Today on the way home, Harper asked me: “Where is the man with flowers?”
We were at a stoplight, just past the coin-operated carwash, before the derelict deli with the fading sign in the shape of a giraffe. The telephone poles on either side of us were covered in bright green posters, band names like a secret language. KAZZABE, SANTA FE Y HERMANOS ARRIOLA. Hollywood Par Casino. Honduran salsa, maybe? I had never heard of the venues. They were in towns off freeway exits I have never taken.
We drove past the graffiti mural with the chicken holding a sign that says “Race is Not A Crime.” Then the small neon square that says “Christ Is The Answer.”
“You mean, the man who was selling flowers? at the stop light?” I asked her.
“He was sad,” she said. “I like him. I want to see him.”
“Maybe he’ll be there next time.”
We passed the Panama Dance club, the Nuevo Camino School, the corner grocer that takes food stamps. The barber shop and the botanica that promises love spells.
“Did you want to buy flowers?”
I would never have thought to buy flowers from him. Lilies closed like fists, wrapped in plastic. Pink roses that looked a little hysterical, like they had been injected with food coloring.
“Yeah!” she said. “Maybe that would make him happy.”
She doesn’t know her own address, yet. She can barely remember what city we live in, confuses it with the names of the cities where her grandparents live. She doesn’t know the word “homeless.” When we saw a man talking to himself in a parking lot with dirt in his beard, I just told her, he’s having a little trouble. She asked about him later, too, the man who was having trouble.
At the bottom of our hill, a small army of men pushed shopping carts hung with plastic bags. They all had so many bags, they obscured the bodies of the carts.
“OK,” I promised her. “Next time we see him.”
Next time, I’ll buy flowers for my daughter.