Today he saw people dressed in black gathered outside one of the neighborhood’s many connected row homes. Attached to and all around a telephone pole were large and small, pink and white and brown teddy bears, dolls, drawings and paintings that only could’ve been made by children.
“No.” He said it out loud, alone in his small pickup truck. “Please, no.”
He pulled over to the side of the road, shut the engine. He’d seen these around the city from time to time, teddy bear vigils, as he referred to them internally, and they always made him feel sick, upset, disgusted. Violent crimes around the city were bad enough when they involved adults. But kids, a little girl, he didn’t even know her and yet his heart sank. Maybe it wasn’t murder, he thought. Could’ve been a car accident or something else but either way, she’s gone.
I should go inside, he told himself, pay my respects. Everyone should stop by and pay their respects, the entire city. Everyone should do it even though nobody can bring her back. All the love and regrets in the world won’t bring her back.
He reached for the door handle and nearly opened it, but something stopped him, a sudden realization that he’d only be trying to make himself feel better, that nobody who’d actually known the girl would want him there. What could he say? “Hi, I don’t know you, but I drive past your house every day, and I just wanted to say I’m sorry for your loss.” Too weird, he decided. Too presumptuous.
He wiped away the beginnings of a tear and turned the ignition. The radio came back on and a caller argued vehemently with Jon Marks and Sean Brace for the Eagles to sign Plaxico Burress. He drove the rest of the way to work without listening. He just imagined the young girls he’d seen last week jumping rope on the sidewalk, singing songs.