It’s such a wonderful night for a walk. You could use a cigarette and you need air. Air. Close the door behind you (did you close it slowly, so nobody would hear? Or did you slam it, hoping somebody would stop you?) and just walk, one step and then another step. It’s not that hard.
And here you are, just outside the train station. Light a cigarette. Watch the breeze play with the smoke and feel it on your skin. For a moment you almost forget. But it’s just a moment then the pain is back, all of it, and it’s time.
Walk to the tracks, take another puff, breath it in fully. Step just in the middle of the tracks, sit down, slowly lower your head to the ground. It’s hard, but not that hard after all. Move just a little bit to get more comfortable, put your legs down, close your eyes. The tracks fit you nicely, like a bed where you can, finally, rest.
At 9:47PM of Friday, August 18, the R5 local to Thorndale leaves Saint David station for Wayne. Wayne is where I left my car before taking the train to Philadelphia this afternoon. Just 2 minutes and I will be there; I’ll get into the car, put my backpack in the back seat, and drive home. I’m exhausted, it has been a long hard week.
The young conductor is listening to her two-way radio. Her serious expression changes just slightly as she starts running towards the front of the train, her bright white shirt flashing down the aisle. The train stops. After a minute, the conductor comes back and announces: “There will be a delay, we might have hit a suicidal.” Somebody asks if we can leave the train, she says no. Not until the police arrives.
We wait, then wait, and wait. In the seats in front of me, a group of young black girls nicely dressed for the evening chat about the accident. Two of them need to go to the bathroom really bad. One of the girls asks the conductor: “Is there a bathroom on the train?” She knows there isn’t one, she is just pointing out that it’s getting really uncomfortable. The woman on my right makes a call on her cell phone. I call my husband: “It seems that my train hit a person who tried to commit suicide. We have to wait here. I’ll call you back when I know more.”
An older guy in the front of the car whispers that it’s going to take a long time, not less than two hours for sure. The guy behind me, in a nice business outfit, has been sleeping through the entire ordeal.
The head-conductor shows up. She stops to explain what happened. We didn’t kill anybody, she says. After the engineer managed to stop the train, the woman walked from under the train unscathed, the cigarette still in her hand. “We can’t touch her, we need to wait for the police to come and arrest the transpasser.”
She also tells us that the engineer is very agitated. “She is in no condition to drive the train right now.” We may have to wait for another engineer.
We wait and wait some more. We look outside the window, our faces glued to the glass, squinting to see in the dark. The woman who tried to kill herself is sitting outside, holding the knees to her chest. She is just in front of us; I can see that she is blond and slender, but I can’t see her face, only her back. A car arrives to pick up somebody on the train. Still no police.
I call Scott again. “We haven’t killed anybody,” I say. “But we are stuck here until the police arrives.” “Good,” he says. He offers to come and pick me up. I tell him that it’s not worth the effort.
The first Radnor police car arrives at about 10:15PM, but it feels more like an eternity. Two officers get out of the car and walk to the woman. I can see one of them, kneeling by her; he has the expression of somebody asking a child who has just fallen from her bike if she is OK. They continue to talk to her, but she doesn’t move.
Slowly more police cars start to show up. Half an hour later the first ambulance arrives on the wrong side of the station. Slowly the ambulance moves to the right side, and two paramedics walk out to the woman. They talk briefly to her and she finally gets up and walk slowly towards the ambulance, the two paramedics on her sides.
The conductor opens the doors in the back of our car and tell us we can get out. It’s about 11 o’clock. I hear a couple of people talking about walking to Berwin. I ask if we can walk together. My car is in Wayne, I can give them a ride to Berwin. They agree.
The three of us—me, a lawyer, and a chemical engineering student—get off the train and start walking towards Lancaster Avenue. At this point there are four or five police cars and perhaps three ambulances. We walk passed them.
When we are just a few hundred feet from the station we see a train leaving. It’s our train. I guess the engineer suddenly felt much better and decided she could drive the train. Or perhaps a new engineer arrived. We look at each other. We must have missed the announcement that the train was leaving by a few seconds. Oh well, too late. It’s a beautiful August night and Wayne is just a few minutes away. Thank God, it’s Friday.