Don’t stop the bus

School bus

I’ve only known two people who have been murdered.

The first was Ms. Aqua, my school bus driver. I lived in the suburbs but I attended a magnet high school downtown, so I got there by taking a bus to a middle school across the street from the projects which served as a transfer hub. Then I hopped on Ms. Aqua’s bus for the 5-10 minute ride to my school. Her bus had a sign in the window that said “AQUA” spelled in capital letters, but I didn’t realize that was her last name at first. I thought it was a color guide so the younger kids could find the right bus. What color bus do you ride? I ride the aqua bus! But no, that was actually her last name.

It was her first year as a driver and Ms. Aqua wasn’t quite cut out for it. She got lost on the way to school that first day. We had to give her directions. She seemed overwhelmed, but she was doing her best, and there was something sincere and friendly about her that made us like her. She either quit or was fired after a month or two. But before that someone learned her birthday was coming up, so they secreted a cupcake aboard the bus that day. On the way to school we started shouting, “Fight! Fight! Fight!” to get Ms. Aqua to stop the bus, and then we sang her happy birthday and handed her a cupcake and she cried happy tears.

A few years later I was watching the news and Ms. Aqua’s face appeared on the screen. Her ex-boyfriend had broken into her apartment and shot her to death.

The other person I know who was murdered was Sixfredo, who was my friend Kathy’s younger brother. Kathy and I got summer passes to Kentucky Kingdom one summer during middle school and took lots of trips to ride the roller coasters. Sixfredo sometimes came along, and I’d see him whenever I visited Kathy’s house. He was the typical kid brother, full of energy and occasionally annoying in that kid brother way that you don’t really mind. I attended a birthday party for him or Kathy or their little sister once, and I remember him taking several blindfolded swings at a piñata hanging from a tree in their backyard and bursting it wide open.

A few years ago there was an altercation at someone’s trailer about money or something and Sixfredo was stabbed. He died later at the hospital.

There are a few other people who were murdered that I know of second-hand. In middle school a teacher at a another school that one of my friends knew was killed by her son who then put her body on the curb in a trash bag. My younger brother knew a girl who was murdered by her boyfriend a few years ago, who then cut her body into pieces and left the parts in different dumpsters around town. Right before I moved into my old apartment complex, the maintenance man was shot execution style with the rest of his family during a home invasion. Then there was Quinton, a kid at my high school who was shot at the bus stop on the second day of school for no apparent reason.

I can’t help thinking of these people since the Sandy Grove school shooting that took place last Friday. Everyone has to die eventually, but it seems rather unfair when someone else gets to decide when “eventually” is for you. It’s sad and a little frightening to think that your life could be taken away from you at any time and there’s not necessarily anything you can do to prevent it.

I don’t remember the names of the people who shot Ms. Aqua or stabbed Sixfredo, but I remember that cupcake and that piñata. I think that’s all I can do, is remember the good times and appreciate them as they happen, because you never know when this bus ride will be over.

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Liz • December 17, 2012 at 9:32 am

This was really nice. I loved the story about Ms. Aqua. Pretending to have a fight in order to get her to pull over is genius and you guys sang happy birthday to her too. I bet she never forgot that. I know I wouldn’t.

You make a good point about the murderers names. Their names are not important, it’s the memories of the beloved that are important. Never forget.

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Kalyn • December 17, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Beautiful writing. I am always wowed by your talent with words.

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Natalie • December 17, 2012 at 5:07 pm

I am rather horrified that you wrote you “only” know two people who were murdered. “Only”??? I most certainly don’t know any.

I love living in Australia where it is safe.

I totally agree with the above comments, though, thank you for remembering the nice people.

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Britta • December 18, 2012 at 1:14 am

“Everyone has to die eventually, but it seems rather unfair when someone else gets to decide when “eventually” is for you. It’s sad and a little frightening to think that your life could be taken away from you at any time and there’s not necessarily anything you can do to prevent it.”

Almost 4 years ago, my best friend went missing and was found a month later in the Mississippi River. He was 18 when he went missing and 19 when found dead. All the evidence points to that he was abducted and murdered. Sometimes I want to know who did it. Sometimes it hurts so much, that I can feel my heart breaking again. For a really long time, I didn’t want to live after it happened.
But now it is easier to look back and remember all the happy memories among the shit some many of us went through when he was missing. We really have to live one day at a time, because tomorrow might not be here…and we may eventually have to get off the bus called life.

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Sheryl • December 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm

A girl in my high school class was killed by a serial killer when we were in 10th grade — there is a memorial page to her in the yearbook. And — strangled, no gun.

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Shelladawn • December 22, 2012 at 1:09 am

@Natalie – I’m with you Natalie, I too was shocked that Jennette “only” knew two people that had been murdered. We really are lucky to live in Australia.
And Jennette that was beautifully written and I especially loved the Ms Aqua story.

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coyote • December 22, 2012 at 3:32 am

Nice post, Jennette. The “only” having known 2 murder victims phrase gave me pause too. I’ve lived in the Deep South most of my life and I (very fortunately, knock-on-wood) haven’t known any murder victims. I’m not sure that J.F.’s statement should be taken as commentary on the distribution of homicides in the US.

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Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

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