A few posts ago I semi-joked about the occasional shootings we hear about in LH and though that may hint at my becoming a bit callous, I can say with confidence that I am still well aware about what that means. Tuesday night at about 10:30 pm Romen Cabral, a resident of Highland Park, was gunned down in a walk-up shooting, he was 14 years old. KABC is saying it may be gang related but more important than that, this was a person.
I heard the round of gunshots, they didn’t make the usual pop-pop sound but were more of a thud-thud, and like any angeleno, I dropped down for cover. When I managed the courage to check things out, expecting to find nothing as is usually the case, I witnessed the wrenching sight of a woman crouched over a body, at first looking confused then frantically screaming for someone to call 911, while another lady and her child hurried to get some help. The body, lying face down on the cement, showed no sign of movement and it was clear that this guy, whom I had assumed was older, would not be seeing another day.
I’ve seen many dead people (I used to work around corpses, more on that some other time) but something about this incident had more of an impact on me. Maybe it was the fact that there was no scrambling to get away, that there was no immediate flurry of activity and no instant screams, it almost seemed as if the woman was unsure of how to respond. The overwhelming stillness at the center of her attention just exuded permanence and tragedy. What struck me most about the scene under the dim street light were the clean white soles of his tennis shoes: almost ghostly, they stood there, toes pointed down, flopping sideways, immobile, now of no use. After a few minutes when a sister of the boy showed up, wailing and cursing the circumstances with screams of “Motherfuckers! I fucking told you!” that’s when it really set in: this dude is really dead. And all I could think was que lastima.
After awhile, all the neighbors got back to doing their thing, one more tragedy in the city, luckily its somebody elses. I don’t know him, just like I didn’t know the last casualty or (hopefully) the next one, so we move on. Just as we do everyday with the news from Iraq, dead American soldiers or Iraqi civilians, it’s somebody elses tragic problem. Be it the racket of the neighborhood gang or the really big gangs of Nation-States, it’s all a numbers game: eventually, if you play long enough, yours will come up. Cholos and Soldiers are alike, they both play up their bravado, join a dedicated “family”, and commit to a cause that is often meaningless, the consequences of which are usually felt by others. Romen may have been a budding cholo and for many, that’s going to take him off their sympathy list. But no matter what the circumstances, to someone he was a son, a brother, and a friend. The deep pain that his people now feel is real. I’ve yet to know that sort of pain and don’t pretend to understand, but the sight of it on another human being, that alone is a pretty fucked up feeling. And i’ll place my bet that we’ve yet to see the last of it.
Later Homie Romen.