As a child, I never believed in ‘growing up’. I never believed that once we reached an omnipotent age of 18, we were allowed to be labelled as a ‘grown ups’. Instead, I believed in growing incessantly – an ideology I stick with today. We have been growing from the moment we left our mothers’ wombs, up until our most recent breath. We are ever-growing.
I did, however, believe that there was a place in our lives when reality would hit us. This moment would be more significant than an 18th birthday. The moment where we’d leave the safe, childish, comfort castles we constructed in our minds. I use ‘leave’ light-heartedly. It was better than the thought of reality-demons knocking down our perfect castles brick by brick. I was waiting.
Reality pummelled me to the ground at a very young age. I wasn’t ready, but then again, is anybody ever? Many years have passed since that morning but the impact has left a scar on my soul.
The roads and paths were pretty much deserted as they usually were at that time. Society slept in on a Sunday. I was walking my dog past my High School; Lost in my own hazy cloud of imagination. When I was on my own, I observed more. The sound against the silence. The colour against the grey. I remember the orange shade in the leaves that scattered on the ground and the crisp rustle that harmonised with each of my steps.
People were also friendlier on Sunday mornings. I guess they were also lost themselves. I had passed a gentleman with a beautiful golden Labrador, who bid me a good morning.
Little did he know… Little did I know.
I paid some attention to the family ahead of me. I’d caught up with them along the stretch of road. The curse of having long legs and a big dog. It was a father with two children. I wondered what business they had out on a Sunday morning. Who were they going to visit? Maybe they just enjoyed the walk like me? A walking family. The thought of doing that with my own family traumatised me. The father seemed like the fun type of dad; he would laugh along with his children from time to time. A girl who looked no older than ten skipped alongside him with a doll under her arm.
Then there was the boy.
The boy with the sandy brown hair and plain white T – the average five-year-old.
Behind me I heard the sound of the local idiots. A car travelling too fast. Turning around to see the dark grey car speeding from the distance, I faced back in front of me towards the happy trio. The five-year-old was balancing on a tightrope. Just as the speeding car came bombing past me, and just as it reached the family, the little boy fell…
The thud of his body colliding with the car’s bonnet stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t see past the car. I didn’t want to. His father’s wail was nothing like I’d ever heard before. It was the noise of somebody tearing apart each and every heartstring inside him. I could hear his heart breaking. The boy’s sister shrieked and shrieked. My ears began to ring and my skin became heavy, pulling me closer and closer to the ground.
Almost immediately after the impact, the car reversed and drove away, revealing a sight to be engraved into my memory forever. The father threw his hands in the air in dismay and fell to his knees. He shielded his son’s body with his own and buried his head in the boy’s chest. He was begging, pleading, willing a response from his son.
‘Michael. Michael... Wake up. I’m here. Daddy’s here.’ His words became desperate sobs as he cradled the body.
The girl, close to hyperventilation stayed backed away on the floor with her knees brought to her chest. She rocked slightly. I wanted to go over to her. I wanted to comfort her but my legs refused.
The boy. Oh the boy. His eyes remained fixed skywards, looking directly through his father. His legs weren’t facing the correct way. A bone in his arm was piercing through his upper bicep. Crimson was seeping through, drowning the once white shirt in various places. Splatters merging together. His skin was grey with pink gashes everywhere. He was so small. So innocent. The little angel was lying in a constellation of blood and glass shards.
It haunted me.
Nights and nights on end I spent tossing and turning. The horrific image flashing in my mind each time I tried to rest my eyes. Throughout the day, I had a weight on my shoulders – a terrible anchor weighing me down. Most of my friends ‘grew up’ at the hands of boyfriends. But I? I ‘grew up’ at the expense of a little boy who’ll never get the chance to.