by David Solórzano
Back when I lived on Lilley Ave there was a homeless guy who slept in the alley between our building and Vic’s pastries. He wore an old Bruins jersey, number 35, that must have originally been black, but had faded over the years to a dirty, depressing gray. Me and my roommates started calling him Moog, after the name on the back of the jersey, but since none of us knew anything about hockey we pronounced it like a cow sound with a G on the end.
For a while another guy hung out in the alley with him. He always wore a sailor’s hat so we called him The Captain. He was a little younger and a lot fatter than Moo-g. Sometimes when I was bored I’d watch them through our living room window. They never did anything very interesting, they just sat there with their backs against the dumpster and occasionally passed an Old E 64 back and forth.
Sometimes I’d pretend that they were one of those old timey comedy teams where one guy is a big fat dumbass and the other guy is a loudmouthed little prick, and that they were in a black and white movie where they were former business partners who’d gone bust and ended up as tramps, but the skinny, brainy one was working on some zany get rich quick scheme that would have them back on their feet in no time.
Or I’d pretend that they were from a rich family and that their grandfather had just died, stipulating in his will that they would only get their inheritance if they spent a year living on the streets, learning a thing or two about the value of a dollar.
Or that they were undercover cops staking out the third floor apartment where our neighbors sold coke.
But I usually grew tired of that pretty quickly and closed the curtain and watched TV.
I didn’t really know the guys I was living with. One was a freshman at UML who applied too late to get housing. Every so often he’d have a couple of his friends over, and since they weren’t yet twenty one they’d pay me to buy them beers at Manning’s. Then they’d head over to east campus, get hammered in some Donahue dorm and stumble back to the apartment around one, one thirty. I knew they’d be loud and annoying when they got back, but I was still happy to take their money.
When they were really drunk they liked to fuck with Moo-g. Nothing too bad, mainly just yelling shit down at him. They’d chant Chug! Chug! Chug! while he drank his 64, or they’d make weird screeching sounds and then duck when he looked up to see where they were coming from. Or if The Captain was around they’d make gay jokes about the two of them. Yelling “give him head!,” stuff like that. I wasn’t happy about it, but I never said anything. They’d all laugh and I’d fake laugh, “Huhyuhyeah.”
The only time they really crossed the line was the night one of them found a dead mouse in the trap behind our fridge and decided it would be hilarious to throw it at Moo-g while he slept. He held it by the tail, swung it around a few times and let it fly. He missed, but they laughed like crazy anyway. It made me furious and I wanted to say something, but all I could muster was “Huhyuhyeah,” and I went into to my room and kicked my mattress.
Eventually new roommates moved in and we stopped paying attention to the alley, but Moo-g was always there, drinking his 64’s, getting in adventures.
Like the morning when I was walking to class and I saw him getting yelled at by some woman in the Top Donut parking lot. She was screaming and he was laughing, which was only making her angrier. “I can’t believe ya laughing right now,” she screamed. “I had ta bleach my friggin shoes so I wouldn’t have roach eggs in ’em, it isn’t friggin funny!” He laughed harder and harder, “bahahahah, bahahahah,” slapping his knees and spinning around like an old prospector.
Or the night all of Centralville lost power and he stood out in the middle of Aiken Street directing traffic. I was walking home from work when I saw him out there, waving cars through and holding cars up like a pro, wolf whistling, giving thumbs up to the drivers, who gave him friendly waves in return. When I got to the curb he held his hand up and said, “One momensir” before waving me across a few seconds later. I think he might have been the first person to ever call me sir. I thanked him and he said “Jus’ tryna help.”
Always wearing his Bruins jersey. Number 35.
I talked to him once.
I was walking home from class and it was raining. He was standing below the Hess Station awning trying to stay dry and I decided to buy him some chips. When I handed him the bag he said “’Ass whudahm talkin about!” and he thanked me four or five times.
I told him it was no problem.
“Ay if only I’d a been born rich instead a good lookin ya know,” he said. “Bahahahah.”
He put the chips down and pulled a pack of Pall Malls out of his pocket. He pointed it at me as a way of offering me one.
I’ve never been a smoker, but I took one anyway and thanked him. We stood there smoking and I asked him about The Captain, who had stopped coming around about a year earlier.
“Hey, what happened to your buddy? The guy with the hat? He used to hang out around here.”
