Author: Guede Mazaka
It’s fucking hot and Paul’s collar is a wilted tobacco leaf strangling his neck, his watch is a pale unweighted strip of skin around his wrist, and he’d thinking maybe he should’ve traded the damn thing for stronger shit because he’s still seeing twins and he can still hear that damned mariachi’s mumbling.
Day four of his unplanned vacation.
His eyes are blurred sideways and backwards and upways, but damned if he still can’t tell which twin is standing in front of him. Connor, and Paul’s fingers close hard around something soft and squishy and too fucking much like what it’d been like to stick his thumb into a bullet-wound and feel the slick hard surface of the lead beneath his thumbnail. He has a fit, maybe, and he throws the bun against the wall and nearly spins himself off the bed because he’s fucking stinking drunk. Yeah. He’s drunk.
“Fuck. Off.” Paul can still enunciate. He’s not drunk enough.
Connor stares. Of course he stares. Because as nasty and old wrung-out bitchy drag-queen as Paul’s thoughts are, he’s never been anything but straight-up schoolboy grammar with them.
There’s sticky shit on Paul’s hand and it’s running in the Mexican heat. He lifts his hand, licks it off and flashes tongue at that damned know-nothing believe-everything Irish boyo. “Fuck. Off.”
Conner stands. He has his hands half in his pockets and half hanging out, and he looks like the little lost lamb who’s bleating for his shepherd. He looks like the Thinker, brow furrowed and mental cogitations vibrating the universe. He looks like he thinks Paul should just get up and find his tie and go back to doing what he does. Which is burrow into the FBI’s asshole and pass back the shit so they can turn up their fucking noses and make vigilante war on the world.
“You lost your breakfast, man.” The mariachi’s bleary-eyed, fingers stroking crazy like he thinks he’s got twelve strings or maybe a whole piano’s insides on his guitar, but he can play. He’s sharing Paul’s bed and he’s got Paul’s tequila, and for the life of him, Paul can’t remember when he showed up.
“Always eat a good breakfast before you man the guns. That’s how the world used to—excuse me, the British Navy, but they figured they might as well have been the world. That’s how they did it. Well, padre, I can’t man ‘em anymore. I’m going dooown.” And Paul is actually going sideways, digging for the bottle between the mariachi’s legs, but it doesn’t matter.
Now he’s drunk enough. He can’t see Connor anymore, and that’s how he knows.
* * *
Middle of the night. The piss-scented mattress gets up into Paul’s back, humps him onto the floor and he knows it ain’t natural because he’s just landed on shoes. Then it’s hands on his arms, and going around his waist, and sad little sigh to see old Uncle Smecker so low. “Can’t believe this is where you were. Fucking Christ, man. It’s like—”
“I’ve finally figured out how to not give a single shit?” Paul suggests. He flops himself on the bed and doesn’t look at Connor. “Wrong, man, wrong. I’ve finally figured out that there’s absolutely no way to not give a way. ‘less you want to do your goddamned duty and put a bullet through my head.”
“What? Why the fuck would I do that? You’re—”
Paul flicks off the rest of Connor’s sentence. “I’m not good. Get that through your choirboy head. I’m not a saint. I’m human and I worked cases with that man and excuse me if I can’t just turn around and offer up my colleagues to the altar of your discontent.”
Mariachi rolls over and runs a hand restlessly over Paul’s back. He’s not being cuddly or soothing; he’s reaching for the tequila, and that’s why Paul lets him touch.
* * *
The bells don’t stop ringing and the mariachi won’t leave Paul alone. Bastard is pulling him along in a pathetic two-man stagger, and he’s singing some raunchy ditty to the rolling boom of the bells so it’s not just the dissonance that’s ripping at Paul. The content doesn’t match and it grates on his sense of order, which should’ve been long dead by now. But sometimes he thinks the alcohol doesn’t get him wet so much as evaporates him from inside out, dries and wrinkles him into the unkillable mummy. Tutankhamen didn’t have anything on Paul’s curse.
Paul falls on the heels of his hands and the points of his knees, and when he feels around he finds the grate of crosses and he wants to laugh. He wants to scream. Instead, he straightens his nonexistent tie and sits up. “Father, forgive me because I’ve committed the great sin of indifference. And because I’m about to bloody your shit-ass church with that mariachi who just walked away with my tequila.”
“Got it right here.” Mariachi slurs into view, face barred with religion, and taps the shadowy bottle against the divider so Paul can hear the promise sloshing within it. “Fideo.”
After a moment, Paul realizes it’s an introduction. “What, you do counseling, too? Is this place so damned poor that the town drunk, the town priest, and the town crazy are all the same guy?”
