Other people’s dust didn’t normally bother Kenny, but when Etienne unplugged the hipsters’ television set and gathered the cord to wind into a neat coil, the gray, rat-shaped clump that rode atop the snaking cord had an oiliness, something organic about it that made him flinch. Etienne flicked the cord once, and the dust rat rolled into a corner. He grabbed the other end of the tv while one of the hipsters who lived in the apartment dragged a box away from the doorway so Kenny and Etienne could more easily haul the thing down three flights of stairs to the moving truck.
The hipsters were Kenny’s age, late twenties. These three—two guys and one girl—were moving from a huge three-bedroom apartment in Alphabet City to a huger six-bedroom house in Brooklyn. The girl may have been “with” the one guy. The other guy was gay, but nobody who would ever interest Kenny. The gay guy looked like one of those bitchy fags, probably a designer at some fashion house, or some shitty prodigy at the top of his field making tons of money. He looked like someone who would think Kenny—a sometime-student whose current goal was to graduate from college before he turned thirty—gave homosexuals a bad name. All three of the hipsters stunk of success, and Kenny figured their staying together to move to Brooklyn was an attempt to re-create some sort of commune like that house in Brooklyn in the 1940s where those writers lived with that gay poet and the stripper. By the time they’d gotten the television down to the first-floor landing, Kenny hated these people completely, and that old exhaustion crept up on him.
It had been a week of playful, too-warm November weather in which a crisp day could flip into a flash thunderstorm, or a driving rain could blow off in a blustery huff, leaving behind a crystal afternoon. They’d been hauling for three hours and had long ago shed their jackets. The air outside was not quite cool enough. The high, harsh sun nursed Kenny’s hatred of the hipsters, but as they approached the truck an enormous, pillowy [End Page 37] cloud moved over the day, silvering the air, calming all the shadows to a soft haze.
And then it happened again. Etienne had leveraged his end of the television on the back of the truck while Kenny pushed his end in. Etienne hopped onto the truck bed with a muscular lunge, and Kenny heard his French accent even in his grunt, which was more of an ehh than an American-sounding unhh. Kenny stayed outside the truck and watched Etienne cushion and secure the television with old blankets and ropes. When Etienne bent, his thin shirt pulled against the strong line of muscle that ran from beneath his armpit down to the small of his back. A faded blue-and-red quilt cushioned the tv; boxes were stacked one upon another; a wooden chair sat upside down on top of an emptied bookshelf; and yet in all the topsy-turviness of it, a real sense of home emerged. The sight of Etienne inside this makeshift home—the curve of his firm ass perched perfectly inside his jeans, and the pouch at his zipper suggesting, even relaxed, something of real substance—lifted Kenny out of his achingly bored, envious, mean-hearted body and held him aloft in a transcendent comfort. It lasted three seconds, maybe five, and then Etienne shifted. Kenny dropped plunk back down into his world, Etienne hopped off the truck, and they hustled back up the three flights of stairs to haul down the next load.
As they drove from the East Village to Brooklyn, Etienne, who was driving, said, “Gay guy.”
“Rich,” Kenny said. “Spoiled. Connecticut or Vermont. Or went to boarding school somewhere in Massachusetts.”
“Boarding school,” said Etienne. “The furniture. Heavy, old wood in a plain style. His wealth, it announce itself with simple, well-made objects. Shows sophistication.”
“In his family,” Kenny said, “love is money, so he...