I worked all three of my jobs over the weekend. The retail one, the delivery one, the freelance art one. I was feeling super worn out, frustrated, and annoyed at all of it, by Sunday nite. Grateful for the work, but super maxed out.
It was around 6pm on West Sunset at the Spitfire Girl location. There were no guests in the store, but I could see (and hear) plenty of people-traffic outside. Mainly bums, cursing at the moon. It was dark. Cold. I was chilly even while wearing my jacket inside.
Just then, a rough looking dude walked in – straight to the back of the store where I was working alone. I tried to remember where the pepper spray and taser were sitting behind the counter.
“I’m so hungry. Do you have anything?”
We sell snarky vintage-styled tins of gum. “No…. sorry I don’t have anything.”
“You must be the propriet-ess of this establishment.” It was my first day in that store. Second day on the job. “Do you have any work I could do to earn some money here?”
“No…I don’t.” I noticed some art tucked under his arm. A flower drawn on a piece of heavy card stock. “What do you have there?”
He showed me his homemade signs that he uses to hustle people for money. “Oh, I was just drawing this flower. It’s on the back of this –” He flips it over to the old fart side.
“I love that!” I do. I have a thing for type and creative homeless people signs. Not the hipster kind where kids write “Too lazy to work. Need a beer and cigarettes”.
“You know what?” He says, “I have 98 cents. I’m gonna go next door, get a cup of coffee from Donna (I don’t know who Donna is) and work on something for you, ok? What’s your name.”
He shuffles out and I’m alone again in the store. Somehow I’ve forgotten how stressed I am about finishing my freelance after this shift is over. I’ve forgotten how I’m sniffling because it’s cold in the store. I’ve forgotten that I could really go for a glass of wine right now. All I can think about is David. He was outside during that horrendous wind storm we had last week. He said he huddled in a corner during the worst of it.
A few more customers came in. Then an hour later, David returned, all hopped up on coffee. He walked straight over to me “Lauren! Since you loved the flower so much, I finished it and signed it for you!”
I love every bit of the whole thing. Front and back. “David, thank you! I was hoping you’d write something on it! It’s perfect.”
“You think so?!”
“Yes. Here.” I hand him a ten. I tell him artists should be paid for their work. I don’t tell him that I know he could use it.
He tells me how he used to be on drugs, alcohol, that. He’s off it all, but his body never recovered. He’s missing teeth. His frame is slight. He says he feels 60-years old when he wakes up. I joke that I do too. He says don’t we all! He has a charismatic sensibility. He explains why he hates the shelters, how it’s dangerous to be homeless downtown. That the homeless are killing each other. The police are cracking down. And that it could happen to anyone. I believe him.
“Tell me, Lauren. Do you like Marilyn Monroe.”
Who doesn’t! “I do!”
“You know what I’m gonna do, I’m gonna go to Denny’s (he waves the ten), sit down, and make you a nice pencil drawing of Marilyn Monroe.”
I hope he can get two meals out of that. I haven’t been to Denny’s in a long time, but I’m trying to calculate the inflation on an order of ‘Moons Over My Hammy’ since my college days.
“It was very nice to meet you, Lauren!” I wanna give him a hug, but he reaches out his hand.
“It was very nice to meet you, David.”
“I will see you soon. With Mar-i-lyn-Mon-rooooe!”
“I can’t wait!”
I take David’s piece home with me. I unknowingly drop it outside of my car, in the dark, and think it has disappeared and that he was actually an angel and none of any of that story ever happened…! But I find the piece the next morning. Put it in a cheap frame and on my mantle.