December 1, 2015 by The Citron Review
by Leanne Simpson
We took a cab to the subway and told ourselves we were saving money. I would have preferred to avoid it altogether – there’s something about being packed in tighter than astronaut mac ‘n’ cheese with a bunch of strangers that unnerves me – but I don’t want Jules to realize that my inherent neuroticism hasn’t really been overthrown by the army of meds camped out on my bedside table.
Jules seems to be on the cusp of becoming a grown-up, which makes me question the future longevity of our friendship. She daintily plucks a pouch full of subway tokens from her designer purse and clicks through the turnstile. I eye the attendant warily as I toss a cluster of quarters into the collection box and hope my Asian genes lend me enough youth to sidestep the adult fee.
I don’t hear her gasp until I’m through the gate.
“Holy shit, she’s on the tracks,” Jules shrieks, pointing towards the glass wall that overlooks the Yonge subway line. I follow her to the window, heart twisting in my chest. Jules’ viper nails bite into my arm, grimly reassuring me that I am here and not there. “We have to tell someone,” she says. I nod, or maybe I don’t. She breaks away – composed and capable – while I peer lewdly into the night.
She’s almost translucent in the rain – drowning in a chalky dress, her dark head bowed, umbrella folded in defeat across her lap. Lights in the distance, creeping closer like a wide-eyed caterpillar. A horrified scream jammed in the gridlock of the strange apology tearing at my vocal chords. My deadened fingers twitching in equal parts grief, terror and jealousy.
I don’t hear Jules’ high-pitched plea for help, nor watch fear slink around the attendant’s throat as he summons the big men with radios. I am left stillborn, incubated in my own inadequacies and wondering if it would hurt.
People are starting to gather, their stories aligning for a split second before they disengage like missiles, addressed to homes and bars and water coolers everywhere. A waspish young woman whips out her phone, aims it dispassionately at the girl on the tracks.
“Hey!” My tight-laced voice shatters the nightmare. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
She turns towards me, her mouth gaping like an empty puppet. “I’m just –”
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I spit at her, relieved to feel something other than vague longing. “For God’s sakes, call 911.” Blinking back tears, she mashes at the buttons on her phone.
Jules is back, if only briefly. “I can’t watch this, I can’t watch this happen right now,” she whispers to no one, pressing herself against the wall. I stay where I am, tense and exhausted from addressing a stranger.
The train barrels towards the station, beady eyes glittering through the downpour. She ignores shouts from the platform, waits patiently on for it to all go south – my brain screams symbolism but I shake it off, this isn’t a fucking essay – they’re radioing the driver to stop but it’s too late, someone is screaming and I think it might be me.
The train shudders to a halt.
I don’t watch them take her away. Jules stands in front of me, her cheeks pale, arms outstretched. I don’t realize my face is wet until it’s pressed into her shoulder, my lungs hungrily inhaling the familiar extravagance of her perfume, delaying the moment where I tell her the truth about the girl in white – that she and I, we’re a couple of eggs sitting in the same expired carton, and it’s just dumb luck that she cracked first.
“Please.” The paparazzi of death addresses me hesitantly, her apology pouring out like curdled cream. “I don’t want you to think I’m a bad person. I’m just in journalism.”
“It’s fine,” I say blandly. She waits for further absolution but I remain wordless, hoping to save some for myself. She shuffles away under the scrutiny of Jules’ protective stare.
The automated voice of the TTC cheerily assures us that the delay at Davisville has been cleared, doesn’t mention the girl anchored to reality by a pair of silver cuffs.
“Do you still want to go?” Jules asks, checking her phone. Our night out is only a half hour behind schedule.
I need to talk to you. It hovers on my lips, burns at the back of my throat, stays one step behind my heartbeat. “Let’s grab a drink somewhere quiet, yeah?” I say. She grins and grabs my hand.
I tell her this time, or maybe I don’t.
Leanne Simpson lives in Toronto, Canada. Her work has won the annual University of Toronto Scarborough creative writing contest and has been featured in Scarborough Fair, Goose Magazine, The Varsity, Mosaique and Pac’n Heat. Leanne was selected for the 2013 Canadian women’s dodgeball team, and she is currently working on a nonfiction book in association with the University of Toronto while completing her Master’s fellowship in Professional Communication at Ryerson University.