Somewhere along the way I never noticed how oppressive the silence in the basement can be. I am being suffocated by a room that until 3 days ago was my sanctuary. Now it holds memories I don’t want inside my head or heart. This room that could tell you a thousand stories of my friends and I growing up is now filled with heartbreaking consequences. I am sitting here waiting for Hyde. I know he knows I am here. Hyde took Jackie over to Kelso’s. I was surprised he was willing to do that. Hyde has never been fond of acknowledging Kelso and Jackie’s past relationship, but he needs someone to distract her. Kelso will do it for him easily. Neither of us said anything about having it out, but when Hyde came out of his room this morning, he looked at me and said,
“I’m taking Jackie to Kelso’s after breakfast. He is going to take the girls and Fez up to Kenosha for the day.” He just stared at me with that inscrutable face of his and trusted I knew what he was after. I had immediately gone upstairs and asked Red to take my mother out of the house. I want no one here, and I know Hyde doesn't either. I both want him to hurry up but take his time getting back from dropping Jackie off. I want Hyde and I okay, but I don’t have a fucking clue what I am going to say to him. Where do I even start? Do I start with what he observed?
“Hey Hyde, sorry about the whole trying to kiss your girlfriend’s neck incident.”
or maybe I could open up with
“Listen, I know I said if you didn’t get your shit together, that you might hit Jackie but maybe we could just let that go.”
Or I guess I could just grow a pair and say
“I love your girlfriend.”
Being at odds with Hyde is worse than being at odds with Jackie. Hyde is my brother in every way but one, and that is blood. I love and care about him more than I do my own sister. It hurts to fight with Jackie. I loathe fighting with her. The fight the other night, is one of two real fights we have actually had. Wouldn't you know it, both times we have gotten into it, we’ve fought about Hyde. I close my eyes thinking of the first fight. I should have realized then that I was in love with Jackie. Red’s right, I am a dumb ass.
The Summer That Started It All
Jackie Beulah Burkhart is going to get her ass kicked is all I can think. I would add Hyde to the threat in my head but I know better than to even go there with him. If I say one word to him, about him and Jackie sneaking around all summer, he will kick my ass. Hyde may not have to explain himself to me, but Jackie sure as hell is going to. Jackie is like the sunrise, you can set your clock on her. She is going to waltz in the basement any moment. As soon as the door opens to the basement I pounce. She isn’t even all the way in the door when I assault her with words.
“WHAT THE HELL JACKIE? You and Hyde? Why didn’t you tell me?”
I watch her eyes narrow, her cheeks redden and those pouty lips curl.
“Hello to you to Jackass!” She snarls at me.
“Don’t start Jackie. All summer you’ve been lying to me. All summer you’ve been messing around behind my back with Hyde. I want an explanation.” I snap at her angrily.
She walks up to me swiftly and kicks me as hard as she can.
“Damn it Jackie! What was that for?” I yell as I fall back on the couch in agony. I swear she has cement in her shoes. How does she kick that sharply for the love of God?
“I don’t owe you a damn thing! What is going on between Steven and I is none of your damn business. If I wanted you to know I would have told you.”
Her casual dismissal of our friendship stings. I let her hear the hurt in my voice. “So now we don’t tell each other things? We keep secrets from each other? Why didn’t you tell me Jackie?”
I watch the fight go out of her. She plops next to me on the couch and sighs heavily.
“I didn’t tell you because I just wanted some time with him without all the drama. Eric, it won't matter that Kelso ran away from me and that we broke up. He is going to care that I’m with Steven. I didn’t want to hear your lectures. He’s all I’ve ever wanted. You know that.”
I do know that. She’s been in love with him since we were kids. As long as she’s been in love with him, she has been terrified to do anything about it. The one time she got the nerve, he rebuffed her pretty harshly. If Kelso believed he had Jackie’s whole heart then he really is the King of Stupid. He has been sharing space with Hyde for years, and that is why she always forgave him for cheating. She felt terrible because she believed she was unfaithful in her heart. If Hyde had given Jackie even a hint, she would have abandoned Kelso without a second thought.
“I know that Jackie. I also know that you are in love with him. This is Hyde we are talking about. He doesn't date, he has flings. Are you prepared if he doesn't want anything serious? Hyde is my best friend and I love him like a brother, so I say this not to be a jerk but as someone who knows him better than anyone else…. He is going to break your heart, Jackie. He doesn’t love you.”
I watch her face go white, and her eyes start to fill. “Then you don’t know him as well as you imagine. You don’t know how he is with me when none of you dumbasses are watching.”
I sigh. “Devil….I don’t want to see him break you.”
“It’s my heart to risk Eric. For him, I’ll risk anything.”
I am shaken from the past by the basement door opening, and there he is. For a guy who claims to be Zen and simple, he is incredibly complicated, and I’m about to find out how deep that complication goes.
