I know what this neighborhood is like during the week, so I was curious to watch it wake up on the weekend. Early this morning, I woke a sleeping Cholula, grabbed some coffee, and headed to the front stoop.
(For the record, it is surprisingly quiet around here on Saturday morning)
A man (older, dirty clothes, filthy hands, limited teeth, and wearing a Veteran’s ball cap) was picking cans out of one of the bags of trash at the curb. He saw Cholula and a huge smile took over his face (side note: it is impossible to walk past Lula and not smile.).
Cholula, who typically stands like a statue during “walks”, literally jumped for joy and ran toward him as if he were a long-lost friend. She was wiggling and carrying on, and he walked over to pet her and talk to her. I have not seen Lula this excited since I’ve been here!
As the “reunion” continued, he began speaking to me. Telling me about his cat, who was named “Nicole”. He paused a moment before telling me her name, so I guessed there was no cat. But he went on about how smart and talented she was. At one point, he pulled what used to be a cell phone from his pocket, as if to show me pictures.
He mentioned that the phone was dead, and that he needed to head over to his ex-wife’s house to charge it.
While he told me the story of his ex-wife, her son “Nicky”, and the things a normal person would say about the people in their life, I began to pick up that these were, at least at some point, real people in his life.
He drifted off for a moment, and then pointed to the apartment behind me and said, “I’ve lived here about 5 years I guess. But before that I was homeless for awhile. I used to be an attorney, but my son committed suicide, and I couldn’t handle it and lost everything.” The look in his eyes brought me to tears, and I made a mental snapshot of his face at that moment.
He carried on with more of the story of his ex-wife, and how he provided everything for her son, Nicky… from clothes to college… and that he was upset with Nicky’s mom for never helping, even though she had enough money for vodka. His face lit up as he described Nicky as part Puerto Rican and part Greek, and that he always attracted the girls.
I told him Nicky sounded like a terrific kid, and he turned and said it was probably time for him to head over and see him, because he was taking him shopping for clothes today, since school had started up for the fall, and he would need a new wardrobe.
My heart broke a little inside my chest right then, and I understood the love Cholula had given him earlier.
Rest In Peace Nicky. Your dad loves you.