: The rarified air of Dr. Jeremy Youngblood’s office is tense, thanks to the unexpected visit of Bruch Halloran and the musty air of old remembrances he brought in as he arrived. Cowed into hearing Halloran out, the good doctor folds his hands over his crossed knees and says bluntly.
“You have my attention, Mr. Halloran. Do something with it.”
Out of habit, Halloran smacks his tongue and says,
“Before I do, I need to know a few things from you. What happened to make you dump Phil?”
“That’s none of your business,” comes the abrupt reply. “I will ask you one more time before I throw you out of my practice. Why. Are. You. Here?”
“Okay,” drawls Halloran in his office manager voice, “we’re playing it that way. Fine.”
He rises and begins to pace as he tells the tale, only to be stopped by Dr. Youngblood’s stentorian tones.
“Sit down, Mr. Halloran. I will not be intimidated in my own office.”
Bruce is momentarily thrown by being called out so blatantly. He can respect that, he does it all the time. He returns to his chair and drops all pretense.
“Here’s what happened back then, tell me if I’m wrong. Just before you broke up with Philsy, you met a guy named Gary Pitts, probably called himself Sara Joy. He started off with buying you drinks whenever he saw you, which coincidentally was whenever Phil wasn’t around. As he got you progressively drunker, he began telling you a bunch of crap about your boyfriend, only he doesn’t ‘know’ he’s your boyfriend. And you never said anything because you wanted to know what your new buddy had heard. And I’m sure there were some other random barfags who echoed what you were hearing from Sara Joy. You know, for corroboration. The night of the Lesbian Avengers rally at Charlene’s you saw some drunken guy slobbering all over Phil, and decided to split. Anything about that you wanna correct, Doctor?”
Youngblood is silent, unmoving.
“I’ll assume that means I’m on track. Let’s keep going.” Halloran sits on the edge of his seat and leans across the coffee table to make eye contact with Youngblood. “So, you threw a sissy fit and stormed off to lick your wounds. Several weeks later you heard that Philsy had been committed to Charity and they were trying to get all the gay out of him. Somewhere deep down you felt responsible for what happened to Tupperman and switched your major to psychology. And here we are, in this lavish office with your humanitarian reputation and your walls full of awards, and everybody thinks you’re the greatest. And then I walk in to remind you that it’s all built on guilt. Did I do enough with that attention?”
Youngblood stares at Halloran, who returns the favor. The doctor stands, and walks over to his desk, his back to Halloran. Picking up a black tube, he raises it to his mouth and exhales a misty white cloud of water vapor. Still facing away from Bruce, Jeremy says clearly,
“I never felt responsible for Phil’s situation.” He turns to face Bruce, taking another hit from the vapor pen. Another cloud of mist. “But I did think that what they were doing to him and the other men trapped in that program was inherently wrong. That is why I decided to make a difference.”
Bruce sits back into the davenport, crosses his arms and legs, and says a bit snidely,
“That’s the only thing I got wrong, then?”
Youngblood looks away from Halloran, taking another drag. Another cloud of white, this time shooting through the doctor’s aquiline nose. His brow knits, and he asks,
“How do you know all of this? Did Phil tell you all o--”
“Are you kidding?” Halloran chortles. “It took poor ol’ Philsy years to piece things together. No, it was Sara Joy. He left...extensive notes.”
“Left?” Youngblood asks. “Is he dead?”
“For years now.”
“Good,” comes the doctor’s instant reply. A wry little smile curls the corner of Bruce’s mouth. Seems that’s the general consensus. Youngblood takes a final drag, drops the pen in his jacket pocket, a considered look of contemplation on his handsome features.
“I still don’t know why you’re here, Mr. Halloran.”
“Call me Bruce. After all of this, it seems stupid to be so formal. And I’m here...because I’m trying to fix what Gary Pitts screwed up.”
“You don’t strike me as the philanthropic type, Bruce.”
Halloran laughs, and sits back on the edge of the seat, resting his arms on his knees.
“You’re right. I’m not. But I have to do this.”
“Why is that, Bruce?” Youngblood’s demeanor shifts effortlessly into psychologist mode, his voice smooth and understated. Oh shit, thinks Halloran. He’s trying to finesse me into telling him why I’m really here. Not good enough, Doc. A genial smile cracks the crust of his face and he looks directly into Youngblood’s eyes and says in matching tones.
“You know, I remember you from back then.”
The doctor’s face again sits flat and unmoving. Bruce is back on footing he can work with. He rises and slowly walks over to Youngblood, still standing at his desk.
