He’s been sitting at the bus stop just down from my apartment building in Hollywood for a couple of weeks now. Everything he owns is piled up in carts beside him. He keeps his head down and wears shades. He’ll ask you for spare change once, but if you say no he won’t bother you every time you pass by. I like that about him. Maybe that’s why I stopped today.
“Here,” I said, “God bless you.” I had done the deed and turned away. Mentally I was already inside eating my lunch.
“What’s your name?” he said.
I turned back. The shades were off and his eyes were clear and blue. I had to answer.
“Billy. My name is Billy. What’s yours?”
“George,” he said, “My name is George.”
We talked. He’s Italian. His mom ran a famous Italian restaurant at the corner of Sunset and Cahuenga. George made the pastries. Sinatra ate there twice a week. Then she died. The family fought. Something happened. Life happened. He never got it back together. “I could make some pastries!” he said. I bet he could.
I can’t help him. I can’t save him. But I can know him. Know him, to paraphrase Dickens, “as if he really were a fellow passenger to the grave, and not from another race of creatures bound on some other journey.”
Few ask your name in this city. Few care. He did. His name is George. I’m glad I know that.