Past Imperfect

By Susan



“She’s dead,” Hutch says to Dobey at the station later. His voice, not quite controlled, still sounds surprised. He says it again, more to himself this time, forming the words slowly, changing intonation, like an actor going over his lines. There are new tenses, new definitions to learn. He knows they will become second nature soon enough.


Dobey nods and starts to speak. But in the words that follow, he hears only one. Ken. And that small syllable finally undoes the frayed string that holds him intact. Starsky brings him something in a paper cup, a bottle has been found in someone’s drawer. He drinks and takes a deep breath and another and finds that these deep breaths are really withheld sobs. 


“I’m taking you home,” Starsky says and, with one hand in the small of his back, leads him outside and into the car.  They are silent. After all, what is there to say? Starsky drives with one hand on the steering wheel, one arm stretched out across the back of the seat so that his fingers rest on his shoulder.  He sees the faint bloom of a bruise on Starsky’s jaw, looks down at his own hand; he has his own bruise forming there, too. He wants to say he’s sorry, but the words hover out of reach.


“Go home. Please. I need to be alone,” he says when Starsky pulls up in front of Venice Place. There are protests, of course. How could there not be? He knows him well enough for that. Negotiations follow. He promises to call him in the morning, to call him if he needs anything, to call him if he changes his mind. He’ll promise anything to be left alone, to shake off the weight of Dobey’s pity and Starsky’s concern.


He pulls himself slowly out of the car, heads toward his door, then stops and crosses back in front of the car to Starsky’s side. He places both hands on the roof, lets out a long, slow breath, and leans down into the open window. “I’ll call you in the morning. I promise.”


As he turns, Starsky reaches out and pulls him back by his sleeve. “She loved you, you know. That was never a lie.” 


Lies 10, Truth 1.  Not even close, he wants to answer. Instead, he offers a slow half shrug and walks away. 


The top door is open, the lights and television still on, forgotten in the panic that had followed Huggy’s call. He turns them all off now. There's enough light from the street to find the half-empty bottle under the sink and to grab a clean glass. He fills it too full, too quickly and the dark liquid leaves a small puddle on the counter when he lifts the glass to drink. He carries the bottle and glass to the couch and pours another. And another. The whiskey dulls the grief, but feeds the anger. He wants her back. He wants the truth. All of it. No matter how ugly or sordid or sad. He wants a chance to point a finger, to call her a liar, to call her what she was.


He wants a chance to forgive her.


The bottle is empty too soon. In the bedroom, he imagines for a minute that he'll be able to sleep, that fatigue will win out over grief and regret and anger.  But the bed is too large, the silence too astounding.


He pulls his clothes back on, grabs his jacket, and makes his way unsteadily down the stairs. He’ll go to the beach, he thinks, sit on the sand and wait for this night to end. And then he’ll find a way to live without her. But not yet, and not here.


When he opens the door, Starsky is leaning against the car, hands in his pockets, collar turned up against the cool night air. He offers Hutch a shy smile, a small lift of his shoulders.


“You came back.” Hutch says.


“Never left.”


He reaches out and touches the bruise on Starsky’s jaw. Starsky catches Hutch’s hand as it falls away, and holds it for a second before letting go.


“I’m going to the beach. You coming?”  Hutch asks, though he knows the answer. 


Starsky smiles. “I thought you’d never ask.”












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