Six days from now

By Christopher Wink | May 08, 2008

One week from yesterday three strangers riding beside me on the 3 bus will be dead.

But I can’t know it. It hasn’t happened, and I’ve never spoken to them before and won’t in the future. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even like know they were there, except for the boy, and that was only because his iPod was playing so loud I heard the bass of his trashy hip hop.

In just six days he will die on the same day as two others he doesn’t know.

I just want to get home without listening to what’s left of the music in some teenage boy’s ears.

I work at my uncle’s deli near Wissinoming Park. Normally my boyfriend picks me up after his afternoon class at Holy Family and has dinner with my dad and me in Port Richmond, but he has some group project. So I’m on the 3 with Jimmy Quinn.

Jimmy is wearing a big white tee-shirt, the kind that boys in my neighborhood stopped wearing like forever ago. He has black velor sweat pants and new Adidas basketball sneakers, white and black with red outline. A white wire hangs out of his pocket and is pulled up is side, split below his neck into buds tucked into either of floppy ears. He has big teeth with a space in the middle. I only know that because for a minute before we stopped near Oxford to unload some really sweaty Indian guy, Jimmy got really into some part of his song and started rapping. Totally quiet, but I saw that gap and those big teeth.

If I knew him, I might have known he was 19 and going to his grandma’s house to pick up his little brother who loves Jimmy like about as much as anyone ever has. Jimmy likes basketball but is bad and computers but only has an original PlayStation. That’s the old one, but I only know that because of my little cousin, who lives with my dad and me because his mom does drugs and is like a huge waste. Jimmy is from Fishtown and went to North Catholic. Now he delivers pizzas and smokes like tons of weed.

Six days from now he’ll die.

Jimmy is in a two-seater on the right side near the middle of the bus – I always sit in the back of the bus after this one time when this stupid kid put gum in my hair from behind me – and has his left foot on the back of the bar on the side of the seat in front of him.

In that seat is like the oldest lady I ever seen.

Frances has turquoise shirt with lots of little dots and has short white hair, lots of but not real long. She has a real long face with crazy little wrinkles that all intersect and make her face seem like stone, like she got a wrinkle for every hard day she ever lived. If her eyes – which I saw when she turned around to see if Jimmy really did mean to have his music so loud we could all hear it – were any indication, she had like a million hard days.

Frances was born in 1932 and grew up on Chatham Street in Port Richmond. She would steal penny gum drops from her parent’s candy store. Her father and mother worked alongside one another for 35 years, selling cigarettes to men in the morning, cabbage to women in the day, and candy to children in the afternoon.

At 18, Frances married a boy named Walter who was born in 1909 and grew up on Chatham Street in Port Richmond. He would steal bottle caps from his parent’s tavern on Aramingo. By the 1950s, the pair had a nice rowhome in Wissinoming. She had already missed her stop, but I didn’t know that and, as we came to Torresdale, she was forgetting herself.

Six days from now she’ll die.

Across the aisle on the left side, facing the side of the bus where Jimmy and Frances are sitting forward is Pete Alullo.

He has short hair and looks pretty normal for an afternoon on the 3. He reminds me of my dad. Pete has a little stubble and is wearing a dark blue polo shirt tucked in blue jeans and white sneakers.

Before he was looking at me, but I didn’t see it. If I had I might have thought he was a creep looking at me, but he was actually thinking about how much I look like his daughter Amanda. That’s why he is riding the bus. Pete’s brother is borrowing his truck, and Amanda, with his wife, is using his car for her driver’s license test. They live in Frankford but he’s going to a friend’s garage to see about buying Amanda her own car. The garage is near Castor Ave., which we’re coming to next. Pete retired last year from the Philadelphia police and now works for a security company transferring money from banks. He drives an armored truck and stuff. Amanda is super close to him and is really happy he isn’t working as a Philly cop anymore.

Six days from now he’ll die.

Jimmy is getting off a few blocks from Castor. The first and last time I’ll ever see him. All I can think is how much I hate him because he made me listen to his irritating music for like an hour on this stupid bus.

One week from yesterday just after 3 a.m., Jimmy is going to flip his grandmother’s 1989 Buick LeSabre into the river off Delaware Avenue.

He’ll be driving like 75 and will be totally wacked after having way too much Naty Ice at his friend’s older brother’s house party on American Street by Spring Garden.

It even will get mentioned in the newspaper because two guys will be smoking outside a bar across from where Jimmy crashes over the curb. They will run like hell to the river and like jump in. The will pull Jimmy out of the car and actually get him on the ground but endings are only as good as the action in movies.

Frances just stood up and sat down. Like she was resetting the whole bus ride and could fix that she didn’t know where she was.

Every morning for about 100 years, Frances woke up 6 a.m. One week from yesterday she won’t. She has lung cancer – which explains all the coughing, which almost makes me as mad as the music – but that won’t be what kills her. Her mind had been slipping a lot. Forgetting stuff, stuff she’d never forget. But she’d always remember those gum drops. She loved gum drops. It’s good to remember when you can only seem to forget. But I guess you can’t die of forgetting or remembering.

Her heart will just stop beating. I don’t know why. I’m not no doctor. I just think there should be a lot more attention paid to the idea that somewhere at 5:30 a.m. on some random morning next week a woman’s heart who had been beating just fine since before World War II will suddenly just stop.

I see Pete shaking hands and laughing with some mechanic guy as this bus sits at a red light at Castor. He’s smiling.

One week from yesterday at 2:19 p.m., according to security cameras, some black guy will come running up and shoot Pete’s partner like 1,000 times. Pete will get off a shot before getting the same end. The black guy will take about $1,100 and leave two men in their 50s who retired from cop jobs for safety and comfort. Two men in their 50s with daughters and wives.

I’ll never see Pete again, if I ever saw him. I’ll never know Frances or meet Jimmy. They’ll never know each other either, but six days from now.

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