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Five of us in a one-bedroom on 47th Street

Cars run fast from the light at the 805 to the light on Logan Ave.

That is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like is not supposed to be.
That is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like is not supposed to be.
Video:

Five of us in a one-bedroom on 47th Street. Irish Bojórquez — Writing Contest 2024 Honorable Mention


I live at the Bella Vista Apartments with my mother and my daughter and my mother’s white cat. It is a small one-bedroom apartment with all the things necessary for a dignified life. But the thing is, I am not supposed to live here. It’s supposed to be just my daughter and my mother and her cat. Those are the only names that the office knows about. But my daughter is here, and my mother needs help, so here I am.

Actually, it’s not only the three of us living in this very small apartment. There is also my brother and his girlfriend. Too many people for such a small place. But that is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like it is not supposed to be. At least now I know that you can learn to live all jammed in a small place, with your things always packed or loaded into your car, and no privacy.

My brother and his girlfriend sleep on the living room sofa bed. He came one day and said, “I’ll stay for a while,” and now his girlfriend is also here. Places to rent are too expensive. Not the best of lives. My daughter has a twin bed in my mother’s bedroom, and some space for her things in the closet. The good part is that she has to keep it tidy and learn to be organized. My mother has a king-size bed. I’m so glad, for that is where I sleep too. I have only a tiny place to put my things, so I keep only my work clothes. I work in San Diego, and I am always working.

How did we get here? When she was 14, my daughter decided to live with my mother, who was at the time living alone after her divorce. Covid was not much of a threat anymore, and schools had just reopened. Both of us used to live in Mexicali, in Baja California, just on the border with Calexico. But when the pandemic hit, schools everywhere closed, and she had to attend school online like everybody else in the world. She didn’t like it. So as soon as schools opened in San Diego, she wanted to come live with her grandmother, as she was born here but had never lived in the United States. I stayed alone in Mexicali for a whole year before I decided to come after her.

47th street runs from the 805 freeway to the 94. Bella Vista is next to 805, and it is a wide street that allows for cars to run fast from the light at the 805 to the light on Logan Ave. And when you want to walk across the street or exit the parking lot in your car, you must be very careful.

Bella Vista Apartments are located at South 47th Street between the 805 and Logan Ave. The apartment complex is in the city of San Diego, but it is very close to National City. A lot of people live here. There are one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and it is mostly for seniors. I see hardly any children. There is a playground next to the office, but I have never seen anybody playing there. The girls at the office are nice people. They know everybody and I absolutely believe they have noticed all the people living here that are not supposed to. But they don’t say anything. I really like it here, because you don’t hear loud music, or loud children, or loud mothers for that matter, and it is clean. Maintenance here is quite something. The gardeners are always Mexican, and sometimes they wake you up with the noise of grass being cut and the smell of it. I really like it.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is some noise. Our next door neighbors are quite noisy. They like rap music and smoking weed and having friends and family over. But I don’t mind them, and neither does my mom. When I first got here, I wondered if she knew what so many of her neighbors were smoking. She doesn’t seem to care; she really believes in being respectful to neighbors. “Smells and music don’t bother me,” she says. So I guess they are okay.

* * *

So my mother lives in this one-bedroom apartment. “Why is it that you don’t live in a two bedroom place?” I once asked her. She replied, “I once wrote my name on a list to get a bigger apartment, only it was not my name on the list, but that of my ex-husband. It happened that once, when we were at the office, I asked for a bigger place, and the lady there asked me to write my name on the list. But at that moment, I was busy writing down a check, and it was easier to ask him to sign us up, so he wrote down his name. Eight years later, we are divorced, and he lives in a two-bedroom apartment and I am still in the same one.”

The place in which we live is located on the east side of the complex. The parking lot is almost always empty, because only residents are allowed to park there. Outside on the street, a lot of cars park — a sign that a lot of people live here. And some people even live in their cars. I’ve seen some of them just go into some relative’s apartment, I guess to use the bathroom. Life is hard for those who don’t have enough money for a place of their own.

