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The train stopped. Vera had to get out and change trains across the platform, there was one already waiting. Everyone ran to it across the platform, but the train closed its doors and sped away. A collective huff of frustration escaped the crowd, and then a second wave of commuters swarmed the platform. Holidaymakers heading downtown, the platform was crowded with them. They stood concentrated behind the yellow line, the line one mustn’t cross till the train doors open and the passengers have exited. Except you saw some people already at the edge of the platform, anticipating the spot where the train would open its doors and they’d be the first to snag a seat.
Like this boy here, with his blue jeans and grey hooded coat, a backpack slung across one shoulder. She was guessing a student. Headphones on, straddling the yellow line, nervously shifting his weight off one foot onto the other. How easy it would be to shove him onto the tracks, Vera thought. It’s a wonder they don’t have barriers to keep people from doing just that. With all the crazies around.
Imagine I was to push him over — into the way of the coming train. Vera thought about it. Wouldn’t that be something? Where would her problems be then? Nothing would matter. There was relief in that thought. Push the boy in front of the train. She’d have a whole new set of problems then. She’d be refreshed. Everything else would fade into the background and cease to matter, her career, her relationships, everything would appear inconsequential. She’d have to live in the present, immediacy and gravitas would rule the day. There would be the body — mangled — dead or perhaps only half-dead, the lower half chewed up between the train and the tracks. Everyone would be shrieking or screaming. There’d be a lot of blood. Would she faint? Maybe she would be catatonic. She was certain she wouldn’t stay conscious, not after doing such a crazy thing. Imagine doing something so completely crazy and unpredictable. A slight thrill shot through her. Maybe they wouldn’t even know it was her till they reviewed the security tapes. Maybe the driver would see her do it. Push the boy in front of the train. Would an alarm sound? How long before the cops showed up? Paramedics? They’d take her away. They’d ask her why she did it. She’d tell them she didn’t know.
She saw it, the table across which she and the interrogator would sit, a long reflective window, a small bare room with one door. I don’t know, I don’t know why I did it, she would cry. Would they think she was crazy? Would they be sorry for her? Her parents would fly in, envelop her in embraces. They’d blame themselves. Even Greg would forgive her. They’d think she had brain fever, they’d check for tumors.
And when the results came back negative?
She’d have to go to jail. Still no one would be able to figure why she did it. Maybe they’d find out she’s bi-polar. She imagined herself all over the news. How would she react? Somber and with a delicious, irresistible sadness. I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I did it, she’d keep repeating that one phrase over and over, now soft and pleading, sorrowful and broken, frightened. The media would love her — how could they not? — the public would call for a soft sentence. Ellie would be green with envy.
The more Vera thought about it, the more relaxed and composed she felt. It would be just one of those things when ordinarily sane people snap and do something terrible for no reason at all, and no one has any explanation for it. Just one of those mysteries of life. In jail she’d take up Eastern mysticism, Buddhism, she would fast, become wise, help others. When she got out, she would write a book, maybe they’d make a television movie about her. She didn’t think she’d get much jail time. A nice, successful, middle-class girl who’s been raising funds for the same charity since middle grade.
Her eyes moistened. Vera felt as vulnerable and fragile as a child. And there was some comfort in this, a wonderful solace after holding herself rigid so long. She felt a great flowing away of her problems and the advent of something new, a new beginning, a new identity. She breathed with relief.
The approaching train interrupted her thoughts. The crowd on the platform inched closer to the track, their bodies forward and tense. The student in the jeans and grey hooded jacket shuffled his feet away from the yellow line, towards the tracks. Getting ready to pounce. Don’t think, just do it. Just do it. The face of the train appeared in the subway tunnel. It was upon them, then, when Vera pushed.