Well, here’s to the New Year – in all its wretched glory.
Righteous indignation chased you out early again, so just to recap:
This year I gave up and you got mad and it all lurched into this pitiable, wailing lament.
I fucked her and then you fucked her – although I think you fucked her first.
You never will fess up to that one, though – I know you too well.
You are “won’t on the first date” and I am “won’t come in your mouth on the first date.”
Except I will. If you want.
And then I almost died and you died. Almost.
The nick of time is a miserable place.
One of these lifetimes our luck will run out and
you are going to be lying somewhere dead
and I am going to be lying somewhere fucking
and it’s all gonna go to shit – even worse than it is now and I am terrified.
How’s that for euphoric sentimentalism?
So you have now been gone exactly twenty minutes and I am sitting here wondering
why heroin and heroine are practically the same word.
Which one was she to you? I know the one you are to me.
2. Climbing out of the Depths
I hear the scratching before I open my eyes. I hear the soft cursing, too. And the scraping of the chair against the hardwood floor. Then the boom of my pulse echoing in my pickled head swallows everything else.
After a moment, I crack open my left eye. Still alive it seems – Tequila is fast becoming mother’s milk to me – I don’t know whether to be alarmed or relieved. The cursing continues – louder now. I crack open my right eye and see a familiar form bent over the desk. The bone deep ache I feel every time I look at him lately drowns out the throbbing in my head. I never thought it was possible to have such a physical reaction to such an emotional connection – even when that connection hangs by a thread, worn through by the dull knife of my denial and his stoicism.
He senses that I am awake. He always senses when I am awake. And asleep. And happy and angry and irritated and melancholy and contemplative and morose. So why can’t he sense how goddamn terrified I am? Every minute of every day?
Then he turns and the look in his eyes as he holds out the paper – my ruminating of the night before – pierces my chest, punches through my back, and burrows itself into the cushions. I am the moth pinned to the Styrofoam. I am his.
He walks over and kneels in front of me. Takes my shoulder in his “this is serious, no really it is,” grasp, and bores another hole through to my soul so that when he speaks, it is already over.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Nothing to tell.”
“Nothing, hell. Everything.”
“Sometimes everything is nothing.”
He stands and curses again.
“Damn you, Hutch.”
“If you get all existential on me now, I may just plug you one.”
“Use the Magnum – makes a bigger hole.”
He rattles the paper in answer. “Pitiable? Pitiable?”
From somewhere deep I feel a sliver of mirth escape. Unfamiliar, but welcome.
“Had to look it up, didn’t you?” I try to smile, manage a grimace. Trust me, it’s an improvement. Not lost on him.
“I guess I should be glad you took the time to find a fucking pen.”
“Ways to Enrich Your Word Power is not your exclusive domain.”
“Not on this month’s list.”
“And it wasn’t righteous indignation – it was your foul mood. Sometimes you’re an ass, you know?”
I appreciate the sometimes. Always might have done me in. Suddenly I need him to like me. Like he used to.
“Where’d you go?” I don’t want to know. I have to know.
“Huggy’s. Where else?”
“Where else is what I want to know.” Petty. Unneccesary. I can’t help it. Yet.
“Jesus, Hutch, I don’t know whether to kiss you or slug you or haul you off to Cabrillo State – some of this shit is scary.”
“Welcome to my world.”
“Hey, I’m scared, too. Remember me?”
He looks at me as if I might say no. He is scared. Missed that one, too. God, I’m an ass.
I watch him as he makes some kind of decision. I always can tell when he makes some kind of decision. I always know. When did I forget that part? Before or after I forgot myself?
“Here’s the way I see it,” he starts, and I am heartened by this. Four years roll away and we are leaning against his damn car, having a meaningless conversation about some case, and he cocks his head, heading for home as he makes his point, and I realize at that moment that I am hopelessly and endlessly and over and over again caught in his smile. My God, it’s so beautiful when that boy smiles.
I miss an entire part about talking and sorry and his fault, too and Huggy’s and black-eyed peas and this isn’t over. Damn. I won’t dare ask him to repeat it, but just by the cock of his hip, I know something is different.
“Take a shower, get dressed and meet me at Huggy’s at four – this is New Year’s Day, Hutch. And we gotta lot of resolution to deal with.”
He leans down and grabs my collar, rough like he grabs the rest of the guilty, and he lifts me half an inch off the couch. He smells like cigarettes and whiskey and I want to inhale him, all of him, right down into my marrow. My whole body is hard in an instant.
“By the way,” he whispers in my ear, his voice rough and low, “I’ve wanted you to for a long time. And I did fuck her first. We shouted your name together.”
Before I can climb out of the fog of him, he is gone. And I look forward for the first time in a very long time.
“Damn you, Hutch.”
“Now you’re just repeating yourself.”
“What did we say? Huh? What did we always say?”
I blink once, twice, try to remember. This appears to be important to him. What did we say? What didn’t we say? Fuck me now? Nope, can’t recall ever mentioning that one . . .
