I was sitting at a bus stop on Sepulveda. It was late afternoon. There was one other guy waiting for the bus.
A man came walking up. I’d say he was around fifty. He had a full beard. From his face it looked like he’d spent a lot of time in the sun. The blue T-shirt and grey pants were both faded. No shoes, just socks on his feet. He seemed to be looking for something.
‘Hey, you guys seen a pack of Winstons?’
I took a quick look at the sidewalk.
But then I turned to the right and saw something that looked liked a pack of cigarettes lying on the ground a few feet away.
‘Is that it?’
I pointed. He walked over and picked them up. He opened the pack and took one out. Then he offered the pack to me.
‘No thanks. I don’t smoke.’
He sat down next to me.
‘So what’re you guys doin for the fourth?’
The other guy didn’t answer.
‘I’m just goin over to a friend’s house,’ I said. ‘We’re just gonna hang out.’
He reached into his pocket. Pulled out a small metal pipe and a cigarette lighter.
‘I’m gonna see if I can find someplace to watch the fireworks.’
‘Yeah. They got lots of shows all over the place. Maybe in Balboa Park.’
He lit his cigarette and took a drag.
‘They used to have free concerts over there,’ he said.
He went on to tell me about the bands that had played there. I said it sounded pretty cool. We went on talking aimlessly for a few minutes.
Then he put the pipe to his lips. He held the lit end of his cigarette in the bowl. Took a drag. A minute later he put the pipe to his lips again, and this time he took a really long pull.
Not long after that he started talking again, but now he wasn’t talking to me, and he wasn’t making any sense. He spoke in a low voice, and he just kind of rambled on. I couldn’t understand much of what he said. Slowly he started slouching forward. And then he kind of nodded off.
The bus came and I got on board. As I was riding down Sepulveda, I wondered how many other people like him were wandering around LA on the Fourth of July. Lost, lonely people, looking for someone to talk to, looking for a place to watch the fireworks.