I live on the western border of Mexicantown. When I used to live on the eastern border of Mexicantown, there was a guy who sold roses on the overpass.
No matter which season it was, or what the weather was like, you’d come to a stop at the light (well, I would; I am usually well-behaved in traffic) and Rose Guy would be there with an old pickle bucket full of surprisingly vibrant long-stemmed roses. These flowers were amazing: so bright against the gray overpass that they often seemed limned in neon, and they actually had a scent to them – unlike most of the Apology or Pick-Me-Up roses you could find at the gas station right across the street from Rose Guy .
Rose Guy was utterly unattractive and he always wore too many layers. His hair was hopeless, which is probably why he also often wore too many hats. As your car rolled to a stop, he would shake the pickle bucket in your general direction and grimace. Sometimes he’d manage to grunt out, “Rose, hon?”
If you bought a rose ($3) or a bouquet of three ($5), he’d throw you a tired, lopsided almost-grin and wave his hand in a, ‘just a minute, the paella’s nearly done’ kind of way before grabbing your selection out of the pickle bucket. When he took your money he’d grimace again. Always. The light would change and you would drive off, vaguely wondering if that empty 2-liter was still in the break room at work so you’d have somewhere to put your flowers.
If you declined the roses, he’d yell, ‘FUCK!’ and then would mutter to himself the entire time you waited through the light: ‘I’ve been out here all day and it’s goddamned cold/hot/wet/icy/dry/boring (I swear he said ‘boring’ once) and cars cough gas at me all the time (another direct quote) and I fucking hate the smell of fucking shit-ass roses (ditto). This fucking town…’ and so on.
Angry Rose Guy was amazing far beyond my capacity to capture it in words.
I had four fabulous years of buying random roses on my way to work whether I could afford them or not, and of having someone echo my own feelings of futility and despair on the days that I absolutely could not afford even a $3 Detroit overpass rose.
I had occasion to visit the eastern end of Mexicantown over the past few days and I noticed that Angry Rose Guy is gone. I asked around and apparently he’s been gone for a while.
Shout out, man. You are missed.