The Next(8)

By: Rafe Haze



Please, let it be a drug-thug with a shiny silver gun pointed at my forehead.

“You live here?”

“I opened the door.”

“Marzoli.”

He presented a card.

Sergeant Marzoli.

My hands did not move to accept the card.

I scanned this stranger. My every instinct wanted to throw attitude. Why? Why not? He was in perfect fucking shape. Better than fucking perfect, and he wore his stiff clothing in a manner that announced his better than fucking perfection to everyone. Did he really need to wear his sleeves rolled up to accentuate how fucking pumped his biceps were? Did he really need to tuck his navy blue, button-down shirt tightly beneath his belt to show off how fucking flat his abdomen was? Did he really need to grow out his hair to show how fucking full and thick it was in addition to how fucking chiseled and masculine his face was? He looked all of fucking thirty years old, confident, and fulfilled in whatever his fucking role was in life, and radiating the fucking positive energy that inevitably emits from embracing this fucking knowledge. His shirt was wrinkleless and starched to stiff fucking perfection. Did I really need this fucking specimen knocking on my door? Fuck him.

“An Italian policeman. Isn’t that incredible?”

“Sicilian and Puerto Rican.”

“Sociopathic and alcoholic. Delicious. Come on in.”

I opened the door. He remained in place.

His eyes processed the graciousness of the greeting. The fucker had intelligence behind those fucking beautiful lashes, or at the very least, rapid brain synapses that could be confused for intelligence.

He matched my dryness. “A gay man with a ’tude. Isn’t that incredible.”

Beat. Wait. Who’s gay? He didn’t wait.

“Your place smells like a shithole.”

“Mommy’s not here to clean up.” I looked directly at his stiff starched shirt. “She’s not here to iron my shirts either, sergeant.”

He lifted one of his fucking perfect thick masculine eyebrows, which in most contexts would have been all he needed to do to accomplish establishing higher status.

“Your neighbor’s missing. Been missing for six weeks.”

“Who?”

He flipped open his black notebook, “Nathan Ridges.”

I could tell that the act of looking at his notebook was unnecessary and calculated, for I caught him looking at my face as he was saying the name. Got it. The first expression on my face as he said the name Nathan Ridges would reveal a lot of information: recognition, fear, tension, indignation, or, on the other hand, ignorance and innocence. Okay. This little fucker was quick and insightful, and, damn it, I’d have to be honest.

“Twinkie twat from upstairs?”

“Your other neighbor, Mrs. Abraham down the hall, said you’d know him.”

The little fucker was ratcheting up this inquiry already. What would he gain by making me defensive? Heightened emotion. Heightened emotion would cause most to ramble more. Rambling more would reveal more information, including everything one is purposefully not rambling about. But what this little fucker wasn’t prepared for was for a man who would obsess for six months on nurturing a song into infancy, eighth note by eighth note, and then kill the babe with one impulse of his index finger, sending it to a cold, blue death in the trash file because it had committed a single, almost imperceptible act of dishonesty. No, this little fucker would not arouse any emotionality.

On the other hand, if he was going to broach this subject, it was not a conversation I wanted Mrs. Abraham to hear.

“Would you like to stand out here, or come in and be inspired by this faggot’s decorating skills?”

I opened the door further. The little fucker looked directly into my eyes and instantaneously assessed something that compelled him to step across the threshold of my apartment. I barely cared to examine whatever he saw, but I’m guessing he saw a certain I-don’t-give-a-shit-down-to-my-bone-marrow look.

The only light emanated from the computer screen, eerie and black like the last scene of Wait Until Dark in which the only light was sourced from a refrigerator moments before an acid-scarred Alan Arkin shot out of the shadows. Perhaps this is why he ordered me to turn on the lights.

“No bulbs.”

He crossed to the curtains.

Horror.

“Please don’t,” I growled.

He did. Dust flew into his face as the curtain accordioned to one side. Early evening light streamed through the dust in a sharp path across the room, interrupted by dark lumps of furniture and refuse: crumpled paper bags tossed into the corners of the room, piles of books browned from settled dust, oily discarded clothes hanging off couch arms and lampshades, empty bottles of Fresca, Orangina, and cabernet sauvignon like small urban developments around my desk. To my only credit, I had no pizza boxes to complete the scene of my soul’s pathetic attempt to wither to a single point before vanishing altogether.

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