February morning, the pallbearers wheel the casket into St. Joachim's Church and leave it before the altar. During the funeral service, I wonder what the Ramon I knew from Burbank Elementary school would think of this service.
What if Ramon and I, at age nine, discovered a time machine, I would be scared to use it and Ramon would encourage me to go with him.
I was a shy kid. Ramon was funny, artistic, well-like and handsome. He took an interest in me at Burbank to bring me out of my silent shell. Sure we did a few things that were unlawful - the trash fire in the bathroom was a good test of the school principal's fire extinguishing skill - but Ramon was a good kid. Okay, Ms. Roberts, my fifth grade teacher, didn't want me associating with Ramon; she thought he was a bad influence on me. But Ramon allowed me to hang out and play with the other guys. George. Joey. Martin. Mark. Tommy and others.
Girls liked Ramon. He flirted with them. I enjoyed it vicariously.
"That's you!" I point out Ramon's casket to Ramon.
"I wonder what I look like. Let's good look eh?"
I hide while Ramon sneaks a peek at his body.
He finds me. "I look bad," he says.
Ramon recognizes his weeping family. People he doesn't know, people older than him. Crying.
"Everybody's so old." he says.
"I do?" I'm amazed. Girls scare me.
"You got fat," he says Ramon looks at my skinny body and then at my adult self. "Too many frijoles."
People in the back row tell us to be quiet and ask about our parents. They stare at our clothes.
"Let's go back," Ramon says. "I don't want to miss Sanford & Son." One of his favorite TV shows. He loves comedian Redd Foxx.
I wasn't Ramon's best friend. Our kids didn't grow up together. The ground we played on, the elementary school we attended is razed. The lot abandoned. A new school built across the street.
|Old Burbank Elementary Lot/New Burbank Elementary across street|
The mural he created on the wall of La Mexicana Tortilleria on A Street is covered over with new paint. After I graduated from high school, I left town and didn't keep in contact with anyone.
Through Facebook I discover Ramon's obituary.
Ramon C. Vasquez July 28, 1961 ~ Jan. 29, 2015 Resident of Hayward Ramon, son of Adrian and Esther Vasquez, born in the small town of Zinaparo, Michoacan, Mexico and lived in Hayward from the age of 4. Ramon Graduated from Sunset High with the class of 1980 with high honors and innumerable academic awards and recognitions.I attend the funeral with my wife, Angel. I don't know what ailed him. I don't know if he had kids. I do know my fellow high school Alumni grieve. Everybody liked him. Respected him. Ramon's body is buried in the green fields of Chapel of the Chimes.
He lives forever on the playground of my childhood.