So I wanted to get Hutch somethin’ for Valentine’s Day, like I do every year. Usually I give him flowers or a piece of jewelry and he gives me a box of chocolates…that kinda thing.
I mean, what else are two guys gonna give each other?
Well, besides a mind-blowing orgasm. Of course, we didn’t need Valentine’s Day for that. But it was a good excuse.
But this year was different. I don’t know why, but as soon as January 1st rolled around, I just had a feelin’ it was gonna be.
A bad feelin’.
As the days passed, my quest for the perfect gift became more urgent, and I agonized over what to get him, scouring the shops downtown, the flea markets and the boardwalk vendors, but I never could find that special something.
I visited our apartment that morning, before I went to visit Hutch. It was sad, seeing how empty it was, devoid of any life except the plants that had slowly begun to wither and die of neglect. I guess, considering the circumstances, it hadn’t occurred to any of our friends to water them.
I don’t even think Fifi came by to clean, judging from the dust that was starting to build up on the furniture.
The kitchen table sat empty and barren, but the sink held several dirty plates and glasses that we never got the opportunity to wash. I peeked in the fridge and wrinkled my nose as I spied some fruit that had rotted.
In the copper breadbox that sat above it, the loaf of white bread I’d bought was dotted everywhere with spots of green mold.
I’m not sure why I stayed there as long as I did, but at some point, I wandered into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of our bed. It was strange, because it didn’t creak like it normally did when one of us sat on it. I chalked it up to me losin’ weight after the accident.
But there was no point staying in there, seeing as how the bed was empty, so I walked back into the living room and looked around. The clock on the kitchen wall had stopped at some point and needed batteries. I woulda changed them if I could have.
I didn’t want to be away from Hutch for too long, so I made my way downstairs and onto the street. Eventually I found myself at Memorial Hospital, on the 4th floor, in Room 407. Hutch’s room.
After his surgery, he’d spent a week in the cardiac unit, but once he didn’t need to be constantly monitored and hooked up to machines anymore, they moved him to his own room.
I much preferred Room 407 to the one he was in before, because we could be alone in this room, except for the occasional nurse or visitor who filtered in. During those times, I waited patiently for them to leave, sitting in a chair or leaning against the wall. I guess you could say I had the patience of a saint, haha.
When I walked in that day, Hutch was standing at the window gazing out at the hospital courtyard, but I don’t think he was really payin’ attention to anything he was seeing. His eyes might have been looking outward, but his thoughts were turned completely inward. I couldn’t say I blamed him. I woulda done the same thing if I were in his position.
He was holding what looked to be a handmade Valentines’ Day card in his hands, turning it over and over as if he didn’t know what to do with himself and just needed to keep his hands moving. I peered over his shoulder and saw it was from Molly. It was fashioned from pink card stock, adorned with two overlapping red felt hearts glued to the front.
Inside in her careful handwriting, it said:
I know you probably don’t feel like celebrating Valentine’s Day today, but I just wanted you to know that you and Starsky will always hold a special place in my heart, and that I’m thinking of you both on this day and always.
Your little sister, Molly
P.S. Kiko wanted to send a card, too, but he thought that would be weird. But know that he loves you very much.
P.P.S. Just don’t tell him I said that.
Instead of the letter “o” in the word “love,” Molly had drawn a little heart.
They’re great kids, those two. I’m really glad I got to kind of be an uncle to them for a while. Or maybe I was a big brother, like Hutch. They used to kid around and say I was their little brother, and Hutch, laughing, would always agree. And then he would make a joke about having to deal with three obnoxious teenagers.
After fidgeting with the card for a while, Hutch finally put it down on the windowsill next to all the flowers and get-well cards he’d received from various friends, family, and fellow cops.
There was the huge bouquet of yellow carnations that Dobey and Edith had brought, the fruit basket from Huggy which went untouched, and the two red roses intertwining in a delicate crystal vase that Sweet Alice had sent. The note that was attached said that the flowers represented Hutch and me and that she’d chosen red roses because they were the most beautiful flowers she’d ever known.
I watched Hutch for a few minutes as he continued to gaze out the window, and then I noticed the tears that were starting to well up in his eyes. I leaned over and gently kissed his temple as I ran my fingers delicately through his hair, trying to comfort him, but I knew there was nothing I could do to take away the pain.
“Hutch,” I whispered softly into his ear, “I love you, Blondie, and I’ll always be with you.” But he didn’t answer. Not that I expected him to, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try.
He turned his head briefly and paused, as if he’d heard something, but then he sighed and turned back to the window.
Just then, there was a knock on the door and my Ma walked into the room. She asked Hutch if it was a bad time to visit and should she come back another time, but he waved her in and brought a chair over for her to sit. Then he pulled over another chair and sat facing her.
She took his hands in both of her own. “Ken, do you think I could touch it for just a moment?” she asked. “The nurse said it would be okay as long as I wore gloves. But if you’re not comfortable with that, I understand.”
He nodded and quietly, so very quietly, answered, “It’s okay” and stood up. Then my Ma stood up and carefully pressed her hand against his chest, directly over his heart. I wondered if she’d be able to feel it beating beneath all the bandages, but as she held it over the area where the stitches were, the look on her face told me that she could.
After about a minute, she took her hand away and held it up to her lips, kissing the palm that had lain against my partner’s healing chest.
“Thank you, Ken,” she said, just before she turned and walked out of the room. I followed her to the doorway and watched her collapse in Nicky’s arms as he walked her down the hallway, both of them sobbing.
Then I turned and looked at Hutch. He was still standing in the same spot, but this time, his own hand was pressed to his chest. His eyes were closed, and I knew he was concentrating on feeling the beats of his newly-transplanted heart.
So I ended up givin’ Hutch something for Valentine’s Day after all. Turns out, I really didn’t need to agonize about it the way I had, ‘cause things have a way of working out the way they’re meant to.
I’ve never been the most romantic guy, but I’ve always told Hutch he would have my heart forever.
I just never realized I meant it literally.