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Faded Up to the Sky

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...like your dad's best jeans
denim blue, faded up to the sky
And though you want them to last forever,
you know they never will,
you know they never will,
and the patches make the good-byes harder still....
--Cat Stevens, "Oh, Very Young"

 

They're completely out of style now:  snug at the hip, slung low, button fly, flaring out from the knee.  They've been rough-job pants so long now that they're liberally stained with paint and oil and other things neither Starsky nor Hutch can recall.   Kiko or Jackson just roll their eyes if they happen to be present when Starsky's washing his car or working in the garden, wearing these outmoded things.  Still, when Starsky took Jackson to the junkyard to pick up car parts, the youngster saw the stiff new dark jeans Starsky was wearing and said, "Are we goin' to court?  Where's your tie?"

Starsky pretended to clip him on the side of the head and insisted that the new jeans just needed breaking in.  Hutch just smiled.

The old ones are soft, a faint peach-fuzz on the surface, and they've stretched over muscles and moved with Starsky's legs for so long now that they carry the distinctive bulges and bowed lines even, ghostlike, in the laundry basket.  They speak to both men of years when they ran faster, played harder, jumped down fire escapes and vaulted the car hood.

And Hutch especially loves the holes.

This is why Starsky wears the jeans at home.  In fact, the boys haven't noticed, but he often goes commando in them, particularly if Hutch is going to steady the ladder or hand tools under the car while Starsky's legs sprawl across the driveway.  The inseams above the knee are white, fuzzy, and precarious.  In patches, the cloth is worn almost transparent:  the color of Starsky's skin flickers there, distractingly.  And there's a tear above one knee;  when Starsky kneels, some of the dark hair on his leg curls out the hole.

Those holes have no anniversaries, but both men vividly remember the day Starsky, on the roof and already unhappy about it, lost his footing and slid down to the gutter.  They both heard the rip but couldn't see the damage;  anyway, both were busy clutching and yelling at each other.  On strike, Starsky went down the ladder, so Hutch didn't see until afterward the neat small gap below the back pocket, a triangular flap like a tiny trap door, just big enough for one of Hutch's fingers to slip in, back and forth.  Starsky's blood stained it, but the cut healed cleanly and the brown blot on the cloth faded to almost nothing.

Playing with this flap has lengthened the rip, and now two fingers will fit through it, but Hutch tries to be careful.  Starsky already complains about the draft.  If the pants get too ragged, he won't wear them.  Or says he won't.

But the best part is in front, where one of the buttons is gone, and the tear in the fly from the missing rivet trails blue and white strings.  Hutch could watch that gap forever, would like a special camera trained on it, not to miss one of the moments when the fabric gapes slightly and Starsky slides over just a little, and there!   It's like birdwatching, almost, the way diligence is rewarded with a tiny glimpse in motion, yes there, shadowy hair and the subdued glint of skin.

Gardening is the best time, when Starsky often goes shirtless anyway, and the public stretch of chest and arm and back and neck and belly is its own landscape of desire, especially when they've worked up a sweat moving edging stones or wrestling a bush into and out of the wheelbarrow.  Bright trickles and dark smudges streaking the tan skin, between scars and the mat of hair dwindling to his navel, then bushing out again just above the waistband of the jeans.  And that waistband is worn too, with empty belt loops begging for fingers to hook into them.

Starsky standing up, wiping his forehead with one wrist, a field of skin above and glimpses below.  "The temptations of heaven," Hutch once said, staring, and Starsky thought that sounded weird, but then most sentences with "heaven" in them sound weird to him.

He won't argue, though.  These are his favorite jeans too, since he's been sucked off so often while they're halfway down his thighs.

He's almost tempted to tell Jackson that style isn't everything.