Perhaps she was texting.
Or engaged in purposeful distancing from a reality she cared not think about.
Whatever the distraction, she began to cross over the tracks and the small dog pulling at the end of the leash was unable to warn her of trouble heading in their direction.
A rumble beneath her feet jarred her back into consciousness.
Looking to the left, she saw the locomotive bearing down on them, giving her a millisecond to scoop the puppy into her arms and step to safety as the train flew past in a rush of wind and clattering of wheel against rail.
When the adrenaline subsided and her body stopped shaking she took a half step forward toward the other side of the tracks, allowing the train coming from the opposite direction to slam into them.
None of us on board had sensed the event.
There was no sudden grinding of brakes, no backpacks flying through space as we screeched to a halt. Just a gentle roll leading to a soft stop.
A detached voice over the loudspeaker system said there’d been an accident. A woman had been hit.
We sat, waiting for more. But there was nothing.
Someone across the aisle, someone who wanted to be heard, said: “If there’s a fatality the train will remain here until the coroner arrives. If not, we’ll move on.”
“How do you know?” I asked, testing her authority.
“Experience,” she said. “Experience.”
We began to jerk forward in small spurts. Was the woman alive?
I thought about the odds of someone – more than once – being on a train that hit a pedestrian.
As we lumbered into Martinez station. I tried to push thoughts of her condition from my mind.
“Please gather your belongings and exit the coach cars. The next train will move you to your final destination. This train will remain at the Martinez station.”
To wait for the coroner?
A hundred passengers disembarked. Most stayed on the platform. Some, like myself, moved into the terminal. All of us avoided eye contact.
I trolled the internet for news of the accident. There was nothing.
Later, as I boarded the 11:09, a man I hadn’t seen before looked at me and said: “She didn’t die. She didn’t die.”
I waffled between gratitude and skepticism.
Did he sense I needed assurance?
I collapsed into a coach seat, disturbed and physically exhausted, pulling the $3.00 voucher I’d been given as compensation for the “inconvenience” I’d suffered on the first leg of the journey.
We pulled out of Martinez and headed toward Emeryville. A bus would be waiting to take us over the Bay Bridge, into the city.
That evening I found a brief posting of the accident. No update of the woman’s status. Only mention of a dog that had not been hurt. Anyone with information about the accident was to call the local police station.
I wanted to know if the woman was okay and why she’d been on the tracks in the first place.
A woman walking a dog, hit by a train.