Everyone called him “shroom.” Must be short for mushroom, but I don’t know. He would stand at the bus stop at Cherry and Church. Everyday, until recently, I’d see him whenever I went out for a walk. He wore a black coat, more like a cape, the only coat I ever saw him wear. He had a leather hat and reflective sunglasses.
I’d nod and he’d nod. Got a “whassup” every once in a while. He’d just stand there looking back and forth. I asked one day what he saw, “everything,” he said, without explanation. Never got a sentence out of him, though I tried. Not that he was unkind or unfriendly. I just wasn’t one of his crew or into his business.
When you see a person over and over, you feel like you know him. Taking photos the way I do requires a relationship, even if it doesn’t involve the exchange of personal information. People express themselves to photographers through appearance and gesture. The interactions lack actual intimacy, despite putting the three of us, him, me and the camera, in close proximity. So, it’s odd that I would have any feeling about his death or the loss of another person whom I know from the street.
If you wonder what he died of, I was told long ago that he had lung problems, exacerbated by who knows what. He smoked. They all smoke, even if it isn’t healthy. A reliable source said that’s what killed him.