“Uncle Justin? Are you ready?” Gus’ voice is muffled not just by the door between them but by all the pent up frustration of a fifteen year old desperately trying to hold it together. He was long and gangly, like Brian must have been at that age; with eyes so wise and yet so fresh. Justin is blinded for a moment with a flashback to the night he was born and the look of jaded wonder on Brian’s face the first time he held his son. Gus had been so tiny he’d been almost swallowed by Brian’s hands. It was hard to reconcile that tiny new life with the man child who loomed over them, still growing into his father’s height.
“Coming,” Justin said. He’d meant it to be louder, not the breathless hoarse word that he’d all but choked on in reply. He wasn’t going to lose it. He was not going to break down and sob on Brian’s son. The boy had just lost his father and had been dancing attendance between Justin and Lindsey – who had broken down during the viewing, wailing and only Mel was keeping her up right.
He had to step out of the door; leave the tiny powder room of the funeral home private lounge for the families; get into the limo with Gus and the girls and ride to the cemetery and put Brian in the ground. He had to do this owed it to Brian. He owed Brian so much. He wanted to scream. It was as if his seventeen year old self was standing right behind him and berating him for all the lost opportunities, all the wasted time all the times he’d been side tracked and distracted and how he’d forgotten. He’d forgotten the one thing that his seventeen year old self had known with the certainty of gravity; forgotten, the one central theme of his universe, like a pole star swinging every light in the heavens around it and guiding a complex orchestra of life. Brian.
He thought of the rings. The rings Brian had kept. Lindsey had been going though Brian’s closet, Mel had made a crack about how Brian Kinney would rise up and zombie shuffle to the nearest tailor if they buried him in something thing last season or god forbid provided by the funeral home. In going through his cufflinks and other jewelry Lindsey had found them. She’d been so confused. Justin had gently reminded her of their aborted wedding so long ago and then in case Brian had never told her, said that he had been the one to call it off and it was one of the biggest regrets he had.
Not the only regret, regardless of Brian’s personal philosophy. He was a successful artist, any artist that could be a working artist was successful in his book and over the years he’d developed a small but loyal following. It didn’t matter what he could do in the next fifteen years or god forbid thirty. He’d trade them all to have the last fifteen back. Why had he wasted the last ten years – away from Brian – working on a name for? So he could be remembered after he died? By who? Nameless faceless people who talked art and milled around galleries to see and be seen, none of them mattered. None of them would care – except for the fact that a dead man’s work was more valuable – if it were him being lowered into the cold ground.
He opened the door. Gus was wearing a suit. Not one of Brian’s expensive designer ones, but one Lindsey had got him for a dance. She’d mentioned that the minute Brian had seen his son in a cheap off the rack suit he’d dragged him to his tailor and had the thing fitted. The kid was an absolute heartbreaker. His eyes held all the complex emotions he was struggling not to show on his face. They’d lost Deb just last year and he remembered Gus tucked under his dad’s arm for most of the funeral crying unashamedly. Brian in a rare bit of candor had told Justin when they’d been lying together before Justin had had to fly back to New York that he’d never been prouder of Gus. That the fact that his son hadn’t inherited his own emotional constipation that Gus was able to tell people he loved them and show it without thinking it was a sign of weakness was a wonder to him.
Justin wondered why he hadn’t taken that opportunity to tell Brian that he wasn’t emotionally constipated, that he was the most loving and giving man he’d ever met, that the fears he had of becoming his own father were ridiculous that his son was living proof of all that and more. How many times had they laid together over the years warm and spent? They talked about everything but the fact that neither of them ever wanted to be anywhere else. They never said goodbye, not the first time he’d left for New York or any time after. He would show himself out like any other trick and Brian would wait. Wait for Justin to call and let him know he was on his way, wait for Justin to invite him for an opening or just a weekend or ask when he had business in town. Five years after he left Brian had taken him to Paris for two weeks, twice while walking the narrow streets Justin had almost suggested they liquidate all their assets and move to the French countryside. As if Brian could thrive anywhere but a city.
Justin was so angry at himself for always thinking he would have tomorrow, next week, next year. It wasn’t just seventeen year old Justin screaming at him now. He was screaming at himself. How could he have let so much time, so much life with that man slip through his fingers? Justin reached up and straightened Gus’s tie, “You look so handsome,” he said, carefully not saying you look like your father. Everyone had been remarking on the resemblance and if Brian were here he’d have intervened not liking the pressure that could put on his Sonny boy.
“Are you okay?” Gus asked.
“No.” Justin said, “You?”
“No,” Gus answered with a ghost of his father’s smile.
“Let’s go,” Justin said and they walked together to join Lindsey and Mel and Jenny and Michael to ride to the cemetery, in a few hours they could both find somewhere to shut the door and break down.