Once I thought about it I realized that I heard things all the time about television series being cancelled. You hear more about the ones that are on the air and then get cut off. I was vaguely aware that there were those that never made it to air in the first place, but I had not given it much thought. It was just one of those things, like tornadoes or famine, that you hear about in the news but which had never affected me directly before.
It had not occurred to me that it could happen to us, to Jonathan. I honestly had tried not to get sucked into the details of what all was going on, which had been fairly easy to do since Jonathan, for the most part, had been trying to hide how shitty it was to work as part of this development team in the first place. He hadn’t been successful at hiding that part, of course, but I’d had no idea something like this was coming. And J? J was caught by surprise because of the “stealth” way they did it.
He had a good cry. The phone rang at one point and he let the machine pick up. It was his agent. She sounded livid and mournful at the same time.
When he was done crying he felt better. I wasn’t sure how to feel, other than because of my own situation with BNC I sympathized. We were still sitting on the couch, wrapped around each other. I was starting to hate that couch, though.
“I want to wash my face,” he said. “But I don’t want to get up.”
“Wash your face later,” I said. “Here. I’ll lick it for you.”
I licked him on the cheek and he laughed and tried to get away, and I got in another good lick on his ear before he managed to escape.
He was laughing again and I felt triumphant, which was good. He took the opportunity to wash his face, then came back. “Ugh. Now I have to tell everyone that I’m a failure.”
I was stretching while I had a chance, trying to touch my toes, and I snapped upright. “Whoa, waitasecond. You are not a failure.”
“I know, I know, it’s just an expression.”
“No, seriously, you don’t think them pulling the plug had anything to do with you, did you?”
He sighed. “I… I really hope not.”
A cold, creeping thought spread insidiously in my brain and I shivered. What if this was the same exact thing for J as it had been for me? What if someone higher up didn’t like gays? “You don’t think it was a gay thing, do you?”
His laugh was bitter. “Daron, honestly. At least half the writers are gay, maybe more of the management.”
“Oh. Really?” I tried to touch my toes again. In the months since I’d been off the road I’d gotten out of shape.
“Really. Hollywood is full of gay power brokers. We run this town.”
“Huh. I don’t even know what to think about that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, if we run this town…” Why is it such a shithole? “Why is everyone still in the closet?”
“Well, you know, things are changing.”
“Not fast enough,” I said, pretty much without thinking.
Jonathan was standing on the step up from the living room to the “dining” area, his work shirt untucked but still buttoned, his hair damp around his face. He crossed his arms. “You know, everyone who is still in the closet is part of the problem.”
Bam. Just like that, we were having a fight. “I’m part of the problem? Is that what you’re saying?”
“Think about it. Every person who is in the closet encourages everyone else to stay there. To maintain the status quo–”
“You’re saying I did this to myself?”
“No! I’m saying, though, that if you insist on keeping it secret, you prop up the very structure that oppresses you.”
“So you are saying it’s my fault. Mills put a bullet in my career because I’m gay, and you’re telling me it’s my fault?”
“This isn’t about you, Daron!”
“The fuck it’s not! You’re the one who just gave me the hairy judgmental eyeball and used the word YOU.”
And then we stared at each other for several long seconds, like two tomcats all puffed up and ready to start clawing.
Jonathan deflated first. “I’m sorry. That was totally uncalled for.”
I deflated a little bit, from outright angry to merely frustrated. “You know, I just noticed how often you say those words. They’re starting to not mean anything to me.”
He looked puzzled. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you say them like rote, which now that I know you makes them sound insincere. Like when guys belch and then say ‘excuse me’ to be so-called polite when actually that doesn’t make it polite, does it?”
Jonathan did a double take. “I think I missed something here.”
“It’s just this. I’m trying to tell you. I know you’re probably genuinely apologetic. But when those exact words pop out so easily you come off sounding fake. Like do you actually believe that was uncalled for? Or was that just a phrase you learned to say to placate people?”
He blinked at me. “I never thought of it that way.”
I felt a breath of relief. I’m not sure why. I guess because not only was the fight, brief as it was, over, but it seemed like maybe I had made a valid point.
He was looking at the ceiling above my head. Or, well, he wasn’t looking at anything. “Examined subtextually, that’s really fascinating,” he said. “The whole subtext of apology is… what causes the need for apology is transgression against the status quo, and so as long as the status quo is repaired, that is, if the transgressor conforms to the rules that were broken by stating the correct, proscribed words, then the needs of status quo are maintained. And yeah, there is a way in which that entire form of social interaction is morally bankrupt and devoid of genuine semantic meaning.”
“Spoken like a true Ivy leaguer,” I said. “Does that mean you’re actually sorry?”
I went and kissed him to prove I believed him. “Can we go out and get ice cream now? I feel like we deserve ice cream after everything that’s happened.”
“You sure you don’t want to go out for a stiff drink?”
I snorted. “Too conformist. Besides, I like my liver.”
“Ice cream it is, then.”
We drove to a place for ice cream. After that we got a little hungry for real food, so we drove around, and we went past one of the clubs where we had gone to shows a lot when we’d first moved here, and we ended up going to eat nearby so we could wait around to go in, and we saw some local bands, totally forgettable but adequately loud and entertaining for an excuse to be out of the house. It made me realize how long it had been since we’d gone out. Was that all about Jonathan trying to toe the line at the job he didn’t have anymore? Or was that how it would have been anyway?
Hard to know.
It was past midnight when we got home but I could see the living room light on in the apartment upstairs. I have no idea if that is partly what led to us having sex on the couch, which we had never done in that apartment. We’d always gotten in bed. Or the shower. Though it was a long time since we’d done that, either.
We left a fairly huge come stain on the couch, in fact. Maybe I hated it less after that.