On Saturday, July 22, we set up a table with books on Haddon Ave outside The Free Books Place (you can take the “pop-up” out of the name but not out of the game) to encourage passers-by to come in and browse. As a woman, who we’ll call K, was scanning the table and her boyfriend, who we’ll call M, waited in the car, I let her know we had so many more books inside. I asked her if they had the time to take a look around, and she quickly answered yes.
She did ask me to direct her boyfriend to the parking lot with the cute aside, “He’s not very good with directions.” He must have been good with cars, though. He drove some type of Lincoln with what sounded to my motor-virgin ears like a turbo engine. He later told me he got such a good deal on the price because the car originally had 17 bullets in it. He showed me one of the holes. The others were fixed.
K got comfortable right away, sprawled out on the floor, flipped through each of the children’s books, one-by-one. The Free Books Place staff member Brooke was helping her. K also likes murder mysteries for herself. Brook took her to the James Patterson rack. M told us that he spent some time incarcerated, which he passed by reading some of Patterson’s work. Unfortunately, his ADHD made it tough for him to concentrate, which is a fair point considering how Patterson writes. Once he opened that conversation drawer, we kind of just jumped right on in.
K and M are from Philadelphia, but were making their stop at the methadone clinic in Camden when they drove by our table that Saturday. Both of them have been clean for 2 years. M told me about the connections he had that became a gateway to drug use. A lot of these friends who tried to “guide” him are sadly gone. He is happy to have made such progress.
I imagine people are a lot like cars with bullet holes. Most have them all patched up, to erase the early mistakes, hard memories, and tough roads. But people who are open about their lives and struggles leave one hole as-is. And, now that I’m some type of expert inspector of cars with a bullet hole, I can tell you, they’re a lot more interesting that way. They have a story.
Because M was so honest, I felt very close to him just an hour later when him and K were getting ready to leave. I hope they stop by more regularly Saturdays on their way home.
Written by: Tom Martin, Executive Director
Edited by: Breanna Ransome, MA