David’s Boots

Tuesday, September 6, 2016:

I have been frozen for weeks. Unable to write more than a handful of words.

It began with David’s boots. The shiny, black leather boots that laced up his ankles. He was fastidious with those boots, always polishing them, buffing them, to a high luster.

He had them on the day he was killed. The police returned them to us in a hospital-issue plastic bag.For more than two years they sat in the basement, hidden from view. I was unable to even glance in their general direction without breaking into tears.

But recently, I moved them to the closet in my office, David’s old bedroom. And I looked at them. Really looked at them. I ran my finger along the gash on the side of the right one. It was filled with road dirt and concrete dust. The toes were equally battered, the leather scraped from them completely.

They told the story of my son’s last moments.

It was January 27, 2014. David was in a crosswalk when a driver turning left barrelled towards him. David saw her. She did not see him. She hit him as he was running backwards to the safety of the curb. One tonne of metal rammed into him, driving him up onto his toes and slamming him into the concrete garbage can. David buckled to the right, his boot scraping the ground as he hung between the trash bin and the car. The driver must have backed up then, allowing him to drop to the pavement.

When I think of the driver I am filled with rage and despair. Rage that she took my son’s life, despair because there is nothing I can do about it.

Her careless actions destroyed us. In my mind, I live in a war zone. I walk past bombed-out buildings and shattered glass. Waiting for the next missile to strike.

As if the boots were not enough, my husband, Steve, and I visited the Isaak Kornelsen parklet on Whyte Avenue, a half block from where David was killed. The small space, carved out temporarily each summer along the four-lane road, honours the memory of Isaak, a young man killed when he was run over by a truck driver.

It was a hot day. I suggested we go for ice cream.

What was I thinking? I never go to Whyte Avenue anymore. It represents only death to me.

As we sat in the cafe, anxiety crept through my body, making my stomach churn. I tried to ignore it and said we should visit the park where David’s memorial tree is planted.

We crossed Whyte Avenue, my already tense body waiting for the shriek of tires and the impact of a car driven by someone who was not paying attention. We walked north towards End-of-Steel Park. I resisted the urge to put my fingers in my ears to block out the noise from Whyte.

The park where David’s oak is planted is about a block from his old apartment. We walked towards it on the leafy sidestreet, making our way back to the car.

We were in David’s neighbourhood, Old Strathcona, where he had lived for nearly a decade. Where he died on a bright, sunny winter afternoon as he crossed the street on a green light.

I remembered David talking about the traffic. “It’s crazy, Mom,” he said. “Drivers on Whyte are insane.” One time he told me how he was crossing a street on a green light when a car, turning right, almost hit him.  David raised one of his sturdy black boots and kicked the fender, the startled driver slamming on the brakes. He never saw my son, so intent was he to make that turn.

As Steve and I made our way to the car, I could hear my son’s boot heels echoing beside us. I could see David, black backpack slung over one shoulder, surveying the street with his blue-grey eyes.

I was crying uncontrollably by the time we reached the car.

This was David’s home. This was his neighbourhood.

The woman who hit him didn’t even live there. She was just passing through.

She was in such a hurry to get to wherever she never got to that day.

Her life goes on.

She has sailed past the wreckage of her own making.

We are the flotsam left behind in her wake.

I am being eaten up and shredded by these thoughts.

David should be living his life. He should be here.