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Foresight (Hutch)

You’re royally ticked at Vanessa for making you late to the picnic for the Academy recruits. On the other hand, you’re near ecstasy that she refused to accompany you. At least your new colleagues won’t hear the insults she was sure to hurl at you and, by association, them. You chalk this up to the truth of the old adage of every cloud having a silver lining.

You take several deep breaths to calm down and plaster a cool smile on your face. You stop at the small card table guarding the entrance to the athletic field. The woman sitting there smiles and asks if you’re Kenneth Hutchinson. This takes you by surprise until a blink later you notice there are only two of those tacky labels that silently scream HELLO! My name is on the otherwise empty table. One of them bears his name, the other Van’s. You nod and smile. She smiles back, welcomes you, and apologizes for nearly being out of food. She tells you in a conspiratorial, scandalized whisper that one person has actually gone back for thirds, maybe even fourths.

You chuckle at this unneeded information; after this latest fight with Van, you’re not particularly hungry anyway. You thank the greeter, tell her Vanessa couldn’t make it, and grudgingly stick the label on your shirt because why rock the boat so early in your new life.

You enter the field where everyone’s physical capabilities will be tested and measured against a high standard; you look forward to the challenge. Now, though, it’s packed with rickety picnic tables and marginally sturdier refectory tables.

And people. Quickly you scan the throng of human flesh. Mostly whites but some blacks, Orientals, Chicanos. Mostly men. No surprises here.

You make your way to the spread of food. Only cold cuts and bread and some picked-over fruit are left. You slap together a sandwich and spread some mayo on it then snatch an apple that’s not too damaged. You’re not looking forward to eating Wonder Bread, which tastes like airy putty but you don’t want to seem out of place by not eating anything, even though you feel that way. Yet you don’t question your decision to become a cop.

You grab a napkin and a tepid soda--the ice has long since melted--and decide it’s time to jump in. You look around again hoping to find an empty seat at a table where there’s only one or two people because your natural reserve is in full force at the moment and you’re not feeling much like talking anyway.

Paying closer attention to details, to individuals, you quickly identify those who are probably instructors--older people with the unmistakable air of authority almost trolling amongst those seated. Then you turn your attention to the latter.

And your gaze is immediately drawn to a man talking animatedly and sitting with three other men and a woman, all of whom appear to be enraptured with whatever he’s saying. He’s a white guy with a sun-kissed tan. Close-cropped (like your own is now per regulations) dark hair that gives you the impression it’s wavy, maybe curly. Trim body that is obviously well-muscled beneath a ratty, faded red T-shirt and cut-off jeans showing off shapely, hairy legs. Sure, the invitation read casual dress, but this guy has a different meaning for “casual” than everyone else.

Not two seconds later, his head turns to you and you see the most remarkable dark blue eyes, like sapphire or cobalt, set in a face with heavy eyebrows, a largish nose, thinnish lips curling into a welcoming smile. He exudes confidence, vitality, and a little bit of good-hearted wickedness. And (you’re not quite sure because it was in those eyes for an instant then gone, hopefully merely hidden but still there) attraction? Connection? Love?

In your mind, you’re suddenly at the piano playing the first song you ever learned to play and sing: Heart and Soul, I fell in love with you Heart and Soul. With more feeling than you’ve ever sung anything.

You think you’re crazy, clearly off your rocker. There is no such thing as love at first sight. You attribute the emotion to the latest battle with Van and what you know subconsciously is a rapidly fading love, if it ever really was, and you’re starved for real and true love to be in your life.

But he’s a man, you think. You admit you’ve wondered for years about romantic love and sex between men, even considered experimenting with Jack. Now you wonder if your curiosity could be satisfied. Then the thought of using him to explore that curiosity turns rancid like that oily villain in those cheesy Dudley Do-Right cartoons.

You are positive you would never use him when the man grins at you. A wide, gleaming grin that lights up his eyes even more, and in that darkish face that is home to a five-o’clock shadow and amazing eyes, it looks like a cock-eyed half-moon in the early evening sky.

Your knees feel like jelly and you fight to stay upright. You realize there’s a twitch between your legs and you work hard to tame it. He waves you over with the enthusiasm of a kid beckoning his parents downstairs on Christmas morning.

You smile, showing teeth but not quite a grin, and comply without hesitation, stumbling once, twice, but holding onto your flimsy plate of food and most of your dignity. His companions snicker, but he doesn’t.

Suddenly you’re there. The man pats the empty space next to him and says, “Take a load off, Blondie.”