“Nah. But this is a house of God, man. It’s where all the important talking gets done.” Asshole is chugging a hell of a lot of that tequila. He’s tapping his hands on the ceiling, the walls. His feet rattling the ground like some demented drumbeat, heralding the executioner. “Talk to Him, talk to yourself, talk to the other guy—this is where it all gets done.”
“Yeah? Well, tell God He needs to get off his ass and answer his calls. Tell ‘m that he can’t just let his angels fix things—people need visions. They need a big fat vision with a detailed explanation and they need it on cable.” Paul slouches against the wall and kicks up his feet against the far wall. He’s starting to feel the intoxication recede and the reality seep back in, and it tastes like day-old vomit and it feels like betrayal. “Tell me that vengeance is justifiable. Tell me that I can go to bed at night, and know that every single decision I’ve ever made is the right one. And tell Connor that he can either shoot me or hit the fucking road, because I’m not going to do it. I’ll excuse myself from the investigation, and I won’t cover his fucking ass. Not for this.”
The breeze drenches Paul with whiskey fumes as it passes. He thinks that’s his drink, but no, he’s wanting tequila. Not whiskey. Not that, with its cheery Irish names scrolling across the label.
Fideo laughs, and he laughs like he drinks: irregular, laidback, knowing. “Man, I said talk, not tell. You tell yourself, you talk to me.”
“Fuck you,” Paul snarls, and he gets out to get at that damned bottle.
* * *
Sixth day of his unplanned vacation. Connor doesn’t come.
Fideo does, sticky and plentiful all over Paul’s hands, Paul’s stomach, Paul’s legs. The bed is too filthy so they’re fucking on the floor, and they’re sleeping there and they’re drinking there and they’re doing everything but shit there, because Fideo’s apparently doing the thinking and he’s a surviving drunk. He’s not Paul.
He plays on Paul’s aching tired aging muscles like he’s got an ornery guitar, tuning it up tight and then letting the strings slip. He licks and he curls and he writhes like he doesn’t give a shit, like he doesn’t care that sex is innately awkward and that they’re groping and biting and clawing so that anyone watching would split their fucking sides laughing. Maybe he doesn’t even see now, and maybe that’s why his mumbling is so smooth and calming and drowning—he doesn’t see all the scalpels in the world that split every word so fine and sharp and glistening. He steps right over inhibitions and morality and he genuinely goes his own way.
His skin tastes like sugary beer and his mouth like tequila. The burn of his cock inside Paul, within the circle of Paul’s hand bends the whirling threads of insanity and nerves and alcohol into a muddled haze where Paul confesses everything, raves and rants and peels himself out of his own skin. He mumbles into the creases of Fideo’s skin, the joins of limbs and the wet frizzled mop of hair. He talks about saints and killers, about murderers and friends and God and satyrs. Paul gnaws stories about rookie days into the curve of Fideo’s back, ones about drifting distant acquaintances into Fideo’s neck. He snarls and sobs and snickers about jackass smart Greenly and mild Duffy, about Il Duce, about the two sons that are the snakes Paul can’t help cradling to his chest.
It’s like talking to himself. Soon he gets used to the sound of his own voice, and then he stops hearing it. He stops hearing his words, his thoughts, his criticisms and finally, finally he stops hearing the silence of the unknown.
* * *
Cusp of sixth night and seventh day. Connor’s squatting beside the bed, staring at the arm Fideo’s thrown over Paul as if he could cut it off with his eyes. “Not going to shoot you, all right?”
Paul is flopped on his back, staring at the cracks in the ceiling. He’s up and his head is killing him, which means he’s sober. He thinks maybe it’s about time the pendulum swung back, and all that surprises him is how much less painful it is to have the weight cannonading into him. “Now I count as a sinner by your Da’s standards, you know. Didn’t cleave to the flock.”
“You’re with us,” Connor protests, but it’s more for form than anything else. When Paul turns his head, he can see how the other man can’t stop twisting his fingers together, can’t stop bouncing on his feet. “You—you let me handle Da.”
“Oh, I will. Believe me. What, did you two draw straws to see who got to deal with me?” The watch is gone, but the car keys are still a mash of metal in Paul’s pocket, gouging his hip. His shoes are down there beneath the bed, and his clothes reek but they’re wearable. He sits on the bed so Connor can’t see anything else and he grins like he’s got tequila rolling around in his mouth. “Never mind. What I really want to know is: do you have the fortitude to deal with what you’ve done?”
Paul knows where he’s going, and knows what he’s going to do. He knows what it’s going to do to him and he knows he can’t but accept it. He’s done Tijuana and it’s done him, and the next time it’ll just be like coming home. If he really does know anything, it’s how to struggle with himself.
Connor looks at him and cannot answer.
Fideo laughs in his sleep, and Paul smiles with him.