is so difficult."
"If it's worth it, you'll figure it out together. I'd kill to love someone so much and to be so loved by someone. It's rare, Brian. Don't waste it."
I think back to my dream of Vic. Dancing at that nightmare version of Babylon where all the boys are over fifty. That dream haunts me more than I can say to anyone. I don't want to be one of those pathetic old queens, still gyrating under the mirrored ball long after the strike of midnight. Getting older sucks. But I don't want to be old and ridiculous. Nor do I want to be old and alone. Nor do I want to be alone now. Her hand on my arm makes me flinch. "What?"
"We're here. Do you need help?"
I look at my building on Tremont Street as if I've never seen it before. I'm sure he's already there. If that Vette can't beat this Lexus, then what is the point? I look up at my windows. The lights are on and someone is at home. How nice that is. How comforting. "I can do it," I tell her and my hand hovers over the door handle but then I turn towards her. I slip a hand on the back of her neck. It feels so delicate to me, unlike a man's neck that's all muscle and tendon. Her soft blonde hair falls over my fingers. I lean in and kiss her on the mouth. Her lips are soft, her mouth is small, and when I slip her the tongue, her tongue feels tentative and receptive but passive. There is not the same urgency when kissing a girl, the same "let's just get it done" intensity I feel with men. Kissing women is more of a courtship, a dance, a preliminary to the main event that may or may not happen. I remember all those confusing emotions as we kiss. It feels nice. If I were straight, I would've dated Cynthia, and it would've been a disaster. She's right. She's right about the rest, too.
I feel her fingers on the back of my head and then I break off the kiss and lean back to grin at her. "Never write me off as some safe old faggot," I warn her. "I'm Brian fucking Kinney. I'm always on my game."
She shakes her head, still a little dazed by my move, and I force myself to make a less than pathetic exit from the car despite the pain, not wanting to contrast my pronouncement with the reality of who I am right now. I wave and walk/limp into the building. He's waiting at the elevator, downstairs, arms crossed at his chest. "You always kiss the help goodnight like that, boss?"
I lean a heavy arm across his shoulders and let him walk me into the waiting elevator. "She dismissed me as a harmless faggot, and I don't like to be dismissed."
"You are a harmless faggot. Harmless to her, anyway."
I glare at him. I hate it when he sees through me. "She doesn't have to know that."
"She does know that."
This fucking elevator is so slow. It's like torture. I really want to lie down now. We walk into the loft and he locks the door and trails me to the bedroom. I let him help me undress. I'm too tired to argue. This little outing was so exhausting, which is just sad. I'm sick of feeling incapacitated. The cancer, the collarbone, now this. I'm in a bad mood, all of a sudden. He helps me under the sheets and then climbs in with me. I feel his body curve gently against my back. It feels good, warm, soothing.
"What's wrong?" He persists.
I don't want him to go back. "Nothing. Tired." I don't like it that Cynthia read me so well.
"Come back with me," he whispers. "Let's look for that little flat together. Let's have that place leased before we separate again. Let's know it's there to bind us."
I turn over, painfully, to face him. "Yeah?"
He kisses me. "Yeah."
I smile. He kisses me again and then grimaces. "What's wrong?"
"You taste like girl."
I laugh and pin him back on the pillow, plunging my tongue into his mouth, feeling his urgent, demanding, hot response. This is what it's about for me. It wasn't that Cynthia isn't a good kisser or even that she isn't a man. It's that she isn't Justin. His arms close around my neck and suddenly my pain begins to recede as other hormones take over my body. I let go and relax in his embrace, knowing what will happen next, knowing that I'll like it, and knowing that this is exactly what I wanted for Christmas.