You’re taken aback momentarily by the spirited voice and its easy familiarity, the affectionate warmth in the nickname that most people use pejoratively. You place your food and drink on the table then sit. Before you can even settle in, the man sticks his hand toward you and says, “Dave Starsky.” You’re pretty sure the accent is a softened New York City one, and the voice is deep and warm. The kind of voice that can whisper sweet somethings and nothings in your ears any time.

Where the hell did that come from?

Locking eyes and taking the offered hand, you instantly feel a strong magnetic force that sizzles with volcanic heat, bringing the two of you together and encircling the both of you into the same sphere in which you and he are the only inhabitants.

You think What the hell… You sense he’s sensing the same thing--the intense, multifaceted attraction--but you sublimate it and suspect he’s doing the same because neither knows what to do with it.

“Ken Hutchinson,” you say, almost shocked that you don’t stutter. “My friends call me -”

“Hutch,” he completes for you, as if he knows the answer and that he’s already a friend. “‘Ken’ don’t suit you and Hutchinson is a mouthful.”

You think, One of these days I’ll show you a mouthful and you feel the heat rise from your center to color your neck, embarrassing yourself with your unexpected lewd thought. You remind yourself harshly to sublimate.

Seemingly without thinking and without any trace of self-consciousness, Starsky leans his shoulder into yours. Sublimate.

“Lemme introduce ya to some of the folks we’ll be spending a lot of time with over the next nine months. Then you tell us a little about yourself, ‘kay?”

You luxuriate in the freely given contact, so intimate from a complete stranger, even a stranger you feel you’ve known for your entire life. You look at each person as he states their names, but you don’t hear the names, only the timbre of his voice, the oddly soft toughness of his accent, the buoyancy in his tone.

You make yourself nod at each person, all the while screaming at yourself, Sublimate!

Less than an hour later, the gathering breaks up. You suddenly find yourself alone with him and continuing to talk while walking slowly to the parking lot, both of you reluctant to call it a night by mutual unspoken consent. He invites you to join him at his favorite hangout, “That is, if your ol’ lady don’t mind you showin’ up late.”

You shyly, almost guiltily, sneak a look at your wedding ring. You smile and say, “She won’t have a problem with it. How about I follow you?”

He grins and says while squeezing your shoulder, “Terrific!”

And that’s when you decide you’ll follow his lead when it comes to where you hope your future will be with him and you’re increasingly confident he’ll want the same in time. Because you can read--you know to your very marrow--your future with him.

Friends to partners to brothers to lovers.

 

Hindsight (Starsky)

After your physical therapist helps you strip out of your sweaty clothes, you collapse on the bench in the shower room. You ache everywhere, including deeply into your bones and even, you’re pretty sure, your hair. Jerry leaves with the promise he’ll be back soon.

You mutter aloud, “That man’s gotta be a direct descendant of the Marquis de Torture.”

With a long grunt, you push yourself to a standing position because you know if you wait longer, your overworked muscles will cool too fast and seize up like a beat-up engine deprived of oil. You shuffle to the shower and enjoy the hot water pouring down on you. Demanding your arms reach up to your head, you shampoo and rinse without too much agony. Soaping the rest of your body is a bit easier, thanks in part to the hot water keeping your muscles nimble. You rinse a final time, turn off the shower, and head for the welcome and needed heat of the whirlpool.

Jerry’s already back. He helps you into your swim trunks--so tired of being a grown two-year-old--and then into the soothing water of a whirlpool that is large enough for three-hundred-pound football players and seven-feet-tall basketball players. You quickly sink down until the only thing not submerged is your head. Jerry says he’ll send Hutch in when he arrives.

You sigh and smile at the best part of therapy. It gets even better whenever Hutch enters the humid room.

Hutch, you think. He’s always on your mind, foreground or background, since the day, the second, you met. Lately, what with your brain less challenged by the fog of drugs and pain, you finally have the opportunity to think about something other than survival and recovery.

Foremost at this moment, as it has been a lot recently, is how you and Hutch met. You remember the astonishing sky-blue eyes that seemed to glitter like tinsel, the white-blond hair gleaming in the late afternoon sun, the flawless nose, the full lips, in a lightly tanned face.

You remember that look he gave you. It was fleeting but it said everything. About us. You’re pretty sure your look mirrored his, but you erased yours immediately, denying what had flashed through your being. It was all scary as shit, like you and he instantly knew each other, were meant to be together.

You remember feeling compelled to invite him to join you and others at your table, like you had no choice but that hadn’t frightened you. It had felt natural.

You remember shaking his hand and for that short amount of time you touched, you felt fully alive, felt like you and he were the only people in the world. And it had felt safe and right.

