WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Hutch was alone and he was pissed. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault, looking back he only had himself to blame for answering the phone. Starsky had told him not to, that just this once, they should let someone else take care of things. They weren’t the only cops in the city. But once answered, they had to go. But shit, he was pissed. He imagined how the evening should have gone down, the way he planned it, the way he arranged everything. He had practiced the words a hundred times in his head. He knew exactly what he was going to say, where he would sit when he said it, he even wore his lucky shirt. He rehearsed it in front of the mirror like a fourteen year old asking the most beautiful girl in grade eight to the dance. God knows he was having the wet dreams of a fourteen year old. Tonight, he was finally going to say what he felt. He was going to ask if he was the only who felt it. He had been sick with anticipation and scared about what he would do if Starsky said yes. But more scared about what he would do if Starsky said no.
Now he was back in his apartment, alone. The room was lit only by the faint brushstrokes of dawn, the only sound the needle scratching on the record that ended, like all his plans, hours ago. The wine sat uncorked, the candles unlit, and the steaks uncooked. If he closed his eyes and stood quietly in the middle of the empty room, he could hear echoes of the evening that should have happened. In some other parallel world, where best-laid plans were never thwarted by a simple phone call, the evening had played out as he had rehearsed. In that world, they ate the steaks and drank the wine. He could hear the music of their laughter layered over the soft jazz, fading in and out like counterpoint. When he moved to stand by the open window, he imagined he could smell the faint hint of charcoal still lingering like incense over what might have been.
Hutch was tired; his head hurt and he was cold. The not-so-lucky shirt, now stained both with disappointment and the blood of the man they arrested, was in the garbage with the wilted salad and stale baguette. To hell with it, he would think about it tomorrow. He would shower and sleep and pretend that tonight never happened. Or at least he would try.
He stripped, and ran the shower hot and hard. He stood in the spray, a beer bottle in one hand, his dick in the other, and like the fourteen old boy he used to be, he found release. He imagined he was not alone; that the touch he felt was Starsky’s touch. He called out “Starsky” in the final moment, and for just a second he thought he heard his own name whispered softly in reply. He shut off the water, opened the curtain, and grabbed a towel. He wrapped it around his waist and turned. And then he saw it. Scrawled in the condensation on the mirror above the sink was the single word, STARSK.
When Hutch entered the living room, Starsky sat on the couch while jazz swirled around the room like the first snowflakes of winter, leaving everything dusted and lovely in its wake. As he crossed the room to sit by him, Hutch could feel the music keeping time with the pounding of his heart. He had been given a second chance and this time he would do it right. But before he could utter any of the phrases he had rehearsed, before he could explain his reasons, before he could take a breath, Starsky just looked up at him and smiled and said, “Yes”.