Author Irish Bojórquez

Luna is my mom’s white cat. This place has become Luna’s kingdom. There are several cats living at Bella Vista, but their owners don’t allow them to go out. Luna does go out, and she strolls all over the place with an air of certainty that she is beautiful and unique. Everybody knows her. And she really nails the cat walk. But once in a while, she runs for her life. Sometimes, there are stray cats that chase her, and even go into the apartment to steal her food and beat her up.

One day, I was coming from work, and my mother was upset because she said that an orange male cat, huge and frightening, came in, bothering Luna and going after her food and pissing all around, marking territory. When I first saw him, I was amazed at how huge and beautiful he was. I was wondering who he belonged to, or how he had survived. But still, I had to make him go away, so I put some water with a little vinegar in a spray bottle and whenever we saw him, we sprayed him all over. That made him stop going after Luna and into our house. I never saw him again.

There are coyotes in the area. Once, I was talking to a friend who was dropping me off after work in the parking area, and we saw a huge coyote walking around. That was when it hit me: we have coyotes living all around, and obviously, they eat cats and dogs and anything they can find. I told my mom, but she refuses to lock Luna up. “She must smart up”, she says. And she does. The other day, she was chased by not one but two young coyotes, and she ran like hell.

Our next door neighbors are quite noisy. They like rap music and smoking weed and having friends and family over. But I don’t mind them, and neither does my mom.

Now, I should explain that every first floor apartment has this little patio surrounded by a green fence where people can keep their things, or plants, or whatever. My mother likes to have plants and a round table with a shade and some chairs. That’s where she drinks her coffee in the mornings. She is alone and listens to her favorite music: “Alexa...” We are all out to work or school. Her best of times, she says. Well, one day, Luna came running through the patio all scared, her white, beautiful, long hair all bristled up. She was being followed by these two handsome young coyotes. They were too small to jump the fence, so they went away. I went out to look at them. I like coyotes: they are beautiful and smart. But I never want them to eat our Luna, of course. Perhaps they already ate that huge, orange cat. I definitely hope not.

* * *

I mentioned that our next door neighbors smoke pot. A lot of people here do. They are a couple; she works all day, so she is never home, and when she is, she talks on the phone so loudly and turns the TV on so loudly and cooks and laughs. She is a very noisy lady. He is in a wheelchair and is much older than she is. He is always here, and he smokes a lot. “Let the man have his marijuana in peace” is all my mom says. They are nice people with a lot of family too. He is hardly alone. A lot of times, they have family over — “just like us” mother says. Everybody has the right to look for a space to stay during the night. They also have a white cat like we do, but theirs is male and with short hair. He is huge and beautiful, but they never let him out. It is a shame. I would really like to pet him.

There was another couple that lived across the walkway. But they split up. “She went with another man and left me,” the man explained while he was giving away his beloved plants. “Now I can’t live here no more.” But he took his cat. Another white cat. So there was a time when there were three white cats in three apartments together. So unusual. I wouldn’t know who’s got a cat if it weren’t for the nice people from an organization that gives food to house cats. Every three weeks, there’s a knock on the door, and when you open it, there is a bag of cat food — and some cans, too. Sometimes, you even get a toy. They are definitely going to heaven. Cat heaven, at least.

Sometimes, I have to take the trolley to go to work, so I walk up 47th Street towards Logan Avenue and wait at the corner for the 3 or 955 buses that take me to Euclid trolley station — one corner for the 3 bus, another corner for the 955, and sometimes another corner for the 955 but towards the 8th Street trolley station. That usually happens when I am headed towards San Ysidro and Tijuana.

Once, I was waiting there when this man came along and stood right next to me and started saying a lot of things that, honestly, I couldn’t understand. I tried not to appear frightened, so I stayed casual. He got mad and started saying all sorts of bad words. I said something in Spanish so he would believe I didn’t speak English and leave me alone. When the bus came, I got in and sat down. As he appeared to be a street person, I thought he would not get on the bus, but he did, and stood next to me. The only thing I understood was “Bitch this” and “Bitch that.” It didn’t matter. It must have been a mental health case — one of so many here in San Diego. I guess he got tired, because he got off the bus. I’ve seen him again a couple of times, and he seems to recognize me, but he hasn’t bothered me again.

