Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The platform was crowded with the evening rush, commuters clustered at the optimal spots for their eventual exit or trying to get there before their train arrived, some winding prudently through the crowd, others braving the studded yellow surface at the margins.

There was a commotion on the Queens side. A few men leaned over the edge all in a row, waving their arms as a train emerged from the far tunnel and proceeded unusually slowly into the station. I walked over to the tracks. I knew what I was about to see. But I looked anyway.

A young black man lay on the near rail, about twenty feet to my left. A little crowd had gathered above him, appealing to him, reaching out their hands. He was not bleeding as far as I could tell but he moved very slowly, feebly, as though he were suspended in another world, or just now emerging from a month of slumber. He lifted his head and gazed nowhere. Then he lay back down on the rail. I noted that his limbs were moving—they didn’t seem broken, he wasn’t paralyzed.

The incoming train came to a stop fifty feet or so away. Inside I saw the conductor on a radio handset, making the requisite call. People still peered down at the man, imploring him, mostly without words. He did not stir. But he was alive.