Mikey hated the Y. The people at the front desk were nice enough, and it was decently clean, but the showers were communal, the beds were twenty-four to a room and bunked, the lockers for personal possessions were small, and all in all, it reminded him of being in prison without the perks, like meals and Gerard and Frank. He was trying to get himself out, but an apartment required a job and a job evidently required a lot of things, not the least of which was not being an ex-junkie con with no education past high school.
By the second week of searching, Mikey was down to one meal a day at the soup kitchen. Which, oddly enough, was how he ended up finding a job.
The church that hosted the soup kitchen was Unitarian Universalist. Mikey chose it because it was close to the Y, but it was nice, not feeling like he was being judged because he couldn't afford to eat. None of the volunteers even seemed to care all that much why he couldn't afford to eat, they just gave him extra bread and said, "Come around for breakfast, okay?"
But Mikey was always busy during breakfast hours, and lunch hours, for that matter, trying to find himself a job. It wasn't like he was applying for anything special. He had turned in applications at fast food chains and discount retails stores and anywhere, really, that seemed likely to be willing to hire the lowest common denominator. It seemed, however, that Mikey was slightly lower on the eligibility chain than that.
He started attending the services on Sunday mostly because it was a way to get out of the Y and because it felt like a thank you for all the food. Also, Mikey kind of liked listening to what Minister Urie had to say. He was young and energetic and he was generally talking about ways people could help each other out or how to ask for help if you needed it. It made sense, in the neighborhood he preached in, but it was still nice, the way he seemed to accept that people weren't perfect. Also, he had a really nice voice and conducted the choir, which was well on it's way to being completely awesome. Plus, there was almost always some kind of treat served afterward. Sunday was Mikey's day for church and Gerard and the dog park. It was easily his favorite day of the week.
The people at the church were nice in that they smiled but mostly left Mikey to himself until the week Minister Urie sidled up to him and said, "Hello, I'm Brendon. I've noticed you've come to the service these last few Sundays. Welcome."
Mikey said, "Hi," and shook the hand Brendon was holding out.
"Are you new to town?"
Mikey said, "Um, sort of."
Brendon smiled and didn't press. He said, "Well, if there's anything we can do to help you settle in, let us know," and left Mikey alone.
Brendon saw Mikey in the soup line, though, and came over to sit by him. Brendon didn't always come help with the soup line, but he was there more often than not. Brendon said, "So, you didn't tell me your name, which may or may not have been an accident, but I've decided to call you Kwame until you tell me. I've always liked the name Kwame."
Mikey blinked at Brendon, then said, "It's Mikey."
"Well, okay, I like Kwame better, but if you insist."
Mikey shrugged. He really wasn't one to insist on much of anything. Brendon said, "Actually, Mikey's kinda nice, too."
Brendon laughed. He laughed easily and loudly. It was nice, if somewhat surprising after three years of prison, where laughter was often the equivalent of a warning. "So you just moved here, and I'm sensing finding a job hasn't been the easiest."
Mikey stiffened. He was trying his hardest. Not even Matt was giving him any shit. In fact, Matt was being pretty encouraging, trying to help him out. These things took time he had told Mikey, over and over again.
Brendon said softly, "Hey, I didn't mean to offend. Everybody goes through rough patches."
He sounded like he actually meant it and after a moment, Mikey nodded. He made himself ask, "Know of any jobs?"
Brendon said, "Depends on what you're willing to do."
"Anything," Mikey told him honestly, because he was pretty sure that nothing could be worse than the Latino-run laundry.
"Even janitorial work?" Brendon asked.
Mikey nodded. He'd applied for his fair share of maintenance positions. Brendon said, "You busy when you finish here?"
Mikey shook his head. Brendon said, "Okay, there's someone I'd like you to meet."
Brian had more tattoos than Matt, but still less than Frank. Mikey tried not to think about Frank or Gerard, because it made his stomach hurt and his throat ache and it just didn't help with anything, but most of the time he couldn't help it. Brian said, "Hi," and held out his hand and then, "What's Brendon up to now?"
"Unfair, Brian, unfair. You know you love me."
"I think you're confusing me with my programs coordinator, but okay."
"This is Mikey, and he needs a job and he isn't afraid of toilets," Brendon said.
Brian made a noise suspiciously close to a laugh and then schooled his face into seriousness. "Hi Mikey, I'm Brian Schechter, I run this place." The place in question was the community center next to the church. Mikey knew some of the teens who hung out here helped at the kitchen and there were a lot of events that the church held on the center's property because it was non-denominational. In a neighborhood that was generally only known for its (bad) statistics, the community center had managed to provide a place where teens and families could go for classes, social events and just to hang around.
Mikey said, "It's nice."
"You have a last name, Mikey?"
"And why do you want a job cleaning my toilets for not very much money and even less benefits, Mikey Way?"
Mikey flinched at Brian's incidental use of Frank's nickname for him. He said, "You're gonna run an identity check, right?"
Brian said, "State law."
"You're gonna find out I just got out of prison on a three year stint for dealing."
"Three years?" Brian tilted his head. "What the hell were you moving?"
"Not-- We were in a school zone."
"Ah," Brian said. Evidently he knew a thing or two about mandatory minimums. Mikey wasn't surprised, not with the kids he worked around.
"You still use, Mikey?"
"No," Mikey said softly and didn't think about drying out while he was in the hole, cold and alone and with only one bucket.
"Have any plans to start again?"
Mikey shook his head. He couldn't be fucked up when Gerard got out. Gerard would need help.
"Are you willing to help me educate kids who are thinking about screwing up their lives that way?"
"Um, if you think-- I mean. I could try."
"Okay then, I could try you," Brian said.
"Wait." Mikey ran over the words again. "Um, you're serious?"
"Show up here tomorrow morning around ten and we'll figure out the best schedule for you. We'll shoot for forty-hours, since I really can't afford more. I'll discuss your package then, too. Like I said, it's not impressive."
It took Mikey three times to say the words, "Thank you." They kept getting caught on his tongue.
My workplace is having an ice cream social for the start of the school year tonight. Spencer told me that if I don't come he's going to make me eat all the leftover ice cream entirely by myself. I sort of believe him. He's scary like that. Spencer's the education director at the center, I can't remember if I told you that. He's been best friends with Ryan (the program director who's totally in love with the UU minister) for forever. I work with Spencer a lot on the not-sweeping-hallways part of my job.
I was thinking about what kind of sundae you'd make. Yours would be more fancy than mine. I like vanilla ice cream with pineapple and chocolate chips. I bet you like nuts, you usually want candy bars with nuts. So, um, maybe vanilla ice cream for you, too, and nut pieces and hot fudge, because you like chocolate, and maybe bananas, I think. I'm not sure about that last. I know you like apple treats, but I never asked about other fruits. I don't really even know if you liked the lemon bars that much.
Anyway, I think I should go. Jon, the guy who does all the publicity for the center, he asked if I was coming and when I said I didn't know he said, "Oh come on, we're not that bad to be around," so I think maybe they think I don't like them, which isn't true, really, I've just been trying to find an apartment. Nobody's crazy about the idea of renting to an ex-con and the safety deposits are really high, so it's taking a bit, but I'll find something.
I got you a Snickers. I think I might like them more than you do, but they're the kind of candy bar everyone puts on ice cream, so I thought