Human Connection

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My neighborhood, like most neighborhoods, has its “characters”—folks who’re presumably homeless—always stationed outside in designated spots or shuffling between local baristas who generously grant endless refills of warm caffeine or camped out in the same locale, attempting to sell Real Change newspapers day after day after day.

They are fixtures, part of the tapestry. Sometimes we pass them so regularly we nearly forget to see they’re there.

By the tree in front of Nectar, there’s always—without fail—a man whose name I never knew. Until tonight. I only learned his name when I saw the flowers and the candle, a makeshift memorial, and my heart sank. Instead of his familiar body…cross-legged on the grass, slumped up against “his” tree, brown paper bag in hand and overly-amplified voice shouting at passersby….an affixed sign: “RIP Sal, you will be missed.”

He was there (always). And then he wasn’t. And I’m surprised by the chord it’s struck.

I’m ashamed I never knew his name. I’m embarrassed at those days I viewed his noise as a nuisance, intruding upon my own privileged sense of calm.

On a ‘bad’ day—when deep in my own head or rushing off to get somewhere in a hurried rush, I’d ignore his “annoying” catcalls, his incessant bongo drumming, his Spanish “holas” and ridiculously overly-exaggerated air kisses directed my way, “MUAHHHHH!” On a ‘good’ day, his harmless, alcohol-fueled gestures might make me laugh, and I’d smile—not necessarily engaging, but at the very least making sure to give a courteous “hola” in return.

I’d remember that he’s human. And I’m human. And that we’re all connected, even when we’re not.

RIP, Sal. I hope you find a better existence this next time around. Thanks for filling this neighborhood with your music for so long.

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