Homeless people are everywhere. I mean, I would be homeless if it weren’t for my mom and her Section 8 government help. I would have to go back to where I am from. But in San Diego — and I guess in a lot of places — it is almost impossible to pay rent. There is this guy who lives in this old truck outside Bella Vista; he parks it on 47th street. He is polite and clean. He’s got lots of things on his truck that he collects from everywhere, but he is always cleaning and making everything look, I suppose in its own way, nice. At least he tries.

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Once, I was throwing away some trash, and I also had a bag with things that someone at work gave me. I left it next to the recycling bin for someone to take. As I walked toward my car, I heard someone calling me, and it was this man. He was carrying the bag, believing I had lost it, I suppose. I told him I didn’t want it and that he could keep it, but I also told him that it was full of women’s things — creams and hair spray and perfume and some lady clothes. He took it with him, only to give it away to some of his female acquaintances, I later found out. So righteous and polite. I started looking for him and saying hello. That lasted for six months until January 27 of this year, when he suddenly disappeared. I was driving home, and when I pulled towards the parking lot, there he wasn’t. Only an empty space where he had parked his truck for all those months. I felt sad. Where could he have gone? To park on some other street, I suppose.

* * *

“Why do they wear pajamas to school?” I asked my 17-year-old daughter one day as we were waiting for the green light at 47th and Imperial. I was taking her to school. She doesn’t dress that way at all; being raised in Mexico, that would be out of the question for her.

As I was coming from work, tired and hungry, I saw this beautiful, tiny old lady, with the widest of smiles and brightest of eyes, looking out of her window right at me. “How are you sweetie?” she called to me.

“I don’t know!” she replied. “Why would you ask me that!!?” I find it very odd, a little disgusting perhaps, but I understand that fashion among American teenagers is almost impossible to comprehend for a lady like myself.

“Just don’t ever do it, please,” is all I can say.

“Ewww!” she shrugs.

She doesn’t like it when I snoop too much into her life. I guess kids suddenly grow up and expect us parents not to be worried, but I worry. She walks sometimes towards Lincoln High School. And I worry. She walks back to the house and I still worry, but I have to keep that to myself and hope that she takes really good care of herself, and that the neighborhood — all those people we see on a regular basis — stands behind her. Like the nice lady that sells the most delicious tamales in San Diego. She smiles a lot and starts selling her tamales on 47th Street at 5 am, and by eight she hardly has any. Working people always know where the good food is.

My mother has been living in Bella Vista Apartments for 12 years now, and my daughter, almost three years. I have been here for only two years, but I have seen lots of things. There are lots of people here. There is this apartment where an old couple live that has a Christmas decoration on the door. It is there all the time. I mean all the time, like June, July, August. Every year. All the time. There is this old man who can hardly walk, but he still rides his bicycle to go nobody knows where, and he likes to sharpen knives. So my mom takes hers to him once in a while, and he happily sharpens them, no charge. He is a sweet old man who lives alone. “I must go and pay him a visit soon,” says my mom, “I am afraid he falls and no one notices.” That is the thing with this kind of community. You think you live alone, but you really don’t.

Once, we received a package that wasn’t ours. The mail person had made a mistake. So I took it to the right address in the complete opposite part of Bella Vista. Although it was part of the same complex, it felt strange. The lady was so relieved; she had thought she had lost the package, and it was full of medicine. I like to be of service.

My mother loves to cook. Sometimes, she gives some of her food to take this man who is her friend. They talk about his illnesses and his daughters. Mom likes to keep an eye on him. He also cooks, but my mom doesn’t like his food. He is from the very southern parts of Mexico. Too foreign for her taste, as she is from Sonora. You can’t change old people. Sometimes, we hear a knock at the door and there is our other neighbor, the one in a wheelchair, asking for some food. She gives him a plate proudly. “He’s starving, the poor man, he is always so alone,” she claims. We tell her not to worry too much for him, because he eats well at his house. His wife cooks, too. But we know he can’t resist the smell and goes and asks for some of my mom’s Mexican cuisine. We know he is not starving, he’s just got the munchies. There is this young man who is always washing his car in the parking lot. I have never seen him do other things. Just washes his car and listens to rap music almost every day. Perhaps he also lives in a crowded apartment.

I also like to watch the crows. There are lots of them. I like to believe they know me, because I am always calling them. I like them. They are incredibly smart, and I really think they recognize me. That is what I like to believe.

