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I finnnnally spoke to this man on my way home today. He’s one of the Dunn Ave. fixtures, holding down the fort on the white plastic patio set at the Convenience store at the end of the street. Kevin was the first one to spot him, described him to me one day, and occasionally checked in to see if I’d had the pleasure yet.  “He’s got sort of Viking-like red hair, wears a big jacket, colored stockings, a dress, and multicolored shoes. Oh, and he always has a purse,” Kevin explained. We gave him the name of Charlie, for easy reference; he came up a surprising amount in our discussions of the neighborhood.

I laid eyes on him for the first time last week, and managed to snag a decent shot of him. Today, I was en route home when I noticed him in his perch. It brought a smile to my face, I guess it was reassuring or something, and then I thought about our similarity in haircuts. As I was trying to steal a glimpse of his bangs, he head me off at the pass, looked me right in the eye and smiled saying, “Hey, do you want a smoke?”

“Yes I do. That would be great,” I said and walked over to collect his offerings. How could you say no? He reached in the small paper pack of cigarettes, slid two of them out saying, “Here, have two. Smoke one and try and think of some good things about yourself, and smoke the other and try and think of some good things about me.” I wonder if that’s what he’s up to while he gazes off in the distance, barely moving his hand from his face while he chain smokes for hours.

“I will do that. That’s such a nice thing. What’s your name?” I said, because now was my chance to know.

“Vala,” he says, and so I repeat it to make sure.

“No, Violet…” he enunciates, “like a flower.”
“Well thank you very much for these, Violet. My name is Cynthia and it was really great to meet you.”

And it was REALLY great to meet him. He has the kindest eyes I have ever seen. Yellow fingers, just soaked with nicotine, but seriously, the nicest, friendliest, warm your heart eyes I’ve ever had the pleasure to look into.

I even have half a mind to smoke the things.

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March 2012
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