the Stranger on the Train

Yesterday, however, I think I saw something I’d NEVER be able to just shrug off. I was running late to class from a mural I’m assisting in. I hopped on the train, just excited to get back to Tempe before the next class starts. As I approach the car, I notice a man in a wheel chair, hunched over in a very odd position on his left arm; his right hand gripping on a bar with great pressure. He was unconscious. No, he was twitching. I noticed then that the car was dead silent and I turn around to see that everyone is staring wide eyed, intently on this poor young man. I look back at the chap and see that the driver is there, checking his pulse and calling paramedics. Then I recall how purple and ashy his face was when I first approached the train.

I’m not quite certain just yet, but I’m fairly confident that he was not alive, or he was falling

I saw this happen once before, when I was 18, I witnessed my grandfather die. The threat of death began 3 years before his death, with a failing back, but ultimately lasted for 3 days before his death. I was there when he was fully functioning and telling jokes, to the moments of incomprehensible pain and fear. It is, to say the least, daunting, and something I wouldn’t recommend for someone who’s loved one is undergoing the same doomed fate. It had changed my views on a lot of things at the time. I can not say much about the mystique of it all, but I can say that death brings about an ultimate truth about life; usually it’s when you see someone close their eyes to the world that you actually open your own eyes up and look around.

The thing is, there was something more to the incident on the light rail stop, a sort of sparkling grim to this all. It wasn’t just that the young guy has come to an end, but the fact that he had no form of identification, hasn’t spoken a word, hasn’t said a name or anything. This drove everyone nuts! I could hear, after the man was wheeled off into oblivion, questions being whispered, weaving throughout the car. No one knew this guy’s story, what led him up to this point, who he’s leaving (or left) behind, what his thoughts were, what he was like; nothing.

I guess what I’m bewildered by is why we should care. If he were okay, if he were near alive, he would have been just another passenger, some stranger. But because he was overdosed, if not dead on the spot, we all suddenly saw him as more. And yet, does it matter when someone is a stranger, that they have died? What exactly makes a stranger? And why is it that not that he is gone, we, the other passengers, suddenly cling emotionally to each other and feel for him?

Compassion is a strange thing; it never seems to express itself in rational or predictable behavior, and often it appears at the wrong time. Perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be, we as mortal beings can not change time nor can we control one’s decisions, but we can influence others, through regret, guilt, or joy.

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