The Night Before the Lamppost
* * *
Brian Kinney Gets a Lecture
It was just a little after 10:30 - a quiet time at the diner. Deb was cleaning up some for the crowd that would be coming in when the movies let out. She walked over to the only occupied booth to talk to its single occupant and she squeezed herself onto the bench facing him.
“OK, Brian,” she asked him. “How come you’re sitting around here at this time of night? Shouldn’t you be over at Babylon – doing what you do at Babylon?”
“No hurry, Deb,” Brian half-smiled at her. “No hurry at all. I do what I do at Babylon so well that it doesn’t take much time. I’ll drop in over there pretty soon and pick up a trick and it’ll be my place or his. It won’t take long…”
“Sounds like a fun evening,” Deb told him mockingly. “You don’t even act like you’re looking forward to your big night of fun, Kiddo. Maybe it’s all getting a little stale…Whattaya think, Brian?…Maybe it’s not so much fun anymore?”
“It’s what I do, Deb,” Brian told her. “It’s what I know how to do – it’s what I like to do - and yeah, it’s fun – and when it’s over – no commitment – no repeat action – no crappy commitment … That’s what I do, Deb. That’s Brian Kinney.”
“And you never think you might want something better?” Debbie asked him.
“There isn’t anything better, Deb.” Brian seemed certain. “Not for me anyhow. I think maybe Michael though – he might find the love of his life and settle down for the long haul. He might pull it off. And I think he might like that. Maybe you’ll end up a grandmother - but it’s not me … That’s why me and Mikey never ….”
“Well thanks for that, Kinney,” Deb smiled at him. “Mikey is not the one for you. He thinks so sometimes but he’s not. If he were the one, you’d have known it a long time ago. You haven’t met your guy yet …”
“And I don’t figure I ever will either, Mrs. Novotny,” Brian smiled back at her. “Because there ain’t no such animal running loose. I’m 29 years old – on the verge of extinction. I’ve met a lot of guys, Deb. If ‘he’ were out there, I think I’d have found him by now …”
“So you’re gonna be doing these one-night stands when you're sixty, Brian?” Debbie projected. “That’s some picture.”
“Nope,” Brian replied. “I’m gonna do these one-night stands as long as I can – as long as somebody I want for the night wants me - and then I’ll be gone. I’m never gonna be some over-the-hill stud that the younger guys laugh at. I’ll be gone and nobody will miss me – except maybe you and Mikey and Vic …"
“You know what, Guy,” Debbie grabbed his hand. “I think you’re getting tired of doing what you do so well at Babylon. I think you’re ready for that guy who’s looking for you to come along. You may be looking for him right now even though you don’t know it – and you don’t want to know it either - but he’s out there …”
“And how am I gonna know him when I find him?” Brian laughed. “What’s he gonna look like? I might see him tonight at Babylon and not even notice him – and I’d sure hate to miss him. What should I look for?”
“I don’t think you’ll need to look for anybody particular – no particular type, I mean,” Debbie told him. “You might be real surprised when he turns up, Brian. He might be nothing like you’d expect. Hell, he might turn out to be nobody that I’d expect. But you’ll know – you’ll get a feeling you won’t even understand …”
“And then?” Brian challenged her. “What will I do then – when I know – and get that feeling I don’t understand?”
“Well, you’ll still be Brian Kinney – unfortunately,” Debbie came back at him, “So you’ll fight like a tiger to get away – and that’s how you’ll know he’s the one – you’ll be fighting like a tiger – but you won’t be fighting him, Brian – you’ll be fighting yourself - and if you get away it will be the worst thing that could ever happen to you – so I hope this guy is a fighter – somebody who knows what he wants – and doesn’t give up easily – he’ll help you win if he’s persistent – because you want somebody to love, Brian Kinney – and you need somebody to love . You don’t even know how to love anybody right now – so it’s going to be tough for you – and him - but you’ll do it …”
"And live happily ever after,” Brian joked. “I can imagine …”
“No you can’t, Brian,” Debbie maintained. “You can’t imagine. You can’t imagine ever being happy – you don’t know what happy is – but you’re a good guy, Brian Kinney – under that Brian Kinney pose – even if I am the only one who knows it - and you deserve to be happy – so I hope you don’t mess it up …”
“Geez, Deb,” Brian concluded, looking at his watch. “You’re making me nervous. I know you’re wrong - but all this ‘love’ talk is making me nervous. I think I better get over to Babylon to do what I do over there. Maybe the trick of the night tonight will turn out to be this love of my life … Yuk, Deb. I think maybe you’ve ruined tonight for me altogether with your damn fairytales. Shit …Maybe I should just go home – alone...”
“Sorry, Brian.” Debbie didn’t sound apologetic in the least as Brian got up to leave. “Sometimes the truth is hard to stomach. And maybe tonight’s trick will be the one – maybe not - but just keep looking. He might not be what you expect at all. But you’re ready, Brian – you are finally ready - so he could be anywhere – but he is somewhere. Maybe you’ll find him at Babylon – or here sitting at the counter – maybe he’ll be on the elevator or in the supermarket – or maybe standing under some lamppost … but you’ll find him sometime soon – and when you do you’ll know ….”
Debbie’s voice trailed off as Brian got out the door and onto the street, heading himself in the direction of Babylon though, and not the loft. “Geez,” he thought to himself. “That Debbie is a lunatic and I’m used to ignoring all of her crazy ravings – but sometimes she can still get to me … That’s kind of funny though. Me – Brian Kinney - ready for some special guy … That’s crazy - even for Deb …”
But Brian did think maybe he was taking special notice of all the guys he passed on his way – and that made him a little uncomfortable.
