Saturday, December 13, 2014
A Dead Man in the Arroyo
I still go for a walk each day, as early as possible. Usually I leave the house by 5:15. Yes, it is still very dark, the Big dipper is still spilling stars into the northern sky and only a few roosters are crowing.
Because it is so dark, I no longer walk out the highway to the arches. I stay close to town, on the streets or in the arroyo.
On Thursday, I saw a man laying in the dirt, under the walking bridge near the road that leads from the Alameda to the La Capilla barrio. He was very still. I knew he was dead.
Dawn was breaking and a policeman came walking toward me. He saw the man and used his cell phone to call for help and he said........muerte (dead).
I've seen dead people before, but they have always been in a coffin. And I was somehow prepared to see them. But I had a lot of sadness when I saw this man. He was very very old and very dark skinned and wrinkled. His arm was folded beneath his head and his knees were curled up toward his chest.
He looked like he had just laid down for a brief nap. Instead it became a very long nap.
So, I thought about this all day Thursday and then, I thought about it all day Friday. I thought about how lonely and sad he looked. Then I thought about it all night Friday and this morning I left the house around 5am. On the way down my street I picked several bunches of bouganvillea and I walked to the Alameda.
There were 4 policia at the Alameda, standing around, joking and laughing. I asked them if they knew about the old man who died in the arroyo Thursday and they said they did not.
I asked them where old people like that get buried, people who might just lie down for a nap and not wake up, old men like that who might not have any family.
The policia said they get put in the Panteon. For a fact I know it cost money to be buried in the Panteon and there is hardly any room in the Panteon. I said................are you sure..........who pays for his grave............who pays for the diggers.
One of the Policia said something I didn't understand, another shook his head and agreed and one said........no se. (I don't know).
I told them thanks and that I was going to go put my bouganvillea in the dirt where he died.
So I walked on across the cobblestone callejon that leads to the arroyo.
I knelt down in the dirt right where I had seen the old man. I stuck the ends of my flowers into the dirt.
Hola....................I looked up and one of the policia was standing there.....hola, he said again..........Triste, he said................Si, I answered. I was getting teary by now.
He just stood there, towering over me and I wasn't sure what I should do next. I looked out into the arroyo and my palms started to sweat.
Hmmm, puede usted hablar un palabras en espanol para el hombre.................can you say some words in Spanish for the man, I asked him.
I was thinking maybe he could just stand there and say Vaya con Dios because trust me, the last thing I would ask for is to be seen with a cop, at 5am in the morning, in the dark, in the arroyo underneath a bridge.
Lots of people use that callejon that time of the morning. I was a wreck when he said, Si and he knelt down beside me. And while I could not count the minutes I was worried I was going to get a 30 minute mass.
He did say a lot of words and I listened but kept sneaking my eyes to the callejon hoping no one would see us.
Finally he did say....................Vaya con Dios..................... and I said Vaya con Dios and then I said gracias to him and we both turned and went our separate ways.
I went further down the arroyo but when I turned around once I saw 4 figures standing there. My guess is they were the policia who knelt beside me and the other 3 policia from the Alameda, the other 3 having come to see what the 1st was up to.
So it was an emotional event in more ways than one.
Of course, the death of the old man and my wanting to share something with him because I was so sure he was all alone was the heaviest emotion.
But there were also emotions so deep they made me shake, the fear of being seen under the bridge like that.
While what we shared was innocent and spiritual who could possibly know what the policia and I were sharing? What did they think if they saw me with him there in the dark?
I suppose I could say we were saying mass for a dead man.......................but people create their own versions of stories, especially when it is told by you.................okay, then where's the body......................why did policia give the rites....................where was the priest..................how do you even know he was dead, there's no body...............whose yard did you take those flowers from......................
Walking in the arroyo I started to shake and couldn't stop. Then for some reason I got real scared and I started running. I ran all the way home and tripped on a tope. Then I hurt my knee. And tomorrow I think I will just stay in bed...