He had strong, clearly defined features, a face battered by life and apparently all the happier for it. Funny, how a smile can transform one's being. Like Tran, he was liked not because he was attractive, but because he was always beaming. Confidence. Whenever he saw me, he would practically explode with delight, and I would do the same. My passengers on the 7 would smile.
Once a couple of frat boys gave him a Big Gulp filled with motor oil, as a cruel joke; he was in the emergency room all night as a result, but afterwards was still as positive as ever. Talk about a resilient worldview. If he can be happy, I have no excuse. These guys are pros.
For me it was important to get a wave in. Who knew how hard his day was progressing. Maybe that small gesture– actually, a rather large one, as our waves, complete with fistpounds to our solar plexi and peace-sign salutes, were massive– was sorely needed. I recall a day when I was in my car driving past; he didn't see me, and I didn't stop because I had no food on offer. But I did have my emergency gallon water jug. Did Andy's thirst qualify as an emergency? Yes.
I U-turned around and pealed back, stopping at a red across the street. He recognized me in my non-bus car and street clothes, as I ran across the lanes with the gallon of water. The day was a scorcher, and he really needed it.
"Thanks so much for that day, bro," he would tell me so many times afterwards. "I still got the jug as a keepsake!"
Often there was a second man panhandling there- a quieter fellow, mild in both manner and look. They'd amble amongst different sets of cars looking for handouts, not quite stepping on each other's turf. Time went by and the day came when I noticed I hadn't seen the Dostoyevsky guy in some time.
I asked Mild Guy about it.
"Hey, where's the other guy? I haven't seen him in a while,"
"Oh, Andy? He's dead."
"Yeah, he died a couple months ago."
"What? Oh, my goodness. I haven't been on this route for a bit,"
"Yeah. He didn't take very good care of himself,"
"Shoot. That's a shame. What a great attitude that guy had."
"Yeah, he was cool."
Today, more than a year later, I look over at the northwest corner of Rainier and Dearborn, minding my own business– double take. There's a figure over there, dressed almost exactly as Andy always was, except this guy is younger, and he's breakdancing. Andy had a severe limp and a missing arm; he could never move this fast. But otherwise the resemblance- specifically the wardrobe- is uncanny; I don't know if it's an intentional tribute or not. It is for me. It's as if Andy's ghost is still dancing, moving and breathing as he never could in life. A blur, pinwheeling in and out of himself, that smile transformed into movement, a ball of energy rising, a revolving top, a whirling dervish...
How do we exist after death? In the memories of others. We live in their minds, as long as they remember us. We carry on in their hearts and actions, informing their thoughts. You are that memory that drifts in on a rainy day, in the midst of a cluttered market, on the beach alone. You spread and multiply, many different places at once, your friends and lovers taking a second glance at that bookshelf, or laughing at something you always did, or them sticking up for something because they distantly remember your attitude, defiantly positive to the end.
Then you fade away.
Smaller and smaller inside all of them, becoming more a part of them then an identifiable memory of you. You spread into the soil of the human spirit, no longer a corpse but now everywhere and nowhere. You were a person, then a memory, then an idea, then a feeling, then everything.
I can still see him now.