Untimely

He drove up 5th Street every day.  Often times on Saturdays, on the blocks approaching Lehigh Avenue, young girls jumped rope on the sidewalk and sang songs.  He always enjoyed seeing them play together, hearing their innocent voices.

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.

18 comments:

  1. Your story sums up that feeling of sadness that yet another young life has left this world so poignantly. Well done.

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  2. You know Richard my heart always sinks when I see flowers etc. piled by the road side, you just know something awful has happened there in the form of an accident. I think you captured that feeling of despair we all feel when we drive passed sites like this.

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  3. Thanks, Karen and Helen, for your comments. I'm heartened by your ability to relate to the sadness the stranger feels in this story.

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  4. Actually got a chill when I read this. So well written, it touches your heart. We can all relate.

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  5. I wondered if the character had experienced a loss like this themselves.

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    1. Possibly, but not necessarily. I suppose that if you felt that way, then at least his emotions seemed real to you? Thanks for the comment, Justin.

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  6. Firstly I would like to echo Helen's comment.

    And secondly to say what a fine job you have done capturing the man's emotional response, and his chain of thought.

    I think almost everyone would connect quite strongly to this story.

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    1. Thanks very much for the compliment, Steve.

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  7. There may be nothing sadder than the death of a child, even if it's one you didn't know.

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    1. I agree, Tim. Thank you for your comment.

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  8. aww. A child dying is so sad. But yeah going in if he didn't know the kid would have been awkward.

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    1. Thanks, Sonia. I almost wrote the story with him going into the house, but decided against it.

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  9. There's something measured and almost inevitable about the tone that is very affecting in here. Thanks for sharing, Richard.

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  10. Hi Richard, if you would like to pop over to my blog I have something for you. :)

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  11. Hi, John! Thanks for your insightful commentary on this story, it means a lot.

    And Steve, thanks again for the award, you can see it displayed prominently on the right side of all pages here, with credit to you and a link to your blog.

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  12. This was a really affecting piece. You got his character just right, and I felt sorry that he didn't feel he could pay his respects, even though he's clearly been bothered by what he's seen. Very well written piece.

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  13. Thanks, Icy, your kind words about this story in particular mean a lot to me.

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