RETIRED DETECTIVE

I caught a ride to work early one morning and on our way down Mission Street my driver and I saw someone sprawled out on the sidewalk. The driver slowed the car and shouted out the window to a restaurant worker observing the scene from across the street. Is he dead? the driver asked in Spanish. The restaurant worker confirmed it.

The driver told me he was a retired detective. He had a raspy smoker’s voice and spoke with a Mexican accent. He told me that usually nobody claims the bodies, that most bodies aren’t identified.

Before moving to the Mission District, the San Francisco neighborhood I fell so madly in love with, I’d never seen a dead body before. This was the second dead body I’d witnessed since moving to there. “All By Myself” by Eric Carmen played over the radio as we drove.

 

COURTNEY

Yeah, I think a lot of homeless people become really separated from their families.

 

DRIVER

Yeah, but they're somewhere though. I mean, I don’t know, it’s so strange. I mean if 20 years went by, you’d go like, wow, look they found him, he’s dead, where was he? Another state? Or whatever the case. They will come and claim his body. And go bury him, you know? A lot of times they never are claimed. It’s like if they were aliens from another galaxy — it’s weird. I find it kind of strange. Because I’m sure people know someone, somewhere. You know, relatives, siblings, something. I don’t know, it’s just strange.

 

How long have you been here?

 

COURTNEY

Uh, five months.

 

DRIVER
Oh, that’s it!?

 

COURTNEY

Yeah.

 

DRIVER

How do you like it?

 

COURTNEY

I like it.

 

DRIVER

Cool.

 

COURTNEY

Yeah, I like it a lot.

 

[silence]

 

Yeah, I think a lot of homeless people are completely disconnected from their families and their families just stop, you know, keeping track of them.

 

DETECTIVE

They don’t even want to know anything about them, I think. Because of their lifestyle, they don’t want to do anything for them. I think you’re right.

 

COURTNEY

And so I don’t think they even —

 

DETECTIVE

Care.

 

COURTNEY

I just don’t think they would even know to look for them or...

 

DETECTIVE

I see your point.

 

[“All By Myself” chorus crescendos here as we drive in silence]