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What the Heart Wants
“I’m an asshole.”
Those were the first words out of Brian Kinney’s mouth when asked to describe himself. “I drink too much, drug too much, and I sleep around like you wouldn’t believe. I’m reckless and unpredictable. I came from an abusive home, which probably messed me up for life, but I’ve never seen a professional about it until now since my darling devoted partner decided it was necessary. I’m a self-made man, and I’m a flaming homosexual.” He paused, letting his words sink in. “And that’s all, folks.”
His psychologist simply nodded. “I do live near Liberty Avenue, you know. You’re quite the legend for all the reasons mentioned; but that’s not the part of your story I’d like to hear.”
Brian flopped back on the sofa, sighing dramatically. “Then what do you want to hear, Doc?”
“I want to know what motivates you. What makes you who you are. I want to know what you’re like when you’re not being an asshole, because something tells me that’s not what you’re truly like. I know it’s hard to open up to a stranger, but the sooner you do the sooner you can make your “darling devoted partner” happy. Pretend I’m him, if that helps.”
Brian considered this for a moment. “Fine,” he grumbled grudgingly, “But for the record, this is ridiculous.” His psychologist tried very hard not to roll her eyes.
Lying on the couch, Brian closed his eyes and imagined the kind, beautiful face of Justin Taylor. The crystal blue eyes and soft smile put Brian at ease, so he began to speak.
“I’ll just start at the beginning, then. I was born on a lovely day in April of 1971 to Jack and Joan Kinney, who didn’t want me but were too religious to get rid of me. I grew up as a human punching bag with a drunkard for a father and a homophobic b**** for a mother. My dad’s dead now; I think that’s the only worthwhile thing the bastard ever did for me. My parents hated each other, hated me, and I hated being there. In that piss-poor excuse for a home. Other kids grew up with mommies and daddies who put band-aids on their wounds and kissed them better, while I had parents who put the wounds there and made me tell my teachers I had fallen off the swings.” Brian stopped for a moment, opening his eyes and suddenly feeling very vulnerable. He pushed past the feeling, closed his eyes again, and continued.
“Anyway, life got a lot better when I met Mikey, my best friend. His family basically adopted me. I spent pretty much all of high school at his house. My parents were still horrible, but Mikey helped me forget. Focus on what really mattered, like myself. School and sports. My grades and soccer got me a full ride to Carnegie Mellon. I met one of my other best friends there, and basically spent my four years studying, clubbing, and fuc-” he hesitated, cracking open one eye to look at his tiny, Hispanic, female psychologist and decided to clean his story up. “Uh, screwing everything that moved. Well, that moved and was male. After college, life was “work all day, club all night, rinse, and repeat.” I made lots of money, bought lots of things. Everything was pretty steady, until…” he trailed off.
“Until?” his psychologist prompted softly.
“Until I met Justin.”
“Yes.” Brian was silent for a moment, remembering the night he met the boy who would change his life. He cleared his throat, trying to get rid of the lump that had formed. “Long story short, he changed everything. I broke all my “rules” for him. I didn’t know why or how, but he figured me out. He challenged me, called me out, didn’t let me hide anything. He still does. I didn’t think I’d live to see thirty. It’s been a wild ride since then- I won’t go into detail; there’s a lot- but I don’t regret anything. I had a son, too- the same night I met Justin, in fact. He just turned four, and he’s… He’s really something. And now I’m here, and you’re caught up.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me, Brian. So why do you think Justin wanted you to come see me today?” his psychologist asked earnestly.
“I don’t know,” Brian replied with a shrug. “I’m fabulous, just like always,”
“Brian. I analyse people for a living. You can’t bullshit me. Just answer the question; our time is half-up already.”
“Alright, alright,” Brian sighed. “I have cancer. Testicular cancer, curable. I’ve been going through radiation and everything, and I’m doing a lot better. Physically, at least. Justin says something about how I’m not “dealing with my feelings” related to that.”
“Well that sounds reasonable,” the doctor started, “but your inability to deal with emotions stems far back, well past cancer. May I give you my professional opinion of your case, Brian?”
Brian made a vague gesturing with his hands, and his psychologist took this as permission to continue.
