This homeless man used to be my neighbor, maybe around 5-7 years ago. Nowadays he carries his belongings in a shopping cart and passes the days doing weird crazy things, like shaking his head at full throttle in a circle as if he’s trying to cast off the pulgas or just wants it to pop off entirely. He doesn’t seem to recognize me, but I remember him.
Back when I first moved to Lincoln Heights you could find all kinds of good deals on big spaces, that all seems gone now. But it was quite common to see renters moving to and from houses on the same block, either cuz they were forced out or they just found a better deal. (I lived in 3 different places on one block: once just 2 houses down from the first, then right across the street. Moving is kinda less complicated but you end up having to walk that damn heavy fridge over longer distances than if you were loading it onto a truck.) Incredibly, I ended up being the next door neighbor to Ramiro and his family twice, even when we both moved out of that first block.
When I first met Ramiro he used to often sit in his blue pickup truck, drinking a beer, it seemed to be his getaway spot. But since he was parked right outside his place, his wife Maria (yeah, that was her name, I’m not making this shit up) was always calling him for something. Usually a trip to the market or somewhere. No matter if I was just getting home, helping out with the garden, or trying to get the shitty car to run, his salutation of choice was always Ya Mero? Since it was a question (basically, ‘almost done?’) it usually led to some response that explained a little about what I was doing and a small conversation ensued. When I was in a hurry the response was simply Si, ya mero.
Maria always seemed exasperated with him, I think it was because of his drinking but it was probably other things as well. At first he seemed okay. Once we were neighbors at the second location it was obvious the drink had taken hold of him. He wasn’t working and was just getting drunk, day in and out. Cops started showing up to the house regularly as well as paramedics, the poor man’s doctor. Ramiro seemed to be losing it, he had the shakes really bad and I’d see him sitting on his porch with a twelve of Natural Light at 8am, chugging them down as if he was on a deadline. At some point he got into the habit of peeing on the lawn, with his dick completely in view of the public yet he was not at all concerned, as if he was unaware of anyone or anything.
Then he disappeared.
Maria hinted that he had problems, I didn’t probe. But Ramiro was gone. I figured he died, considering his health issues. Maybe he could have ended up in jail, but I really doubted it since he didn’t fuck with anyone, just minding his own aluminum can. Whatever, he was gone. Eventually the family moved away and about two years after that I ran into Maria in a different stretch of Lincoln Heights. I didn’t ask about him as she had obviously moved on and was doing relatively well with her life. She was still friendly and neighborly, despite our past confrontations over that missing ruda. Emergency health remedies need no approval in the middle of the night.
Earlier this year I was driving by the laundromat and I spotted some homeless guy that looked familiar, but it didn’t seem possible. A week or two later I get a close up look, and sure enough, it’s the dead guy Ramiro. Or formally dead, at least to me. He had a few blankets and lots more issues than I remember. He doesn’t seem to be drinking anymore but that past seems to have altered his mind. He looks around a lot but doesn’t focus on anything. He has the craziness now. I gave him some pocket change, he didn’t recognize me. He mutters things to himself, I can’t pick up what he is saying.
Mostly I run into him at the laundry. The day I took these pics he seemed to be hovering all over, since I encountered him again a few hours later in a different part of town. He’s not a friend of mine, just some random ex-neighbor. I think the idea for this post is just to document how a person moves from the margins of society over to that void thats off the page.
This is the body of Ramiro, it still moves and functions, but it’s a shell of the person it once was. No, he’s not destined to be a footnote in history, he’s just another ordinary man making his way through the same coil we all traverse. He just got to an unexpected bend faster than most of us.
This is the specter of a forgotten man.