Issue Thirty-Eight - Summer 2021

The Bicycle

By Andrew Alexander

Newark was a bustling post-world war II metropolis, and I was maybe seven, possibly eight years old. A long time ago. There were no air-conditioned buses then and the beige-colored bus I was on had split windows; they were metal frames that slipped from the top only, down one half of the opening. On Saturdays, I rode to the church where, in the sacristy, I would polish the candelabra that decorated the main altar at Mass on Sunday. It was summer, and the sun had climbed atop the city. As I remember, the ride was like any other, for a while. My bus, the number 5 Kinney Street, stopped at about every second street it crossed. At the intersection of Bergen Street and 18th Avenue, the bus stopped for what seemed a long time. Some passengers complained of the exhaust smell coming through the windows, and the driver turned the engine off. I’d been sitting at the window facing the sidewalks, but I noticed the big people were moving to the other side of the bus, the across the street side, to look. I got up and crossed the aisle, and standing, I could see just over the sill of the windows. There, on the blacktop, laid a pure white sheet, bright enough in the sun to hurt my eyes. A bent bicycle wheel leaned against the granite curb. There was a reed-thin leg, dark brown with a white sock crumbled at its ankle. On the hot blacktop from below the white sheet was the reddest blood I’d ever seen. There were big people all around, and I heard someone say, “girl.” Otherwise, the intersection seemed eerily quiet. A lady on the bus spotted me staring. She came over to me and asked me to cross the aisle and sit where I’d initially started. I asked her if the girl was hurt. The woman’s shoulders stiffened for a moment, and I remember her dark eyes studying me. She was almost smiling but not quite smiling. She said, “Um. Yes, she’s hurt, just hurt.” Then, the engine rumbled to life and the bus shifted gears and we moved forward.

Copyright 2021 Alexander