Making Friends and Influencing People
“Hey, Leo,” I said. “I saw your picture in the paper. You’re a hero.”
“Aw man,” he said. Aw, that wasn’t anything. I just wanted to make sure nobody wasn’t in there. I mean, it could have been me. I didn’t hesitate.”
“You did good, Leo.”
I could tell he was pleased that I had seen his picture in the newspaper. I wondered if he knew who I was, especially since he has some vision problems.
“Hey,” he said, suddenly, earnestly, as if he was reading my mind. “I do remember you. I want to apologize for that last time.”
That surprised me. Leo and I had met on the street almost a year before and had a conversation that lasted about half an hour. He had been drunk and had said some fairly cynical and mean things, as well as spilling a lot of his pain and frustration. It was a random encounter that began with him asking me for 18 cents and ended with a hug. Overall, it was a sweet conversation. I couldn’t believe, given his confused mental state and his level of alcohol consumption, that he remembered after all this time.
“I didn’t mean any of that,” he said. “I have a lot of anger.”
“We’re ok, man. No harm, no foul.”
He threw his arms out and gave me a big hug. There’s something sincere and raw and soulful about Leo. He is short, with long grey and black hair and he smells like a campfire. He’s a mess of emotions and chemicals and questions.
“Hey, you’re a pretty lady,” he said.
“That’s what my mom says, too,” I replied.
“Then why don’t you believe it?” he asked.
I loved his fairly transparent attempt to work his way into my emotions through pop psychology, but I refused to go there.
“We’re all beautiful,” I said. “All of us.”
“Yeah, we are,” he said. “Can I borrow five bucks?”
“You’re amazing, Leo,” I said. “You DO remember that whole conversation.”
“Yep. You told me to ask for more than 18 cents last time.”
He was absolutely right. I had told him he had to think bigger. Oprah convinces people to live their dreams. Meanwhile, my sphere of influence extends to getting one homeless guy to raise his prices.
“How about it?” he said, cocking his head to one side. “Did I mention that you’re a pretty lady?”
He got the $5. I got another hug and he played me a song on his harmonica. Best entertainment value in town.