Warning this post might be disturbing to some people. I trust you to take care of yourself if you need to not read it. This post is about violence, a death, doubt, memory and forgetting.
Unusually on October 23rd I was out of the house around 8 am and heading to the store for some coffee cream. Often I would either still be in bed or on the couch snuggling my 3 year old. As I crossed the park I could see that the road was closed off by bright yellow police tape. I wondered if there was a break-in? A mugging?
Quietly the Clash song “Somebody got Murdered” started to roll through my head. I doubted the message. Seriously? Whose guides send messages in the form of old punk tunes? I went to the store, got my cream, and continued to go about getting ready for work. A slow nagging in the back of my mind – something bad has happened.
When I got to work I saw the news in my neighbours Facebook posts. Someone had been stabbed in the laneway by my home. If I had been there an hour earlier I might have walked right into the middle of it. So close to death.
My mind ran its own news series on this violent tragedy. Playing out the possibilities had I stumbled across this crime as it happened. In some tellings I saved the day. In others I felt less safe or sure of myself. It took a bit of time before they released her name and I got to see her face. I am not sure if the anonymity was easier or harder. I have already started forgetting my experiences.
The laneway became full of flowers, candles, and prayers. For weeks the acts of honouring and remembering thrived. For weeks we talked about her death. What did it mean for our life? Had we made an error in moving downtown? I found myself avoiding walking down the laneway. Simply peering and praying from one end or another – opting to go another way to wherever I needed to be.
Eventually I cut back through the lane on my way here or there. Winter and snow set in and someone (a city worker?) cleared it all away. No more flowers or candles marking the spot of her passing.The wall continued to carry the marks of grief – burnt and blackened in spots by candles. Lightened and inscribed with chalk prayers.
Unlike the other violence around my part of town this death’s randomness touched me more deeply. It scared me and to some extent has scarred me. If fate had nudged things slightly I could have been there. Now 6 months later I rarely think of her. Death has taken her life, left its mark and moved on from my life. In the end all of what we are will be removed by a city worker, the weather, time, and the frailty of memory. I may never forget the day that Nighisti Semret lost her life but I will not last forever.
I hope that Nighisti Semret finds this writing respectful. I wish peace and justice for her family and friends. The person has yet to be caught.
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