It’s finally just us, but unseen is the spectator of Jackie. Through this whole hellish nightmare, there has been one recurring theme, who would Jackie pick if push came to shove “Him or me.” I don’t know the answer but as I look into those grim and barren eyes, I do know one thing…… He would pick Jackie over any of us. The depth of his feelings for her are more than I gave him credit for, and he won’t give her up. He was a fool. He knows it, but Hyde has always been a brawler and I know he will destroy anyone who is in his way when it comes to Jackie. I can only pray I’m not someone he thinks he needs to destroy to get to her….. Ever.
Hyde can be such a dick and this time is no different. He won’t start this conversation. He could stand here all day and stare me down. It’s up to me to be the bigger person. A Hyde who thinks he has been wronged cannot be budged. I take a steadying breath and think to myself “Here we go.”
“Jackie, told me you refused to tell her what the problem was between us. Even at the price of her possibly not taking you back. Before anything else gets said, I want to tell you how much I appreciate you not telling her and getting her to back off the other night”
I watch him take in the words. I am surprised they appear to piss him off. I guess I thought if I acknowledged what he was willing to give up for me and how much it meant, we could start on a more positive note. I was one hundred percent wrong. The expression on his face is one of anger and hurt. I’m not surprised when he finally opens his mouth that his tone and words are harsh.
“That’s what you are going to start with? Are you fucking kidding me? Hyde snarls
I am a pretty even tempered person, but the disdain dripping in his voice puts me on edge. This is a quality I have always found annoying in Hyde. He can make himself the person wronged faster than anyone I know, even if he started whatever the issue is.
“What the Hell is that supposed to mean? You aren’t innocent in this parade of shit. How would you have liked me to start?” I bark back.
His face is constructed of stone, but his eyes are blazing and my comment merely dumps gasoline on the fire. He lets go of the tenuous control on his temper without hesitation and explodes.
“How about you are sorry for fucking feeling up my girlfriend? How about Hey Hyde , I lost my Goddamn Mind and traced my fingers down your girl’s back like a lover? Or I know you saw me about to kiss the woman you want more than anything in the world on the most intimate part of her neck? PERHAPS YOU COULD FUCKING START WITH THAT!”
His words wash over me like shards of glass being raked over my skin. Each raging question of contempt can’t be denied. I did all those things. I didn’t think of our friendship. All I thought about in that moment was getting the chance to finally touch Jackie.
“I fucked up Eric. I screwed up in the worst way possible. I can’t ever take back cheating on Jackie. I can’t ever make right letting you and your so OVER THE LINE ACTIONS with my girlfriend drive me to not trust her, but I wasn’t totally wrong. You weren’t touching her like you were due to the bruise and you sure as hell weren’t going to kiss her neck because of it either. Even worse, you had the nerve to lecture me about not trusting you. You betrayed me Forman.”
I’m struggling with the reality of my actions, that not only did I break a huge boundary with Hyde, I broke one with Jackie. She just doesn't know it, and Hyde will never be able to really explain his reaction without giving me up. He could give me up. It would solve many of his problems. I’m about to ask him why he didn’t throw me under the bus when he continues on his tirade.
“I don’t know what pisses me off more. You being so far over the line that you don’t even remember what the line looks like or the fact that you think I would hit Jackie. Or that you think I don’t deserve Jackie. You never have and you never will. Don’t even bother to deny it.”
“Damn it Hyde. I’m sorry. I’m sorry for it all. I don’t believe you would hit Jackie. I was mad. I was mad you screwed someone else. I was mad Jackie was heartbroken. Damn it Hyde, if this had been Kelso and Jackie you would have been seething. On top of all that you scare the crap out of me when you lose your temper. I don’t want you to do something that you can’t take back one day.”
I watch his eyes start to flare again. I can see he assumes I mean hurting her.
“I don’t mean hit her, but that doesn't mean you won’t scare the hell out of her or end up in jail because you killed someone in a fit of rage. Your temper is out of control and you are unreasonable when it comes to Jackie.”
He says nothing. His eyes and face are completely shut down. All I can see is frozen fury. Before he can interrupt the silence, I break it myself.
“If I am that shit of a friend, why didn’t you tell Jackie everything? You could make sure she never talked to me again. Why? You’ve stepped in front of me twice now……. I don’t understand.”
His face cracks briefly and I understand why. I recognize the pact we made long ago. We don’t nark. We don’t take one of us down to save ourselves. None of us have ever broken the pact. Not Kelso. Not Me and even at his own peril, Not Hyde.
Steven Hyde is many things, but he is loyal. I’ve wondered a million times if his years of aloofness with Jackie was his way of keeping her at a distance while she was with Kelso. We gave him a ton of shit for being with Jackie after Kelso left, but the truth of the matter is he didn’t do anything wrong.
I realize he hasn’t answered. I ask again. “You could have said screw the pact. You could have gotten the perfect revenge. Why Hyde?”
Just when I think this can’t get more uncomfortable Hyde decides to actually be open with his feelings. “Do you think so little of me? Fuck You Forman. I would never tell Jackie how you feel when you barely know it yourself. As much as I loathe your no boundaries friendship, I won’t take it away from her. If she knew all this, it would ruin her comfort level with you. No matter how mad I am at you. I wouldn’t do it. I’ll never do it. Besides, we made a pact.”
