Escaping from the wind and snow, I pay my fare and step down into the bloodstream of the city. Arteries in the morning, veins at night. I’ve been to every TTC station, thanks to an adventure in university, and not just visited – got a transfer from each one. Today I’m bundled in a cocoon of scarves.
One flight, two flights. Landing with a newsstand. One flight, the air rushes towards my face, two flights, I’m on the tarmac. The floor is tiled beige and covered with salt stains. The yellow rubber strip lines the abyss to the tracks with one and a half feet of warnings.
At Christie there is little to distinguish the station from another. It lacks comfort; there are only six-foot ads and recycling bins, and they fail to hide the sooty pillars between the two tracks. They remind me of the Industrial Revolution. There are mice, if you look carefully. Dark, dark grey mice, perfectly camouflaged against the dirty and hard floor of the train tracks. There is a single television, broadcasting from the local 24-hour news network, with scrolling transit updates along the bottom. The solitude of this television, dropping down from the ceiling, reminds me of 1980s science fiction novels.
I walk to the other end of the track. I will want to be at that end once at my destination, and, ever the efficiency hunter, I want to save time. It is only once I have positioned myself on the platform – seeking a balance between the closest approximation to the future location of the doors, and avoiding being too close to other people – that the sneaking feeling comes back again.
When the subway comes, I will purposefully step backwards. I will brace myself against moving. It is slowly becoming habit, but the thoughts pursue me with the same disturbing whispers every time.
Will you jump?
The oncoming train calls me and I think of what would happen. I see myself suspended temporarily in the air before the flat face of the steel car would smack my ragdoll body, and gravity would pull me under the chassis.
Would it hurt?
A similar vertigo attacks me on top of buildings. A strong hook sinks into my ribcage whenever I peek over an edge, and a seducing team of temptresses hauls away on the line. Curiosity stupidly and unashamedly yanks away. Scientific Experimentation measures my reactions to each pull. Destiny and Death watch. There is a sort of party of onlookers, sipping cocktails and placing bets. Self Pity is there. Reason is a teetotaler, frantically waving its arms. But it is Impulse who comes right up to me and flirts, coyly flipping her hair and asking me to dance.
A thousand warnings run through my mind, of selfishness, of love for others, of the irrevocable nature of such an action. I know that the driver would be traumatized. I know that I do not want to leave my loved ones, nor have them suffer pain. I know that I do not want to.
But every time, as the lights turn around the corner and the warm gusts suck my hair all over my face, and I get into a stance of refusal, Impulse slips away with a smile, and simply says, “Not yet.”