Perhaps she was texting.
Or engaged in purposeful distancing from a reality she cared not think about.
Whatever the distraction, they had begun to cross over the rail tracks and the small dog pulling at the end of the leash was unable to warn her of the trouble heading in their direction.
The rumble beneath her feet jarred her back into consciousness.
She looked to the left and saw the locomotive bearing down on them. She scooped up the puppy and bolted out of the way with but a millisecond of space between them and disaster.
Paralyzed by fear, eyes closed, she stood quite still, hugging the dog tightly to her chest.
A momentary rush of wind brushed her face as the train flew past. After a second of eerie silence and a release of held breath, she took a step forward and slammed into the train coming from the other direction.
None of the passengers on the train sensed the event.
None of us heard a sudden grinding of breaks. No backpacks flew through space as the train screeched to a halt.
It was a slow affair. A gentle roll to stop. Then no movement or sound.
A detached voice over the loudspeaker system said there’d been an accident. A woman had been hit
We sat, waiting for more. 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, needing more words to fill the void.
“Experience,” she said.
“You’re saying that you’ve been a passenger on a trains that hit someone?”
“Yes. More than once.”
More than once. I thought of the odds.
The train jerked forward and began to move. Was the woman alive?
I pushed thoughts of her condition from my mind as the train lumbered into the Martinez station.
Another announcement. This one asking us to gather our belongings, exit the coach cars. The next train would move us to our final destinations. This train — the train we were on — would 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.
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.
I pulled the $3.00 voucher I’d been given as a compensation for inconvenience as I existed the first train.
The train pulled out of Martinez and we headed toward Emeryville. A bus would be waiting to take us over the Bay Bridge, into the city.
Later in the day I found a brief internet mention of the accident. No update of the woman’s status, but it mentioned the dog had not been hurt. Anyone with information regarding the accident was to call the local police station.
I wanted to know if the woman was okay.
I want to know why it happened.
A woman walking a dog, hit by a train.