January 15, 2007 § 12 Comments
>I swear to G-D. As we sped along, we ran over something and a loud noise just rang through the train. One of the conductors came running down the aisle, walkie-talkie in hand. The train came to a halt.
Announcement: “May I have your attention, please folks, we’re going to be here for a while. We struck debris. We got to make sure we are okay. Got to make sure the debris isn’t a dog or something.”
Five minutes later a woman conductor ran by: “We’ve been delayed two or three hours. We did strike debris.”
Gasps from everyone on board.
We haven’t even made it to Providence (not that it matters) and they aren’t going to let us off the train. I always have bad luck when I take the Accela. I have a feeling all the other trains are delayed too. How adventurous!
Wet brown leaves cover the ground. A silver garbage dumpster stands in a parking lot to the right of the train. On its side is lettered in white, “AMERICAN WASTE.”
I’m going to snuggle in with This Boy’s Life until I learn more.
Announcement: “No news. I’m waiting for the dispatcher. As soon as I hear, I’ll let you know. Thank you for your patience.”
A police SUV has just pulled up. He’s crossing the tracks toward the front of the train. We’ve been on board for an hour and a half. It’s getting darker.
Rumor: Another train is coming and we’re all going to be moved to the new one. New York feels like another country.
We hit a person. The woman called him “a trespasser.” We’re going to Providence in half an hour to an hour and then we’ll switch trains there. I think we killed someone. The woman didn’t want to make an announcement over the loudspeaker because she didn’t want to upset the children. Well, I’m not a child, and I’m upset. I’m having a heard time holding back from crying.
I can’t stop thinking about how that woman called the person a “trespasser.” Press has come and is taking photos and film of the train.
For over an hour the train has smelled like death. I never knew that smell but now it’s unmistakable. We rode over a body. More police have arrived. A white van with no markings arrived. All of them parked right next to the “AMERICAN WASTE” dumpster.
I feel responsible for a death. Strangely, the town we’re in is called Mansfield.
At 3:22 pm:
“Please take advantage of the café car. Everything is now comp. We appreciate your patience. As soon as we know more about the situation, we’ll let you know. It’s going to be at least an hour before we’re on the move.” (The smell of death is coming back stronger now.)
Seconds later, the same message but louder: “Ladies and gentleman, we apologize for the delay. There has been a tragic accident. We have opened up our café car for all our non-alcoholic beverages and snacks for you. Please take advantage of this. As soon as we know, we will let you know.”
There’s been a rush to the café car. As though there’s a scarcity of free food and drinks. You know how, when it’s really cold out, you can see your own breath? The entire sky is that color.
Life goes on, I guess. A middle-aged man walked by and just spoke into his cell phone, “Hey, I was just checking on the score.” And there are more calls like this. Nobody seems to be thinking about the loss of life.
More press has arrived. More police. What will they do with the body? How will they remove it without any of us seeing? Will they put it into black garbage bags? Is the body still in one piece? How old was the person we killed? Had they wanted to die? Was this what they were hoping for? Is the conductor okay? Is there someone there to console them?
I can’t concentrate on my book. I have to pee but I don’t want to talk to anyone and ask them to watch my stuff.
“Name some fun card games we can play,” a girl says on her cell. “We can’t remember how to play spit. I’ve read both magazines on the way here. I was going to bring a book.” And then my favorite part, “Okee-doke, bye.”
Another train is passing us on the left. I guess the tracks have been cleared on that side.
The neon sign in the aisle above the bathrooms just flashed “BE SAFE.”
And twenty minutes later, another announcement: “Although we will not be able to make up your time, our next move will be to Providence. Then we will be detraining you. Again, please take advantage of the café car.”
Three hours and ten minutes have gone by. Rain is falling and I think to myself, “Everything matters,” as I pile up on granola mix, snackwell vanilla cookies, and bottled water at the cafe car.
After four hours, “There’s been a change of plans. We’re going to do a train to train transfer at this very spot.” I found a new seat on a new train and we’ve been told we will all be partially refunded for our trip. This new train doesn’t smell like death.
The word “debris” is swirling in my head. To be reduced to such a word.
And now, we are finally moving forward.
A poetry teacher from my school, who lives in New York and loves her Sylvia Plath, just walked by. I should have looked at her and smiled. But she doesn’t know me and what I know of her is that her seminar was absurdly self-important and miserable. What would I say to her? I looked out the window instead. I guess after tragedy, we all return to our old selves. Still, I am left wondering how she feels after this whole experience. She may be the only one I know on the train. I don’t want to try to talk to her about this.
I did end up talking to the poetry teacher. A little. Mostly she wanted to offer me a mint and let me know she was about to see her boyfriend. I really don’t think there’s room in her head for anything beside herself. I know that’s a horrible thing to say.
We got to Penn Station about 9:30. We were all reimbursed the difference between accela fare and regional fare.
The rumor is that a fifteen-year old boy saw his parents across the tracks and ran to them. And he was killed.
The man behind me in the refund line said, “Fifteen. He should have known better.” I wanted to punch him in the stomach.
I’m home now. Corny is crying. Nothing could sound better.
Here’s the first news story