“You’re scared, Brian. And before you tell me how brave you are and how you’ve never been scared in your life, you and I both know that’s not true. You know you’re going to live past the cancer, so you’re not scared of dying, but rather- you’re scared that you actually wanted to live through the cancer. You care so much more than you ever have in your life- about your son, your best friend, the man you can finally call your partner- and it scares you. You’re also scared of becoming your father and dying without letting the people you care about know how much you really love them.
“The first fear is understandable, but irrational. Regardless of how much you dread it, you are getting older. With age and experience comes maturity, Brian. You’re not the same man you were ten years ago, and that is perfectly okay. I would be more concerned if you were. I know you have a “reputation” to uphold, but I’d like to humbly suggest that you forget about that. Like you said, focus on what really matters- yourself. Your mental well-being, your happiness. Tell Justin you love him. Spend more time with your son. Let go of the “asshole bad boy act,” and your shoulders will feel so much lighter. When you do that, it’ll be impossible for you to become your father, a man who never expressed anything other than anger. Going from pretending you didn’t have emotions to accepting them and showing them with your actions is remarkable, don’t get me wrong, but... You’ve come so far, Brian- why not take the next step?” She leaned back in her chair, satisfied that she had made her point.
Brian eyed her with suspicion and uncertainty. For once, the “Stud of Liberty Avenue” had been rendered speechless.
“Brian. You’re gonna have to answer me sometime. And if you give me some sarcastic remark to brush off everything I just said, I swear I will lock the door and tie you to that couch until you get serious.”
Her gaze was so stony Brian decided against making any kind of sexual references. “Alright. Alright, I’ll be serious. I just…” he trailed off again. He was opposed to the idea of expressing his emotions to anyone, much less a total stranger. But some rational part of his brain told him that if he did there was a good chance he’d never have to come back, so he caved.
“You’re right. On all accounts. I know you are. But old habits die hard, you know?”
“I know,” his psychologist started, “but that’s your anxiety talking. Your anxiety thinks the whole world is going to come crashing down if he says the words “I love you” to anyone. It thinks you will no longer be the top dog, the stud you’ve always been. But your anxiety is stupid, Brian. Ignore all those thoughts and focus on what’s in your heart.”
Brian scoffed at that. “Okay Doc, that’s cheesy as hell but I get what you mean. My heart wants… It wants to tell Justin I love him. Not because I have to or because we’re married or something, but because I do… love him, and I know how happy it will make him. My heart wants to see Gus more, to see him grow up and for him to have a good father in his life. I don’t want to be a Stepford fag like Michael, but… I do want to see him happy and if that’s where he’s happiest then so be it. But I know if any of my friends see me expressing any emotion, they’ll all call me out and ask me if I’m feeling alright and bullshit like that.”
“I’m sure that’s true, but they’ll never get used to you expressing emotion if you never start.”
Brian thought his psychologist was stupidly observant. He sighed. “You’re right, again. I’ll start expressing my “inner feelings” today, okay? Can I go now?”
His psychologist rolled her eyes. She wasn’t expecting Brian to be serious for long, but he was clearly back to his usual sarcastic self. “Yes, I think we’re done here. Thank you for sharing with me, Brian- I know that wasn’t easy for you. But I am going to schedule you for a follow-up meeting so I can see your progress. You’re not getting off this one easy.”
Brian groaned internally, but complied. With his two-week follow-up scheduled, he paid for the session and walked to his car. Leaning against it and pulling out a cigarette, he realised he was stalling. He didn’t want to do any of the things he had discussed with his psychologist, but he was Brian Kinney and he’d be damned if he was about to let anxiety tell him what to do. Taking one last drag, he stubbed out the smoke and got in his car. He pulled out his phone and dialled a number. The person on the other end picked up almost immediately.
“Hey!” Justin’s familiar voice rang out from the phone. “How’d it go?”
“I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. Be at the loft in twenty minutes.”
He hung up before Justin could respond and took a deep breath. He’d tell the people he cared about he loved them if it killed him.
He was Brian A. Kinney, and he could do anything.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: All the characters mentioned besides the psychologist are owned by Cowlip Productions and Showtime Channel. I did not invent them, I’m just a big fan.