It crashed. Just like that, it crashed. Now I see why you never would ride the subway, why you never did trust “them new-fangled things,” as you put it. But I am glad you were there to help me out of it, especially since there was no warning, no hint, not the slightest indication that we were in trouble.
As usual, there was a line at all the fare card machines. As usual, we got bottlenecked at the gate. The platform was crowded, as usual, but everyone was civil. I blended into the crowd of mostly government workers, dressed in coats, weighed down with briefcases or large purses with folders stuffed inside. I got on, found a seat and, as usual, plugged in my iPod. Come to think of it, there was static, unusual static, in my iPod. That seemed weird because iPod’s don’t get static. G-Ma was that you tinkering with my iPod, making it skip between songs to keep me from dozing off as I usually do o the subway?
I’m glad you were there. I’m glad you are here.
“Break the window Ruqiyah.” You were loud and clear through all the screams and desperate gasps for last breaths. I heard the screech and the metal crunching – and your voice. “Break the window Ruqiyah. Kick the glass. Get out.” You always were calm even in the midst of madness.
I didn’t think I could break a window so thick and tight, but you convinced me. “Kick through the window and go.” It worked. I shattered a window. Your voice was diamond hard, crystal clear.
“Save yourself Ruqiyah.”
But that was confusing coming from you. When you were alive, it was never about just me. It was never about one person. Even when I was eight and you taught me how to play Chinese Checkers instead of regular Checkers, which we played at school, you would say, “Ruqiyah Charity Paige, as you go through this life, you’ve got to get ahead not just by yourself, and not just for yourself.” That was the first thing that came to mind when I saw all the other people trapped in the wreck today. It would have taken just a few minutes to help the woman trying to pull her baby through the window opening. Maybe I couldn’t help the old man mangled in his wheelchair underneath so much rubble, but it would’ve taken just a minute to reach out and pull the young man who was already halfway through. But your instruction was clear.
“Save yourself,” you said. I heard you. Not like a loud voice booming down from the clouds, not even a still small voice on the inside. It was a simple knowing, an awareness. Now what? You seemed to be walking beside me as I made my way home. I must’ve looked crazy – coat ripped and disheveled, hair a frazzled mess, clutching my purse as if my life depended on it. I thought about a lot of things you taught me. I thought about some of our last conversations before you died. I remembered you telling me you hoped I would learn one lesson, and learn it soon, in order to be better and do better. You said this one lesson would help me on my job and help me know exactly when it was time to leave. All those self-help, pop-psychology books I’ve been reading the past fifteen years were useful and fun, but life really was simple, you said.
Was it just a coincidence that each traffic light turned green as I reached the curb? You knew I was too dazed to stop for a red light, right? G-Ma, why didn’t you reach me before the wreck? Couldn’t you foresee that the collision was going to happen? Why didn’t you just give me a sign, some warning to take a different train? I’m glad you knew to get my attention through the iPod. I didn’t know you knew about iPods, since that’s one of the things I never got around to teaching you to work. There was a lot we didn’t get to talk about. I wanted to talk to you about the major changes you saw in your 90 years to get a grip on the dizzying changes in my own life. Everything is changing, and changing in the blink of an eye. One minute we’re riding the train. Next thing you know, “Boom!” Smoke, fire, and people screaming for their life. G-Ma, that could’ve been my arms and legs scattered across the field.
I’m sitting in my living room in the dark now. No TV. No jazz from the cable station. Nothing. I don’t want to see or hear anything. I need silence. I lit the cinnamon candles. I’ve got the bottle of pineapple rum and a can of Diet Coke on the coffee table. But my hands are still shaking. I don’t want to get Coke all over the couch and carpet. Maybe the flicker of the log in the fireplace will me settle down some. I can usually watch those flames licking the air and forget about things, but I don’t know if I can forget seeing all those body parts at the wreck.
It was awful. Just like that. Sc-reeeeeeech, boom, boom, BAM! The stench of heated plastic and burning rubber everywhere. I still can’t shake the images of the crumpled train cars and the smoke. Bodies blown across the field. Injured people crawling out of the heap of wreckage. I can’t shake the pictures. How can a train crash without warning? I ride it everyday? Nobody could tell it was about to breakdown? I don’t know how many people died, but from the looks of it, a whole lot of families are going to be devastated.
G-Ma, I’m sorry I got too busy to visit you. The job has been calling my cell since I left the office. The chief of staff left a few messages saying Madame Senator is trying to reach me. She probably is just trying to size up the situation. She needs to spin a message to the media to protect the train company since it’s one of her biggest campaign donors.
Victoria’s been calling and leaving messages, too. My sister Trish left a message, too. She heard the news all the way back in my hometown.
“Qi-Qi, I hope to hell you wasn’t on the train that crashed, but if you was, you bout to get pay-aid. Hey, don’t leave the scene. If you’re still there, get as close as you can to the crash and lay down on the ground like you cain’t move. Girl, you ‘bout to get paid! Haaaaaaaay!” she said. “Use your camera phone and get some pictures to prove you was there, and get somebody else to get some pictures of you stretched out. Lay your ass on the ground and play half dead till the police get there. Hell, even if you wasn’t on the train, you ride it everyday. Just take your ass to the hospital and say you got injured on that train that crashed. You deserve to get paid, girl. Girl this is your time. Like Joel Osteen says. This is our time. Get paid girl. Let me know you okay. Call me.”
Chris is coming over even though I told him I’d rather be alone. I need time to think about what I want to do next.
God must’ve had a reason for sparing my life, right? G-Ma, I know I’m lucky to be alive. I’m going to take a few days to think about where I’ve been and how I want to go on from here. My hands are still trembling. I can hear you humming, “we’ll understand it all by and by.” I’ll figure this one out myself.
- Who do you call in your moment of crisis?
- Describe your last crisis and explain your first prayers/calls?
- Would you repeat your actions in the next crisis? If you can respond better, tell how. If you’re satisfied with your armor and plan of action, explain why.