People I Have Met in Pittsburgh

by Karen Lillis

J.B. who lives around the corner and who yes likes Debbie's Diner but who much prefers to eat at establishments where he can see his food being cooked.

Peter who owns a convenience store and is from Queens like we are most recently and is from Southeast Asia before that and who welcomes us heartily to town and who loves it here.

The barber who, if I look in his direction, smiles and waves even though I'm on the sidewalk and he's in his barber shop working on a man's head.

Alan who tells me as my credit card is going through about the ladies that come here from Southside every Saturday to look at the fish tanks all afternoon and also that he has twelve cats and so of course he has a spray bottle of this stuff in every room at home.

Reggie who has just gotten out of the House of Many Slams and who is grateful for his life.

The old woman in the post office who approaches me to tell me about sending an old postcard to her daughter "who likes to buy antiques on EBay, what's EBay? I don't know EBay. I bet you don't remember when stamps were three cents. My girlfriend, she just told me her doctor put her on Zoloft a year ago. Zoloft? Who’s ever heard of Zoloft? Me, I go out of the house, I volunteer at the hospital, I'll sit at McDonald’s if I have to, the most important thing is to get out of the house. My girlfriend watches the soaps all day. You're not going to live like that when you get older, are you?"

The old man who is from Russia who likes this city where he's been for twelve years ("It is green!" he points as it snows) whose daughter lives on 64th Street and 23rd Avenue in Brooklyn and whose niece lives in Bensonhurst (which sounds at first like Von Hoist) and who tells me "In New York, Seniors pay ONE DOLLAR to ride the subway. Here, NOTHING. Except between 4:30 and 5:30."

Terry who is very tall, especially for a woman.

The cashier at Eckerdt with rounded features, doe eyes, set-curled auburn hair, a real Penn. drawl who asks me "How big?!" are the photographs I am sending because I have a very long rolled up piece of glassine in my hand from the art supply store on Hobart, and who, after some confusion has passed, suggests just this side of insisting that I send them in a padded envelope.

Ricky who has nicknamed his next-door neighbor Nosy Rosy.

Robert who gives everyone in his store a free scratch-off lotto ticket.

Mitch who is a bit of a bitch.

The lady who sometimes plays violin in front of the Barnes and Noble or under the davenport at Giant Eagle.

Rachel from Kansas who just got married.

Erin from Moon Township who is a self-proclaimed "real girly -girl" but who loves the Steelers and is tired of explaining football rules to her girlfriends.

Cathy who carpools with four of the other office girls to work everyday from Swissvale.

Ellen who loves to visit her best friend in Virginia Beach and drive around to all the historic sites.

Virginia who keeps a straw basket full of condiments in the lunchroom so she can put them on her rice and cabbage.

Jenn who is half Italian, one quarter Japanese, and one quarter German; also, friends with the lady cop on duty.

Cynthia who is from Allentown and wants to move to San Francisco or Portland.

Andrea who is a "HUGE" Pirates fan and has her eye on a Pirates encyclopedia in Bargain.

Deborah who strongly encourages her employees to "Smile."

Jeffrey at the cybercafe who insists that before _______ retired, you could always predict the snow by what ______ thought it wouldn't do.

Marty, Jeffrey’s coworker who is always going to get or returning from getting a pizza from Aiello's for the kids playing virtual reality games.

Sandy who moved around alot as a child while her father was in grad school.

Celeste who lives alone with her aging mother and is trying to forgive her.

Kevin who used to work for the only mom-and-pop film developer left in town and who recommends asking for ________.

Christine who knows Squirrel Hill as "the neighborhood with the banjo shop."

The guy on the bus who knows Squirrel Hill as "the Jew-neighborhood I hate."

The guy on the bus who stood up for being a Jew after the other guy on the bus flipped out.

The addict on the bus who set off the first guy on the bus when she held up traffic whining to the driver about not having any money to pay her fare because they'd cut back on everyone's hours at work.

The two guys on another bus who are from very different education levels amicably discussing a library book about the American involvement in Iraq.

Colleen who just moved here from Florida and loves school.

The guy down the hall who just moved here from Bergen County, New Jersey, and works in database programming.

Adolfo who moved here 35 years ago after everything he owned was stolen from his apartment in New York City and he didn't become a soccer star.

Chuck who is from here and stayed here.

Jessica who insists that people from here, return here.

A.J. who lives with his grandfather and tries not to spend money when he goes out with his friends.

Angie who is vegetarian and in love with an avid deer hunter.

The woman at the diner in a collared pink shirt under a Steelers jersey who keeps repeating slowly but happily over her numbers ticket and to her companion, "I won twenty dollars."

The old lady singing to herself in the falling snow while pushing her grocery cart down the street, "Let it snow let it snow let it snow."

The guy on the bus who insists out loud he will harm the next person passing by if they touch him and don't say, "Excuse me."

The girl sitting next to him who shushes, touches, and whispers to him.

The middle-aged woman in the elevator who is living with her mother on the second floor and dating someone on the ninth.

Mark who is a drama major about to become a fireman.

Katie who is a psych major about to go to law school.

Dwight who is quiet and easily flustered.

Karen Lillis is the author of the novels i, scorpion: foul belly-crawler of the desert (Words Like Kudzu Press, 2000); the collection of short prose Tough Broads and Classy Dames (WLK Press, 2001); the novella Magenta's Adventures Underground (WLK Press, 2004); numerous self-published drawing stories, and the novel The Second Elizabeth (Six Gallery Press, February 2009). She's done readings all over downtown New York, in Pittsburgh, and in Paris; in 2000, she read her way across America, traveling by Greyhound bus. Look for her in a roundtable scene with New York author/editors in the 2007 documentary, "Obscene: How Barney Rosset Published Dirty Books for Fun and Profit."

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