Jimmy is a plaid dumpling of a man. He makes leather goods – belts, wallets, jewelry, bags – and he opened a little shop in my neighborhood at the end of summer. It’s a rotten location for something like that, but he’s doing his best. He sees me go by his window about four times a day, on my way to drop things in the mail or catch the bus or get coffee or just take a walk. We’ve been waving and nodding to each other for several months now, and a while back I found him standing out front smoking a cigarette, so I stopped to ask how the shop was going. We talked for a while about what he makes and what I make and about selling what you make. He’s asked me to bring my jewelry in so he can see and “maybe sell some at these gun shows I do.” I doubt that’s going anywhere, professionally, but I’ll take some things in and show him and we’ll have another nice talk.
On my way home from the grocery store tonight, just as I was coming up towards Jimmy’s shop, I passed a very tall man wearing headphones who said “Hey…” to me in a flavor I didn’t like. I got slurped at last night, and I’m always skittish for a couple of days after an episode of street harassment. So I was happy to see the lit windows in the leather shop, and I waved and yelled “Hi, Jimmy!” And he came and stood in the door and said, “Hi, hon.” And tall and strange sloped off without saying anything else.
I don’t really have a point here, except that it reminded me of leaving Chicago and how much I was sure I’d miss my neighborhood and feeling like I knew absolutely everyone who worked or walked there. I’ve lived here for a year now, and as I walked the rest of the way home I realized that I recognize and chat with most of the clerks in the stores where I shop, and several of my neighbors, and a couple of neighborhood regulars like Jimmy. I’m a regular here now, too. That felt nice.