"It's a lot quieter around here without him," George commented.
Indeed. Pops tended to hold conversations with people about a block away, and when he'd been drinking he was even louder. He never wanted to let a conversation end, either. He was annoying, often unintelligible and excessive, and he always made the poorest choices. I enjoyed him immensely.
He always called me "Gorgeous" and greeted me with a big hug, surprisingly strong for such a skinny guy. In time I learned that his name was Kenny, but on the streets he was known as Pops. He wasn't truly homeless, George told me, but he was halfway there because his wife kept throwing him out when he'd been drinking.
He'd ask me for money about every fifth time I saw him. He'd say it was for food or medicine, but I knew I was also supporting his drinking. The food wasn't much better for him than booze, anyway - he'd go straight to McDonald's, where he could get something that didn't require much chewing, as he didn't have many teeth left. Sometimes I'd be able to give him tomatoes from the market.
Yes, Pops sure was a character. And maybe someday, when various aspects of him make their way into my fiction, he'll be appreciated as a character. Some people need to be transferred to a page before we can see the sweetness behind all those obnoxious qualities or the entrepreneur behind the con.
As a writer I certainly enjoy all the characters in my life, from Pops and the Rose Man in the Bottom to Aggie, Mac Forbes and Johnnie Missick on North Caicos. But they are much more than fictional material. Their larger-than-life personalities, while sometimes (or even often) off-putting, add flavor to our bland everyday lives and remind us that all people are bundles of contradictions, of good and bad, of fortune and misfortune.
Yeah, Shockoe Bottom is a bit quieter these days. Too bad. I'll miss you, Pops.