Monday, 22 November 2010

A Brush with Suicide

Last week I read in The Evening Standard that there were no less than three suicides on the London transport train and tube networks on a single day. That is so tragic and so sad.

It always makes my heart skip a beat when I hear about suicides under tubes because it reminds me of an experience I had on a tube platform about 20 years ago. It was probably the closest that I have come to a suicide incident since the one time that I seriously contemplated suicide myself years before (but that will have to be the subject of another post, perhaps).

On that particular day I wandered down to the platform as normal and flopped down on a bench next to a middle aged man. I noticed that he looked a bit sweaty and agitated, albeit normally dressed in a suit and tie as I was. He was muttering to himself and I remember thinking "oh no, trust me to sit next to the nutter. Must get in a different carriage when the train comes."

I tried to ignore him but then I heard that what he was muttering was "Do it, do it, do it" and he was wringing his hands. I started to get worried. Do what? Could he be planning to....? Do I ignore him in true British fashion or do I say "excuse me, strange muttering person, are you alright?" If I do, does he tell me to mind my own bloody business?

I sat, pretending to ignore him. He kept muttering, geting louder "Come on, do it, do it". I could hear the tube now coming, getting louder. He was getting louder "DO it, DO IT". I was really worried now. We were both still sitting down on the bench. The tube thundered in to the station. He is shouting "DO IT, DO IT". I am staring straight at him now, shouting "DO WHAT? DON't DO IT ! NO! SIT DOWN!" He is white as a sheet. I am terrified. We are both still sitting on the bench.

Train slows to a halt. He leans back. Bursts in to tears. I get up, shaken. Board the train. We don't make eye contact. We don't acknowledge each others presence. I have no idea what he was going to do. Resign from work? Leave his wife? Jump under the train? Book tickets for a footie match? I genuinely have no idea. I have no idea what he did next. I have no idea whether I was supposed to have done something different. Something more. No idea.

But everytime I hear the phrase "person under a train at station xzy" that 30 second incident from 20 years ago pops into my mind and my heart skips a beat.

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