[Scotty’s story began in Parallel Parking.]
My parking spot in front of the strip club was open. Scotty was already there as I pulled to the curb, his hands shoved deep into his windbreaker pockets. I cracked the window slightly to keep the cold out.
“Been waiting long?”
His breath showed in the late afternoon air. “Yeah.”
“Get in here where it’s warm.”
He didn’t open the door. “Where’re we going?”
“My aunt’s place, remember?”
“You said you wanted to go to church with us for the Christmas Eve service.”
“Do I have to?”
Scotty looked like he was ready to retreat into the club behind him.
“You can’t go in there,” I said. All the flashy signs were turned off and the place looked locked up tighter than a drum.
“I’m a doorman. I have a key.”
He didn’t look much like a doorman. He barely looked old enough to be called a man at all, for that matter, but I knew he’d turned 21 a few months ago and took this job as soon as he was old enough.
“You don’t have to,” I said.
“Don’t have to what?”
“Go in there, or go to church. But you can still come to Aunt Miriam’s for dinner.” I reached over and opened the door from across the seat. “Get in before you freeze.”
He did. “You still leaving tonight?”
“Flying out at 9:30, should be at my folks’ place by midnight.” I pulled out into the light traffic. “Why, what are you doing tomorrow?”
“Mom said I could come by her apartment.”
“That’s good, right?”
“All she does is watch parades.”
“My mom, too.”
“But the snacks are good.”
Scotty was so skinny it was hard to believe he ever ate. Then again, that lunch we’d had with Aunt Miriam at the Afghan place across from where he worked was proof that he could pack it away when he wanted.
“My mom, too. Her snacks are the only thing keeping me on the couch with her sometimes.”
“Why do you do that?”
“Always keep comparing your life with mine.” He looked out the window beside him, away from me. “We’re nothing like each other.”
He was right. I’ve never been black, I’ve never had to stand out in the cold with nothing but a cheap windbreaker between me and the weather, and my mom never got me a job in a strip club she used to work in.
“Sorry. Guess I see something in you.”
“What does that mean?”
“I don’t know.”
He looked at me. “You say some of the stupidest stuff.”
“Yeah, I do.” I pulled off the freeway and turned toward Aunt Miriam’s street. “Want to hear something not so stupid?”
“Sure, why not.”
“You need the same thing I needed ten years ago.”
“When did you ever need anything?” he asked, cocking his head sideways at me. “You grew up a rich boy, you drive a rich car, and you have a rich job.”
I didn’t bother contradicting him. I knew that’s how it looked to him.
“It doesn’t matter what you have, Scotty. It matters who has you.”
“That doesn’t even make sense.” He looked back out his window. “More stupid stuff.”
“It’s true.” We pulled into the driveway behind some other cars. “But I think I could make more sense of it after church tonight, if you come along.”
“You told me you have to go straight to the airport after church.”
“I do. Thought we could talk on the way.”
“How am I supposed to get home from the airport?” He slammed the door and stood looking at me from across the car roof.
I tossed him the keys. “Drop me off tonight, pick me up on Saturday before work.”
“I get to drive this?” He laid his hand on the warm hood. “But it’s not mine.”
“It’s not what you have, Scotty.”
He looked at the keys laying in the palm of his hand.
“It’s who has you,” he whispered. “OK,” he said looking me in the eye, “I’ll let you try to make that make sense after church.”
The front door opened as we walked up.
“Aunt Miriam, you remember my friend Scotty. Hey, what smells good?”