It felt like old times, me and Rosa spending the afternoon down at the shopping center. New people have come and old people have gone. The shopping center is a never ending revolving door of us misfits.
"Have you seen Dan?" I asked Droopy, a long time cohort of George's who is often down there.
"I ain't be seein' dat old man for days," Droopy replied.
"It's the heat," Rosa said. "It's chased him inside."
I made a mental note to go by Dumpster Diving Dan's house to check on him.
"So George says Ferret's homeless again," I said to Droopy.
"Dat nigga be stayin' down on the river again," he replied. "Almost got busted for public drunkenness the other day over here."
Ferret is like me. We either have it together or our lives are a disaster. There is no middle ground for us. I can only imagine what he looks like these days. His past stints with homelessness would find him going weeks without a shower or shaving, and wearing the same clothes for days. I didn't want to see him for fear of what I would find.
"Do you think we should take him something to eat?" Rosa asked me of Ferret.
"I think we should just stay out of it," was my reply.
Droopy then asked to borrow a cigarette. I gave him a cigar instead, which he reluctantly lit up.
"Dis ain't too strong, is it?" he asked.
"They are 'lights'," I replied.
"You shouldn't have done that," Rosa told me as he walked off across that parking lot. "He will ask you every time for one now."
"I know," I said. "I am far too gullible these days to be hanging out with this group down here."
Rosa laughed and put her arm around my shoulder.
"You let me make the street smart decisions."
And she was right. You give an inch to the characters that hang out down at the shopping center and they will take a mile. It's a delicate dance of push and shove that, oddly, feels more comfortable and familiar than the milquetoast social circles my father and family inhabit. It is like a whole 'nother world. And it felt like old times.