* * *

47th street runs from the 805 freeway to the 94. Bella Vista is next to 805, and it is a wide street that allows for cars to run fast from the light at the 805 to the light on Logan Ave. And when you want to walk across the street or exit the parking lot in your car, you must be very careful, because the street has these little hills that don’t allow you to see very well whether or not a car is coming, and the cars tend to go fast. So there have been accidents.

I was living here when a man was hit and killed by a passing car. He was crossing the street towards his car early in the morning when suddenly a speeding car appeared and killed him instantly. It was awful. His crying young wife had to move out. They were new at Bella Vista. “This already happened some five years ago,” said my mom. “Son, don’t park across the street please, it is so dangerous,” pleads my mom to my brother. He is not allowed to park his car inside the parking lot. Neither is his girlfriend. They are not allowed to live here. Neither am I, but here we are.

I once saw a hit and run. I was walking towards the bus when I saw a truck hit a car that was parked on the street. He drove away and I couldn’t see the plates. I stayed for a while to see if someone came out, but nobody seemed to notice. So I went away. I didn’t have much information to give anyway.

* * *

It is so easy to believe that people are all the same. But they are not. Once you live in a community like this for some time, you learn to see differences between personalities, backgrounds, cultures. You meet people who don’t talk to you, ever, and you meet people who talk a lot. Some people just say hello, and some people become part of your life. Living in Bella Vista Apartments, I have come to see that in San Diego, everybody can come from another country, another culture — it widens your eyes and mind a lot.

Once, I met a woman in the parking lot; she was parked right next to where I was parking, so we made some small talk. I had already seen her a couple of times. She was with a young woman, very attractive, with the darkest skin I had ever seen. The woman told me that the dark-skinned girl was her daughter. “How can your daughter be so dark and you are not?” I asked her. That night, we talked a lot. I learned her name, and that her father was Mexican but her mother was black and that she was my exact same age. It is always a pleasure to see her around. I really like her.

But my favorite person in all of Bella Vista Apartments is this lady named Rosie. She lives upstairs from my mother, just above her. Rosie lives alone. She is my height, approximately five feet tall, but she must weigh half of what I do. I have never seen her outside her apartment. Rosie makes noises all night long, and sometimes all day long. She is intriguing. My mother claims she never hears a peep out of that apartment, but I know she is just being polite.

When my brother first arrived, he was all upset. “The lady upstairs makes a lot of noise all through the night!” he said. “I’ll go and talk to her!” My mother asked him not to, because she likes it to keep it cool with the neighbors, but my brother couldn’t take it anymore. So he went upstairs. Nobody knows what happened next, but he never complained again. “Let her be,” was all he said. When he and his girlfriend are out of town, I sleep in the living room, and I hear the noises he complained about. A chair is being pushed, steps, someone dancing and jumping, more loud steps. It is impossible to know just what is going on.

The first time I listened to all that noise, I thought of going upstairs, too. I was so mad at her. But then one day I saw her. As I was coming from work, tired and hungry, I saw this beautiful, tiny old lady, with the widest of smiles and brightest of eyes, looking out of her window right at me. “How are you sweetie?” she called to me. I heard her musical voice and couldn’t help but wonder how this nice, small and polite lady could make all that noise! And all through the night!

Next time I saw her, I was coming from the laundry room, carrying lots of clothes. There she was, in her window again. “Do you need some help sweetie?” Every time I see her, it is the same. “Do you need something sweetie?” “Can I help you sweetie?” “You look so nice today sweetie!” “Do you need me?” But every time, just when I am about to answer, she disappears. She never waits for an answer. But she leaves this glow that covers you for the whole day. The days that she appears has become my lucky days. She is like a unicorn. Mysterious, selfish, and so beautifully strange that she gives you this weird magical feeling.

I wonder what her story is. I know she never goes out. I know she can’t stay still. I know she doesn’t sleep, at least not at night. And once, I saw this very handsome man, all dressed up, looking like a professional with a good job or something like that. He was carrying some grocery bags, and took a key out of his pocket and opened her door. The only thing I can think of is that he is her son. I have only seen him once. But now I know someone cares for her. I also care for her, but I have never got the courage to go upstairs. And I like it like that.

