More Than Meets the Eye


The guys had been talking even before they cuddled up on the couch expecting to watch some TV. So Justin was just continuing the conversation as they settled in.

“I guess I have to do it, Bri,” he told the guy next to him. “Debbie asked me and …”

“Yeah, I think you do,” Brian responded. “Deb’s ankle is not gonna be good enough to do her own Christmas decorating this year – that’s a bad sprain - and Vic has those back problems – and since Debbie has always been there for you whenever you needed her …”

“Well I wish she would have asked Michael,” Justin groused. “Why me?”

“Because you are the best Christmas decorator in the whole world, Baby,” Brian reasoned. “Or at least better than Mikey.”

“Cut it out, Brian,” Justin told him somberly. “I am not gonna laugh - not with this job looking me right in the face. I know she’s gonna want all those like – tacky things – and that old seedy aluminum tree too. You don’t think I could get rid of that junk and change the whole thing to something more…”

“Nope, I don’t think you could, Sweetheart,” Brian agreed. “Those things are Debbie’s – her traditions – just like we have ours. They’re Christmas to her and she’ll want them in prominent places where everybody can see them – especially her.”

“And she’ll be telling everybody that I did the decorating for her this year and they’ll think that I…” Justin concluded. “I can’t even get my usual crew to help. I don’t want them to know I’m involved with this at all. I’ll get Mikey to help and maybe you’ll have to do some stuff too…”

“Geez, Baby,” Brian grinned. “It must be really tacky if Brian Kinney is going to be allowed to participate in a decorating endeavor.”

“Damn it, Brian,” Justin complained. “I don’t think you have any sympathy for me at all. You don’t know how hard it is for me to compromise my artistic principles.”

“Well you can think of it as a professional job and you’re just suiting the client, JT,” Brian suggested. “I have to do that a lot in advertising. You are just doing what Debbie wants – just because it’s what Debbie wants. These are her traditions.”

“Well I have the tradition of only doing top quality stuff, Bri,” Justin continued. “I’ll do this – because I have to – not because I want to – and I’ll be a good sport about it too – but you are to tell nobody that I did it either. Nobody can know. I want to keep my reputation. And I guess she’ll want that old Santa Claus riding the blue elephant in a prominent place too – that might be the last straw. Gee whiz, Brian. What awful traditions…”

“Baby,” Brian told him. “Traditions are tricky. They can be a lot of things but I don’t know if they can ever be awful. They aren’t just stuff you decide to do every year or whenever with no reason at all. They’re a lot more than that. They’re reminders of happy things and happy times – stuff you want to remember - that’s what ours are - but they are different things for different people. A person’s traditions are not just about what they do, Honey. They are about the memories they conjure up – and that’s how they get to be traditions. That tree may be a bit old – and maybe a bit ugly and ragged too – but it represents a lot of memories for Deb. She got it just about the time Mikey was born – so it has every right to be ugly and ragged. She’ll never give it up willingly – and your fine touch decorating it this year will make it all the more memorable for her – cause you can do wonders with your talent. I should know. And about the Santa with the elephant – I met Mikey one summer when things were not going very good for me at home. He and Deb and Vic helped me get through that year – and me and Mikey bought that elephant for Deb the first Christmas I knew them. We thought it was beautiful. I know better now but I’d still be kind of disappointed if I didn’t see it at Deb’s this Christmas …”

“Gee whiz, Brian,” Justin had a tear in his eye. “You’re right. You’re always right. How do you know so darn much about everything? I guess I’m just a big dope. How come I don’t know all the things you do?”

“I think maybe you do, Sweetheart,” Brian consoled him – squeezing him closer in the process. “I think it was you who taught me a lot of this stuff. I don’t remember knowing so much before…”

“You know, Brian,” Justin cuddled himself even closer up to the big guy, “I guess I’m looking forward to this decorating job after all. It’s a neat challenge. I’ll do a good job. Deb will be real happy. I’ve already got some ideas about…”

"Me too, Baby," Brian told him – adding - with a very real hope that what he was saying would not happen, "and I'm actually gonna get in on the decorating for once."

"Hey, Brian," Justin seemed to read the big guy's mind - as he was often wont to do. "Would you be all that disappointed if maybe…? My usual decorating crew might be insulted if I replaced them for this really neat job. And I don't want to hurt their feelings…"

"OK, Baby," Brian smiled at him with genuine relief. "I guess that'll be OK. It was just a wild dream on my part – to actually get to…"

"Well I just want to make sure that neat Santa Claus on the blue elephant doesn't get broken," Justin smiled back at him knowingly. "It means so much to so many people I really love. It's like – priceless…"

"You know what, Baby," Brian kissed the kid on his forehead. "So are you."


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