The first time she pushed someone in front of a train it was an accident.
It was approaching five o’clock, the peak of the evening commute, and the station was starting to fill up. Shay walked briskly through the crowd, wanting to reach the far end of the platform as quickly as possible to get in line for the very last, and usually less crowded, car. Her backpack was stuffed with portfolio pieces, framed photographs, and various other memorabilia that had made its way in to her office over the past three years. It was time to move on – and she was glad for it.
Wind blew into the station from the dark train tunnel, blasting stale air with unexpected force that grew exponentially stronger the closer Shay got to the tunnel’s opening at end of the platform.
“Damn,” she hissed dejectedly. The line for the last car was unbelievably long. She glanced up at the arrival screen – four minutes left before her train would be pulling in to the platform; more than enough time to skedaddle to the other end and get on the first car instead . . .
Her short hair, haphazardly layered and highlighted, whipped wildly around her face when she turned and headed back in the opposite direction, away from the wind. Her hair gave an edge to her appearance that Shay knew her personality did not live up to, so she avoided eye contact (as usual) as she shuffled through the crowd, pausing only once to shift her backpack from one shoulder to the other.
“Hey!” A swollen man grumbled and gave her a small shove as she tried to squeeze past. Shay winced slightly, but kept her head down and said nothing as she continued on her way. The platform grew more crowded as the moments passed and she silently cursed the evening commuters that swarmed around her. Lately, she’d felt compelled to make small steps, baby steps, toward changing her timid tendencies, but she had a long way to go. She wanted to push her way through the crowd and tell anyone who didn’t like it to fuck off, but just the thought of it made her light-headed. That was too much. Quitting her job had been step one. Step two was unknown and that frightened her – but she figured that was the point. She laughed to herself then, remembering her other new bold move, the one that had caused all of her trouble to begin with – the lipstick. Dark and brown, it accentuated her lips, forming a mischievous pout, which she had discovered was impossible to ignore. She moved her hand to the side of her pack, feeling around for the elusive tube of lipstick as she continued on.
Distracted by the booming voice announcing the approaching train, Shay hardly noticed the little old lady as she approached her. The woman was bent over a bag, organizing various fruits she must have just purchased at the market. Shay felt the lipstick and jerked it out of the side clasp triumphantly, causing the heavily weighted backpack to swing down forcefully from her shoulder and slam into the poor woman, sending her sprawling on to the tracks. There was nothing Shay could do; nothing anyone could do, beyond watch in horror as the woman made a desperate grab for the edge of the platform. The train was too fast. It was all too fast. The horn blaring, the brakes screeching . . . and in an instant she was gone.
They screamed in unison at that last moment – Shay and the unfortunate old lady, whose name she later learned was Rita – but they were not alone in their cries so no one was immediately able to pinpoint Shay as the culprit. Maybe if they had, Shay would have reacted appropriately – though, if previous reactions she’d had in her life were any indication, she likely would have succumbed to emotional distress and ended up in an asylum.
But instead, she was invisible. In the minutes and hours following the incident, she was just another bystander. Just another person supposedly suffering from shock – or so these bystanders’ attorneys would assert in the litigation that would probably follow in the coming months. And during this crucial time, as she stood in the midst of the ensuing pandemonium, indistinguishable from the masses, numb and emotionless, something funny happened—the sheer horror of the moment pulled her in . . . and she liked it. Shay put on her lipstick slowly and she smiled.
That was three months ago, and since then Shay had been a busy girl.
She didn’t realize that she was going to actually push someone in front of a train on purpose until a few moments before it happened. That was a tricky one to explain. Pushing someone by mistake one time was unlikely – twice was impossible. But that was her new goal – beat the odds.
All her life, all thirty years of it, she had wasted valuable time admiring and fearing people that made things happen, never realizing how easy it would be to join their ranks.
“Oh my God, how did this happen?!” Shay had wailed in mock horror, contorting her face to conceal a wide grin. She pretended to strain against the officer’s arms and arch her head away from his strong, protective embrace to stare back, once again, at the horror that was shielded from her behind a wall of emergency workers – the horror of another body, who Shay called “Push #2,” trapped under the train.
She was very impressed with her own performance.
Shay: 2, Cops: 0.
She decided to let her hair grow long and dyed half of it bright blue – and started wearing ruby red lipstick now in place of the deep brown. She had never worn lipstick before, not really. It had always seemed like such a frivolous, self-centered waste of time – and on top of that, she had no desire to draw peoples’ eyes to her unremarkable yet beautiful face, having developed a healthy fear of unwanted attention at a young age. But now, she not only attracted stares, she held them; often locking her eyes with theirs in an unspoken challenge. And she started writing poetry. Mini little fucked up confessions that no one ever looked at closely enough to catch on – they just listened to her read them when she would show up at open mic nights, and they nodded their heads like they got it. But they didn’t, of course. She had become edgy – not that wannabe edgy so popular these days among the dramatic and bored, she was the real deal – and she didn’t give a shit. Her new attitude attracted people – stupid fuckin people, and that increased her desire to push.
So push #2 was unplanned and unknown – but push #3 was special. Push #3 was a revenge push and damn, it felt good. Shay was smart enough to realize that three pushes in three months waspushing her luck, so she had disguised herself before Push #3 . . . and dressed like her ex-boyfriend, wearing her hair up in a baseball cap and forgoing the ruby red lipstick. And then she pushed another unkown chump in front of a train precisely as her identically dressed ex-boyfriend was walking by on the platform. After yelling “Joey, no!” in her best deep voice, she jumped down on to the tracks and ran like hell through the tunnel, exiting through an access passage she had mapped out a few nights before. Why? As she had predicted, the “witnesses” were good cattle and reported hearing Joey’s name, seeing Joey on the platform and seeing him run like hell through the tunnel. Enough folks on the platform got a good look at his face and, aw shucks, Joey had a record so he was easy to identify.
No one ever put together that Joey was connected to Shay in any way. Why would they? They were a couple almost three years before – he had a wife and a baby now and at least two girlfriends in between. She wanted to gloat, wanted to show him she wasn’t so “meek” or “pathetic” after all, huh? But this would do. Bye, bye Joey, Shay thought with an appreciative smile as she carefully applied her lipstick in the bathroom mirror.
Shay: 3, Cops: 0.
And that’s the way Shay intended it to stay for a while. But then her roommate, Sara, suddenly decided to give a shit about Shay (another unwanted side effect of Shay’s new-found cool) and started referring to her as her “besty” and wanting to hang out and talk and shop and blah blah blah in her business all the time. Unfortunately for Sara, Shay was long past trusting other chicks as friends. Even worse for Sara? Getting anywhere in the city required taking the train . . .
Shay: 4, Cops: 0 . . . but suspicious
And Shay knew she was screwed. So she decided to go off the grid and take her show on the road. She didn’t have much to pack. There wasn’t much she ever kept as a memory (and was suspicious of people who did), so she grabbed a backpack and filled it with essentials, jammed in her bible (never touched it, but she knew it was good reading), popped her lipstick into her pants pocket and was off!
Her story doesn’t end there – far from it – so much came before and after these events . . . but that’s a tale for another day. Do yourself a favor though and make sure she’s not standing nearby the next time you’re waiting for the train.