My shift was finally over. I couldn’t wait to get home and get out of my clothes. My feet were sore in spite of the shock absorbing ergonomic mats they purchased for each register. I stepped outside into the cool November air and was warmed by the notes of a saxophone. It had been a few weeks since I heard that sound. My friend had returned. I smiled and walked over to Drew’s Rotisserie and ordered two platters.
My co-workers told me not to encourage him by feeding him. But he wasn’t homeless as they all had assumed. Leo was an old man that needed something to do with his time. He just wanted to share his gift. He loved to play. He never accepted my money, but he looked forward to a good meal and a dinner partner from time to time. I stood outside of Drew’s and listened to Leo play. He was playing, “Learn to Love.” Something in the air made the notes sound perfect. Not too much echo. None of the notes seemed to float too far away. The song could be heard clearly no matter where you stood the parking lot.
I sat on the half-wall across from him. He opened his eyes as the last note drifted above us. I handed him his platter and drink.
“I haven’t seen you in a row of Sundays.”
He smiled at what he referred to as my “old soul” terminology.
“I’ve been a little under the weather. But they patched me up and I feel like new!”
I wanted more details, but didn’t want to be rude and pry. So all I said was, “Well, I’m glad to have you back!” He offered an appreciative smile as he began to eat his meal.
“I’m going to be leaving again. You probably won’t see me here after today.”
“Are you going to a different spot? Let me know where. We can still do dinner.”
“I meant, I’m leaving town. My sister is already here. She had apartment packed and called the movers to haul my stuff before I left the hospital.”
“This is your bossy sister? Not the other sister from New York, right?”
He gave a hearty laugh at my reference to his twin sisters.
“Yes, the bossy one, Loretta. She’s taking me back to New Orleans to live with her. Tracey is actually going to be moving down, early next year. It’s hard to keep up with each other with the distance between us.”
“I figured you’d move with in Tracey. It’s a closer distance to travel. No need to fly.” He told me how much he hated flying, once.
“It is, but Tracey is a bit of a jet setter. She’s always on the go. But she’s moving down next month. She and I were the rebels! We couldn’t wait to leave home and see new things! I saw the world while in the military. She saw the world traveling with this orchestra and that. We’ve had full lives, but this seems like a good time to go back home. That’s where the rest of our family is. All but our kids, that is. They have set up their lives in other places. Living away, just like we did.”
I nodded my head. I planned on “living away,” just like his kids. But not having anyone you knew around, especially if things went south, was a bit of a risk.
“Yeah, I know that look.” I looked up. I didn’t realize that he’d been observing me. “It’s worth the risk. It’s not always lonely. And from what you’ve told me, you come from a good family. They’ll be there if you need them. This is the time for you to live! Take that job overseas! Fall in love, but don’t have no babies too soon! Don’t laugh! I’m serious! Kids will stop you in your tracks! See some things. Build some memories for yourself, then come back home and build your life.”
“Travel, build memories, don’t get pregnant, come back home. Got it!”
We both laughed then fell silent as we finished rest of our meal. I gathered our trash when we were done, and dropped everything in can a few steps away from where we were sitting.
“I hope you’ll come see me in your travels.”
“Of course! I think it might be my first stop! I need to check Mardi Gras off my bucket list!”
“Good! It’s a date!” He handed me a slip of paper with his new address and phone number on it. “Put that in your phone,” he instructed, “I expect to hear from you before the month is out! We may not live in proximity after today, but we can stay in touch.”
“Yes, sir,” I said, pulling out my phone obediently. Leo picked up his sax.
“So, any special requests?”
“There is Always One More Time. It’s my favorite.”
He nodded and played.