When I asked Leo whether I could take his photograph, he glared at me:
“You trying to get fresh with me?! Are you getting fresh with me?”
Stunned but unfazed, I looked right back at him and joked:
“What? You? Never!”
He broke into a wide grin, but his eyes quickly brimmed with tears. He told me to wait at his stall while he sauntered to a van parked nearby. When he returned, he showed me a memorial pamphlet printed with a photo of a young lady, and explained that he was crying because I looked so much like his younger sister who had passed away.
I didn’t pursue what had happened, but when I was leaving his stall, he implored, again and again: “You stay safe now, you hear me? You gotta stay safe on these streets.”
(Leo has been working on the pavement outside Lexington Market in Baltimore every day for 15 years selling cologne, shampoo and personal care products. On this particularly frigid morning, he was wearing at least 8 layers of clothes including 3 jackets and 3 pairs of socks to tide him through the long cold day outside.)