Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 422
Mr. Ramirez, the landlady’s best tenant, is in the custody of two police officers, but he is initially unable to speak and therefore explain the reason for his arrest. Mrs. O’Brian knows his past: that he traveled by bus from Mexico City through San Diego to Los Angeles, where he found work in an airplane factory during the final years of World War II. Throughout this time and into the postwar period, he had roomed with Mrs. O’Brian. With his good salary, he was able to buy a radio, a wristwatch, and even a car, which was repossessed when he forgot to keep up the payments. He enjoyed going to restaurants, films, the theater, and the opera, occasionally with one of his few girlfriends.
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Mrs. O’Brian eventually learns from Ramirez and the officers that her tenant had only a temporary visa and he had been an illegal resident for the last six months. Ramirez’s reappearance at the boarding house is to let her know that he has to give up his room. He is there to collect and pack his belongings for his return to Lagos, his small hometown north of Mexico City.
Ramirez smells the pies that his landlady is baking and sees the kitchen table that she has set with shining silverware and carefully prepared food for her three sons and two younger daughters. After packing, Ramirez returns his house key to Mrs. O’Brian, who tells him what a good tenant he has been and how sorry she is that he has to leave. She once visited some border towns in Mexico and therefore has some sense of the impoverished world to which he is returning.
With deep feeling, Ramirez tells Mrs. O’Brian that he likes his job and life in the United States and that he does not want to go back to Mexico, but she can do nothing to change his situation or mitigate his pain. With tears streaming down his face, Ramirez clasps her hand desperately, shaking and wringing it, while saying in broken English, again and again, “Mrs. O’Brian, I see you never, I see you never!”
Ramirez picks up his suitcase and walks away with the police officers. Mrs. O’Brian closes the door and sits at the kitchen table. Despite the pleas of one of her sons, she lacks the appetite to enjoy her steak. When her sons asks what is wrong, she replies that she has just realized that she will never see Ramirez again.