It’s every commuter’s nightmare.  Though actually there are several: the train stops just outside the station and sits for what seems like hours.  Someone pulls the emergency cord.  You discover that you’re trapped in a car from 125th to Columbus Circle with a religious zealot spewing a bottomless pit of bigotry laced with profound stupidity.

In Manhattan there’s been a rash of people being pushed onto train tracks.  Today I found myself stuck on an A train whose doors refused to open even though we were in the station.  My fury at the delay (seeing my local across the platform, I am ashamed to say that I banged on the door and uttered something impolite) was leavened when the conductor announced, “Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but someone’s been hit by this train.  Please be patient.”

Eventually the doors opened; the local hadn’t left, so I boarded and I took a seat.  Chaos tempered my relief.  People crowded in, carrying on like I just had.  A year seemed to pass before the doors closed.  Just as they did, I heard a man across from me say to a woman, “well, she jumped.”


Poor woman:  I wished she’d taken a moment, taken a deep breath, taken stock.  My mother, a God-fearing Baptist is fond of saying, “the Lord won’t give you any more than you can handle.”  Lately that feels like a lot.  Lately there’s enough going on to make even the cynics sob: those subways murders, and the murders of children in Connecticut; the state of the economy, and its effect on unemployment, not to mention the looming “fiscal cliff,” an expression vague enough to summon a year’s worth of nightmares; Hurricane Sandy, etc., etc.

Hearing the news made me think of my bête noire (well, one of them, I have many).  I suffer from a fear of missing, which is why I fear death.  People are primary on the list:  my friends and family, as well as the people I’ve yet to meet: both new friends, and enemies I’d hold in esteem, if only for the gossip they’d generate.  I would miss my procrastination, my habit of putting off everything from writing to cleaning my email inbox.  I live to wait for the next Ian McEwen, the next Julia Glass, the next Andrew Holleran, Claire Messud, or Joan Didion.  When’s the next Sondheim, the next Francois Ozon or James Bond film, the next episode of Covert Affairs-Glee-The Hour?

When’s my next peanut butter and raisin sandwich, or whole-wheat fig bar?  That hunk of dark chocolate, though I’d settle for a handful of coffee beans covered with same.   A bath; champagne with a twist of orange, or a gin martini with olives; my trip to MOMA-the Whitney-the Met or Guggenheim; a blessed week on Shelter Island; a walk across the GW Bridge; the Sunday Times; the issue of Dwell; a bigot’s comeuppance, a hypocritical conservative’s fall from grace., the Highline or Chelsea?  My tax return?  When’s my next sidelong glance?  It hurts to think of them all; I could go on, and would if I didn’t have to make hot chocolate and clean the bathroom (so I could take a bath).

As the train pulled out, I saw firemen and EMTs heading to the front of the A I’d just left.  It hadn’t pulled all the way in; if it’s true, she jumped about halfway down the platform.  I saw the front of the train, the void in front where I presume she laid, second thoughts swirling in her head—or no thoughts at all.  In my head I’d moved on to dinner preparations, a quiet New Year’s Eve, and continued recuperation from a nasty cold.  But not before I added her to my list.