I was weaving through traffic in a midday haze when the sound of a ringing phone broke my stupor. ‘There goes lunch’ I thought as the station’s call letters appeared on my iPhone.
“Hey - I need you to go to 650 Swindell Drive… Sounds like a body found.”
I grunted, tossed the phone in the passenger seat and pulled my third u-turn of the day.
Twelve minutes later, I raised the tailgate of Unit 11 and fished out my lens and sticks. Two police cruisers blocked Swindell Drive. I sauntered past the cop cars, my tripod on one shoulder and the camera strap digging into the other. Up ahead, police officers gathered on the porch of a clapboard house. A young woman in a pink robe sat at the bottom of the steps, her shoulders hitching as she told a detective what she’d seen.
“And I said ‘Daddy, come home NOW! Keesha won’t move!’
Her voice broke and she buried her head in hands. When she did, I twisted the barrel of my lens ever so slightly, sharpening the edges of the woman’s pain. Cold blooded? Perhaps, but I didn’t haul ass to the hood to pass out Popsicles. I came to shine a light on the unadorned truth - and maybe fill ninety seconds of newscast in the process. So there I stood, a street corner specter, saying nothing but seeing all. I was almost out of shots when the yelling began.
I swung my lens toward the sound and focused on it source. A round man in workers’ overalls, lumbering under heavy breath and wearing an expression I’d seen before.
“Dee! Dee! What happened to Keesha, Dee?”
Leaping to her feet, the woman in the pink robe ran toward her father, causing the officers on the porch to stop talking smack long enough to crane their necks and fondle the butt of their service pistols.
When Dee reached her Daddy, they crumpled into each others arms. As they sunk to the ground, their voices rose, fell and melded until only the guttural sound of grief remained. On the porch, the cops went back to their gossip, leaving the sad passion play to finish out its tragic act.
That’s when I realized I wasn’t rolling anymore.
Keesha was fifteen years old when she died that day. I know nothing else about her, other than what the one cop told me as he gathered up crime tape.
“Sister found her in the kitchen. Looks to be self-inflicted. Coroner’s on the way.”
I nodded, walked away and called the station.
“Slow your roll. Suicide. I got video just in case.”
Walking back to my news unit, my thoughts tuned to lunch. At one point, I had to stop to let the coroner’s van pass. I knew then that the footage I’d just shot would never be reach a TV screen and in a couple of days, most of the details would fade away. It would be like I was never even there. Chances are Dee and her Daddy never even noticed the cameraman quietly framing their pain that day.
But he remembers them. And twelve years later, he doesn’t need to play back any video clip to hear their hearts break all over again. He’ll take that sound to his grave -- along with a twinge of guilt for having even been there to hear it.