February 10, 2012
“She took a hammer and smashed my game. Hard, all to bits. It was a punishment.” He sat in the backseat, strapped in, his face to the window. Then his eyes met mine through the rearview mirror. He saw something, a flinch, a startle, maybe. “I deserved it,” he said. “Really I did.”
Another day, they were laughing. They could have been brothers, the two cutups. We drove past a stand of trees and then it was quiet in the car. “Have you been to that graveyard?” Asking me, this time. I had no idea a cemetery was in that neighorhood, hidden somewhere amid well-tended yards and fine, old houses.
“There’s a little boy’s grave. I go when I’m riding my bike. He died a long time ago, but somebody leaves teddy bears. And cookies and things. On the boy’s birthday? There are always cookies. I don’t touch them.” I asked why he went there. “I like to,” he said. “And it just makes me really sad.” I held my eyes steady, steely straight ahead. I kept clearing my throat. Finally I said all I could say, “It makes me sad too. It’s nice of you to think about him. You know, you are such a good kid.”
We haven’t laid eyes on him in years. But I still can see him, sitting at the grave of a long gone boy. The living keeping company with the dead.