Everything the train hoppers get is divisible by 3: the groceries, at a cost of $30.90, it’s boosted by the $25 extra at the checkout, OK – but add $25 to the earlier $11 we found, and that equals $36, and now we’re in, we’re aligned. This is what D tells me. She says they have been moving in thirds since 3 weeks ago, and it can’t let up. Not now. Three of the train hoppers are drunk and performing music at the park, pill-addled dances. One is drug-asleep. “That makes three of us at any moment,” she says. “Divide that by the number of days minus Sundays, today, and we’re resting when we need to rest, moving when we will.” They found 10 cents earlier. They have $6 left.
The train hoppers pack their groceries in a crate, stolen from a stack of three crates lined up outside the grocery. The grocery is three blocks away.
The woman, D, has her baby premature in an apartment in Alaska. Alaska was added to the Union on the 3rd of January, 1959. 1959 is, at its third, 653. She is drugged and drunk and the baby just comes. On the 7th month of pregnancy, premature and alive for only 3 hours, the baby does not rise again. The baby rests on the 7th month, a Sunday, God’s day — D is convinced this is a sign that her death is near. “I will make my way back to Alaska,” she says. “I will become the end of what did not begin.”
D’s husband is not with the three other train hoppers. He is drug-asleep at the park edge, his uneven mass half-hung off a picnic table. His breathing is irregular. D and her friend, Vincent, tell me how the men of the group lay their dicks on D’s husband’s face and take an iPhone photo while he sleeps so hard. The iPhone is a 3GS.
The man, Eddie, tells me not to tell cops his real name. He requests to be called Elvis. Elvis performs the songs on his guitar, three songs, for the park. The body of the guitar has HELP! sharpied on it, and signatures of other traveler musicians, chord structures scribbled in Bic in case he forgets them.
The train hoppers smell like ranch grass and are swathed in track oil, dirt. D’s breasts poke through holes in her tee. Eddie’s hair mats like wet burlap. Vincent is drunk, so drunk, and trying to dance and pet the park dogs.
Eddie looks at the sky. He holds three fingers below the sun.
“We have about an hour,” Eddie says. “That’s when the train crew changes. That’s when we need to be at the station.”
“We’re going north,” D says. “Tennessee.”
I am too well-dressed. The park heat collects around me, and I can feel the heat of others looking at our conversation, wave after wave of the knowing what-comes-next without the waiting-to-see. Blind to anything but the train hoppers.
This is how the sun works: every third of the day is met with a different range of feeling. D says, “This is it,” and looks at the sky, three fingers aligned below the sun. “We’re a third of the way there. We are the best part of a day.”
Photo by Yuko Nakamura.