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That is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like is not supposed to be.
That is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like is not supposed to be.
Video:

Five of us in a one-bedroom on 47th Street. Irish Bojórquez — Writing Contest 2024 Honorable Mention


I live at the Bella Vista Apartments with my mother and my daughter and my mother’s white cat. It is a small one-bedroom apartment with all the things necessary for a dignified life. But the thing is, I am not supposed to live here. It’s supposed to be just my daughter and my mother and her cat. Those are the only names that the office knows about. But my daughter is here, and my mother needs help, so here I am.

Actually, it’s not only the three of us living in this very small apartment. There is also my brother and his girlfriend. Too many people for such a small place. But that is what happens when rent goes so high: adult siblings, living together with their mom, like it is not supposed to be. At least now I know that you can learn to live all jammed in a small place, with your things always packed or loaded into your car, and no privacy.

My brother and his girlfriend sleep on the living room sofa bed. He came one day and said, “I’ll stay for a while,” and now his girlfriend is also here. Places to rent are too expensive. Not the best of lives. My daughter has a twin bed in my mother’s bedroom, and some space for her things in the closet. The good part is that she has to keep it tidy and learn to be organized. My mother has a king-size bed. I’m so glad, for that is where I sleep too. I have only a tiny place to put my things, so I keep only my work clothes. I work in San Diego, and I am always working.

How did we get here? When she was 14, my daughter decided to live with my mother, who was at the time living alone after her divorce. Covid was not much of a threat anymore, and schools had just reopened. Both of us used to live in Mexicali, in Baja California, just on the border with Calexico. But when the pandemic hit, schools everywhere closed, and she had to attend school online like everybody else in the world. She didn’t like it. So as soon as schools opened in San Diego, she wanted to come live with her grandmother, as she was born here but had never lived in the United States. I stayed alone in Mexicali for a whole year before I decided to come after her.

47th street runs from the 805 freeway to the 94. Bella Vista is next to 805, and it is a wide street that allows for cars to run fast from the light at the 805 to the light on Logan Ave. And when you want to walk across the street or exit the parking lot in your car, you must be very careful.

Bella Vista Apartments are located at South 47th Street between the 805 and Logan Ave. The apartment complex is in the city of San Diego, but it is very close to National City. A lot of people live here. There are one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and it is mostly for seniors. I see hardly any children. There is a playground next to the office, but I have never seen anybody playing there. The girls at the office are nice people. They know everybody and I absolutely believe they have noticed all the people living here that are not supposed to. But they don’t say anything. I really like it here, because you don’t hear loud music, or loud children, or loud mothers for that matter, and it is clean. Maintenance here is quite something. The gardeners are always Mexican, and sometimes they wake you up with the noise of grass being cut and the smell of it. I really like it.

Actually, now that I think about it, there is some noise. Our next door neighbors are quite noisy. They like rap music and smoking weed and having friends and family over. But I don’t mind them, and neither does my mom. When I first got here, I wondered if she knew what so many of her neighbors were smoking. She doesn’t seem to care; she really believes in being respectful to neighbors. “Smells and music don’t bother me,” she says. So I guess they are okay.

* * *

So my mother lives in this one-bedroom apartment. “Why is it that you don’t live in a two bedroom place?” I once asked her. She replied, “I once wrote my name on a list to get a bigger apartment, only it was not my name on the list, but that of my ex-husband. It happened that once, when we were at the office, I asked for a bigger place, and the lady there asked me to write my name on the list. But at that moment, I was busy writing down a check, and it was easier to ask him to sign us up, so he wrote down his name. Eight years later, we are divorced, and he lives in a two-bedroom apartment and I am still in the same one.”

The place in which we live is located on the east side of the complex. The parking lot is almost always empty, because only residents are allowed to park there. Outside on the street, a lot of cars park — a sign that a lot of people live here. And some people even live in their cars. I’ve seen some of them just go into some relative’s apartment, I guess to use the bathroom. Life is hard for those who don’t have enough money for a place of their own.

Author Irish Bojórquez

Luna is my mom’s white cat. This place has become Luna’s kingdom. There are several cats living at Bella Vista, but their owners don’t allow them to go out. Luna does go out, and she strolls all over the place with an air of certainty that she is beautiful and unique. Everybody knows her. And she really nails the cat walk. But once in a while, she runs for her life. Sometimes, there are stray cats that chase her, and even go into the apartment to steal her food and beat her up.

