Larry reappeared the following Tuesday. After what had happened with Dad, I felt weird, like I had to either stop and talk for half an hour or avoid him entirely. I loitered by the school steps for a while, talking about American Horror Story with a cute guy from math class while he waited for his ride. We agreed to text later, and he smiled at me through the window as his mom’s station wagon pulled away. Heat fizzed pleasantly under my cheekbones as I trudged down the street toward Larry.
I crouched down on the balls of my feet and handed him a five. “Hey, Larry. How’s it going?”
His answer came slowly, softly. “Not too good, man. Thanks.”
I felt my eyebrows meeting. “What happened?”
“Well, I was staying at my buddy’s place. He was out of town. Putting his mom in a nursing home. That shit’s tough.” He paused, as if it were painful to go on. “I uninstalled the program I use for my art. I was going to update it. But now they’re asking me to pay $64.99 for three months!”
“Can’t you just reinstall it?” I asked, strange anxiety pricking my chest.
“I tried, but it won’t work. I asked my friend to help me pay for the new program. He’s been selling my shirts and taking a cut, so I thought… But he won’t do it.”
“Well, it’s good he let you stay a while,” I said, feeling useless.
“Yeah, it was a really nice apartment. The TV was enormous.” He held his arms apart. “But he said I had to go on Sunday. So here I am.” He crossed his wrists over one knee, big hands dangling.
“Damn, man.” I didn’t know what else to say, so I just shook my head.
A couple of minutes passed as we watched the city move around us. The wind shifted, and that unmistakable homeless person smell invaded my nostrils. I ignored it as long as I could, but finally I stood up. “My dad’s waiting on me. See you later.”
Larry glanced up at me, eyes fading, and nodded farewell.
Adrien Kade Sdao earned their MFA in Creative Writing (Writing for Young People) from Antioch University Los Angeles, where they now teach through the Continuing Education program inspiration2publication. They are a reader and guest editor for Voyage, a young adult literary journal. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, K’in, Lunch Ticket, Fterota Logia, and more. They live in North Hollywood with their cat, Shelly. Find out more at aksdao.com. Adrien recommends the NoHo Home Alliance.