It was a Thursday morning. I know this because every Thursday morning I think back to you. I can remember you so distinctly. Even when I close my eyes, I am haunted by your presence.
The morning we met, it was sunny but the sunlight beckoned us in deceit. Truly, it was cold and chilly. I could feel the cold air through my blazer. My fingers trembled as I held the sidebars for balance. The train was overflowing with morning commuters. With each stop, more pushed their way in and I was stuck in the middle. My fingers slipped from the sidebars and I was left to fight gravity on my own. My eyes focused on the ground, as I maneuvered my feet to balance my weight. I was caught off guard when I saw a trail of tears. I looked up to see you in the seat in front of where I stood. You sat with your head bent over your knees. Your tears fell onto your leg and continued onto the small amount of floor space between us.
You didn’t cry faint whimpers. You were a full-fledged scene of sorrow. You cried with such pained emotion it left me unsettled but not enough to make me act. I just stood watching you fall apart. I couldn’t muster the courage to console you with words. I couldn’t even move. My feet were firmly placed. I was a bystander watching you, the broken girl on the train unravel.
Eventually, a brave soul approached you unlike the rest of us cowards. An older lady came next to you and asked what I wasn’t able to. She asked if you were okay and even offered you tissue, but you shook your head and refused. The train reached Commercial Broadway and you instantaneously got up and pushed me back and ran through the crowd. You continued to sob as you exited. I watched you intently trying to decipher the why in your misery. As the train left the station, I watched you for one last fleeting moment, running down the stairs in desperation. My mind jumped from question to question but I had no plausible answer because I never took the step to ask you. I never offered any assistance.
The train continues deeper into downtown. Burrard station comes and I turn off my mind. I don’t let emotion or empathy get to me. My humanity ceases. I simply turn it off like a switch. I toss my coffee cup and the memory of you into a nearby trash can. I become an empty machine that moves in a procedural world of work and routine. I can’t afford emotion anymore, or so I tell myself. I have enough of my own to conceal and enough manifestations of busy to balance. I don’t know when I became like this. Maybe this is what happens as you get older; maybe this is some inevitable side effect of adulthood I am finally caving into. I am too busy to conceptualize the why so I don’t question it anymore. It’s just easier to exist like this, immune to any emotion.
I continue up the block to work and get pulled into a warp of pressing deadlines and projects. I forget you with such ease. The day goes on as does the week and you never once cross my mind until the next Thursday arrives and throws me back to your encounter. It’s been a few weeks now but your memory still haunts me even if it’s just for one morning commute. The curiosity to know how you are doing now and the regret of not helping you defines my Thursday train ride to work. My failure to help you pains me and what I’m becoming disgusts me. I’m conforming to the indifference and ignorance of the older generation and losing the empathy that marked my former self.