One day, I was coming from work, and my mother was upset because she said that an orange male cat, huge and frightening, came in, bothering Luna and going after her food and pissing all around, marking territory. When I first saw him, I was amazed at how huge and beautiful he was. I was wondering who he belonged to, or how he had survived. But still, I had to make him go away, so I put some water with a little vinegar in a spray bottle and whenever we saw him, we sprayed him all over. That made him stop going after Luna and into our house. I never saw him again.

There are coyotes in the area. Once, I was talking to a friend who was dropping me off after work in the parking area, and we saw a huge coyote walking around. That was when it hit me: we have coyotes living all around, and obviously, they eat cats and dogs and anything they can find. I told my mom, but she refuses to lock Luna up. “She must smart up”, she says. And she does. The other day, she was chased by not one but two young coyotes, and she ran like hell.

Our next door neighbors are quite noisy. They like rap music and smoking weed and having friends and family over. But I don’t mind them, and neither does my mom.

Now, I should explain that every first floor apartment has this little patio surrounded by a green fence where people can keep their things, or plants, or whatever. My mother likes to have plants and a round table with a shade and some chairs. That’s where she drinks her coffee in the mornings. She is alone and listens to her favorite music: “Alexa...” We are all out to work or school. Her best of times, she says. Well, one day, Luna came running through the patio all scared, her white, beautiful, long hair all bristled up. She was being followed by these two handsome young coyotes. They were too small to jump the fence, so they went away. I went out to look at them. I like coyotes: they are beautiful and smart. But I never want them to eat our Luna, of course. Perhaps they already ate that huge, orange cat. I definitely hope not.

* * *

I mentioned that our next door neighbors smoke pot. A lot of people here do. They are a couple; she works all day, so she is never home, and when she is, she talks on the phone so loudly and turns the TV on so loudly and cooks and laughs. She is a very noisy lady. He is in a wheelchair and is much older than she is. He is always here, and he smokes a lot. “Let the man have his marijuana in peace” is all my mom says. They are nice people with a lot of family too. He is hardly alone. A lot of times, they have family over — “just like us” mother says. Everybody has the right to look for a space to stay during the night. They also have a white cat like we do, but theirs is male and with short hair. He is huge and beautiful, but they never let him out. It is a shame. I would really like to pet him.

There was another couple that lived across the walkway. But they split up. “She went with another man and left me,” the man explained while he was giving away his beloved plants. “Now I can’t live here no more.” But he took his cat. Another white cat. So there was a time when there were three white cats in three apartments together. So unusual. I wouldn’t know who’s got a cat if it weren’t for the nice people from an organization that gives food to house cats. Every three weeks, there’s a knock on the door, and when you open it, there is a bag of cat food — and some cans, too. Sometimes, you even get a toy. They are definitely going to heaven. Cat heaven, at least.

Sometimes, I have to take the trolley to go to work, so I walk up 47th Street towards Logan Avenue and wait at the corner for the 3 or 955 buses that take me to Euclid trolley station — one corner for the 3 bus, another corner for the 955, and sometimes another corner for the 955 but towards the 8th Street trolley station. That usually happens when I am headed towards San Ysidro and Tijuana.

Once, I was waiting there when this man came along and stood right next to me and started saying a lot of things that, honestly, I couldn’t understand. I tried not to appear frightened, so I stayed casual. He got mad and started saying all sorts of bad words. I said something in Spanish so he would believe I didn’t speak English and leave me alone. When the bus came, I got in and sat down. As he appeared to be a street person, I thought he would not get on the bus, but he did, and stood next to me. The only thing I understood was “Bitch this” and “Bitch that.” It didn’t matter. It must have been a mental health case — one of so many here in San Diego. I guess he got tired, because he got off the bus. I’ve seen him again a couple of times, and he seems to recognize me, but he hasn’t bothered me again.

