No rest, no peace for hit-and-run family

Fall’s heavy breath is beginning to nestle in the valleys around the city. You can face east at the top of Dickson Street in the morning and watch the fog disappear into the day.

The Loneliness is beginning to set in, too. The separation between the self and the world increases as the air gets cooler. You begin to feel the boundary between your skin and the crisp morning. If the day’s first coffee is hot enough, life’s proof escapes in quick clouds from the mouth.

Outside the apartment, some refugee from the night before is burning a few sticks beside the parking lot. He’s sitting cross-legged poking the little fire with one hand and holding a beer with the other.

There’s not enough wood to make the blaze worth while but the scent of burning autumn spreads quickly. It brings back the smell of the pyres of Varanasi, India.

In that town, the Ganges’ banks are lined with temples where the dead are burned. Their bodies’ smoke sneaks through the air before the remains are thrown into the river, later snatched by dogs crowding the waterline.

The difference of the birthing fall to the lost summer months is as great as that between Varanasi and Fayetteville. About two months ago, the heat was oppressive, nights were loud and, exactly one year before that, UA grad student Karthikeya Sennimali was still alive.

Death makes no appointments and it has no sense of when the time is right or wrong for its arrival. But it seemed like cruel design that Karthikeya should die the night he celebrated his graduation from the UA.

John Secrest faces trial Oct. 27 for the slaying. Before the jury reaches a verdict, he is innocent until proven guilty. He’s pleaded not guilty but if the courts see it the other way, he faces a mere six years in jail – at the most. But it probably won’t come to that – if he is guilty. Secrest’s friend, who reportedly saw Secrest that night, has a lawyer father and a high class one at that.

The affidavit of the two friends who saw Secrest’s car is disturbing. It’s the stuff of sickness and nightmares. The lines keep repeating themselves in the head – “—–noted there was blood and hair on the windshield,” “…there was blood and hair on the windshield.”

Blood and hair…

Blood and hair…

Karthikeya’s entire future was smeared on the windshield of a car.

Six years for a pure accident is nothing compared to the extinguishing of life, let alone an accident that might have involved other factors. It’s a small price to pay.

But according to the affidavit, there was a conscious effort to hide facts – explanations for the damage, hurried repairs and paint jobs, fleeing back home. A year and a life had gone by before answers began to surface.

If Secrest is guilty, did he hear Kathikeya’s voice whispering in his ear throughout his waking and dreaming life? Did he hear the choking of Kathikeya’s father as he came thousands of miles to beg for closure, to ask for help in silencing the voice that stalked him as well?

And if Secrest is innocent, how close was the killer when the press room of the Fayetteville Police Department was crowded and quiet as a father and brother-in-law begged the public for help? Did the killer hear that silence?

There seems to be little justice in any of this. A guilty Secrest will probably face a few years of time and probation stemming from a single count of leaving the scene of an accident. An innocent verdict means either a killer goes free or a killer remains free.

Regardless, Karthikeya will still be dead and hopes will be left unfulfilled.

Hopefully, though, the guilty party will be plagued with a loneliness that only comes when you leave your conscience and love on the side of the road and separate yourself so much from the world that it’s as physical as warm skin against a cooling autumn.

Yeah, The Loneliness is here alright. It’s with Karthikeya’s family and friends. It’s with the wife he’ll never know, with his children unborn and unnamed.

There’s no way to kill The Loneliness and the Hennessey is all but gone. The last few drinks have been poured onto the ground.

There’re still miles to go before a rest. Classes to take before the tests.

Miles to go before a rest…

[Original piece available here.]


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