The tree was badly wounded. It had been wrapped in colorful ribbon to hide its scars. Beneath it two bright red cardinals nestled side by side to keep watch. Poinsettias were tied to the trunk like coagulated globs of blood next to a bouquet of white lilies.
In front of the tree steel signposts had been sheared off. At its base was a religious candle that had burned out. The street was lined by a perfectly spaced canopy of oak trees running down the meridian and along both sides. Even on a busy day, this street was quiet and hardly used.
But for some reason one day in the broad daylight someone made this tree the end of the road. A video of the accident scene I found on Google showed a deflated airbag that hung like a yellow shroud over what was once a driver’s seat. Some yards away from the car was a woman’s handbag in the middle of the street. He wondered if she might have been going through this handbag in the second that was just before the loss of control that itself was the second before she died.
When a woman gets in her car, checks her makeup, adjusts the radio, and slowly pulls out of the garage, would it have been appropriate to tap on the window before she pulled away to say “Lady today you will die in a crash?” Or perhaps the proper thing to do would be to invade her home even earlier in the day as she rushed out the door without kissing her husband or hugging her child because she was late for a job interview or something else terribly important. Maybe someone should have pounded on the hood of her car to tell her that the text message explaining she would be late should include the word ‘forever.’
Did I stop to say a prayer? No. I looked at everything except death. The gashes in the tree, the ribbons, the choice of love birds, the expired candle, even the color of the flowers tied to hide the gashes in the oak, all spoke of death. But what I remember is the purse in the street. Had I been there, I would have purloined the purse. I would scatter its contents like prophetic bones to understand why she chose to die on a perfect warm Spring day.