Homeless people are everywhere. I mean, I would be homeless if it weren’t for my mom and her Section 8 government help. I would have to go back to where I am from. But in San Diego — and I guess in a lot of places — it is almost impossible to pay rent. There is this guy who lives in this old truck outside Bella Vista; he parks it on 47th street. He is polite and clean. He’s got lots of things on his truck that he collects from everywhere, but he is always cleaning and making everything look, I suppose in its own way, nice. At least he tries.

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Once, I was throwing away some trash, and I also had a bag with things that someone at work gave me. I left it next to the recycling bin for someone to take. As I walked toward my car, I heard someone calling me, and it was this man. He was carrying the bag, believing I had lost it, I suppose. I told him I didn’t want it and that he could keep it, but I also told him that it was full of women’s things — creams and hair spray and perfume and some lady clothes. He took it with him, only to give it away to some of his female acquaintances, I later found out. So righteous and polite. I started looking for him and saying hello. That lasted for six months until January 27 of this year, when he suddenly disappeared. I was driving home, and when I pulled towards the parking lot, there he wasn’t. Only an empty space where he had parked his truck for all those months. I felt sad. Where could he have gone? To park on some other street, I suppose.

* * *

“Why do they wear pajamas to school?” I asked my 17-year-old daughter one day as we were waiting for the green light at 47th and Imperial. I was taking her to school. She doesn’t dress that way at all; being raised in Mexico, that would be out of the question for her.

As I was coming from work, tired and hungry, I saw this beautiful, tiny old lady, with the widest of smiles and brightest of eyes, looking out of her window right at me. “How are you sweetie?” she called to me.

“I don’t know!” she replied. “Why would you ask me that!!?” I find it very odd, a little disgusting perhaps, but I understand that fashion among American teenagers is almost impossible to comprehend for a lady like myself.

“Just don’t ever do it, please,” is all I can say.

“Ewww!” she shrugs.

She doesn’t like it when I snoop too much into her life. I guess kids suddenly grow up and expect us parents not to be worried, but I worry. She walks sometimes towards Lincoln High School. And I worry. She walks back to the house and I still worry, but I have to keep that to myself and hope that she takes really good care of herself, and that the neighborhood — all those people we see on a regular basis — stands behind her. Like the nice lady that sells the most delicious tamales in San Diego. She smiles a lot and starts selling her tamales on 47th Street at 5 am, and by eight she hardly has any. Working people always know where the good food is.

My mother has been living in Bella Vista Apartments for 12 years now, and my daughter, almost three years. I have been here for only two years, but I have seen lots of things. There are lots of people here. There is this apartment where an old couple live that has a Christmas decoration on the door. It is there all the time. I mean all the time, like June, July, August. Every year. All the time. There is this old man who can hardly walk, but he still rides his bicycle to go nobody knows where, and he likes to sharpen knives. So my mom takes hers to him once in a while, and he happily sharpens them, no charge. He is a sweet old man who lives alone. “I must go and pay him a visit soon,” says my mom, “I am afraid he falls and no one notices.” That is the thing with this kind of community. You think you live alone, but you really don’t.

Once, we received a package that wasn’t ours. The mail person had made a mistake. So I took it to the right address in the complete opposite part of Bella Vista. Although it was part of the same complex, it felt strange. The lady was so relieved; she had thought she had lost the package, and it was full of medicine. I like to be of service.

My mother loves to cook. Sometimes, she gives some of her food to take this man who is her friend. They talk about his illnesses and his daughters. Mom likes to keep an eye on him. He also cooks, but my mom doesn’t like his food. He is from the very southern parts of Mexico. Too foreign for her taste, as she is from Sonora. You can’t change old people. Sometimes, we hear a knock at the door and there is our other neighbor, the one in a wheelchair, asking for some food. She gives him a plate proudly. “He’s starving, the poor man, he is always so alone,” she claims. We tell her not to worry too much for him, because he eats well at his house. His wife cooks, too. But we know he can’t resist the smell and goes and asks for some of my mom’s Mexican cuisine. We know he is not starving, he’s just got the munchies. There is this young man who is always washing his car in the parking lot. I have never seen him do other things. Just washes his car and listens to rap music almost every day. Perhaps he also lives in a crowded apartment.

I also like to watch the crows. There are lots of them. I like to believe they know me, because I am always calling them. I like them. They are incredibly smart, and I really think they recognize me. That is what I like to believe.

