Four ghosts


Scrolling through photos today, I came upon this shot from a couple of years ago, and it occurred to me that I have not seen this woman in quite a time.

Funny how you don’t miss people who are not there.

She once was a fixture on the big plaza downtown, specifically just over there, across from me, where I sit many afternoons having an espresso and reading my Kindle.

I never knew her name. She would sit on the door stoop that’s visible to the right and sell medicinal herbs. I never purchased any because I don’t know what to do with medicinal herbs, plus I normally feel pretty swell anyway.

Her disappearance overwhelmingly means she has died. She was not young.

By dying she joins a group from the past, people I have looked at.

Three others come to mind.

There was the little old man with the newspaper-wrapped machete and raggedy sombrero. He toted a few belongings with him always, and I imagine he lived on the street. He was nuts and often grinned and spoke to no one in particular.

Once, as I was sitting at a sidewalk table, he paused in passing to converse with me for a few minutes. He made no sense, but I smiled and nodded affirmatively because you don’t want an unhinged old man with a machete to think unkindly of you.

I haven’t seen him in a few years. Surely, he is dead.

And then there was that other old woman. I did not like her. She paused and asked for money at every passing, which usually was daily. She would get snotty if you didn’t hand over change. I didn’t like her attitude, so I never gave her anything.

Before you think me a miserable tightwad, know that I hand over change quite readily. Just not to that woman. Because she was snotty. Snotty gets you nowhere with me.

She too has vanished. Gone to Hell, I’m guessing. I hope not.

Even the bad-tempered can be redeemed, they say.

Number 3 is the fellow in the wheelchair. For years he would roll his chair into the middle of the ring road, at a speed bump, and await charitable contributions from drivers. I often contributed because I liked his attitude. I liked him.

He too sported a wide raggedy sombrero — to block the raging sun.

He often would be reading a small booklet of a religious nature. He was in a wheelchair because he had no legs. I don’t think he had a family either, which is sad.

Family is everything to Mexicans.

Some nights I would see him propelling his wheels alone down a dark sidewalk toward, I assumed, a sleeping spot. He slept on the sidewalks atop cardboard.

He too has vanished. Perhaps he is not dead because he was not old, probably in his early 50s. I hope he is though. No family, no friends, no home, no legs, cardboard for a cot. It would have been a life of stunning bleakness.

I pray his religious pamphlet provided some moments of peace and hope — of a life with family, love, long sturdy legs, hot baths and warm tortillas.

* * * *

Four ghosts. Only one photographed.

13 thoughts on “Four ghosts

  1. A nice read for this beautiful Christmas Day…wishing you and your much younger bride best wishes for the season…hope 2014 brings all the best to to you both…saludos desde Guadalajara!


  2. My best to you and yours in the New Year. This time of year makes us think of those less fortunate. We that read your thoughts are among those who have little to complain about, and should be happy that we can. May we live long and shout from the hilltops!


  3. It’s interesting how we come to recognize those we don’t know, but with whom we share space. We have volunteered the past few years to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless and elderly at a local organization. I don’t really know any of these people, but I’m beginning to recognize some of them. I hope we helped make their Christmas a bit brighter.


    Kim G
    San Francisco, CA
    Where we are feeling quite grateful that we don’t work in a store today.


      1. As a longtime reader, I recall that. In fact, I recall a nice post you wrote some time ago about your friendship with an elderly African-American woman in Houston who had seen a lot in her life. Kudos!


        1. Kudos to us both. We are incredible people. You are thinking of Mrs. Williams who died at 100. She was my bud. But she was not African-American. She was black. She had never set foot in Africa. If you had called her African-American, she would have chuckled at you.


  4. A little old lady professional beggar would sneak into La Surtidora from the sidewalk and put her hand out and gringos (like me) would oblige her. Then someone from the staff would politely tell her to bug off. Haven’t seen her in a while. Maybe she hit the jackpot and retired.


      1. They were polite about it and probably looked away until she wore out her welcome by continuing. I saw the waitstaff counsel her each time she became visible to them, coming out from hiding behind their door panels along the sidewalk 🙂


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