I can’t look at him. I shut my eyes tightly. All I can hear in my head is “How you feel.” I knew he knew, but I was holding desperately to the fraying string of denial that he might not. There is no side stepping it anymore.
“How long have you known?”
Without a trace of emotion in his voice he replies, “I’ve known for years.”
“How long have you known?”
My heart is pounding. “How long have you known?” A hundred moments of proof rush through my head.
The way he closes his eyes when he hugs her
The way he touches her, with reverence and want.
The way he inhales her scent when she is close to him
My voice is dead when I reply, “I’ve known for years.” Forman's face goes pale and his eyes slide away.
“How could you know something that I finally just admitted to myself?”
I roll my eyes at him. “Come on Forman, we’ve been friends forever. How you are with Jackie isn’t normal. I don’t know how Donna stands it. Besides, it is not hard to recognize what I feel myself. You aren’t the only one who has loved her for years. It took everything I am not to cross the line when she was with Kelso. More than that, I didn’t want to get in the way if she wanted you.”
I watch a bitterness wash over him as he quietly whispers out, “You never had to worry about that. She’s wanted you for years. She has been in love with you since Jr. High and then when Prom happened she was lost completely to you.”
I can’t help but soak in his words. I experience something breaking open inside of me. To know she has loved me just as long as I’ve loved her makes me feel like a million bucks. He interrupts my momentary joy with a whiplash of bitterness.
“You think it is intolerable to watch me be in love with her. Well, try listening to her cry over you for years, hope for you, and have her heart broken time and time again. That wasn’t a picnic either.”
Whatever rage was dissipated by the revelation that Jackie has loved me for years evaporates instantly at his words.
“Are you kidding me? You are pissed Jackie loves me and you have to listen to it? You could have made a move anytime. I sure as hell wasn’t stopping you. It’s not the same thing. I’m not letting you shift this on me. I would have never done what you did to me. I can’t ever tell Jackie why I got so mad without ruining your relationship. More so, what type of brother says the things you said about me to Jackie?”
“Hyde, you of all people should understand saying things in the heat of the moment. Yes, I said you didn’t deserve her. I know I implied she was stupid for taking you back, but damn it Hyde, cut me some slack… I was worried sick about her. She had gone through hell with her parents and you, then she up and disappears with Kelso. To top it off I find her strolling out of your room in the middle of the damn night. I was out of my mind.”
I’m done with this bullshit. He is completely ignoring the cornerstone of the issue. God! At least I can admit how fucking stupid I was.
“Are you going to actually apologize at any point for what started all this or are you going to continue to ignore the fact that you were caressing my girlfriend and getting off on it? Forman you were going to kiss her in a way that I do. The rest of it is secondary to watching a man I call my brother touching the woman I love.”
His face pales. I recognize the regret. I truly don’t know if he is sorry that he did it or sorry he got caught. I don’t know what else there is to say, but I want to make one thing clear. Something he better take as gospel truth, or he will regret it until he dies.
“You are right, I don’t deserve her. None of us deserve Jackie, least of all me. I know it, but you better understand this… I don’t care. She’s mine and I’m never giving her up. If I ever see you touch her like that again….. I’ll kill you. Are we clear?”
I’ve stunned him. His face is horrified by my threat. The fact is, it is not a threat, it is a promise. We have solved nothing with this conversation. I don’t know what I was hoping for, but all this did was kick up more dust. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to fight with him, but I feel like there is an abyss between us and I don’t know how to cross it. We stare at each other for a long time, but finally he breaks.
“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. For a second, I forgot that it was impossible and I wanted so badly to touch her one time. I don’t want to love Jackie, Hyde. I would give anything to not want her. Who wants to love a woman who will never feel the same? I was wrong. I broke every code there is between brothers. There was nothing innocent about it. I’m right there with you in the fucked up column. Just like you cheating….. I’ll never be able to take it back. I screwed up. I’m sorry.”
It doesn’t fix anything, but I can hear he really is sorry. I don’t know what to say. True to my nature I give him a nod in acknowledgement but then I decide that is dickish even for me.
“Thank You. I don’t know if it fixes anything, but I appreciate the apology. I don't know what else to say, maybe we should just leave the rest for now.” I start to walk away to my room. I need to process this all before I can consider the next step.
“Hyde?” I don’t turn around but I do reply “Yeah?”
“It’s not true what I said, you do deserve her. What you did for her….the action you took to save her….. It was impressive. You didn’t let anything stop you from protecting her. You could have made sure that Jackie was never totally herself with me again. You could have won but you didn’t. You put yourself in front of me for the millionth time. You are and always will be the better man. You deserve every part of Jackie, and I’ll be sorry till I die for what I did.”
I’m shocked. My heart wants to explode. All this is too much for me. For a guy who has spent most of his life repressing his emotions in public, these last few days have been hellish. To hear that he thinks I’m the better man starts to soothe the hurt, but I won’t lie to him.
Without turning around, I say back “I appreciate that. We aren’t okay right now, but Forman…… we will be.” With that I step into my room and close the door.