Monday, December 13, 2010

The Enterprise - 19

There was a bodega on our corner, run by Yemeni brothers. Each morning they fried up a giant, tangled pile of bacon on the griddle and the thick, rich smell would pour out in a steam plume from the vent to 105th.

Jeff the Happy Homeless Guy stood on the corner all day, every day, like it was his job. I never did see him more than half a block away on either side. He was perpetually drifting past the bodega door, on his way to nowhere. He'd signal me cheerily, eyes alight, flashing a chipped-tooth grin. Then his face would fall. He'd mumble something to indicate he was in need, always as though it were an unexpected and exceptional circumstance. Can ya help me out? It was important to him – maybe important to me, important to us – that this transaction not become as rote as the exacting of a toll. So it became a little ritual: the bright greeting, the solemn appeal, the inevitable donation, the warm parting of ways. At the end he usually asked after my sister and told me to tell her something I couldn't quite understand.