A low moan was heard around The Court that day. When my husband and I went to investigate, we ran into our fellow Court neighbor, Ben. Ben was an older widower, who enjoyed long days of sunning at the pool with the rest of us. “You guys hear that?” Ben asked us immediately. “Yeah,” I responded looking over the gate to the pool, “sounds like its coming from in there.” We opened the gate and exchanged a what the hell is going on look with the 16 year old female lifeguard. She motioned us over to her and whispered, “He’s been here for hours. He just keeps crying.” She pointed at the huddled mass of towels weeping on the decade old lounge chair in the corner. “Oh my God,” Scott gasped, “It’s Jefe.” A collective sharp breath of air was taken, as we surveyed the scene.
Jefe was last seen outside of his garden level apartment two summers previous. Following the debacle described in South Florida Baby part 2.
We slowly walked over to him. We followed a trail of Affliction merchandise to his sobbing body. A hat, a shirt, some flip flops. “You okay, Buddy?” Ben gently asked. Jefe peeked out from under his towel. Two beady red eyes focused in on the three of us. “Oh, my sister, she died.” He barely said it when he started heaving into howling tears again. “Oh my goodness, Jefe, I’m so sorry!” I sat down next to him, immediately feeling guilt for all the fun we had telling the “South Florida, Baby!” story over the years.
“Sí,” He continued, in a sudden unexpected Cuban accent, “she was mi hermanita! Oh Díos!” He produced a bottle of Patron from under the towel and started guzzling it.
Ignoring his sudden ethnic reorientation, we decided the best thing to do was get some food into poor Jefe’s stomach. Within 15 minutes, pizzas were delivered to the pool, and we all sat down to eat at a table. “You are mi gente, my people. They don’t have people like you in South Florida, no way baby. Different way of life, thank you for being my people. Oh, you are mi gente!” He wept into his pepperoni.
“Of course we are your people, Jefe!” We all responded while eating our pizza. “I’m going to make you mi mama’s tacos cubanos!” he continued, “You are good people; I never met good people like you until I moved to Buffalo!”We exchanged worried glances at each other.
After what seemed like hours at the pool, talking and counseling a grieving Jefe, it was time to go. We exchanged phone numbers and all agreed that friends stick together, and that Jefe needed to start reaching out to us for help and friendship from now on. Jefe held his heart with his right hand, and put his left hand on Ben’s shoulder. “You,” he said with a powerful voice, “are mi gente. Its not like South Florida, Baby… no way.”
We parted ways feeling like we made a true connection with a lost soul. Oh, poor Jefe, we all agreed. He was alone and isolated, he needed friendship, not ridicule. I went to sleep that night really feeling like I learned how to be a better person that day.
To Be Continued….