78. In search of Camillo at Ed’s Hot Fish in a North Nashville neighborhood.

From the journal: 1 March 2020

Rose told the story again of the year before they came to live with their father, Jimmy. They had been living in Hendersonville with their mother. Only their mother had disappeared and they were left to take care of themselves. Jimmy had told me the story before too and showed me photographs of the place–it looked like a flop house. Trash all over the floors, filthy. Rose said she and Tori had to beg for food. She said they went to neighbors’ houses and even to the local gas station in order to eat. Rose was eight and Tori was ten.

It is a shocking story to hear her tell it, now on the eve of her 13th birthday. But as she told her story I thought of Camillo. I thought how unusual his story seemed when we met him two years ago. But now I see his story is more common than I then knew.

One afternoon I was at Ed’s Hot Fish and Pizza House (don’t ask for pizza, they haven’t served it in decades!) at the intersection of Dr. D.B. Todd Jr. Blvd. and Buchanon St. when owner Anthony Drumwright set up a mobile tray and fed a young boy named Camillo.

Camillo had come in and Anthony appeared to jump to attention and set about serving the kid. I was curious who the boy was because he seemed to be getting special service from the owner.

“I don’t know who he is,” Anthony said. “I just know he comes in here after school and the guy is hungry so we feed him.” He said the boy can’t pay and they don’t ask him to. “It’s just what you do,” Anthony said.

I asked if they knew anything about him or where he lived. “No,” Anthony said. “Only that his name is Camillo, I think.”

As Rose talked about her life before her father, about being hungry and being scared I thought about Camillo. That day I wanted to follow him home and learn about his story but I just photographed him as he left the restaurant and crossed the street. “I’ll come back and see him again when he comes in,” I told Anthony. But he never came back after that. And no one knows what came of him.

“Maybe he moved,” Anthony said another day. He said people don’t have roots like some. One day they are here then they aren’t.

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