The Little Death

The Little Death by Michael Nava Read Free Book Online

Book: The Little Death by Michael Nava Read Free Book Online
Authors: Michael Nava
Tags: detective, Gay, Mystery
years.”
    “Does
she live in San Francisco?”
    “No,
in the east. Boston, I think.”
    “With
your father?”
    He
hesitated a second before saying, “He’s dead.”
    I
heard his hesitation with a lawyer’s ear and something about it was not quite
right, so I asked, “Are you sure?”
    “Don’t
cross-examine me.” He shivered and reached to the table for the brandy,
swigging it directly from the bottle. Then he put it down and ran a hand
through his already disheveled hair. He looked fragile and unhappy.
    “I’ll
make you some coffee,” I said, still standing by the books, “if you’ll tell me
where it is.”
    “Blue
canister in the refrigerator,” he said, shivering again.
    When
I returned to the living room he was standing at the window, which was now
black with night, facing himself — a ghostly reflection. I set the mugs of
coffee down and went over.
    “Something
out there?” “A car passed by, slowly, without its lights on.”
    “Has
that happened before?”
    “No,”
he said, “and maybe it wasn’t meant for me.” I made a noise in the back of my
throat. “You still don’t believe that I’m in danger of being killed.”
    “You’re
doing a pretty effective job of killing yourself.” He turned away, abruptly,
went to the table and picked up a cup of coffee.
    “I’m
sorry about today.”
    “Do
you want to talk about it?”
    “I
was bored and lonely.”
    “Some
would call that the human condition.”
    He
laughed mirthlessly. “My coping mechanism is easily overwhelmed.”
    “That
sounds like a diagnosis.”
    “My
last analyst,” he replied, carelessly, “who also told me that intimacy is
difficult for me.”
    “I
hadn’t noticed.”
    “Sex
is not the same thing.”
    “I
see. Thank you for setting me straight.”
    “Wait,”
he said. “Let’s start over. I asked you to come up because I wanted to see you
again, not to score points against you.”
    “All
right,” I said, crossing over to the couch and sitting down beside him. I lay
my hand, tentatively, on his. “Tell me what happened between last weekend and
today.”
    He
looked at me intently through cloudy blue eyes, then said, “Have you ever heard
of a poet named Cavafy?” I told him no. “A Greek poet. Gay, in fact. He wrote a
poem about a young dissolute man who tires of his life and resolves to move to
a new city and mend his ways. The poet’s comment is that moving away is futile
because, having ruined his life in one place, he has ruined it everywhere.”
    “And?”
    “I
had so many good reasons for leaving New York and coming home, but when I got
here they — evaporated. I was the same person, it was the same life.”
    “People
overcome addictions.”
    “But
not self-contempt.” He poured brandy into his coffee cup and leaned back as if
to tell a bedtime story. “My grandfather, who raised me after my father died,
had very primitive and set notions about what a man is. He never missed an
opportunity to let me know that I didn’t measure up.”
    “Let
it go,” I said, thinking back to my own father. “You’ll live to bury him. That
changes everything.”
    “He
poisoned my childhood,” Hugh said, ignoring me, “and I looked for causes, not
knowing they didn’t exist, believing that I deserved his abuse.”
    Something
in his tone made me ask, “What kind of abuse, Hugh?”
    “He
said I was too pretty to be a boy,” Hugh replied, his eyes bright with defiance
and shame. Slowly, I understood.
    “He
assaulted you — sexually?”
    “The
joke is that I already knew I was gay. Knew I was different, anyway. What took
me years to learn is that it didn’t have — “ he paused, searching for words — “to
be so demeaning.”
    “What
did he tell you?”
    “That
I led him on, that I wanted it.” He smiled, bitterly. “I was the seductive
twelve year old. A few weeks after it happened he sent me to a prep school in
the east. Eighteen years ago. I can count on my fingers the times I’ve seen

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