Comments about this story can be sent to:firstname.lastname@example.org The Lesson
On The Road...
It sounds like a word you'd use - agitated. That's how I feel. That's how I felt all stupid weekend. It's that same twist in the pit of my gut that I get when I know that somethin's goin' down. Or like when the hairs on the back of my neck stand up when I feel somebody creepin' around that ain't supposed to be.
I knew there was somethin' wrong. I knew it. But I wasn't about to try and track ya down like three kinds of idiot so that you could laugh in my face and tell me - again - to knock off the mother hen routine. The last time you warned me to quit it I knew you were ticked, so I wasn't about to be on the receivin' end of the famous Hutchinson wrath. Again.
Besides, you'd been so secretive lately about your latest and greatest - not letting me or Huggy or anybody know who she was or where you'd taken her on dates or nothin'. And sneakin' off to take your phone calls... sheesh! I'm not that nosy, buddy. But you did make me curious. At first I thought you were just afraid that'd she succumb to the Starsky charm and drop you like a hot rock. Then I figured maybe you were dumb enough to get yourself hooked up with a married woman or something like that. Anyway, I got the hint and finally quit trying to figure out who or what she was and knew that you'd get around to introducing her when the time was right. If it meant that much to you to have her all to yourself, then the least I could do was leave you alone. For now.
...now I don't have a clue where you're at. I failed you buddy, I failed you.
I shoulda listen to my gut. No matter how bad you woulda squawked at me, I shoulda listened to my gut. Now instead of you sitting here next to me I'm cruisin' all over kingdomcome with the elephant gun you never go anywhere without riding next to me.
Where are you?
In the alley...
I don't know when I've ever been... well, so drenched with it as when I got the call that you'd been sighted. I couldn't make her fly fast enough through the streets to get to you. But when I saw you...
...what was left of you....
I wanted to bawl right there in the alley. What had they done to you? I'd seen the ravaged face before - the face of someone totally destroyed. You'd seen these faces, too. Had seen them on....
no, that can't be it...
...there must be another explanation. I tore open your sleeve, raised it up past your bruised and mangled elbow to see the tracks that tattooed your flesh like a gory badge.
But when I looked back into your face - the terror-filled eyes that have always spoke volumes, always saw right into my soul, always reflected love - I saw a man ravaged.
I saw in your the face the face of every rape victim we'd ever seen. Dominated, torn, forced against their will. Only yours wasn't a rape that resulted in, well, I hate to even call it sex - but it was still your body that they dominated, you that they victimized.
It was the rape of your soul.
It was a victim's face. A face I had once seen in my own mirror.
And now it was yours.
I can't explain what I felt. It was like a million things were going on inside me in a big jumble that I couldn't sort out. The need to protect you, was stronger than everything else. I had to get you out of that alley, away from prying eyes, away from eyes that cared but didn't understand.
First we had to make you safe. Later we'd work on making you whole. I wasn't sure how or when or what I could do or say. But I knew we could make this right, somehow. I knew we could make the pain go away. As long as we did it together.
I won't fail you again.
At home. The aftermath...
I look at you, and it hurts. It just plain hurts.
Yeah, the bruises have faded. The circles under your eyes have lightened up a bit. You don't shake as much as you used to. But I know you're not sleepin' right. I've heard you thrashing around on my bed, my bed 'cause you're afraid to be alone, afraid to let me know you're still afraid.
I know how the nightmares that wake you up in a cold sweat and won't let you rest. I know how memories haunt you, threaten to overwhelm you sometimes when you least expect it. I know how you don't feel safe anymore cause they destroyed your peace of mind. And maybe a piece of your mind.
I know how it feels like they've broken that thing inside your soul that makes you, well, you. What I don't understand is why you won't let me help you. It's a two way street, pal. Remember the night I finally broke down in front of you? Cried for the first time in front of you, the first time in I don't know how many years I even allowed myself to cry. Remember? If you'd stop and remember for just a second, buddy, you'd know that I know exactly what you're feeling right now.
