This is an older piece of writing. I wrote it about four years ago. Leslie died in the spring of 2007 in a mall parking lot in the south part of the city. In the fall of 2009 I bought a house a few blocks from the area in which she was killed. This is about the day that I first encountered "the mall". I don't know that everyone needs to go to "the place". In fact, I still haven't been to the actual spot, the parking lot, where Leslie was killed. But I do think that I was cheating myself by living in fear of "the place". I used to go to great lengths to drive around it. It's okay to have a healthy respect for the bad memories places can bring you, but it's UNHEALTHY to create new routes for your life so that you don't even need to acknowledge their existence. So, anyway, this is my story.
On Valentine's Day weekend I went to Ward Parkway Mall. I didn't go to the spot where Leslie died. But I went to the mall. I had avoided it for a long time. I even considered going a time or two but decided that I didn't need to. I always told myself that it was unnecessary to make myself go if I didn't need to.
But now I live just about four blocks away. It was late on Friday and I had to buy a board book for a baby shower. My friend, Amanda, just brought home her baby boy, Isaac, who she had been in the process of adopting from Haiti when the earthquake struck. She was able to bring him home thanks to the American government granting orphans in the middle of adoption proceedings humanitarian parole to the United States. We got a larger gift that hadn't come yet and my mom wanted me to pick up something small to wrap and we decided on a board book. I could have driven to the plaza on a weekend night, found a place to park, etc. But it seemed silly to do that when a board book was literally a few blocks away from me. It made me realize that it was only fear that was keeping me away. And the longer I let that fear grow, the more it would become a part of me and a part of my memories about my dear, dear, bosom friend.
I took my friend Amy with me. I cried a little in the parking lot...only a few tears. It was hard to think I was in the last place she had been alive. Inside was weird, but I was okay. I had little bits of fear when I was near the entrances of stores.
When we found to board books, the first one I picked up was called "You Are Brave". On the cover was a smiling, black boy. I thought of Isaac and how brave he had been...living through the only home he had ever known falling down around him; getting on an airplane and arriving in an entirely different world full of strangers. I thought of how brave Leslie was to have lived her life so courageously, spontaneously and with such trust in her own decisions. I thought of how brave I was to be there, facing my fear and conquering it. We are brave.
I bought the book and gave it to Isaac. He chewed on it a lot, which, I think, in baby world, means he gets it.