boo radley times ten

My friend Yawn just posted a really good piece over at his site yesterday about a local character that lives here in Ypsi. The fellow, who, as the result of a botched suicide attempt several years ago, is missing just about everything from his lower jaw up to the bottoms of his eye sockets, cruises the streets extorting money from folks who, looking into the wet, gaping hole that is his face, no doubt feel guilty. (If that doesnt do it, he holds up a note saying that its the result of cancer.)

Its not very nice, but Ive heard him referred to as Eyes Without A Face Ive thought about writing about him here before, but I never knew quite how to go about it, how to capture the feeling of guilt you (or at least I) feel when you avert your eyes and walk by him. Fortunately, Yawns done a good job of telling the story, so now I dont have to. Whats more, Yawns encouraged those local folks in his audience to step forward and tell their own stories about the man and how uncomfortable his presence makes them feel. Heres one such story, taken from the comments section of Yawn’s site,

i just ran into this man on thursday, and have been thinking about him ever since. i used to work at the u of m medical center. he’d come in for treatment frequently during my shifts. he was just recovering from the gunshot wound. i saw his physical progression from the beginning of his outpatient care, for almost a year, when i left the position. he had long, well-kept hair, nice clothes, and looked clean and (otherwise) in good shape. he didn’t always wear a dressing on his wound, and i could see that he cared for himself properly. not the case on thursday. i stopped at borders, and parked my little escort way out in the lot between two hulking suv’s. i saw him coming before i pulled into the spot, and he hurried over to my car. his clothes were very dirty, as was his skin. the hole in his face looked worse than i’ve ever seen it. he most definitely is not taking care of himself. he first came to the passenger side, which i leaned over an locked quickly. he pressed a filthy note against the window that said he suffered from cancer and needed $ for his perscrips. i wagged my finger “no” and said i couldn’t help him. he then bent down and put his face up near the window and tried the door handle. i said “no” firmly, and turned to get out. he hurried around to the driver’s side, and attempted to block my path. that’s when i got angry. here i was, alone and in a very enclosed space, and i’d already told him no twice, and he continues, trying to intimidate me. i find that deplorable! i put my arm straight out in front of me and took a defensive stance. i said very loudly (and as forcefully as i could, i was frightened) “stop. get away.” i continued on my path, refusing to let him intimidate me into staying in between those big trucks with him, out of sight. lucky for him, he moved out of my way. man, face or no face, this guy is an asshole.

Word on the street is that hes an addict now. I dont know if thats the case, but it wouldnt surprise me. Clearly he was depressed and/or otherwise troubled before putting the gun to his head, and I dont imagine whats happened since that moment has done much to make him feel more optimistic about his lot in life. So, we all go about our lives here in Ypsi knowing that hes out there, and we try to keep our distance. We pray we don’t see him, or at least that he doesn’t see us. We hope that hell pass us on the street and go on to someone else before pulling his blue surgical mask down, exposing the cancer thats eating away at him. If I were a better writer, I could tie all this up in a neat little package and make some kind of statement about how we all see our own reflection in his face, how we all have the potential within us to head down that dark, lonely spiral toward the end. I could say something about the guilt we feel for not offering him help, for just hoping that he disappears. I can’t do that though. I can’t make sense of it, and I don’t have a solution. All I know is that it’s terribly sad. Sorry.

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  1. Ivan
    Posted July 9, 2005 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Just found your blog entry today about “Eyes without a face”. I was at Seva and saw him walking down the street, performing the same actions you described in your post (without being forceful, but then again it was on the sidewalk in an open space). I too can’t make sense of it, but am left haunted by the image. But, I must thank you for the information you have here. Without it, the man would only be an image repeating in my brain. You have helped give this image a context, which in turn reduced its haunting aspect. Thank you.

  2. Laura
    Posted August 22, 2005 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    My good friend of mine lived at the Ann Arbor YMCA for a couple of weeks about 4 years ago while looking for an appartment. The man you describe was one of the residents there and I felt the same kind of guilt mixed with repulsion as others I’ve spoken to have felt. At the time, his face was oozing and he was leaving pieces of pussy gauze on the end tables in the Y lobby. It was so sad and so discusting at the same time.
    A co-worker just today told me she and a group of friends saw him on the street recently and he tried to hand them a bloody piece of paper. He was annoyed that they kept walking but didn’t follow them or bother them further. What a sad situation! I feel guilt along with the rest of you and have never been able to lose the image of this man since I saw him 4 years ago!

  3. Posted April 24, 2007 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    i recently ate a bowl of captain crunch out of his face. suprisingly it never went soggy.

  4. Posted April 24, 2007 at 12:35 am | Permalink

    are you serious crazy eye guy???! I was walking out of the Vu in ypsi yesterday when no-fucking-face came up to me with a captain crunch puff near where his upper palatte should have been! you must have just been hanging out with him! he asked me for some milk and then inquired whether i had any gauze or possibly a spoon. I told him i had some beer in the car and offered him 20 dollars if i could eat some beer-i-os out of his skull. he quickly agreed, and i have to admit, beer-i-os still suck, even out of no-face’s dome.

  5. mark
    Posted April 24, 2007 at 12:57 am | Permalink

    It wasn’t my intention that this post be seen as an invitation to mock or ridicule.

  6. Posted July 8, 2007 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    Okay i live in Ypsi and ive seen this no-faced fucker a few times. Ive seen him in Ann arbor too. One night me and a friend of mine were comin back from the duece and we were on the bus that goes back to ypsi and suddenly the man with no face gets on. right when he got on my friend was like “Dylan dont look at him this time”! and i was like no shit. well too bad i looked any way and he looked back at us. all of a sudden he PICKED A PIECE OF HIS FACE and looked at it then looked back at us then threw it on the ground. we both kinda threw up in our mouths and tried our hardest to not look at him for a half hour. I was peekin out the corner of my eye and he was stairing us down the whole way home. TRUE STORY!

  7. Robert
    Posted July 8, 2007 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I think your comments were thoughtful, Mark. This guy really is a reminder of how fragile and short our own lives are.

  8. Rachel
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    when i was like 9 i was walking in down town a2 and i was like running way ahead of my parents cuz i was super excited about zolas and then no face just turned the corner. i was so scared i stopped and then ran the other way as fast as i could. i told my mom and she was like “yeah right”. so now, 6 years later, i was on the phone with my mom and she was like “omg you will never believe this. there was this guy i saw down town and he had a huge hole in his face” and i was like “i told you about him and you didn’t believe me”.

    so then my mom was going to michigan theater with her friends and he walked up to them and handed them a note that said he had face cancer and he had to buy special baby food cuz it was all he could eat.

    one of my friends was downtown once and noface came up to him and was like “moameamemam” and my friend was so freaked out he just threw his wallet at him and ran away.

  9. Robert
    Posted August 9, 2007 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    “moameamemam” ???

  10. Phil
    Posted March 24, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Where has this guy been? I went to EMU a few years ago and haven’t seen him since around 2004, maybe earlier. Does anyone have an update on No Face?

  11. stella
    Posted March 25, 2008 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it was on a different thread, maybe a different site, but, someone intimated that he had been “relocated”. It sounded all weird and fascistic. As though he had been to all intents and purposes, run out of the area.

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