The Witness

 I hadn’t taken the subway in a few weeks over fear of infectious diseases. I was going to see Casey. I never got there.

     I like the subway. I like flying through the tunnels, the orange lights passing through me. I even like the noise. I like being in one place and then being rushed to another, with nothing in between but the people rushing with you. Any change of scene is appreciated now. Anything is better than the blank stare of my apartment walls. It drives you crazy, familiarity, your own white noise.

There were four other people on the platform, two women, one with a kid, and one man. Less people took the subway now, most people were afraid of infectious diseases. I looked at the mother and daughter. The little girl's hair was twisted into little braids secured with thick colored clips. The braids made triangle and trapezoid patterned seams on her scalp. 

 I watched the other woman swaying gently back and forth a few feet from the tracks. There might have been music in her ears. She unwrapped a blue scarf from around her neck and let it hang from her hand, still swaying.

The man on the platform was sitting a few feet away from me. A face mask covered his nose and mouth. His eyes were on his phone. I noticed another man, asleep, in a corner. The holes in his socks gave into identical holes in his feet. The fabric frayed around the edges of the sores, like desperate scabs.

I looked down at my fingernails. They’re so bitten down. People must think I’m neurotic. I looked down at my shoes. I was waiting. I was listening for the rumble of my train.

The low sound started, out of sight, and growing closer. I watched for the lights on the walls of the tunnel. The woman with the blue scarf leaned and stared, looking for the same thing.

She took a step forward, and another step forward, and then she dove.

I blinked, a few times, as if I could undo it. She wasn’t standing on the platform. She was on the tracks. The lights were coming and the sound was echoing from every wall. Nothing could be stopped.

I turned around, and squeezed my eyes shut. I turned off, as completely as I could. I wish I were deaf. I heard a rush of air, the emergency break, and the horn sounding. It was all so desperate. I heard a man's voice saying “Oh Fuck! Oh Shit! What the fucking hell!? Oh my god. Shit.”

I opened my eyes and walked. The steps were behind me and I was standing in the grey daylight. My legs had taken me there.  I saw the woman and her daughter walking ahead. The kid was sitting on her mother's hip, both of them clinging, she was almost too big to be carried like that.

My legs brought me the rest of the way home. I shut my door just to sit and lean against it. I stared at my carpet. I noticed my breaths were shaking. I closed my eyes and tried to stop the thing inside from shaking. I found my lungs and filled them slowly. It made no difference. The air escaped in staggered bursts. I heard the hissing of the brakes. Every part of me was shaking, there was no defective piece to find. I looked down at my carpet again and rubbed my fingertips against its grooves. The carpet had a dirty striped pattern on it, which I liked because it had a way of always looking clean.  I stood up and bent my head under the kitchen sink and drank from the tap.

I swallowed as much as I could. 

Water dripped from my chin. I stopped the running of the faucet.  I was crying. I turned the faucet back on. I closed my eyes. I stuck my head in the sink. The water soaked my hair and streamed down in all directions. It was cold. I turned the faucet off, and dried my face with the front of my t-shirt.

I found myself sitting on my bed. The TV was on. The remote was in my hand. Rows of titles stared at me from the screen, movies and shows, algorithmically recommended to me and my viewing habits. Whatever you want, whenever you want it, perks of the 21st century. I didn’t want it. I don’t want options, or choices. I want to switch the thing on and drown myself out with a thousand things I don’t care about. I want infomercials, or the weather. I wish I had 24-hour coverage of the weather. Tell me if it's raining in Dubai. 

After a minute of inactivity a title is selected and plays on its own. Good. I wasn’t going to pay attention anyway. I just need the sound, something to fall asleep to, a thought killer. It never really works, but it’s better than silence.

I close my eyes and curl up in the dip of my mattress. The TV people are talking, something about somebody's sister, a melody plays underneath. It can’t keep me from the thing I’d witnessed, lying in the dark. I’m still seeing the girl, clinging to her mother's hip, the clips in her hair colliding, like sad wind chimes. My phone buzzed on a nearby table. Someone was calling me. Eventually I must have fallen asleep.