Samir is a lot closer to forty than he is to fourteen. For all the good it does him -- when he’s around cutie-pie Kerry, a waiter at his favorite happy hour hotspot, he feels more like a tween girl backstage with a boyband than any kind of upstanding professional.
Especially when he’s drunkenly inspired to write a letter to Santa Claus, in which he asks to find Kerry under his tree on Christmas morning. A wish that verges on coming true, even, until Kerry breaks their Christmas Eve date for the worst reason Samir has ever been called upon to pretend to believe. But Santa works in mysterious ways ...
Sipping his beer, munching on saucy chicken, and watching Kerry swish his carefree little butt between tables, it occurs to Samir: “I have a chimney now. Isn’t that how Santa Claus breaks into your house?”
Lisa laughs. “So they say.”
“Do you think if I put up a tree this year, Santa could leave a guy like that under it on Christmas morning?”
Lisa shrugs. “I mean, probably. I got my first bike and my first set of golf clubs from Santa.”
“So he’s big on sporting equipment? I can work with that. For example, I’d ride that guy until --”
“But how will Santa know to come to your house?” Lisa interrupts to ask. “Did you guys celebrate Christmas growing up?”
“Not really. We usually went to my uncle’s restaurant in Des Plaines. He does this lamb, it melts in your mouth like chocolate.”
“So Santa’s probably never heard of you. You should write a letter.”
“Like of introduction? Maybe you should do that for me. Break the ice. Hey Santa, remember me? You probably thought I was a lesbian that one year you brought me golf clubs? Anyway, I have this friend ...”
“Forget you. If I’m gonna write a letter to Santa, I’m gonna ask for my own dude. Ooh, or maybe a cruise.” Her eyes twinkle as she laughs. “I’m gonna be in Florida anyway. Get me a cruise and a new sundress, I can go load up on men. Maybe an evening gown for dancing ...”
She shrugs. “What do you care, if you get your little man? There’s plenty to go around. Santa’s not stingy.”
Kerry happens to sashay by with a salad for a neighboring table. When Samir catches his eye, he flings the salad like a Frisbee, then scampers to Samir’s side. “What’s up? You guys doing good?”
Samir nods, then asks, “Do you have any paper we could borrow? Maybe a couple of pens?”
Kerry thinks on this. “Our kids’ menus come with crayons. They’re paper.”
“Is there a place for writing on them? Like a blank space?”
Kerry shrugs. “Not really. Why? What are you trying to write? Like if I bring a sheet of printer paper from the office?”
He scurries away. He’s gone for several minutes, then reappears with a small stack of plain white paper and a fist full of writing implements, which he plops down between Samir and Lisa. “There’s pens, a pencil, and a few crayons. We seem to mostly have green.”
“A green crayon is perfect,” Samir says, reaching for one. “Everybody uses a pen. And green’s a Christmas color, right? He’ll have to notice me,” he tells Lisa.
“I bet he’d notice you anyway,” Kerry ventures, garnering an appreciative grin from Samir. “Whoever ‘he’ is.”
“Santa Claus,” Lisa explains, herself opting for a stubby Michigan’s pencil.
Samir shoots her a sideways clam up! look, but Kerry gets right in the spirit. “Ooh, a letter to Santa?” He slides a piece of paper off the top of the stack and folds it into his apron pocket, then reaches for another of the green crayons. “Maybe I’ll write one, too. It’s been a while. What are you gonna ask for?” he asks Samir.
“A lifetime supply of chicken tenders,” Lisa cracks.
“No.” Kerry’s eyes go wide. “Then you’d quit comin’ in here. Don’t ask for that. I’ll bring you all the tenders you want.” He winks, emboldening Samir.
“I’m asking for you,” he says.
Kerry doesn’t miss a beat. He raises up on his tiptoes and waggles his heavy eyebrows in delight, then leans over Samir’s shoulder conspiratorially. “Ask him if I come in different sizes,” he suggests. “I’ve always wanted to be like six feet tall. Is six-two too big?”
He presses up against Samir, the better to coach him as he writes. “What about different colors? Can I have red hair? Ooh, or do I come in Latino?” Dancing across the restaurant, Kerry’s like a delicate-winged fairy, tousle-haired, diminutive, and twee. This close to his armpits, there’s no mistaking his earthly roots. His middle is small, warm, and solid; his slender arms are hairy, pocked with a history of hot plates; he smells of kitchen grease, spilled beer, old smoke and chewing gum, and Samir can tell by the way Kerry hip-checks him with a smile that he notices the reaction in his pants.
“I don’t know,” Samir manages to say with a degree of self-possession, “I kind of like this version.”
Kerry straightens up. He takes two steps away, then bops up on his toes again. “I don’t know,” he says. “This version’s pretty rare. But if Santa can make it happen, I’m down.” He flashes a grin, then he’s gone.
Samir turns to Lisa. “Oh, I’m gettin’ a tree.”