I know of a moment. It’s a moment lived on a precipice. It’s a moment composed of space: a few inches containing a few seconds between safety and destruction, between normal mundane life and pain, mutilation, and chaos.
This moment occurs every day, sometimes more than once a day. I stand on the edge of the platform, my toes overlapping the yellow “warning” stripe intended to keep patrons out of harm’s way. The paint is so worn that only a vague flecked outline indicates there ever was a stripe at all. The light underground is dingy, causing the subway’s white headlights to glare even more brightly as it approaches. From far away, the train seems to barely move, and people on the platform shuffle impatiently, craning their necks to look and then hustling back toward the middle of the platform. Then it is zooming by, air whooshing in my face, metal cars flashing by me with the speed of playing cards being shuffled. It roars and squeals like a metal beast, and as I watch the cars whiz past, I have a fleeting impulse to close that six-inch gap.
What would it feel like, to throw yourself against a moving subway train? Would you be instantly repelled, thrown back into the crowd of passengers with your clothing ripped and blood pouring from a gash on your forehead? Or would you somehow adhere to the car and be pulled along at that breakneck speed, even for just a moment? What if you were to merely extend an arm? Would it be snapped like a toothpick? Would it be yanked out of the socket, like yanking a drumstick out of your turkey on Thanksgiving? Would the pain be immediate, or would shock initially replace pain—would you be so surprised at your own bravery, your impulsiveness, that you would be suspended in time and feeling?
It’s the speed that gets me thinking this way, I think. And the proximity. And the possibility.