A Death Refracted – Part 3

continuing to recreate the events which lead up to the young woman’s suicide. Edits thanks to Guaj.


Part 3 – The Train Driver
   

     This was my last stop for the day. End of my shift. Clocking out time. But it wasn’t. Life bends us every which way, and we have to bend.

     They’re checking me over. The Suits.

     Giving me time, they say. Erasure. Closure.

     These things never close.

     A moment becomes the moment, with you always, carried inside, wrapped and labelled, just waiting, waiting for the breath to give life to its sleeping ember.

     My missus was given this pot of lilies by a friend. They flowered from April to August and then the stems withered away. Just a brown tangled mess. If it’d been me, I’d have thrown them away. But my missus? She knots them and stores them under the eaves. I say, what’s that for? And she just smiles, says, just wait. Well, come next April, she takes out the pot and these dead buds burst out again, growing as if there’s no tomorrow, their white mouths hungry for the light.

     The same with these moments; they’re waiting, sleeping until we feel the need to grieve, to feel the loss as if it were that very moment, and in a way it is, it is the moment because it is our moment and we’ve stored it wrapped and warped in the colours of our choosing, and then we bring them out watered by our loss, by the sorrow that is now a favourite shirt.

     This wasn’t my first. There’s been two before. First one was over ten years ago. We were told there were 80 suicides last year. Imagine that. One nearly every four days. There probably would have been more. But we got these “suicide pits, the space in between the rails. They’re for drainage really. But when a person jumps they’re more likely to fall into that pit, and if they do they’re safe. The shock of the falling freezes them. They don’t move. In those moments, surrounded by the shrieking of metal, life can still begin anew. Not that that’s what they want. And they say that it’s mostly men under the age of 45.

     And what can a driver do? Slam on the bleeding brakes? These “Bombies” are over 30 tonnes! There’s no way we’re stopping on a fucking penny!

     If you’re part of the “jump club” you learn to be careful. You never imagine it’s going to happen to you. But when it does, it changes you. Some drivers never come back. We’re taken straight out. Away from the horror, the suffocating distortions of the moment. Sure, there’s the questions later, the debriefing, but they want us away, don’t want to deal with another zombie. You can’t move, can’t breathe. Some piss themselves.

     It was a man, my first one, in his thirties, a cricket coach I learnt later. Allegations of abuse or something. Married with two children. I wanted to know. I had to know who this man was. Why did he have to choose me, my train? And I was writing stuff down, trying to get this noise out of my head. Externalise your feelings, the counsellor told me; find a way to express them.

     They don’t choose the exact time. They choose a day. That day is the day. This is the end. There’s nothing else, nothing to live for, nothing to look forward to. This man woke up, washed, dressed, had breakfast, kissed his wife, said goodbye to his children and left the house. Did he look back? Who’s to say. What was he thinking? Who’s to know. We can surmise all we like, but we’ll never know what was going on inside his head. The only certainty is that at 14.35 – these details stick in your head – he stepped off the platform and in front of the train I was driving. And that he died, God keep his soul.

      I’m always looking out now at the end of the tunnel, keeping an eye on the lines of people, on the signals, braking. It’s tiring work, all the concentration. That’s why we have short shifts, keep us fresh. Be on top of our game. But people don’t listen, don’t stand behind the lines. No matter what the guard says. The suction the train creates…….it’ll just pull them in. They never listen, just want to get home, I suppose, pack themselves onto the first train they can.

     But you can’t know. Can’t read people’s minds. It’s not like in one of those Phillip K Dick films, read the brain waves, extrapolate and build out the story, the logical ending. They’re all potential jumpers, and there’s nothing you can do.

     I see this blur in front. Know exactly what it is.

     There’s the routine. Step 1, 2, 3…… all laid out

     Pull the alarm chain

          Wheel locks

               Sparks

                    Hiss of air

                                  Smell of metal on metal

     I can’t do anything else. I can’t turn back. I can’t…..

     Unless they land in the pit, there’s not going to be much left.

     They don’t hit the front and slide gracefully down. All this rubbish in the online forums. Fucking morons with nothing else to do. It’s all tat. Between the track and the train……the sheer weight of it, the momentum and…. There’s not much left, not anything you’d want the next of kin to look at. The official advice is to have the funeral with a closed casket. Better on everyone.

     You’d think people would be running around. No, they just stand there. It’s the shock. It takes a moment before the screaming and shouting starts.

     The platform’s got to be cleared. The people taken off the train. It’s all laid out. It’s in a manual somewhere. Health and Safety. ISO this or that number. All certified and filed away.

     It’ll be recorded as a suicide, adding another number to an already documented number.

     This last one was a woman, an Indian I’m told. She’ll become a number in another column. It’s a numbers’ game after all. We’re all numbers in the end.

     I do so hope they are all, that she is, finally at peace.     

     My job is to drive trains. And once this has passed, the coals of this moment dulled I      will drive again.

————————————

The wall, or whatever is behind me feels smooth – I dare not say it is smooth, because I have no idea how far it extends in any direction –  and I can lean back and rest. There is nothing else I can do; it’s just me, I think, and this blackness. I haven’t heard anyone, anything else. And this darkness is tiring; it sits around me, enveloping with a depressing weight. I am tired. Closing my eyes does nothing; it is as dark inside of me as it is outside. Maybe I am becoming part of the darkness. Maybe I am the darkness.

————————————

© Bhi 2021
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critique and comments welcome.
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Guaj

Ahh it’s becoming clearer now. I don’t know if I missed something, but for some reason in the opening preface I got the impression Derry was beaten to death. So now we know she jumped in front of a train, however you leave space for the possibility she was pushed. Interesting. I may need to re-read this, but I didn’t see anything that might need changing, except in my opinion you do not need to repeat moment three times in the opening para. I would suggest ‘moment, that moment’ and in the later sentence ‘that moment, the moment.’ However, this… Read more »

Griffonner

Really excellent, Bhi. I enjoyed this: I know ‘enjoy’ is a questionable word in the circumstances, but it was in enjoyable for me to read and take note of your constructions and phraseology. Those, of course, made it most easily readable, and also allowed me to ‘see’ the sights you referred to without flinching. Really well done.

The closing paragraph added such gravitas!

Allen

Ifyouplease

I had no problem with this edit I read, just this part She knots them and stores them under the eaves. I say, what’s that for? And she just smiles, says, just wait. Well, come next April, she takes out the pot and these dead buds burst out again, I think it would be better if you changed the tenses. She knots them and stores them under the eaves. I asked her once, “What’s that for?” And she just smiled, said, “just wait.” Well, come next April, she took out the pot and these dead buds burst out again that… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by ifyouplease
Stevef

The first paragraph – or even sentence – is usually make or break for me. If it instantly attracts me I’ll read on. Yours is very good.
A nice piece of writing and the driver’s perspective seems to ring true. I’ll keep my eye on this story.

ChairmanWow

Bhi, this is not subject matter I am usually interested in but your story’s multi-point-of-view of this tragedy is very engaging. The dead flowers coming back to life but in this story not an affirmation but used as a kind of symbol of the horror coming back to life through unwanted memory is sheer brilliance. My only critique is that i don’t think the standard debate about “time heals all wounds” is good enough for this piece. I don’t think it needs it.

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