by the bodega

He’s always in front of one of them, pacing around or rocking on an upended milkcrate. His skin has the browned hardness of a person who takes in every ray of sun he encounters. His hair is thick and shocked straight, merging into an equally thick and stiff-straight beard around the chin. His clothes are eternal and dirty, though the only smell that reeks from him is boozy sweat on warm days. I don’t know if he lives anywhere, but he is always at his post, on this corner or on that. He speaks and gestures almost constantly, unintelligible in any language. The only words I’ve ever understood from him have been “good morning,” and “god bless you.” He’s never a threat, he’s just carrying on a lively conversation with a world the rest of us don’t see. Sometimes if his inner dialogue casts itself in my direction, I say hello. Yesterday in the sunny chill, I walked by, and it was one of those days, so I greeted him. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Look, it’s the queen of the neighborhood!” Then he retreated into himself again.

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