The Next(9)

By: Rafe Haze



Yet there was something satisfying about my brain physically manifested by this mucky swamp, sparing me from having to define, expound, or clarify. It was the soggy, muted, boggy, grey disgust and rejection of anything and everything, realized in the dark mounds of damp sweatpants and shirts on the floor, the irregular piles of dishes and to-go containers on the counter, the spotty edifices of bottles forming irregular slums in the landscape. It was Dreyfuss’s mashed potato mountain in Close Encounters—a solitary, obsessive mentality in slimy lumps on a plate. Thus, my fucking apartment. Thus, me.

Sergeant Marzoli observed, and followed his survey with one response. “Uncle Joey.”

Was this exclamation an abbreviated reference to some folkloric Sicilian phrase inspired by his surroundings? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. How dismissive could I be?

“Exactly.”

“Uncle Joey’s apartment looked like this.”

“This gorgeous?”

“Hmm hmm. Then he blew his brains out. Stringy, bloody mess all over the table.”

Did he say stringy?

“I didn’t realize Uncle Joey was dead when I found him. I thought he just fell asleep eating pasta.”

He winked to let me know he had just been funny. He was quick, employing humor to let me know my ass-wiped apartment in no way deterred him, and he employed morbid humor specifically to reach me at the level to which he assumed I would most immediately relate. I appreciated his approach. He plopped a shiny, sweet cherry on top of this first impression as I observed that even as he finished speaking, his eyes were absorbing other information.

“When did she leave you?”

The dusty photo of Johanna and me was on a shelf in the shadowed corner. I hadn’t noticed it, so I had failed to send it clanging down the garbage chute. Now the light fell on it, accented ironically by picturesque sparkles of light refracting off the silver frame.

“I thought I was gay.”

“A closeted faggot in Manhattan? That’d be an anomaly.”

Apparently detectives were still inclined to be sarcastic. Wonderful. Thank you, Dashiell, for your lasting contribution to witty detective templates.

“Did you just use a four syllable word?”

“We found remnants of Ecstasy in Nathan Ridges’ medicine cabinet. Did he ever sell to you?”

I was irritated by how I enjoyed the way Marzoli’s noodle moved on to new sauce without waiting for the old to cool.

“No.”

“Did he ever party with you?”

“Do I look like I get invited to parties?”

“You’ve got a dick, don’t you?”

“Did Nathan have a vagina?”

“Not in the report.”

Man-flirting is a skill one developed in Manhattan—not exclusively to investigate the potential for a blowjob, but to quickly develop a rapport to guarantee the super in the building will take care of your building maintenance requests first, to make sure the barista has your coffee order waiting for you by the time you reach the register, to encourage the waiter at the steakhouse to linger and enliven a mind-deadening conversation at your table a bit more. It’s the NYC language of men with men that says to the other guy: don’t worry, I’m not going to be like your wife or your girlfriend or your boss. I’m not one of those bitches who’s going to make your life more difficult. Don’t worry, I’m not a high-maintenance, dismissive bitch whose neurotic, aggressive need to be perfect makes you and everyone else walk on eggshells. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those time-sucking infantile chicks with zero ability to execute anything practical or physical around a man without enacting helplessness with a baby-girl pout and a whimper. Don’t worry, I’ve got a dick too, and I’m just like you. A guy who has to work like a dog to pay the fanged landlord, and I’ve no intention of making your life any more difficult for the couple of minutes we spend together.

This fucker standing in front of me had that skill mastered. He hooked his left thumb in his belt and let his fingers drape around his crotch. No, Sergeant, that approach wouldn’t work in this apartment, but nice try. What immediately intrigued me, however, was that he had any impulse to implement flirtation at all. He was clearly straight, just as I was. I was obviously in a state of wreckage encircled by hovering scavenging buzzards eyeing my every last twitch. So why even attempt to connect with me apart from just an exchange of information? My first thought was I didn’t have the energy to engage in this game. My second thought was to realize I had already been seduced into playing it. Craptastic. My only recourse was to be frank.

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