Miles witnessed something as a child that he just can't get out of his head.
Sandra A. Cardwell was the girl next door. When you think of ten year olds playing together, what do you think of? A set of girls laying on their stomachs and playing with barbies? Two boys with fake guns making sound effects running and yelling, playing Cops and Robbers? How about a girl and boy swinging together and giggling because girls and boys aren’t supposed to play with each other because of cooties?
Sandy and I weren't like that. our windows faced each other, and when my dad was done tucking me in and left, I’d climb out and open my window, looking out. She’d be waiting for me, smiling, but would always look over her shoulder for something. At that young age I didn’t know what it was, or what it could be. I didn’t know what was happening.
Now I know. I don’t know why,though. And no one does in these cases. As a child, I assumed those bruises were just from her playing. But her mother’s game wasn’t the best game in the world.
I used to play ISpy with her. We’d laugh and talk about stupid things all night. I didn’t understand how she didn’t see the new cartoon episodes, or why she always wore the same three things. As I grew older, I started realizing and wish I did so I could tell my dad.
That wouldn’t have helped. Sure, my dad is very kind, but I was just a kid. Also, if adults knew, why couldn’t they stop it? It wasn’t something a kid should have worried about.
When it happened, I didn’t understand why Sandy wasn’t there anymore for a few hours. Dad tried explaining it over and over, and mom was in tears. I don’t know if it was my heart shattering or if it was Sandy’s death that made her upset. Maybe it was both. Maybe she knew and never told anyone and blamed herself.
Our family moved after that, but when I got into college I got the closest apartment to that side of the city to go visit her after that. My parents said it wasn’t healthy. It was strange and no one thought the way I did. It was funny they said those things. My whole life they told me they’d support me anything, and encouraged being different. I guess I was just too different.
I always use to think about Sandy. How I could have protected her. What if I ran over and threw myself in front of her mother? I couldn’t stop the beating. The emptiness that girl held. I couldn’t stop what was going on in her mother’s head, no matter how many ‘ifs’ I can think of.
Now, though, I’m mature. I can tell the difference between right and wrong a lot easier, and know not to think of silly things like ‘ifs’.
As I sit at her grave, writing this, I remember her face. I’ll never forget that face. Cute and round, freckles and blue eyes. Brown hair always pulled back in a ponytail with assortment of ribbons and bands that I guess she stole from the kids at school, or found laying around the house, just to feel pretty.
I can still hear her voice, how she said my name. No one has ever said ‘Miles’ as sweet as she did. No one will ever say it as sweet as she had on those nights.
I can still hear her crying and her pleas for help. I was shocked, trying to see what happened. They were loud and I still wonder how my father didn’t hear them, and if he did, why didn’t he help the girl? Is that why he wanted me to stop thinking about her?
I’ll never know. And I’m leaving this on your grave, Sandy. It’s for anyone who finds it. I just wanted them to know my story.
I also wanted to say a proper goodbye.