You remember his voice introducing himself, as silky as his hair, a melodic, accentless tenor. You shivered and you still don’t know why.

Okay, David Starsky, it’s time to leave the state of denial, you tell yourself, finally ready to own up to the truth--that you fell in love with Hutch the second you had laid eyes on him. This had confirmed a belief you had since puberty, that there was such a thing as love at first sight.

But you were a scaredy-cat. You had survived the mean streets of Brooklyn, the open hatred of Jews in his new home and school in Bay City, two tours in ‘Nam, the dangerous night shift as a cabbie, but none of that was as scary as your feelings for Hutch. You lived in that additional fear that you’d be on the receiving end of the harsh reprisals you had witnessed when someone reported his fellow grunts for having sex with men, a common practice largely overlooked, in-country. You knew gayness would not be tolerated by most people in the world, and even less so in the police world.

So you denied the fullness of your feelings and desires for Hutch. Looking back, you realize you were also stupid.

You take a deep breath and slowly let it out, as if it could expel the anxiety that seems to be suffocating you.

You tell yourself that dying has changed you, made you stronger, even fearless to some extent. What you--and Hutch, you are positive--want and need is the most important thing. It is time for denial to hit the road. You want the man who has been first your best friend, then your partner, then your brother, to become your lover, as was meant to be from the second your eyes met.

And then Hutch, the most wonderful, beautiful, caring, loving human being you have ever known, enters the room, carrying a small duffle with clean clothes for you.

“Hey, Starsk!” he exclaims. “Miss me?” He says the same thing every time, but this time, it sounds… different. Like he knows something has changed but it’s a mystery to him.

“Hey, buddy. Toss that bag on the bench, wouldja, and come over.”

“Sure,” Hutch says. Hands now free, he stands beside the whirlpool to Starsky’s left, facing him. His hands are on his hips, which you imagine grabbing to control their movements during intense lovemaking. For the first time in months, you think your dick might be more than a limp noodle.

“How’d it go today?”

“Terrific, Hutch.” You sit up straight to make enough room in the bath for both of you. You then grasp Hutch’s elbow and pull him into the warm water with you.

“Starsky!” he sputters angrily as he tries to keep his head above water and not wrench his back. “What the hell!”

You give him your best seductive, mischievous grin as you help him ease into the whirlpool. Despite a livid scowl, he seems to accept his fate and quickly settles in, the bottom half of those long legs hanging over the edge. You imagine crawling between them…

Hutch wipes the water from his face, which only gets wet again from the drips streaming off his hair. “Why’d you do that, you jerk? I’m not exactly dressed for a bath! I could -”

You stop the furious tirade with a short, light touch of your lips to his, not quite a kiss because you’re afraid to give him the real thing, even though you know he wants what you want, needs what you need. You wait for his reaction, your face neutral.

“Wha’...?” His puzzled expression changes to one of joy and delight. “Really?” Sounds hopeful not doubtful to your ears.

You grin again and place your hand on his cheek. “Really. I love you, Hutch. Been in love with you since I met you. And you me. I think it’s time we give ‘Me ‘n’ Thee’ one more definition.”

Hutch gives you his most brilliant smile, a variation on the one he uses only for you. “And that would be…”

You chuckle, knowing that Hutch knows what you are going to add. “Well, friend, partner, and brother are already there. I wanna add -”

“Lover,” Hutch finishes for him. “It’s about damn time.”

“Thinkin’ it’s way past time.”

Hutch’s fingers thread their way through your damp hair. “Let’s get outta here so we can illustrate this new definition.”

You laugh, excited and giddy, and say, “Sounds like a good idea.” You close the few inches between your lips and his and give him a proper kiss, one that is wet, warm, open, loving.

Hutch pulls away--reluctantly, you can tell--and says with concern, “This isn’t exactly private, babe. Someone could walk in and there could be, um, repercussions.”

“I don’t care about that. I only care about you and I don’t care who knows I’m in love with you.”

You watch the concern on Hutch’s face quickly fade. “And I don’t care who knows I’m very much in love with you.” This time, Hutch initiates the next kiss.

You spy a wide-eyed and gape-mouthed Jerry out of the corner of your eye and snicker to yourself. You stop the kiss and wink at Hutch and incline your head toward Jerry. You both look at the inadvertent intruder. Hutch tenses slightly but relaxes almost immediately at your stroking of his cheek.

In an effort to break Jerry’s shock, you say unabashedly, “Sorry, Jer, but Hutch is all mine.”

“Yeah, Jerry, what he says. And he’s all mine.”

And you and your lover know that’s the truth, and has been for years.

the end
December 2021