I know, Hutch. I know. God, how I wish I didn't, but I do. And it's time.
It's time to let me help. It's time to heal.
I walk over to him quietly, almost like I'm approaching someone to be apprehended. I've been treading pretty cautiously around him lately, and for good reason. He's been wound so tight I've been waiting for him to snap.
"Hutch?" He turns quickly to face me completely, even though he saw me comin' out of the corner of his eye. Defensive move. The look on his face that only lasts an instant makes me want to cry, it hurts so much. "Sit down, willya?"
He stumbles on over to my couch, he's so tired he can hardly keep upright. I know it's more than lack of sleep. I plop down beside him, but not too close.
"Look buddy, I know what you're..."
"NO! You don't know, nobody knows..." He never let me finish, but he didn't finish either. He just clams up and starts studying his shoes. He's wrong.
"Hutch..." I reach over and take him by the wrist. He immediately tries to pull away, but he's so stupid weak right now. Normally he woulda grabbed me back and flung me over the couch already. Without a lot of effort I force his arm to bend so that his fist is over his chest. With my other hand I open up his hand and place them both, his hand and mine, over his heart.
"What do you feel?"
He looks at me like I'm out of my mind. Maybe I am. But I think he'll get it in a minute. He's always been the brains of this partnership.
"What do you feel?"
He stares at me for a minute, then looks away, shaking his head. I think I detected a few tears welling up. That's good. That's progress.
"What do you feel?"
"WHAT DO YOU THINK I FEEL? NOTHING! I DON'T FEEL ANYTHING! THERE'S..." a sob, "THERE'S NOTHING LEFT INSIDE!!"
Anger. More progress.
"Try again. What do you feel?"
I can tell he's getting ticked at me, but that's okay. He's still too weak to break my grip on his arm. Finally he turns back to face me, his face is getting all red like he's ready to slug me or explode or somethin'.
"Starsky, stop it..."
It's more of a plea than anything. Almost wrenched my heart right out of my throat. But I couldn't fail him. Not again. He's never failed me.
"I'll tell ya. I'll tell ya what ya feel, Hutch. You feel hurt and angry and betrayed and sickened by the fact that these bastards controlled you, forced themselves and their heroin on you and there wasn't a damn thing you could do about it..." My voice was rising, but I couldn't stop myself. "And you hate the world and you hate Jeannie for getting you into this mess, and you hate yourself because you couldn't fight back, and you hate me because I didn't find you sooner, because I failed you when you needed me the most. But most of all you hate them because you feel like they stole a piece of you and you can never get it back and you'll never be the same again!!"
That got his attention. I could tell by the tortured look on his face that I'd hit the nail on the head. I know, Hutch, I know. But I was wrong then, and you're wrong now. His face softens up a bit when he notices that I've got tears streaming down my face.
I pull our hands away from his heart and place it over my own.
"Now what do you feel?" I know he can feel my heart beating, racing really. It's pounding so hard right now I can feel it in my throat.
"It's right here, Hutch. Don't you see? That piece of you that you thought they took from you was right here all along. I was keeping it safe right here." I leave his hand on my heart and cover his chest with my free hand. "Nobody can take that away from me, Hutch, from us. Nobody." I look him square in the eye. "I'd die first."
Finally he gets it. Finally the tears come, and with it, a release, I guess. I pull him close, wrap my arms around him so he knows he's safe and can let it go. He knows I'll stand watch, stand guard while he recovers what he thought was stolen from him. Cries for what he thought was lost forever. Cries for what he's found again.
And finally, after the tears, comes sleep. I pull a pillow onto my lap and without a second thought he lays his head down, stretches out on the couch. I get another lump in my throat that he would be so vulnerable, so unguarded with me. I throw the comforter over him and leave my hand resting on his shoulder, occasionally rubbing at the loosening muscles that had bunched on his back and shoulders for weeks.
Rest, partner. Heal. Life taught you a bitter lesson. But you
also learned a more important one. It was a hard lesson, one that I learned too,
learned from my partner: Love never fails.