He lasts six months. Six months longer than you all expected. And when the first lesions begin to mar the smooth skin of his back and his chest, it happens. You find him. White, silk, scarf wrapped around his neck...feet swinging, slowly, back and forth, like a pendulum.
As you help Michael cut him down, feel the limp weight of his body between you, you think of Brave New World and twelfth grade AP English and wonder if his toes had pointed, with grace and condemnation, towards Babylon.
His face is calm, eyes closed as if in sleep, lips frozen in a smile that looks something like bliss. Young and beautiful forever.
Just like he always wanted.
You knew it would happen today. He told you to leave, to go pick up your meds...to stop over at the Munchers' and kiss Gus and read him a story. You didn't say "good-bye" when you pulled the loft door shut. And you don't say "good-bye" now as Michael dials 911 with shaking fingers and, no doubt, remembers a time when he and Brian were high and laughing and thought they were invincible.
No, you don't say "good-bye." Instead, you slide the scarf from around his bruised throat. You crumple the soft material between your fingers and remember that he soaked it in cold water for days to erase the stains of your blood. There's nothing you can soak it in...nothing...to erase death. Finality. AIDS. Brian Kinney's inevitable curse.
"Put 'Brian Kinney: He fucked half of Pittsburgh' on my tombstone," he told you after he found out. A harsh light died in his gaze and he sounded raw and cynical. "It would be so fucking fitting."
But he never screamed. Never cried. Never said "This isn't fucking fair."
Not until you tested positive for HIV.
You told him you could live for years without ever developing full-blown AIDS...without getting sick. He shrugged off your hand. "Why would you want to?" he demanded, trying to be flip. "You should go out, right now, in a blaze of glory. Only the good die young, right, Justin?"
Michael slid an arm around his shoulders and told him to stop being such a fucker.
He simply laughed. "It's too late for THAT."
And, one night, you woke to see him standing by the counter in the kitchen, naked and gorgeous and too thin in the twilight...and he was sobbing, quietly, staring at nothing. Another time, you caught him staring at you with agony in his eyes as you lined up his pills and made offbeat sexual comments about each one's size and shape. And every time he saw you playing with Gus, he flinched and found some paltry excuse to leave the room...and he didn't think you'd notice that he never held his son again himself.
But he never said "good-bye." Not once.
Today, he simply asked you where you were headed.
You said "No place special" with a tiny, familiar smile.
"I can change that," he whispered, bitterly, touching your cheek.
"You all ready did." You kissed his palm and spoke without malice, without any kind of regret. "Love you."
"I know," he said as he pushed you towards the door. That was all. "I know."
And you and Michael gather him close as the sirens grow louder. Your fingers link across the chest that will never rise and fall again. He looks peaceful...oddly untouched by the ravages of drugs or disease...truly happy for what might be the first time ever.
"I told him, once, that he'd always be young and beautiful," Michael whispers, pushing a few strands of Brian's light brown hair aside so he can lean down and kiss his forehead.
"You were right." You drape the white silk around his throat again...hiding the only visible signs of ugliness...those self-inflicted. You think you should bury him with it. He'd like that. Yet another melodramatic gesture.
And you still don't say "good-bye." You just murmur against his rapidly cooling lips..."See you soon."
|Story Index||E-mail Mala||Links|