“Oh yeah. I never forget an ass, and then...as now, your ass is spectacularly memorable. Used to see you in all the bars back then. Mississippi River Bottom...Bourbon Pub...the Corner Pocket...Jewel’s--”
“I never went to Jewel’s!” Youngblood barks indignantly in Halloran’s smug face.
“I never went to Jewel’s!” Youngblood barks indignantly in Halloran’s smug face.
Halloran smiles. He’s struck a nerve. “Must have been someone else getting pissed on in that tub.”
Sometimes, it’s good to be an old bar fag.
The vapor pen has returned, and with it a thick, vaguely vanilla smog. He’s gone far enough. If he pushes any more buttons, the good doctor will have him thrown out and then he’s really screwed. Time to dial it back. He retreats back to the opposite side of the sitting area, surveying the framed collection of awards, degrees, and citations awarded to Dr. Jeremy T. Youngblood over the decades.
“Quite a career, Doctor. Lots of these organizations don’t exist anymore.”
“They outlived their usefulness,” Youngblood replies, a little calmer. “Most of them in the last five years. As we gained more equality, there was no longer a need for them to exist. I attended each and every one of their ‘going out of business’ parties. One of the few times in life when something important ends and you feel a sense of accomplishment and completion.”
“Very impressive,” Halloran sighs earnestly. “Do you know who it was that kissed Philsy in front of you that night?”
Youngblood exhales another scented cloud and says flatly,
“I have the feeling I’m about to know.”
With total seriousness Halloran turns to face Youngblood.
“It was Gary Pitts. It was the first time you had ever seen him as Sara Joy so you wouldn’t recognize him. That way, if for some reason Philsy didn’t fall into his waiting arms of comfort, he could still go after you as the supportive friend with easy access to booze and drugs.”
Youngblood is visibly stunned at this information. “That’s...that’s diabolical. How could...wow.”
“That’s nothing,” Halloran says ruefully. “I think we’d better sit down for this next bit.” Youngblood begins to put his vapor pen back into his pocket but Halloran stops him. “You’re gonna wanna keep that out. And have you got any bourbon?”
“Umn...there’s a bottle of Chivas in the bookcase cabinet.”
“Close enough. Sit down, Doctor. I’ll get you a cocktail.” As he pours out four fingers of Chivas in each glass, Doctor Youngblood resettles himself on the antique davenport. Bruce hands him his drink as he takes his seat.
“Here’s lookin’ up your old address,” quips Halloran, and the men take a good, stiff snort.
“You never saw Gary Pitts again after that, did you?”
“No, not really,” replies Youngblood. “I remember seeing him one other time, a few years afterwards. It was the night I got that commendation from Cox Cable for a public access show I did on mental health for a couple of years. I almost didn’t recognize him. I didn’t realize it was him until we made eye contact. He got this look of disgust on his face and left the banquet hall. That was the last time I saw him.”
Halloran takes another swig of liquor, and swallows it hard.
“With you gone, Gary Pitts pounced on Philsy and tricked him into moving in with him. They were together for a few months. That was longer than most of his other tricks. But Phil was...well, he was depressed. Because he was in love with you. He turned to Pitts for comfort...and Pitts turned his attention to his next trick. So Philsy decided to off himself.”
Youngblood’s face is furrowed. He takes a drink, closes his eyes for a moment, then nods slightly to Halloran. Bruce goes on, surprised at himself for having this much trouble.
“He...he poisoned himself. Pitts found him just in time. He put Phil into a cab...told the driver to take him to Charity and forget his address, put Phil’s things on the street...and claimed not to know Phil when the hospital called. I assume you know the rest.”
Youngblood listens to all of this intently, his eyes blinking repeatedly as he processes this information.
“But...Phil committed himself. He put himself int--”
“No, he didn’t. He wasn’t aware of what he was signing or why. The Doctors Mengele knew what they were doing up there. He was trapped the instant Gary Pitts told them he’d never heard of Phil Tupperman.” Halloran drains the rest of his drink, and rises. “I guess you don’t know about his mother coming to take over, either.”
Halloran begins to walk back to the half-full bottle of Chivas in the bookcase when a wry smile crosses the doctor’s face.
