Urban Journeys – The Parking Lot
by David Rambeau
Nobilus Johnson was an old man, but he still liked the ladies. He was more than seven years past the biblical three score and ten, but not in his dreams. There he was still a player.
In his youth he had sired an indeterminate number of neglected children that put the authorities on his trail. Somehow despite his promiscuity and trifling ways, he had evaded the multiple, now roughly fifty year-old warrants for his arrest for failure to pay child support. Those who were once his babies were currently grandparents, but the state still wanted the mountain of monies he owed for their support ages ago. However, with the bottomless sea of outstanding cases on the Friend of the Court docket in Wayne County, his luck held. He was one black man the marshals never caught up with.
Initially, and then inevitably, they couldn’t find him because he never had a traceable 9 to 5; he was a hustler, for a while a shoe-shine man, then a pool shark, at other times a numbers man, a penny-ante gambler, a pimp, an A & R man for a small-time record label, a wino and finally a con-man. He never had a driver’s license nor a Social Security card; he was all taxis and cash. He had lived his life on the fringe, but not underground. For all his shady occupations he was not a mean man, but the sum of them cast him as a fool.
Eventually though, old age caught up with him. As it will you. But he still liked the ladies. Now they cost him much more than he could afford. After all, how many tricks will a monthly SSI disability check buy…along with a sleeping room rental, food out of a can and some pocket change.
He was one of her regular customers, patronizing her as often as he could accumulate, by any means, her fee. It wasn’t that it was so high, but as he grew older and more infirm, the cost of his prescriptions soared, so ever increasingly he was faced with a choice between life and death, between pleasure and routine. More often than not he chose pleasure. So should you.
In days gone by he would sport his whores on weekend trips to classy, out- of-town hotels. They were high-living call-girls who modeled red outfits, accesorized with dangling gold ear-rings, authentic jewelry, black fish-net stockings and spike-heeled shoes. Over time, the weekend trips became one-night stands; the luxury hotels morphed into seedy, off-street motels. Some of his partners even managed to get married and drop out of “the life.” N. J. soldiered on. War is a young man’s pursuit and so is the night circus. But some can’t give it up even when their uniforms no longer fit, or look, as his shiny polyester suits with wide lapels did, decidedly out of fashion.
One evening when he took a long-time sweetie to a neighborhood motel on St. Aubin, he found himself twenty dollars short of the cut-rate, three hour, no-television room charge. With a smile bordering on contempt, the night clerk offered him a parking space in the back lot for ten dollars. When he went back outside to his date and told her what happened, she told him she’d add the ten dollars to his fee and take care of business with him in the parking lot behind the supermarket for free. Because it was her El Dorado Cadillac they were in, his arguments against hers carried little weight.
She spread the freshly washed, Scottish plaid blanket on the plastic covered front seats, then unbuckled his belt and reached inside his silk shorts. She began a steady massage while staring into his face for a familiar response. She smiled as her handy-work began to take effect, but his face contorted and glazed over. His eyes closed as he gasped for his breath, then opened with only the whites showing. His sweetie screamed as if he had been transformed into a werewolf.
“I, I, I…” He had something to say, but his tongue wouldn’t uncurl. “I gotta get some air; I can’t breathe.” His focus had returned from some place in the back of his skull. “I gotta get out of here.”
In his hurry to get out of the car, he crashed his head into the window before he could open the door. He struggled with the handle as if pursued by a demon. Even though his pants were off, he still had trouble getting his feet and legs moving. He tumbled to the ground, his silk shorts tied around his ankles, then crawled to a garbage bin to sit on a milk crate. Just as he sat upright, he groaned in agony. His head slumped forward and his body went limp.
The whore called to him with a hushed voice, then she also groaned. And cursed. Slowly she looked left and right, her spirit glad to hear only silence and the night. The light poles in the parking lot were the only witnesses. She picked up his pants off the floor and flung them at him past the open door and in one, intense, continuous motion pulled the door shut and turned on the ignition. She drove away; Nobilus stayed.
His funeral was four blocks long. It reminded you of long freight trains passing through the community. People paused from their chores to watch the procession. Barbers stopped cutting hair. Beauticians let their customers come out from under their hair dryers to see what was going on. Some questioned whether it was the mayor who had died; others laughingly suggested it might be the pope. It was neither; it was Nobilus Johnson, neighborhood icon, ne’er-do-well, patron of prostitutes. No matter. It was a still a grand occasion.