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Wash My Sins Away

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Marty has just achieved a reasonable equilibrium when the red truck pulls into view.

He feels wrong, sodden, aching with the aftermath of violence and the acid pushback of too much booze, but the heaviness of his blood just about matches the heaviness of the air, and there's a comfort in that. He’s watching a parade of bugs zap themselves in the halogen blur of the streetlamp—an aid to meditation if there ever was one—when Rust shows up to fuck up even that.

How Rust has even found him, slumped against the front wheel bed of his car in the pullout of some nameless road, overlooking a sludge-green canal, he can’t imagine. It doesn’t seem real. Maybe it isn’t real.

“Are you real?” he wants to ask, as Rust unfolds himself from the cab of the truck, but what he says instead is, “Hey, if it ain’t the four-by-four of the apocalypse,” and then laughs too hard at his own joke.

Rust just shakes his head, and goes to slouch against the lamp where the bugs are immolating themselves. His body is a dark curve against the fuzz of the lamplight, some kind of rune, or sign, if Marty only knew how to read it.

He braces himself for one of Rust’s patented bullshit monologues—on the hypocrisies of the world maybe, or on Marty’s own particular brand of lying—but it doesn’t come. Rust just shakes a cigarette out of the packet, lights it, and takes a few slow drags.

He misses it, Marty finds, misses the stream of excoriating words. They were both wrong about religion, he thinks, in an unwelcome flash of clarity. People need rules, sure, but they know they’re going to break them. And then they want to be punished and forgiven—they want to know someone’s going to take them back, sins and all, even if it’s only God. At least that's what Marty wants right now. He’s lost Lisa and Maggie both, but maybe he can still get clean, scoured smooth by the lathe of Rust’s tongue.

Which the fucker is inexplicably withholding from Marty, now, of all times. Marty tries to think of a way to goad Rust into speech, but all he can muster is a slurred, “Fuck you, Cohle,” flung in Rust’s general direction.

It’s enough to get some action. Rust sighs, tosses his cigarette to the ground and grinds it out with the heel of his boot. Slow, like he does almost everything that doesn’t involve beating someone’s head in, he comes over to Marty, crouches down, grabs a fistful of his shirt, and hauls him up so he’s pressed against the car.

“Come on, man, time to go home.”

Rust’s eyes are hooded, and he’s looking away, but he’s close, like he’s always close—knee between Marty’s legs, forearm digging into his sternum: close enough to whisper, close enough to smell all Marty’s sins. Marty shivers at the proximity. It’s been a long time since he’s been with someone who was as aware of him as Rust is—his evasions, his tells, the little breaks in his stories. Maybe not since he and Maggie were first in love, making love without words, moving to satisfy each other before their desires were even formed.

And maybe it’s that memory that makes him want it, that makes him realize that if he moves his head just so, he can get his lips on Rust’s. He tells himself he’s chasing absolution, the priest’s kiss of forgiveness, but it’s more than that: he wants to know someone who knows him as no one seems to know him anymore. The impulse is wrong-headed and booze-addled, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. So he presses his lips against Rust’s impossibly cool mouth and tries to grind his hips against the unyielding column of Rust’s body.

Rust lets him, even opening his lips a bit, so that Marty can taste tobacco and the remains of a breath mint. But that’s all. It’s like walking into the white shell of the man’s apartment, any secrets it might have still hidden behind those blank walls. Marty still goes on for a while, softer now, in a way he knows is embarrassingly like a hound nuzzling its master’s hand for comfort; but it’s clear this emptiness is as close as he’s going to get to absolution tonight.

And so, finally, he sags, the vicious end of the drunk hitting him like a sledgehammer, Rust’s grip on his shirt and the car behind him the only thing holding him up. He makes a sound he thinks you could charitably call a whimper and rests his head on Rust’s chest, mostly because he can’t keep it up any more. And maybe it’s the early dew of a damp night, but after a while, he finds that the white cotton of Rust's shirt beneath his cheek is soaked through.