“Now I’ve got you, Mr. Halloran. Phil didn’t have a mother. His parents died before he came t--”
“Wrong again, Shrinker Man!” bellows Halloran, prepared for this dissention. “Ol’ Philsy’s parents were alive and well, and kicked their faggot son to the curb and disowned him. Told him to get out of Kansas City and never come back.” He grabs the bottle and walks back towards the sitting area with a somewhat cocky demeanor. “And no one would have ever known if those vultures at Charity hadn’t given Phil sodium pentathol as part of his ‘treatment.’ Once the truth came out, the doctors called up the old bitch and told her to come get her son. She jumped at the chance to leave Kansas City. The old man died of a heart attack and she was just too embarrassed to show her face in town because everybody knew she had a faggot for a son. So, she came down here, took possession of poor Philsy, locked him away in an old farmhouse in Metairie, and set to playing society matron with the Carnival krewes until she dropped dead of terminal symbolism.” Bruce’s eyes spy a familiar symbol on Dr. Youngblood’s wall of accolades. “In fact…” he says as he rises and goes to the specific symbol on the wall. Another recognition for services rendered to a ball krewe he’s recently heard of. “She was the Queen of this krewe, Ayesha.”
He grins bitterly as he inspects the certificate, then turns to face the good doctor directly.
“This is her signature. Edith Agnes. Mama Tupperman presented you with this little gem, Doctor. And you never knew.”
Youngblood slams his glass down on the antique coffee table, rattling the neatly arranged magazines out of their formation. He leaps up to inspect the document as Bruce walks back to his place on the davenport, refilling both their glasses nearly to the top, emptying the rest of the bottle. He sits and takes a deep, satisfied sip while Youngblood stares at Edith Agnes’ signature.
“You...you have to be lying. I knew Edie. We were friends. She was--”
“Very supportive?” opines Bruce, holding his half-full rocks glass like Lady Liberty at a dive bar. “I’ve seen her coronation portraits. There’s an entire hallway devoted to it at the Tupperman compound. Her dress was white with handset aurora borealis crystals, blonde helmet hair, and a wraparound bosom. Wanna know what she wore to the Queen’s Luncheon?”
Once again, the pallid blankness settles in on Youngblood’s face. Bruce has to say something quickly while he’s contemplating. The only way to get through this is to keep him off balance. For a scant moment, he appreciates how well Jeremy has aged. He retains his masculine beauty, enhanced by his uniquely slow aging process. He’s still the incredibly hot young stud Bruce first took notice of all those years ago. Yet, despite his physical perfection he’s a broken toy. Unwilling to admit that he’s been chasing after the spectral innocence of the young Phil Tupperman yet defiant in all he’s achieved on the back of that guilt. The reverie lasts for a single second before he realizes how he’s screwed up yet again.
“...because...oh Halloran, what a stupid fuck you are! Mama never, ever used her married name here!” He tears over to the framed document, right next to Youngblood who is momentarily disturbed by Halloran’s sudden approach. Bruce glares at the parchment under glass, then turns and seizes the Doctor by the shoulders.
“I’m sorry, Youngblood. There’s no way you could have…” he trails off, releasing the Doctor from his grip. Bruce’s gaze moves toward the floor as his eyelids narrow. He realizes that he’s come here without all the information he should have.
Bruce stalls for a moment, unsure of what to do now. He needs to contact young Mr. Tschantz again, ASAP. He needs to go back to Philsy’s house and do some more research. He needs...he needs...more. He bolts towards the davenport and seizes the remainder of liquor in Youngblood’s glass, slamming it down in a single, audible gulp. Fondling his pocket fronts for his keys, he fairly jogs towards the pocket doors and throws them open with great drama. Before he can exit, Jeremy Youngblood calls out,
“Where are you going? You can’t leave yet!”
Bruce stops on a dime and turns to face Youngblood, the pocket doors slamming against their boundaries with a loud alarum. In direct contrast to the din, Bruce says softly but directly,
“Do nothing. Don’t even think about this meeting today. I will contact you within the week. Until then...this didn’t happen.” Halloran turns to go, then stops himself and turns back on his heel.
“I need to schedule an appointment for next week.”
Youngblood instantly perks up and says a little too quickly,
“Let’s meet at my private office instead. I can g--”
“No,” says Halloran with a definite air. “I’d prefer we meet here. Less chance of something...undocumentable happening. Don’t you agree...Doctor?”
Youngblood freezes in his spot, unable to conjure a response. Without much else to do, he simply nods. Halloran takes full advantage and says,
“Great. Say next week? Same time? Of course same time,” he gloats. “I’ll tell the girl up front to clear your calendar. Oh! Dr. Youngblood?”
The doctor regards Halloran with a mixture of deference and dread.
The doctor regards Halloran with a mixture of deference and dread.
“...next week, have some decent bourbon on hand. I’m partial to Bulleit these days,”...This Is My New Orleans.