This story first appeared in the newsletter, Black Bean Soup (1999). Information about the newsletter can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/Studio/7556/Comments on this story can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org and will be forwarded to the author.
The Little Things
K Hanna Korossy
I never really noticed how much the little things mattered until I met my partner. No, scratch that. Not when I met my partner, because that was at the Academy and I didn't really have a chance to know him yet. I knew enough: I knew he had principles that he wouldn't compromise no matter what. I knew he was smarter than most people gave him credit for because it was an unpolished "people" smart, not book smart. Don't get me wrong, maybe he wouldn't know what Versailles is, or that the periodic table symbol for Sodium is Na, but it seemed he knew just about every other odd fact in the world, and you know, the symbol for Sodium doesn't come up often in policework. And even more so, he could charm nearly everybody except those who really weren't worth charming, and the charm wasn't just show, either. I knew he really liked people and, even more, he believed in them. And I knew that this was a person I wanted to call friend.
But it took a while before I really got to know him. To learn that his favorite color was blue. To share the contents of his bottom desk drawer (a box of childhood treasures, including a toy police car and a Dick Tracy comic book--some things don't change). To find out that his favorite food was pot roast and that I could bribe him to do just about anything with a tin of chocolate chip cookies. It's usually the little things that make up the mental pictures of our friends, not their weighty philosophies of life. My picture was this crazy patchwork of someone who'd stopped growing at the age of ten in all the good innocence of childhood, but was often more wise than I in all the important things.
So here I stand in front of this friendly nut's--my best friend's--apartment on a Saturday morning, wondering what I'm doing here. I had other plans for this day: balancing the checkbook, going to the nursery, stocking the cupboards, maybe cleaning out my car. Well, maybe not. But I have a hundred things that have piled up over the week that I should be doing, and here I am instead. With a bag of jelly-filled donuts. He's gonna think I flipped for sure.
I look at my watch; it's probably too early, isn't it? He likes to sleep in on days off, the consummate night owl. Figures, one more of the long list of things we're different in. Little things. The important, unique things. Like having a soft spot for jelly donuts.
What the heck, I'm here. Might as well see if he's up.
The knock brings no immediate response, and I shift from one foot to the other, annoyed at feeling myself blush. How would I explain waking him up in order to give him something that I usually tease him about indulging in? Maybe it's not too late to turn back. Or I could leave the donuts and let him wonder. He'd know it was me, of course; he always does, but he usually finds a way to say thanks without embarrassing me.
The footsteps on the other side of the door are clumping, half-asleep, and I cringe. This was stupid. When the door rattles and opens, it's probably pretty obvious that I'm ready to bolt.
But even yawning and sleepy, he lights up. "Hutch! What're you doin' here?"
"Just in the neighborhood." I smile. "Brought you something." I reach out the bag that he's already noticed. He would have wheedled it away from me even if I hadn't have offered, I know from experience.
His smile is sheer pleasure, even before he knows what's in the bag. It's that 10-year-old-with-a-new-puppy look that trusts I've brought him some great prize. Van used to give me that look for nothing less than an expensive bauble, and even then it never shone in her eyes like his delight does. He's so easy to please, sometimes it still surprises me, yet there's no denying his joy is real.
A minute later, we're settled in his kitchen and he's poured me a cup of coffee, and he's already gotten powdered sugar all over his mouth.
"So what's this for?" he finally asks, one donut gone and the sugar meticulously cleaned off.
I shrug. "Just felt like it. It was too beautiful a morning not to share."
He smiles again, but there's nothing childlike about it. I've been caught once more.
My partner already looks at me sometimes like I've got two heads, usually when I'm trying to expound on something I really don't know anything about. He doesn't, either, and yet he can always see right through me.
No one else can.
I used to think I was complicated. A brother killed in the war, rich folks and salt-of-the-earth grandparents, a busted marriage. A whole jumble of stuff in my past that sometimes even I can't sort out, let alone understand how they fit together. All these dark places in me that I know are there and yet I can't see into, and they scare me.
And then he just looks right through it all like I'm made out of glass and there's nothing about me he doesn't know. Sometimes I think there isn't. Sometimes I wish I could see myself as clearly as he does. Then again, I'm not sure I want to. People are happier having a few delusions about themselves. But it's terrifying being that transparent, all those ugly little secrets with nowhere to hide, and someone whose opinion matters being there to see them. No, not just being there, but wanting to be there and see.
And then he smiles at me, that stupid grin that makes him look like that 10-year-old kid who just got his first puppy, and it's because he knows me and loves me anyway, dark places and all.
Everyone should have someone like Starsk.
"Just felt like it, huh?" he says, willing to play along. "What happened to your dedication to desiccated liver and butterfly bones?"
"I'm not eating this junk," I say contentedly, "you are. I can't help it if you've got awful taste." Awful taste--how often have I accused him of that? And what does that say about his choice of friends? Then again, I may be no prize but at least I don't eat peanut butter and jelly burritos.
"Don't know what you're missing," he teases back, starting on another donut. If I ate like he does, I'd swell up like a blimp, but it doesn't seem to affect him. Maybe all the calories go into energy, because he's always moving.
"So, what're you doing today?" I ask.
"I dunno." One shoulder lifts. "You?"
I grin. "Thought maybe I'd go fishing for the day. You wanna come?"
"Sure." The second donut's gone, and he's brushing sugar off his chin. "I'll go get dressed."
He turns to go, pausing for a minute to look at me, suddenly all serious. "Hutch. Thanks." And suddenly it's not just donuts we're talking about. I guess it never was.
I smile at him. "You're welcome."
Still he doesn't move, checking me out, thinking hard. Seeing if I'm all right, I guess, and if I'm hiding something. He'd know if I was, 'cause he knows what flavor of ice cream I like, and which quilt my grandmother made for me right before she died, and that I stashed my high school writing award at the bottom of my box of important papers in my closet, and all the important stuff about me.
And then he's off in 10-year-old mode again, excited as if I were his dad taking him out for the day, disappearing into his bedroom at a half-run.
He may know me inside-out, but I know him, too. He seems to be all on the surface, hard when he's mad, soft when he's happy, open for all the world to see, no baggage. But I know why he's really mad when he's mad, and just what makes him happy. I've seen him cry and be scared, and I know hardly anyone else has ever seen him like that. I've seen him go from street cop to little Rosie Dobey's "Uncle Dave" in two seconds flat. I've even seen him at his worst, times I'll never talk about to another living soul. And still, here I am with donuts in tow because I really can't tell him how much he means to me any other way.
I guess that's what love is, huh? No matter what we do, we're stuck with each other.
He comes out in a fishing cap, one that's so ridiculous, I have to laugh. And swinging an arm around his shoulder, we go out side-by-side to enjoy a day of fishing and each other's company.
It's the little things like that, that matter most. I know how blessed I am, and can see he feels it too.
And you know, there's nothing little about that at all.
Written in 1999