When last I saw him he was baking in the hot sun, and his browned skin put me in mind of death. Now, as if revived by the chill air, he’s back in front of the far-corner bodega.
“Good luck to the peoples,” he says as I approach.
“Haven’t seen you here in a while, where’ve you been?” This may be the first complete sentence I’ve ever spoken to him. He’s always seemed one of those who’s better not encouraged.
He tips his gnarl-haired head sideways, it’s every animal’s gesture of harmlessness. Then he rights himself. “Got a quarter for a cigarette?”
He’s never asked me for anything in all these years. I dig in my pocket and hand him a shiny coin. “But where were you?” Now we have a transaction going, I’m thinking.
He looks askance again, and then all around him, as though a secret is coming the sidewalks can’t keep. “Good luck to the red lady,” he says, nodding at the air in front of him. I wait while a few people slip past me into the bodega.
He turns and looks me in the eye, takes a sip from his paper bag. “Good luck muchacha roja. No English. Good luck to the ladies and the gentlemen.”