* * *

47th street runs from the 805 freeway to the 94. Bella Vista is next to 805, and it is a wide street that allows for cars to run fast from the light at the 805 to the light on Logan Ave. And when you want to walk across the street or exit the parking lot in your car, you must be very careful, because the street has these little hills that don’t allow you to see very well whether or not a car is coming, and the cars tend to go fast. So there have been accidents.

I was living here when a man was hit and killed by a passing car. He was crossing the street towards his car early in the morning when suddenly a speeding car appeared and killed him instantly. It was awful. His crying young wife had to move out. They were new at Bella Vista. “This already happened some five years ago,” said my mom. “Son, don’t park across the street please, it is so dangerous,” pleads my mom to my brother. He is not allowed to park his car inside the parking lot. Neither is his girlfriend. They are not allowed to live here. Neither am I, but here we are.

I once saw a hit and run. I was walking towards the bus when I saw a truck hit a car that was parked on the street. He drove away and I couldn’t see the plates. I stayed for a while to see if someone came out, but nobody seemed to notice. So I went away. I didn’t have much information to give anyway.

* * *

It is so easy to believe that people are all the same. But they are not. Once you live in a community like this for some time, you learn to see differences between personalities, backgrounds, cultures. You meet people who don’t talk to you, ever, and you meet people who talk a lot. Some people just say hello, and some people become part of your life. Living in Bella Vista Apartments, I have come to see that in San Diego, everybody can come from another country, another culture — it widens your eyes and mind a lot.

Once, I met a woman in the parking lot; she was parked right next to where I was parking, so we made some small talk. I had already seen her a couple of times. She was with a young woman, very attractive, with the darkest skin I had ever seen. The woman told me that the dark-skinned girl was her daughter. “How can your daughter be so dark and you are not?” I asked her. That night, we talked a lot. I learned her name, and that her father was Mexican but her mother was black and that she was my exact same age. It is always a pleasure to see her around. I really like her.

But my favorite person in all of Bella Vista Apartments is this lady named Rosie. She lives upstairs from my mother, just above her. Rosie lives alone. She is my height, approximately five feet tall, but she must weigh half of what I do. I have never seen her outside her apartment. Rosie makes noises all night long, and sometimes all day long. She is intriguing. My mother claims she never hears a peep out of that apartment, but I know she is just being polite.

When my brother first arrived, he was all upset. “The lady upstairs makes a lot of noise all through the night!” he said. “I’ll go and talk to her!” My mother asked him not to, because she likes it to keep it cool with the neighbors, but my brother couldn’t take it anymore. So he went upstairs. Nobody knows what happened next, but he never complained again. “Let her be,” was all he said. When he and his girlfriend are out of town, I sleep in the living room, and I hear the noises he complained about. A chair is being pushed, steps, someone dancing and jumping, more loud steps. It is impossible to know just what is going on.

The first time I listened to all that noise, I thought of going upstairs, too. I was so mad at her. But then one day I saw her. As I was coming from work, tired and hungry, I saw this beautiful, tiny old lady, with the widest of smiles and brightest of eyes, looking out of her window right at me. “How are you sweetie?” she called to me. I heard her musical voice and couldn’t help but wonder how this nice, small and polite lady could make all that noise! And all through the night!

Next time I saw her, I was coming from the laundry room, carrying lots of clothes. There she was, in her window again. “Do you need some help sweetie?” Every time I see her, it is the same. “Do you need something sweetie?” “Can I help you sweetie?” “You look so nice today sweetie!” “Do you need me?” But every time, just when I am about to answer, she disappears. She never waits for an answer. But she leaves this glow that covers you for the whole day. The days that she appears has become my lucky days. She is like a unicorn. Mysterious, selfish, and so beautifully strange that she gives you this weird magical feeling.

I wonder what her story is. I know she never goes out. I know she can’t stay still. I know she doesn’t sleep, at least not at night. And once, I saw this very handsome man, all dressed up, looking like a professional with a good job or something like that. He was carrying some grocery bags, and took a key out of his pocket and opened her door. The only thing I can think of is that he is her son. I have only seen him once. But now I know someone cares for her. I also care for her, but I have never got the courage to go upstairs. And I like it like that.

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