From where I stood there was nothing I could do but watch as the girl fell in front of the oncoming train.
When I first saw her I was getting coffee in the kitchen at the office. I stopped to look through the third floor window over the sink. Everyone that worked in a cubicle on that floor paused to clean a cup and look at the elevated tracks and platform of the Randolph Street station. Among other things they looked to check the weather or on the chance they might see someone they knew or witness some notable person or event on the platform worth mentioning.
Until she fell, I saw her off most every morning standing on the platform in the same place and the same time to catch the Blue Line express. The train doors opened before her standing at that spot on the platform. She boarded with the crowd coming on with standing room only in the train car.
That first time I saw her she had a face like Keri Russell’s, baby’s breath weaved in her long, honey blonde hair. She wore a becoming summer dress and the platform shoes made her statuesque. She was young and pretty and looked fresh out of high school. The next day I didn’t see her. I thought it was a one off, but I still kept looking for her every morning. I changed the time of my first trip to the coffee pot to coincide with her platform arrival. It took three weeks to sync but there she was at 8:05, that was the time. Not that she was looking but she couldn’t see me because the windows in the building were mirrored to the outside. If anyone asked, what I was doing wasn’t creepy. She reminded me of my oldest daughter at eighteen. The one that died last year in a car wreck crushed by an 18 wheeler.
A month later, on a Monday, the girl showed up on the platform hand in hand with a man about my age. By the way they acted it wasn’t her father. At first I kept track of how many different men she was with; it seemed they changed weekly like bed sheets. I stopped counting after six months. Most of them were my age. Gone was the baby’s breath. The hair color changed, dyed a bright red. The look of someone older, her lipstick was fire engine red and her cheeks rouged. I could see that much from the window. She didn’t need either, her natural color was the healthy pink of youth. Over the next six months there were nine hair color, make up, and style of dress changes but the shoes were always platform. It seemed a change in hair color announced a new boyfriend. I didn’t understand it. She could have dated anyone her own age. This went on for nine months and then she just disappeared.
Her first week’s absence I explained was vacation. Same excuse for the second week. New in the work force that had to have been all of her earned time off. By the end of the third week I started to worry. Was she sick? Was someone taking care of her? Had something bad happened to her? God forbid. People come and go in this city, you would never know. Six months later a body found at a landfill identified by DNA or dental records could have been her. After a month I took an early breakfast in lieu of a lunch break and from 7:15 to 8:45 waited every day for a week on the platform where she had stood. I decided she must have changed jobs and that I wouldn’t be seeing her anymore. With a different time to start and a different place to work she took a different train or bus. Out of sight… I forgot about her. Then one day I was looking out the window and there she was. It must have been a year later, fall. The sky threatening, she wore a buttoned rain coat. She looked older, a hard ten years on her face. I looked at the time. Seven minutes before the next train came. I ran. I reached the turnstile on the platform just as the train was coming in and just as the screams cried out. I saw her fall and then sprawl across the tracks and the third rail before the train could stop. I didn’t see anyone push her but it was a crowded platform and someone could have gotten away. It was breaking TV news that morning and caused justifiable time of arrival delays at workplaces.
I stayed around while police completed their investigation. They talked to a few people on the platform who didn’t see what happened. They reviewed platform camera footage that only showed her falling. The stationmaster told police a man wearing a black hoodie dashed by her window and boarded the train going the opposite direction. A cop asked if that was before or after the fall . She couldn’t remember and didn’t get a look at his face.
An accident was the working conclusion; she slipped on a rain wet platform board. The stationmaster checked the Act of God box on the incident report.
I waited while the paramedics removed the body and strapped it on a gurney for transport. The news reported she was pregnant. My daughter was pregnant when she died in the car wreck.