“No bottle, no bullet. Remember?”
Oh, that. Our damn naďve oath. Early on. Too early. We promised never to burn out the way other cops do. Crawl into a fifth of bourbon or eat the service revolver. He must be referring to the former, because if I would have swallowed that Python . . .
“How can I talk to you when you are so fucked up?”
“Been doing it all night, bud . . .”
And it all had held so much promise. He met me at the door at Huggy’s – we walked the length of the bar together – in step – like the old days. We sat in the back booth, thighs merged, shoulders clinking every toast. Huggy was watchful – he had grown wary of us lately. Our fault. Shit rolls down hill. And then I got drunk and belligerent and he wavered between doleful and indifferent. Huggy sent us into the alley to cool off – or heat up if I know Huggy – and he bolted. Fucking coward. I’m the one who’s supposed to sabotage the partnership, not him. He’s the one who’s got to build the funeral pyre, aim the burning arrow. . .
“Go home, Hutch.”
Home. He must be joking. I can’t go home. I am home. Not this place. This space. Connected to the space that is him. Adjoining air. All I’ve ever needed from him is adjoining air. Actually, it’s not all I need. Just all I deserve.
He holds open the door like he expects me to get up and walk through it. I sit. I’m drunk. He’s pissed. Same thing. A thousand identical moments fold into this one.
“Make me.” Sounds stupid to me, too.
“All talk, no action, buddy.” I wonder if I could actually bait him into shooting me. His fist against the door tells me I may be close. I wish he would. Might shut my fucking mouth.
But he uses his mouth instead. As I am pondering the bad press that accompanies a murder/suicide, he has annihilated the space between us and hurls himself onto my chest, grinding his lips into mine – effective but painful. I taste blood. I taste whiskey. I taste home.
He captures my wrists and tugs them up over my head. The couch rocks backwards, threatening to tip us into our senses, but it settles back into place, and he releases my wrists only to push his hands up under my shirt. I grab his hips and pull him closer. He teases a nipple between his fingers and I float away for a moment, to a place where this is all there is, where this is all okay, where this overrules every thing that has happened before.
“Fuck you,” he pants. He pushes himself up against my shoulders and looks at me.
“Fuck me.” I reach down and fumble with his belt. I stroke his erection through his jeans; pull him up by the bulge. He gasps and loses his grip on my shoulders. I am distracted by his ragged breath, forced through his teeth into my ear. Hot, urgent, angry. That’s what I want – the anger. I’ve had the pity, the understanding, the commiserating glance, the worried frown. I’m sick to death of it all. I want him to fill me with his anger, scour my bones with his fury, leave me bereft and hollowed.
He reaches for my pants and I yank his down hard. Brutal – skin on zipper. I know it hurts, but just this moment I remember that I don’t live in a vacuum. His fault, too. First so distant, then so disgusted, and finally just so absent. Turning his head from the wreck. Politely stepping over the carnage of my life. Innocent bystander.
Not so innocent. He stands and looks at me and then shoves his jeans the rest of the way to the floor. I have lost the ability to breathe. Feeling the need for an equally grandiose gesture, I lift my hips off the couch and wait. His turn to rip and pinch. Hell. His wolfish grin startles me.
He straddles me, his eyes never leaving my face. His rough hands journey down my chest, smoothing away so many ills. Apothecary. I feel his erection pushing against me. I push back. We are sliding. Off the couch. Out of control. Into the future.
Wedged between the coffee table and the couch, we come together. Damnable synchronicity.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he chants and then collapses onto me.
I say nothing. Just hang on. Ride the wave. Release. I wrap my arms around him and finally whisper his name.
Sometime later, when we are in bed, proper, he asks me to say it again. His name. I whisper it over and over and over until he begs me to stop. But I don’t. I can’t. Does he know that this is the first time those seven letters have spelled anything other than an epitaph for months?
Once branded to my soul as amulet, his name now hangs from my neck as albatross. Just another reminder of the ruin, the desecration, the decay.
He comes again, his forehead pressed to mine, eyes wide open. I am still whispering his name. He shouts mine. The words tangle and twist together and the echo falls against my chest, cracking me wide open. I am spilling out all over him. He stems the flow with a single kiss. Patches and splices. Binds up. Battens down. A few small repairs.
I wish I could say that he fucked me happy. He happily fucked me is as close as it gets. For now.
We made readjustments. Realigned. Redefined. Promised to take measured rests between the beats. Scraped off the layer of filth that had been choking us both. He made up a new game in honor of our overturned leaf. Platitude Ping Pong. Thinks he can win dinners and favors and blow-jobs – thinks he’s better at it than me. I’ll give him that. The Ping Pong.
Still, I often wake up in a cold sweat, wondering what’s next. Looming. Menacing. His touch mutes my terror, most nights. Most. Not all. Never all. On those nights, all I can do is whisper his name.