The Man Who Would Be Leonard Cohen

He looked like an affluent Canadian cowboy, without the hat.

“I remember you well...” That’s what I wanted to say to the man who looked like Leonard Cohen. It was a lyric to one of my favorite songs of his.

He walked past me at the bookstore that I work for. I’m a writer in Los Angeles and like a cliché, with my dangling name tag, working as retail slave to pay my bills with a college degree that’s propped up on my makeshift dresser in the basement apartment that I rent in Pasadena.

I couldn’t tell if it was him. It had to be Cohen. The old man had that vibe, the way that he was dressed in very expensive handmade blue jeans with Native American symbols running up and down his pant legs. He looked like an affluent Canadian cowboy, without the hat. He had shiny beige boots that I imagined would click on the tiles and sidewalk as he walked.

I needed to know if it was really Leonard. I watched him as if he were a shoplifter, but I knew that Cohen wouldn’t steal. He was the greatest writer of our generation. I stood in front of the sci-fi shelves as I pondered my move.

I had to say something to this _viejo_ who had to be Leonard Cohen. As he made his way along each aisle, I actually found the courage to speak up.

“Are you finding everything? Do you need some help, sir?” I asked, hoping this stranger was the great poet who wrote “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” the song that I loved and knew by heart.

“No, thank you, I’m fine,” I heard him say in a deep throaty voice. He sounded exactly like Leonard Cohen. That’s when he grabbed a Frank Herbert book and went toward the register. Maybe he didn’t want to be recognized. I watched him walk away like a stoic explorer—head held high, looking for his next adventure somewhere far away from here.

The memory of the old man’s aura hung in the air as I whispered the lyrics to “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” hoping he’d walk back into the store.

“Ah but you got away, didn’t you babe…” I guess I’m hoping that one day, the essence of one of these artists and stars I admire may rub off on me.

"You just turned your back on the crowd...” Maybe they might recognize the talent and gift of the writer I aspire to be burning inside my flickering self.

“You got away, I never once heard you say…” It doesn’t really matter if these strangers see me as the artist that I am.

“I need you, I don’t need you...” Those were the only words I could mumble to myself. The lyrics that I have memorized were the soundtrack to every moment of hopeful longing in my ever-changing life.

“I remember you well...” I sang to myself, pondering whether it was really him. Does it really matter? “You were famous, your heart was a legend....”


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