Brothers on Bikes
She didn’t know them, but somewhere within the depths of her soul she felt like she did. After all, the five African American boys were a part of her morning routine. Monday through Friday, without fail, they passed outside her kitchen window, riding their bikes in a single file line down the sidewalk across the tree lined street that existed in the realm outside of her home. She could tell that they were brothers, even though this was not a certain fact, it was an idea that Marie Shaw believed to be true after witnessing their presence time and time again. The line they created with their bodies and their bicycles had the ability to calm her senses, while also waking her up as she watched them ride by. The oldest and largest boy was always at the front, followed by the other four who got younger and smaller as the bicycle brigade lingered on, before ending with the tiniest juvenile who didn’t even seem old enough to be a part of the troupe.
Living in a predominantly black neighborhood as a single white woman in the city of Pittsburgh was not something that Marie thought about often, nor did this truth unsettle her. Sure, when she rode the bus on her daily commute downtown she was frequently the only white person inside of the crowded transportation machine, but Marie didn’t look at people differently based on the color of their skin, and she hoped that no one thought twice about the reality that her pale flesh was different from the rest of those who surrounded her.
One morning, instead of waiting inside of her small townhome for the brothers on bikes to pass by, Marie decided to exit her abode faster than usual, so that she could wait at her bus stop and witness their charade carry on before her at a closer commonplace, that way perhaps she would actually be able to study their faces, and feel as if she knew them in the way that she wanted to. Her curiosity about the brothers was simply that, a stretch of the imagination that wished to be completed with the details that were ingrained within the actualities of their being.
While waiting at her stop, Marie pulled the waist belt of her tan trench coat tighter so that the autumn breeze that was slightly blowing would be unable to enter inside and assault her limbs. Once her coat was readjusted and she felt a degree of comfortable warmth, she lifted up her gaze from her own body to the stretch of sidewalk across the street where she knew the boys would soon ride.
It wasn’t long before she spotted them in the distance, their linear congregation approaching the spot across from her at a steady stride. The breeze that had been blowing earlier had now dissipated entirely, as the stillness of the atmosphere enveloped the location where Marie stood, transfixed by the closeness of the brothers who pedaled on. The first four were all perched upon black bikes, while the fifth brother rode upon a bright shade of yellow, his sunshine color popping with light in juxtaposition to the darkness that was before him. She watched them reach the center of where her eyes framed her sight, and then an urge pummeled into her as she realized she wanted more than to just see them in this close fashion, she wanted to interact with them in a way that would make the brothers more fully known. They were passing her now, across the street and moving further away, but the littlest brother was still close enough that she hoped he would hear as she began to call out.
“Please! Wait! I’d like to speak with you,” she started, her voice shaky as she moved away from her bus stop and ran across the street, following after the brothers before her who rode their bicycles further away, none of them turning to acknowledge the random woman who appeared to so suddenly take an interest in them.
Her gait sped up as she began to jog as quickly as she could in her short red pumps, wondering if any passerby was taking notice of how ridiculous she looked, running after boys on bikes for no apparent reason at all. She didn’t even know the logic behind her movements herself, but she felt that she needed to know these boys, at least in some way, and so, she ran.
“Stop!” She screamed, this time her voice louder than it had ever sounded in her earlier life, and due to the volume of her temperament, the noise that she had created caused the youngest boy at the back to take notice, to slow, to falter and pause as he looked back at where Marie was following behind. She saw his reaction to her presence, where he was waiting upon his yellow bicycle in the middle of the intersection up ahead, his brothers still moving forward, he stuck in the quagmire that she had created with the strength of her shout.
His eyes connected with Marie’s as her pace slowed and she began to walk, still moving forward in the direction to where he resided as the avenues collided.
And then the white truck appeared before anyone was even conscious of where it came from, dragging itself diagonally across the intersection and thrashing into the young boy on the yellow bicycle. Marie watched in horror as she realized what was happening, as the truck trampled over his tiny body with all of its wheels, the frame of his bike crunching underneath the weight of its momentum.
He would ride no more.
Marie screamed, but this time her vocal chords were not seeking out for anyone to know her, instead they were letting out a noise that even she did not recognize. The truck came to a stop as she covered her face with her hands, searching for the boy with her eyes, even though she could not find where he had disappeared beneath the behemoth vehicle that had interrupted his stay.
The other brothers were coming back, beckoned by the terrible noises that had emanated from behind them. At first they were unsure of what had occurred, but it did not take them long to spot the tangled yellow bicycle frame bent up beneath the wheels. They threw their black bicycles to the ground, one by one, as Marie aimed to get a grip on herself, reaching into her coat pocket to find her telephone. She dialed 911, thankful that she only had to push three numbers to request an ambulance to come.
She remained at the scene, frozen, unsure of what to do. The brothers were before her, but they did not know her. They did not see her. How could they see her after what had occurred?
It was not long before the sirens arrived, and the paramedics retrieved the young boy from the street, his older brothers surrounding his body, forming a half circle as they wailed. Once he was strapped to the stretcher and lifted up into the ambulance, the four older boys piled into the back with him, refusing to be separated.
The five bikes remained where they had fallen in the intersection, the large truck still congesting the area where the avenues crossed, the driver being questioned by police, Marie stuck at the same spot where her frantic jog had concluded in tragedy.
The young boy died. Before he even made it through the hospital doors, his heart stopped beating, his body crushed by the force of what came upon him at that moment when he saw Marie for who she was. The five brothers in their number, shrunk to just four.
Marie attended his funeral, sitting in the back, far away from the front where a large picture of the young boy’s bright shining face smiled next to the coffin that held his body. The brothers sat with their parents as close to the casket as they could be, tears streaming down their faces, creating pools of unruly discontent beneath their feet where the drops eventually fell. They didn’t see her.
Months went by and they made no return to the street. Marie figured that their daily bike rides would no longer continue. How could they, after what had happened? Her mornings changed in a way, yet still, they remained the same. The only real difference was that neither the brothers, nor their bicycles were there.
But then, one day, she saw them riding again, four instead of five, but still in a line. The youngest brother was not present, could not be present, but a part of him remained. Each of the four black bicycles were brightened by the vibrant yellow tape that the brothers had applied to their frames. And through the color itself, Marie knew they were connected.