Life is light in everything around you
When you're as one,
Everything I touch is gold
Gold - Lamb
Somehow they had gotten to jokingly talking about their own funerals one day at the diner.
"Promise me that if I don't die still looking beautiful there won't be an open casket," Brian said. "Or better yet, just cremate me."
Justin laughed. "What if I die first?"
"You won't. If you do, I'll ... I'll ..." Brian obviously couldn't think of anything he could threaten to do to him if he died first that made any sense, which caused Justin to laugh again. "You know, I've had this same conversation before. I told Mikey how I want everything to be when I decided at age fifteen I wasn't going to live past age thirty."
"Why does that not surprise me?" Justin asked. "Well, I would probably have to get Michael to pick songs to play that have some significance in relation to your life. He's been in it longer than I have."
Whenever Justin said anything like this about how Michael or Lindsay had known Brian longer than he had, something about it didn't ring true to him, but he wouldn't have been able to explain why. Looking back now, to him it seemed like that had been a different Brian that his friends knew before. If he was the kind of person to say things like this, he would have told Justin that it was not him his friends had known before, not the person sitting at a booth with him right now. He had not really been born until the night he found Justin standing under that light.
When Brian used to live with the certainty that he did not ever want to grow old, he had always thought he was more alive than anyone he knew, having the most fun, not worrying at all about any responsibility for his actions or the consequences of them. He was compressing eighty years' worth of life into less than half that time, and that left no room for being concerned about anyone else or ever thinking about the future, even the next day. He certainly never took anyone home who he expected to still be there the next day. And he had no idea what that might be like, to let someone stay, to see if they would. He was safe in his womb, in a dark place where he could not even see that world.
That was until he woke up one morning to find somebody still there, and the sunlight pouring through the open windows seemed unusually bright, bathing the loft that he was used to being so dark most of the time in golden light. He had looked around like he did not quite know where he was and how he had gotten here. Oh, right. Someone standing under a lamp post had found him - yes, maybe it was Brian that had been found and not the other way around - and somehow managed to pull him out of the dark.
The thing is, you can't go back in there once you come out. It is a big, frighteningly bright place outside. But once your eyes adjust to the brilliance of it, you can start to feel the warmth of that light every morning in a way you never did before.
Justin had come to visit two days ago, just as it was starting to feel like spring in Pittsburgh. He'd brought a coat and been glad to end up not needing it. It was that brief time of year when warmth still feels very new and strange, and as soon as you walk outside you feel kind of like running just because there are no heavy clothes weighing you down anymore. Somehow the air itself just felt different, fresh and young. So instead of fucking in the back room at Babylon when they went out the night before, they'd done it outside in an alley where they were right under the stars, the open air on their bare skin.
And later as they drove home with the all the windows down, Justin stretched his arm out the window with his hand cupped as if to catch the breeze, and Brian was very aware as he glanced to the side at him that it was that hand, as he never forgot. And he noticed how all the lanterns and colored lights on Liberty Avenue were kind of beautiful as they were speeding by in the Corvette and they all became a blur of neon colors, bright purple and fuchsia and orange mixed together like coral reefs in the black sea of the night. He didn't consciously attribute it to this, but he noticed things like that when everything was all right and Justin was around. Colors were brighter, sensations were more intense. Everything had more meaning.
When they left the diner and went outside, the sun was shining so brightly it looked like they were walking through gold. "But anyway," Justin continued as they walked down the block, "I can promise to have you cremated if you don't still look beautiful, but that's kind of pointless. I'm never going to think you're not beautiful."
Brian couldn't have that, because they were just joking, and he couldn't have this conversation seriously. That brought up too many things he needed to ask of him, things besides what dirty joke he wanted on his tombstone.
Because it had to be him first. Not just because Justin was so young. Justin had been himself before there was the two of them together, and there was a Justin without Brian. But there was no Brian without Justin anymore. He had made him what he was.
So in response to this, he just tickled Justin in the side and said, "Shut up." As Justin laughed and pried his hand off of him, he walked forward a little bit as if to run off, looking back with a smile, and the moment seemed to happen in slow-motion. His blond hair shined so vibrantly outside it looked like it was absorbing light, and when there came that smile it pierced through him like the sun reflected sharply off of a mirror, just for a second. And Brian was reminded once again why Debbie called him that.
Justin still had Brian's hand that he had tickled him with, and as he walked forward Brian waited until he pulled his arm out to its full length and then abruptly pulled Justin back to him, wrapping him in his arms and kissing him briefly, both of them with their lips still in a smile as they met. And even as Brian closed his eyes in that moment, he saw only brightness through his eyelids.
Brian normally never wasted any time thinking about the possibility of any kind of an after-life, but he could see himself lost in that darkness again after death just as before birth. And if he was the kind of person to ever say things like this, and if he and Justin were having this conversation seriously, he would have said, "I'll wait as long as I have to. Just promise that you will find me again."