It was a cold February evening- Valentine's Day. I was 19 at the time and on my way home from work. A modest paying job for a gal my age - $10 per hour as I recall. I sat on the bus with my arms full of gifts - mostly chocolate. I could hardly see out the window because they were all steamed up. The bus was full of passengers. Many were left standing. I always looked forward to the ride past my old neighbourhood. I would look up Ashford Boulevard at my best friend Siobbhan's old house and smile from ear to ear. The 7/11 store still stood on the corner where we would load up on candy each day before school - Siobbhan always had more change than me. She had a steady source from her Dad's stash of coins he would leave on the kitchen table. We would share our penny candy, sucking on each one and saving the sour cherries for last. They were my favourite!
I peered out the bus window this time and couldn't believe my eyes! There was "Lenny". I hadn't seen him in YEARS! He was walking by the 7/11 store where I met him for the first time when we were kids! I could've cried. I think I did. "Lenny" was a homeless man who walked back and forth down Main Street all day long near our school. He was older then but now he looked even more fragile. What was he doing still homeless, I thought. "Lenny" shuffled down the snow-filled street in his shoes that were all torn up. I peered down at him from the bus window and I was overcome with emotion. I quickly pulled the bell and got off at the next stop. I ran up the street towards him and shouted "Lenny, Lenny!" He turned around and looked at me with a blank gaze. "Are you talking to me", he said quietly. I then regained my composure and realized why he had not responded to my calling out to him. I had never learned of "Lenny's" real name. I gave him this name when I met him years ago and would run into him often on the street. He would simply humour me and go along. "Hi Sir", I said, this time in my adult voice. He smiled. I emptied all of the remaining money out of my wallet. It did not amount to very much since I just spent it all on chocolate. "Here you go, please buy yourself some hot coffee and get warmed up." "Lenny" opened his cold, red, chapped hands and held them out as I stuffed them with money. He looked up at me and said "Thanks sunshine". My heart melted. He used to say that to me as a kid when I would share my Skittles and Smarties with him on the bench outside 7/11.
"Lenny" began to shuffle away as I called out to him again. This time I didn't slip with his name. "Sir, would you like some chocolate too?", I asked. "Always", he said.
I watched him walk away into the night and I knew that would probably be my last sighting of "Lenny". He had been homeless for many years. As a child I could never understand how people could not have a house to go home to.
I still couldn't understand at 19.
Wherever you are now Lenny, I hope you are warm.