I cut across the parking lot to Los Angeles Street. I waited for a man carrying a bottle wrapped up in a paper bag to lurch and stumble past me, then made a left onto my street. I hear him behind me, greeting another man, offering him a drink out of his bottle.
"Hey my brother, how you doing? Want some of this?"
I keep walking, but slow down to hear the exchange. The other man refuses.
"I don't know you and you're crazy if you think I'm going to drink that shit."
I keep walking without looking behind me. I can hear the other man's footsteps behind me and to my left. I'm almost at my front door, so I slow down and look behind me for charging pedestrians before I veer left. The man is walking beside me now, and he comments on their exchange to me.
"Crazy fool. Like I'm going to-- hey!
I looked at him and we both recognize each other. I was just wondering about him, too. I met him when I first moved into the Alexandria Hotel nine years ago. He was a nice enough guy, a thirty-something black man living at the Alexandria. But he always hit on me (which got tiring after a while) and he hung out with some questionable characters in front of Charlie O's, but that was years ago.
"So when are you going out with me?" he'd ask.
I had an easy out, "My boyfriend wouldn't like that."
Then all of a sudden, he wasn't there anymore. I ran into him a few years later, he was hanging out with a small group of black men, drinking and shooting the breeze on the streets, on 5th between Spring and Los Angeles. He didn't look too good back then, but today was a different day.
"Hey! How are you?" I asked. I remembered thinking about him just the week before, hoping that he found his way out of the streets.
"I'm doing good. Are you still living over there at the Alexandria?"
"No, I got out a little while ago. I live here now," I said, pointing to my building.
He looked at the building, then his head whipped around, his big 'fro following a second later.
"No shit?! Ed hired me to do some work on the 5th floor." He nodded his approval, his 'fro seconding his words. Ed was the general contractor for our building. This past summer, we watched as Ed supervised some workers from Chrysalis as they waterproofed the roof on the building next door. He pointed across the street. "Yeah, I work over there at [name withheld] and live over at [name withheld] now. I get a couple odd jobs here and there to stay busy and out of trouble."
"Good for you! You know, I was thinking about you the other day, wondering if you were around, if you were okay."
He smiled and nodded knowingly. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Glad to see you're out of that place, too."
"Yeah, me too. I guess if Ed has you working on five, I'll be seeing you around."
We shook hands, genuinely happy to see the other - even if we didn't know each other's name.
"Take care of yourself, and Happy Holidays," I yelled at him, over the blaring sirens of the passing firetruck and emergency medical vehicles. He yelled something, but I couldn't hear it over the din of the streets. We parted ways and I walked into my building. I went out onto my patio and looked at the city below. The sidewalks were crowded with last-minute shoppers. I couldn't see him, but I like to think he felt much like I did - glad to see someone else get their life together and get out of there. Next time I see him, I'll have to remember to ask him his name.