the first I knew a real child could really die.
Mrs. Hiltz chalked “condolences” on the blackboard for our cards,
a freight train of a word, nothing like “sorry” with its reluctant claim
to blame, a locking and unlocking word we could, with something like confidence, write in crayon to the parents of a dead child,
and know it would arrive with its formal meaning intact.
I didn’t think, nor did our teacher, that 22 cards with their childish scrawl might pain Timothy’s grieving parents or prompt them to wish any of us had been the one so stricken, not their own.
I changed my route to pause before their three-story house until I could get myself to cry, the only fitting tribute to a boy I hardly knew. It took an afternoon's duration, but I did it,
by staring, open-eyed, at the empty upper windows of the house where a little boy did not, and would not, look out, partly opaque with lace curtains, partly clear, like the vision of a hopeful child.