* * *
Justin Taylor Takes a Chance
Daphne and Justin were seated on the bed in Daphne’s room, as was a common occurrence for the two close friends. They had been confidantes for several years now and they felt they could tell each other anything – or maybe - as things were about to play out - almost anything.
“Justin Taylor,” Daphne was in the process of accusing her blond friend. “You’re acting very strangely lately. I’m beginning to think you might be in love? I’ll bet it’s Grace Matthews. I know she thinks you’re pretty cute and…”
“Cut it out, Daphne,” Justin demanded. “Grace Matthews is a dork – and I am not in love with Grace Matthews or with anybody else either …”
“Well Grace Matthews is not all that bad, Justin,” Daphne laughed. “And you are maybe just a little bit dorky yourself – beautiful - but dorky - so maybe you two would be a good match …”
“I don’t think I’m all that much of a dork either, Chanders,” Justin defended himself. “But I’ll admit I’m no Chris Hobbs ….”
“My God, Justin,” Daphne grimaced. “Who would want to be Chris Hobbs – or anybody like Chris Hobbs? He is creepy … Really creepy ….Ooooh….”
”I don’t think he’s all that creepy, Daph,” Justin told her. “In fact, I don’t think he’s creepy at all. He’s not that bad looking and he’s pretty smart – he’s got a great build - and he’s the best athlete at St. James …I think he’s OK….”
“Well if you think he’s OK, Justin,” Daphne maintained. “Then you don’t know him very well …”
“No, I don’t know him very well,” Justin admitted. “I’m in a couple of classes with him and actually I’ve tried to talk to him off and on - but I don’t think he likes me all that much ….”
“Do you care, Justin?’ Daphne wondered. “I don’t think Chris Hobbs is worth caring about…. Why would you care?”
“I guess I wouldn’t mind being friends with like – the biggest guy on campus,” Justin allowed. “And that’s Chris…”
“The biggest jerk on campus too, Taylor,” Daphne informed him. “But if you’re in love with somebody, I don’t guess it would be Chris Hobbs. What about Geraldine Allen?”
“Gee whiz, Daphne,” Justin protested. “Will you just quit it? I’m not in love with anybody – and I think you know that too. I don’t know what …”
“So maybe that’s your problem, my friend,” Daphne decided. “Maybe you need to be in love – with somebody – whoever… Maybe you just need to be in love. We’re getting to that age, you know – hormones and all. Anyhow, you are definitely not yourself these past few weeks, Jus, and you’re not getting any better either.”
“So maybe I do need to be in love, Daph,” Justin told her. “But you can’t be in love very well without having somebody to love. So what am I supposed to do about that?”
“You know what, Justin,” Daphne came back at him, “You are really ditsy these days. If you need somebody to love, Pal, you gotta go looking. That’s how you find people. You look.”
“That makes sense, Daph,” Justin told her - but Daphne herself wasn’t very sure that it did. She wished she knew what was going on in Justin’s mind because something was very wrong. She even wondered if she really knew Justin as well as she had always thought she did.
They sat there for a while in thoughtful silence - until Justin finally returned to the discussion.
“Daph,” he told her. “I need you to do me a big favor. It’s real important.”
“You know I’ll do it if I can, Jus,” Daphne ventured, “But the way you’ve been acting, I’m almost afraid to ask what it is …”
“I need you to cover for me tomorrow night,” Justin proposed. “There’s some place I gotta go. Like – something I gotta do – or maybe try to do – or - I’m just not sure exactly what I mean – but I don’t want to say any more about it now. Anyhow, I might be real late getting back – so I want to tell my folks that I’m spending the night over here – I do that enough that they’ll believe it...”
“Justin,” Daphne wanted to know. “You’re not gonna be getting yourself in some kind of trouble, are you? You’re scaring me …”
“I guess maybe I’m pretty scared too, Daph,” Justin told her. “But I’ve got to do this – I just have to - and you gotta help me …”
“And you’re not going to tell me what this thing is that you have to do?” Daphne wondered.
“I can’t, Daph,” Justin pleaded, “I just can’t. Maybe I can tell you afterwards but I can’t tell you now. You’re right though. There is something bothering me. There has been something bothering me – a lot – just like you said - and I have to check it out. I just gotta do something– or maybe I’ll go crazy. Please …”
“Well you got me as scared now as I’ve ever been, Justin Taylor,” Daphne complained. “And you want me to cover for you while you go out and do something you can’t tell me about – and you think it might fix what’s been bothering you for so long …”
“But you’ll do it, won’t you, Daph?” Justin prodded. “If you won’t I’ll have to find some other cover.”
“Yeah, I’ll do it, Justin,” Daphne agreed, “Because you’re the best friend I have in the whole world and I know there is something really bothering you – and if this will help … But I gotta tell you this again – I am really scared …”
Justin was very relieved that Daphne had decided to help him – but he nevertheless decided not to tell her that he was going to follow her advice – he was going to try to find someone to love – and in a place that was completely foreign to him.
Justin knew the odds were against him. He was inexperienced - didn’t even know how gay guys “did it.” Maybe it was hopeless – maybe he was hopeless. He needed somebody who could teach him – and who would be patient while he learned. He wanted somebody that he could love and respect - and who would love and respect him in return. Justin wasn’t sure if such a guy even existed - but that was what he intended to try to find out.
If he had known the enormity of the odds, he probably would never have taken the chance – but Justin didn’t know. He had always been kind of lucky and he hoped that his luck would hold.
Justin would have felt immeasurably better if he had known that the exact guy he was looking for was already looking for him - and that Brian Kinney needed him at least as much as he needed Brian Kinney – maybe more.
In about twenty-four hours though, he was going to find all that out – and begin the greatest adventure of his life.
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