Please remember the warnings.
Myrna, the kidney thing is just for you.
Wrenlet, the second to last paragraph is for you. Tell me if that's too obvious.
by Josselin Kohl
After several years, Justin does not even look like Justin anymore. One of the first things the hospital had done when he got there had been sheer his hair short, which made it almost painful for Brian to look at him, with that horrible buzz cut, though he could almost understand it, having struggled through combing Justin’s long hair enough times himself.
But that’s the least of it now. His hair’s still short, and darker, and dull. His skin is dull, too, and has a waxy sheen to it. His medications—the same ones that make him drool and fall asleep randomly—make him gain weight, so he’s grossly rounded, now, and his face is a rounded shape that reminds Brian vaguely of a bus driver he had in junior high.
He’s more dangerous to fight with now, because he’s heavy and has learned how to throw his weight around, but there aren’t really fights anymore. The drugs have taken care of that, too.
If a stranger looked and Brian and Justin together now, they’d be hard pressed to say who was older. Justin has that aged look to him that Brian used to associate only with guys who were positive and not taking care of themselves—Justin has the complexion of someone with a terminal illness.
* * *
It would have been easier, Brian often thinks, if Justin had just overdosed on drugs, or died in a car accident, or even never woken up from his post-prom coma. That was the happiest night of his life, after all, and maybe it would have been better off if it had all ended there.
Brian doesn’t deserve easy, maybe. And everything is filled with just enough bullshit to keep it difficult, and when the injunction Craig filed to keep him from visiting Justin was removed, it was only just in time for Justin to have another allergic reaction to his medications and be hospitalized for kidney damage.
But no one ever tells you what the future is going to be like. No one ever could, and if Justin’s doctors even had an inkling, they never mentioned it, and it was always this bubbly optimism about the latest medications, and oh, yes, he’s developed an allergy to that one, but don’t worry, there are plenty of others and remember, Brian—drugs can fix everything.
* * *
Some days it is easy to look at him now and be completely convinced that this being is not Justin at all, that it is a blob of living flesh residing in a room where Brian comes to do penance, but has nothing to do with a boy he once knew.
But then Justin surprises him again, which in and of itself should be proof that it is Justin in there, after all. Brian misses his normal visits two days in a row because Vic is hospitalized again—and if he’d known that getting old meant spending all of his time visiting people he knew in the hospital, he would have killed himself back at twenty-nine—and when Brian comes in on the third day, and sits down, Justin turns to him and says, in a completely conversational tone, “You weren’t here yesterday.”
And Brian sucks in a startled breath, because he hadn’t realized that Justin was alert enough to even notice his presence, must less note days when he isn’t here. “I couldn’t make it,” Brian says finally. “I’m sorry.”
Justin kind of nods. He’s looking away now, staring at the wall again, and starting to kind of rock forward and back in his chair a little bit. Brian doesn’t think he’ll get a response to his apology, because getting one coherent sentence out of Justin a month is really a notable achievement. But Justin twitches, still staring away, and says, “Sorry’s bullshit.”
Brian never believed that more strongly than at that moment.
* * *
Brian has a lot of time to think, sitting in the sterile room, as Justin stares at the wall. And he thinks about a lot of things. He thinks about how Justin’s hips moved as he carried platters in the diner. He thinks about the way Justin bit his lip as he fixed his hair in the mirror.
He thinks about the day in the diner when Justin first excitedly announced his alien encounter, and about what might have happened if he had just listened to Justin then, that day, maybe before it was too late. He thinks about the day he helped Justin test the soil for mineral traces. He thinks about the day he left terrified Justin in bed to see why the dishwasher was making noise. He thinks about the day he held the pillow in his hands, staring over Justin, laying, blond and angelic, on those dark blue sheets, and he thinks about what might have happened if he’d held the pillow down over that face and just waited for the noises to stop completely.
He thinks about the day he led Justin out of the loft and left him here; he thinks about the way Justin cried when they took away his colander.
He thinks about Justin smiling. About Justin happy. About Justin dancing at Babylon, Justin flirting with guys at the diner, Justin watching PowerPuff Girls. And he weeps.
* * *
On July 27, 2012, exactly ten years since Justin Taylor first claimed to have seen an alien space ship in a then-abandoned lot which has now been built-up into an apartment complex, he is kidnapped from the Alken Grove Psychiatric Institution.
The suspected kidnapper is Brian Kinney, 41, of Vangard-Kinney Advertising. Security tapes of the institution reveal that Mr. Kinney was visiting Mr. Taylor at the time of his disappearance; Mr. Kinney has since been reported missing himself. There were no witnesses to the disappearance, though the institution was fully staffed and it happened in the middle of the afternoon. Unfortunately, an electrical error in the kitchens of the institution—resulting from the malfunction of one of the cafeteria dishwashers—interfered with the security cameras, leaving the crucial moments when Kinney and Taylor must have left the patient’s room and the premises as only a three-second blip of static.
Nurses report that Kinney visited daily, and were confused as to why he would wish to remove Taylor from the institution, though there is some talk that he was displeased with new plans for medication necessary to help alleviate evident stomach pain in the patient.
Any information as to the whereabouts of Brian Kinney or Justin Taylor may be directed to: Pittsburgh Police Department, 431 Prospect Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 20343