A Sidewalk Death in the Neighborhood

A dozen candles on the sidewalk. When sunset arrives they're lit, illuminating a makeshift wooden cross leaning against a dingy wall. A small plant and a thin bunch of flowers encased in plastic complete the memorial. These are the things that mark the spot where someone died in my neighborhood.

The memorial has been there for a week. I don't know the details of what happened, whether the deceased was a man or a woman, or how old they were. Whether they noticed that they were taking their last breaths beneath the words "FAX COPY" and hated fate so very much for that fact.

Every time I pass this spot my eyes travel from the memorial to "FAX COPY" and my mind starts to wander. I mull over how faxing is still huge, especially in Japan and Germany, and how here in Los Angeles the bail process can be initiated via fax. And then my gaze trails back down the wall to the candles and the cross and the plant and the flowers.

I feel guilty. Instead of speculating on who sends faxes in the second decade of the 21st century — and why — what I should be wondering is what actually happened to the person who died here, and how come no one seems to know for sure?

On Nextdoor someone alleges that the person who died is a victim of the COLD BEER and FINE WINE of the liquor store. "It would apear [sic] to be one of the guys who hangs out by the liquor store there which is ground zero for providing cheap booze and other supplies for the addicted and downtrodden," they wrote.

It could be true, but there's no news story to back this up. In a city of millions, one dead body on the sidewalk doesn't register in the news cycle. And so the Nextdoor thread took a swift detour into whether our local elected officials and law enforcement would care more if this had happened in front of an establishment a block away that's generally associated with gentrification. Eventually, the thread devolved into profanities.

I don't know who lights the memorial's candles when the sun goes down. On Saturday night I saw two older men standing in front of it, their heads briefly bowed in prayer. I watched as they made the sign of the cross, the movement heavy with the sadness and regret of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They shuffled away after a moment and stepped through the open door of the liquor store. Surely heading to FAX COPY.


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