How to Catch the 7:43 a.m. Q60 Bus

Set your hair in a doobie the night before and you can sleep to 6:45. All you’ll have to do is brush it in the morning, but wear a hat if it’s humid outside so your hair will still be smooth when you sit in front of Frank Torres in homeroom.

Shower after Mami so you don’t have to make your own breakfast, but get in the bathroom before Papi sits in there with The Daily News and sneaks a smoke, like nobody can smell. Leave enough time to use the concealer you got at Walgreens real careful. You can put on the rest of your make-up in the girls’ bathroom with Sonia and Marie, but you don’t need to look like a pizza face on the bus.

Remember to pack your school tie. It looks stupid but you’ll have to work in the library with Sister Grace at lunchtime if you’re out of dress code.

Get to the kitchen by 7:15 so you have time for the toast and tea Mami has on the table. Be dressed and have your bag so you can walk right out before Papi can offer to drive you to school, like he has to drop you off right in front and walk you to the gate because you’re a sophomore and still might not know where to go.

At 7:25, make sure Mami don’t follow you to the door because she’ll give you ten minutes of bendiciones and be careful and don’t forget. And that door’s got locks like Papi drives a BMW, not a taxi, and it takes forever to lock.

Now here’s where it gets tricky because you got 18 minutes to get to the bus stop. It’s only a block away but the 7:43 driver is a real asshole. He’ll make everyone late waiting for the old Jewish ladies from the co-ops, but he pulls away soon as someone from the projects runs to catch the bus.

And you’ve got to get out of the building first. Don’t take the stairs. Ever. There’s always a surprise behind the door and Ravenswood Houses ain’t no game show. And if there’s only one elevator in service, it stops on every floor up, then back down.

And sometimes Eric is in the lobby when you get to the first floor. Sometimes his boys are with him, all of them there that early, starting their day even if they’re not going to school. You’ve all grown up in the same projects but don’t say hi, just look for the AP Bio book or Catcher in the Rye you know are in your bag. Just keep walking when they say you’re stuck up and think you’re too good, but don’t run when one of them makes a play like they’re going to go after you. Just keep walking, fast but don’t run toward that bus because all that driver sees is another spik who can’t make it to the bus on time, and he don’t care what you’ve got in your bag or your head than can prove different.

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