When people cry in public, I always feel empathy for them. I can’t help but feel sadness when I see other people cry. On Wednesday night, exhausted from rugby practice, I waited for a downtown 6 train at Park and 34th. I wasn’t paying much attention to anyone. I thumbed through a science fiction novel I’d been reading about a little girl who travels to the North Pole to free some kidnapped children.
While I was reading, I heard a faint sobbing coming from the uptown side of the platform. I glanced up from my book. Maybe thirty feet away, I made out the long, dark coat and hat of a woman. She stood close to the platform ledge, obscuring her face, and wept. She kept herself hidden behind a tiled column, but couldn’t hide her heartbreaking sobbing.
I looked to see if any other passengers saw her, but either the few riders there didn’t hear her, or chose to ignore the pitiful woman in her black coat and felt hat. There wasn’t anyone around her anyways. She stood at the darkest part of the platform, nearly completely in the shadows of the entrance to the pitch black subway tunnel’s entrance. And she continued to weep. And no one else continued to hear her.
Strange? Then it dawned on me... duh.
I rolled my eyes. I was upset with myself that I didn’t figure “her” out sooner. I had given her too much of my sympathy and now a never-ending tale of woe, bolstered by my interest, would likely play itself out to some grisly conclusion.
At this point, I could have ignored her (probably should have) and gone back to my book, but based on such a distinct presence, this promised to be an entertaining, and chilling, show.
So, keeping my eyes locked on her heaving, thin shoulders, I casually strolled up the platform. Goose flesh raised on my arms. Her crying increased in volume. Set over the piteous whimpers, I heard her crying voice occasionally muttering the name “Timothy”. Poor creature. She was obviously very old. Likely left over from the twenties or thirties. And, again, how stupid of me not to realize it earlier.
I stood plainly in the center of the platform, facing the crying lady. I was careful not to allow myself to become a beguiled participant, so I chose to take an active course to draw her attention, rather than she continue to draw (or control) mine. I slowly removed a nickel from my pocket. I flicked the coin from my thumb. It did several somersaults in the air and landed near the feet of the cloaked figure with a metallic clink.
Her wailing increased ten fold. (Still none of the other passengers reacted.) The figure spun from the shadows and revealed – nothing. Her face was a moving, foggy blur. She was frail and clung to her dark, mourning dress. Likely Catholic, probably 1930’s, based on the style of dress, probably upper class. She screamed Timothy and then stepped backwards off the platform and disappeared under the wheels of the 6 train as it thundered into the station.
My revelry ended. I was panting harder than I had been during practice. Of course, noone else had seen or heard a thing. I boarded the train and hurried home. Once there, I lit a small white candle for “Timothy” and the tragic woman who mourns him enough to take her own life, over and over.