The Next(3)

By: Rafe Haze



Minnie, the toy dog, yappity yap yapped as she passed Mrs. Abraham’s door, mocking the tragedy. I listened to the remaining clicks of her heels down the tile stairs.

Fuck fuck fuck. Do I stop her? Do I even want to?

The street volume increased through the hall to my apartment and then cut out as she exited the building’s lobby three floors below. Thud.

One less person to fake being happy for.

My immediate thought was to call Paul and tell him it’s over. Paul hated her anyway.

Except…

I inhaled deeply and felt a strangulation of pain in the effort.

There was no Paul anymore.

Click—his death switched off all the goddamn painful memories.

I was not the kind that voluntarily sentimentalized the past with dusty rose-colored nostalgia. Particularly our past.

Happy Birthday.

Blow out the candles.

Blow out every fucking thing that burns.





Chapter Two

Eight blurry days later, my cell phone rang.

California area code.

I ought not to have answered.

With the sensitivity of a wire hanger the greaser official in Placerville asked me where he should send Paul’s belongings. What would I do with a collection of Mozart records? I had no record player. What would I do with a collection of Enid Blyton children’s books? I had no intention now of having kids to read them to. And what the fuck was my brother holding on to our childhood books for anyway? Why would I want any group photo of Paul and his flunky friends, half of them high on meth, and the other half trying to get there?

I replied to Sergeant Flunky, “No thank you.”

“What do you mean no thank you?”

“Do you read?”

“Yes.”

“What luck! The books are perfect for you. They’re children’s books.”

“Sir, I can’t…”

“Listening to Mozart increases brain activity. That may interest you.”

“Sir, I can’t keep any of it.”

“Then shred it all. Burn it.”

I hung up.

Sergeant Flunky tried calling back and received my voicemail, which was the equivalent of tossing a message in a bottle down a dry well.





Chapter Three

The waiting for the Next began.

The next fall of a shoe that would end something. The next fluttering that would begin something. The next anything that might trigger anything else. But until then, all I had was the thick gelatinous weight of waiting. Of darkness behind the thick, dark red dusty curtains, closing in my apartment’s murky stillness. Of the revolving, oozing thoughts so inconclusive it’d become too much effort to bother reproaching myself for failing to conclude anything. Of deliveries of paper bags filled with bland cheese, tortillas, and let’s call it chicken. Of phone calls ignored, mostly to spare the caller from the obligatory compassion layered on their impatient need for whatever information. Of pointing my sunken eyes at the television and imagining the sound and sight of the impact that evil glass and metal apparatus would make if I dropped it off a gargoyle at the top of the Chrysler Building. Of imagining dropping myself off that gargoyle. Of throwing away underwear made threadbare by twisting in my chair with the agitation and pointlessness of merely sitting upright at all. Of gradually abandoning routines like a trip to the Laundromat because it required hunting for quarters, gathering clothes, hauling a bag, and making myself just a hair more presentable to distinguish myself from the piss-and-shit-soiled homeless people Rosalinda kicks out of her establishment because they only enter to beg for money and take a crap in the tiny pink can in the back.

Like the mice rustling behind the thin painted walls, I started becoming aware of all the encroaching coulds. I could do some sit-ups. I could catch up on missed episodes of Rachel Maddow. I could floss. I could write a song about a breakup. I could replace that light bulb. I could order a mushroom and black olive pizza. I could open the curtains and watch the neighbors. I could get a broom and bang the ceiling to tell the tweaking twinkie twat in the apartment above me once again to stop playing his fucking thump thump thump music at two a.m. I could masturbate. It’s all the same to me.

It’s all too much to tackle.

It’s all too little to tackle.

I could try and write a song about Paul.

Or could I?

Why can’t I remember crap about him? Me? Us? Nothing surfaces. Nothing. Not a single fucking bubble of detail.

I’d never had fantastic recall to begin with. I developed a dependency on some major memory jogs to recall even the street I lived on as a child. Jogs like writing music. Jogs like writing lyrics. Since songwriting in my curtained New York prison had become as plausible an activity as, let’s say, dressage, I assumed what little long-term memory I’d possessed fell victim to gangrene and was amputated months ago.

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