Scott’s History, Part 3

30 Jan

In 1992, Scott left Byerly’s to make his ascent up the ladder of finer and higher-tipping restaurants. Unfortunately, I stayed behind. I was a very efficient waitress and Byerly’s demanded speed to get out its three-course meals, but I was still pretty shy and lacked the kind of personality that Scott used to woo his customers and that would definitely be necessary for him as he made his way up. I’ve also never been good with drunks, once hitting a customer over the head with a tray when he was misbehaving. (He was someone who liked me, so I really wasn’t vulnerable to losing my job.) Taking a job where I would serve alcohol was probably out of the question. More important, my biggest booster, regarding attending grad. school, had moved on to another job, and on nights when I had to write a paper when I returned home, he wasn’t there to urge me on.

Scott had his own aspirations–at the University of Minnesota he had majored in Drama and Communications and minored in English. At his first job after Byerly’s he worked at Boogies at the Mega Mall. “Good Company,” a popular talk show in the Twin Cities, filmed him for a segment on their show and then invited him to be a guest host on yet another show, where he was able to talk about dogs, a favorite topic for him. That led to a convention where he met Doris Day. Who better to meet the famous jazz singer and actress than Scott, who had seen all her movies and knew all her songs? We all thought he had gotten the break of his life, but all the excitement about entering the entertainment business fizzled into nothing.

His nights were different now, and since I was often working later than him I didn’t find out why at first. One night he called me up and said he had something important to tell me–that he was gay. I don’t remember being surprised, maybe because it fit in so well with the way he had always come across, but I do remember being worried, because I think it can be so difficult to be gay in this country and I felt protective of him. It turned out that he had come out first to the gay men he had met in downtown Minneapolis, and that hurt my feelings a bit. I thought: who are they in his life, compared to me? He’s said to me more recently that getting involved with other men was very exciting, but also scary. That wasn’t the kind of thing we talked about then. It was more: whom can I trust to tell next?

It turned out that the decision about whom to tell next was taken out of his hands. One day I walked into work to find people clustered in twos and threes. What had happened was that Sally, a waitress I liked, but didn’t know very well, had been angered to find out that a friend of hers had lost a good shift to a friend of Scott’s. She had met Scott through a mutual friend downtown, but had not spent much time with him. She did know that he had worked at Byerly’s in the past. To get back at Scott’s friend she decided to out both of them. The friend was married and had never presented himself as gay. The wait staff was shocked–not with finding out that Scott was gay–but with Sally. They were horrified with her. Scott was alternately disbelieving and repelled. He definitely felt uncomfortable visiting everyone at the restaurant, even though he was told they blamed Sally, and stayed away.

What didn’t make him uncomfortable was taking me downtown to the Gay Nineties and the Brass Rail so I could meet his new friends. A bar is a bar, but the people in these bars seemed more relaxed, and I missed going out for drinks like I had in the past. It had been awhile for me. The Gay Nineties was the bigger of the two, with a stage for floor shows, mainly focused on dancing in various stages of undress. Once Scott had one of the best-looking guys come down off the stage, pick me up, and dance with me in a circle. It had more of a mixed crowd: part of the reason for that was the presence of heterosexuals who were unfortunately looking to see what a gay bar was like. I preferred drinking my gin and tonics at the Brass Rail, which was smaller and more intimate. Scott was able to participate in karaoke there, which was slumming for him but fun.

What did make me a little surprised was that nobody checked me out, except for Scott’s friends, who were probably wondering just who I was. There was African American and married Brent, who, later, was the first of Scott’s friends to die, in his case of AIDS, and there was beautiful blonde Brent, who always carried a comb in his hip pocket, and, according to Scott, wanted my skin. Big Mike was a talker. I wasn’t always sure he was telling the truth, but had fun eating chocolate chip cookies at his house. He’s also no longer with us, having died of AIDS. I met Mick once at Gay Pride; he was dancing and didn’t want to bother with me. He later died of lung cancer. He was the one with whom Scott had a romantic relationship, and for that reason I would have liked to get to know him. Still, the friendships remained somehow more important to Scott than the romances, although maybe the friendships were what he was willing to share with me.

Scott’s closest friend from that time in his life was Tim and he was the one I was the most interested in meeting. When he came home for a visit we attended Gay Pride with him. Tim was a nurse who had attended Oral Roberts. After several years of staying in his hometown of Minneapolis, he moved south to Florida to live the high life, where Scott visited him at his two condos, one in South Beach and the other in Key West. Of all Scott’s gay friends, he probably had the most potential academically and was the one of his new friends with whom Scott had the most in common. Initially he was quite successful, holding down two nursing jobs. However, he became hooked on drugs, actually stealing them from one of the two places he worked. The second to the last time he flew down, Scott watched Tim scarf down a dozen cupcakes without stopping. That obsession with sugar is often a sign that someone has a serious dependency on drugs. Tim also searched Scott’s suitcase to make sure he hadn’t stolen anything. He had become increasingly paranoid. He committed suicide shortly after losing his license to practice nursing. Scott had felt helpless to do anything about the situation, living so far away.

To Be Continued

 

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