In memory of Chris G. (circa 1960 – 1974)
This poem ends with a variation on a line from Oliver de la Paz
I don’t know that day completely.
I know how our bus wasn’t there and
how the kids waiting for the bus to return
them to their lives and families as far away as Volcano,
fourteen miles distant, gradually scattered over the campus
of Mt. View Intermediate as the bus still didn’t arrive.
I didn’t see everything. I saw
enough to deliver two policemen
to my father’s house for
an interview piercing my grief,
carefully masking skepticism
at where I said he was hit
rolled under the car
an impossible distance
before the car finally stopped.
I saw enough, but the sequence
doesn’t ravage my sleep, doesn’t
play and replay looping like film.
I don’t know why the bus driver –
always punctual before and after
that day – was late. That day, why?
It seemed the driver was driving
too fast for that stretch of road
alongside the Mt. View Intermediate
campus. Was she driving too fast,
inattentive, distracted for only a moment?
That day, why? And Chris – I ask across
the years – why attempt to cross that highway,
why there? There’s no answer. Was he inattentive,
distracted for only a moment, one moment now
stretching across forever? That day, why?
We weren’t close. Chris had four siblings,
and I have little trouble remembering their
names even today. Before it too was shattered
for different reasons, my family lived near theirs.
His younger brother Dan was my age. Dan and I
were friends briefly, but we weren’t close either.
The following day was a blur of grief.
Kids and adults were stricken, and Mountain
View Intermediate was in mourning. We kids
walked out of homerooms wordlessly in solemn
procession toward the lower campus, down the
covered walkway to the covered basketball courts
enclosed by chain link walls. Stunned, we walked
around and around the inner expanse of chain link.
Did we walk clockwise? Or, was it counterclockwise –
as if to spin the world back, as if to turn time backward
so we could see Chris smile again, so we could reacquire him,
so we could warn him of approaching car, and reacquire his life?
I can’t recall. I walked alone, tears streaming down my face.
Looks were question marks I left unanswered. I cried. I cried –
shamelessly – over the premature death and over the waste.
Tears stream down my face again, shamelessly.
Nearly forty years later, the driver and the bus driver
are likely dead too. I want Chris – and all of them –
to rest in peace. I want Chris – and all of them –
to be remembered and to be remembered with love.
Nearly forty years later, I still think of Chris,
and of the life he might have led. I still think of Chris,
and he is forever fourteen.
Andrew Shattuck McBride
April 17, 2012