“Ah, that guy’s gone,” he said as he took a drag. “Jumped offa bridge.” Another drag. “Fuckin retahd.”
It got quiet for a minute and I started taking bigger and bigger drags. It made me cough, which made him laugh.
He finished his cigarette and flicked the butt into a puddle. The rain was slowing down. “Ay, ya know what bridge he jumped off?” he asked.
It took me by surprise and made my drop my cigarette. “Uhm, no, I don’t know.”
“Go ‘head, just guess,” he said. “What bridge?”
“Uhm, I don’t know, Aiken Street?”
“Bahahahah, Aiken Street? Ya fuckin kiddin me?” He slapped his knee. “Ya couldn’t fuckin kill yaself jumpin off ‘at bridge. Bahahahahya fuckin kiddin me? Sprain yankle maybe, bahahahah.”
He picked up the chips and tore the bag open. “Nah man, Younversidy Ave,” he explained. He grabbed a fistful of chips and shoved them into his mouth. “Ya believe that shit?” he said as he chewed. “Fuckin landin on ’em rocks downnair? Fuckin retahded as shit.”
I closed my eyes and I pictured the University Ave. bridge and the rocks a hundred or so feet below it. Then I imagined them covered in blood with an old sailor’s hat sitting on them, a stiff breeze blowing it into the Merrimack, and it floating away, past the canals and the old mills, by Lawrence, out past Haverhill and Newburyport, before finally getting dumped into the Atlantic like so much other forgotten garbage.
“Shoulda done it offa Bridge Street,” Moo-g said.
“I’m sayin ‘ass the best way ta do it. Ya go off head first so ya head hits the watah an it knocks ya out, then ya drown. Bettah than smashin into them rocks, ya fuckin kiddin me?”
“Ah, that fuckin guy nevah had no luck anyway tho,” he said. “He’d a probly lived if he jumped offa Bridge Street. Then he’d get probly get sent ta Billerica, ya know. Locked up an shit.” He pointed the chips at me and I shook my head. “Ay, suits you,” he said. “Tasty ass shit man. If only I’d a been born rich instead a good lookin, bahahahah.”
He stepped out from beneath the awning. The rain had just about stopped. “But naw, ya know what kinda luck that guyyad? If it was rainin pussy heeda got hit inna head wit a prick bahahahah, bahahahah.” He slapped his knees and spun around.
He threw some more chips into his mouth while he continued to laugh, then he started violently coughing. “Kuhawkawjesus H man, almos choked on one a them shits. Bahahahah, ‘at’d be a good way ta kill yaself, choke on some fuckin chips, ya know?”
I didn’t answer. I tried to think of the right way to say goodbye.
“So howwud you do it?” he asked.
“If you were gonna kill yaself. Howwud you do it?”
“Uhm, I don’t know, shoot myself I guess?”
“Ya gotta gun?”
“Bahahahahkindahahdtashootyaselfwidoutagun!” He doubled over and stumbled off the curb, his boots splashing into the puddle where he’d dropped his Pall Mall butt.
I waited for him to catch his breath and look at me, then I took my phone out of my pocket and checked the time. “Well, I should g….”
“Hangin yaselfs the bess way,” he interrupted.
He coughed and hocked a loogie. “Definilly man, ya know how ta tie a noose?”
I took my phone out and looked at the time again. “Nah man, I can barely tie my shoes. I still do the bunny ears thing.”
“Ah, well ya can look that shit up man. How ta tie a noose, search ‘at.”
“Yeah, I will. Thanks man,” I said and put my hand up.
“Ay, no problem.” He took my hand and pulled me in for a half hug. “Ya seem like a smaht dood, yull figyah it out. Google that shit. Bahahahah”
“Huhyuhyeah. Alright man, good talking to you.” I started to walk home.
“Ay, thanks again fa the chips man, thanks again,” he said.
I walked across the parking lot and turned onto Lilley Ave. I looked to my right at the alley behind Vic’s, then I turned back around and looked at Moo-g, still standing in the same spot.
“Ay, search ‘at shit!” he yelled. “’Ass the bess way ta do it, I’m tellin ya.”
“Thanks,” I yelled back.
“Jus’ tryna help, jus’ tryna help.”
David Solorzano is a graduate of The University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He currently lives in Somerville and works for tips in downtown Boston. Catch him on Twitter @dwsolorzano.