A sonata rising from the coiling recesses of the metro slides in rapids across the porcelainized burrows, wafting feebly amidst the dust of the calescent doldrums, dappling the errants’ eardrums, napes, and temples alike.
The throng at the platform of Saint-Lazare bobbles in the pyretic thrall of August’s crimson mane—its fiery bristles penetrating the crust, seeping into the gnarled intestines of the city—their gazes, gestures, and trajectories stunted, caught in a cross-section of no vehicles, a swath of non-departures.
Two women make eye contact.
The first: a whisper of sinews sliding along bones, standing in a queer pocket such that a trick of suction pulls a pale dress to and fro across stolid, jagged shoulders and knees, her eyes fixed placidly upon the woman approaching her, her lips parted in an unending exhalation.
The second: a jolt of fibrous muscles bounding to action, caged in an odd bubble such that a cruelty of chance pulls tired biceps and hamstrings into a dire pose, her eyes fixed madly upon the woman before her, her lips parted in an unresolved inhalation.
So you are the one I knew I would meet some day.
The conductor pulls on the brake with all of her force, but it is of no avail. The women share a burgeoning moment, and then the first is no more.
An hour later, upon questioning by the police, the conductor puffs through parted lips, “whether it’s for a tree, a cable, a dog, or a man, it’s the same procedure. I did all that could have been done.” She is hunched upon a bench on the platform, her uniform stuck to the hulking curve of her spine, elbows digging into shot kneecaps, fingers clawing a scalp through a soaked crimson mane.
It is estimated that 450 people commit suicide annually in France by putting themselves in front of oncoming trains. New conductors expect that they will one day be the unwitting cause of another's death. Veteran conductors have moment by moment accounts of their first, second, third encounters with these suicides.