You were lying there, so much stiller, so much calmer than the rest of us. Your face turned upward and one of your feet, the one without the shoe on, (it was
your shoe that had clattered) wearing just a sock, like you were a man home from work and trying to relax. Only no one relaxes like that, not really, not at the bottom of the stairs where the trains leave from Journal Square station to go into Manhattan. Your eyes were closed and your head…your head looked just as if it was being cradled there. It was soft like I said, not hard, and it was being cradled in a circle, a pillow of velvet or maybe red satin. At least that’s what I thought it was until I saw that it was pooling and that it wasn’t a pillow at all but dark red blood. It’s darker, isn’t it, the blood that comes from someone’s head? Darker than it would be if you had only cut your finger for example. That kind of blood tends to be more thin, high pitched like a scream. That’s the only place, your head, as far as I could tell, that you were bleeding from, so for a minute it seemed almost like a relief. Only you looked so peaceful lying there that it almost seemed now as though what the station man had been saying, ‘It’s all right, I’ve got it’, was true. That everything really was all right. That he could take care of things or someone could. As though it was just a matter of…what? Cleaning up the blood: how would they get stains like that out of the concrete? Carrying away the body? Sounding the signal so the train on Track 2 could be on its way? I expect, you see, that you had been on your way somewhere, dressed the way you were. Clean t-shirt, blue chequered shorts. White socks. ‘Oh my God’ the woman said again, her hands going every which way, not sure what to reach out for or what to hang on to. It wouldn’t have been okay to have lifted you though, or moved your head from where it was. The blood looked so thick and sweet, almost sticky. Why is it when you see blood, when you look at it, even from a distance, you can practically taste it? The tang of it in the back of your throat. It must be the fear. Yours looked like good healthy blood if you don’t mind my saying so, it really was so thick and velvety red. That other man drained of colour seemed to have had his spirited away. And he was stuttering, mumbling, saying only parts of words incoherently, wiping his hands on his jeans and running the sides of his palms along the sides of his legs like he wanted to get them dry or clean somehow. ‘I didn’t think that…’ he was saying, ‘I didn’t want his last…I didn’t know that…’ And maybe it’s infectious, this inability to say something intelligible, this stuttering and stammering because I turned to Alice then and I said ‘Um, so do you want…Should we stay…to do something?’ And she looked at me like I was mad and she said, ‘No, of course not Mum. What can we do?’ And so we got back on the same train because the doors hadn’t shut yet but our seats had gone and now there were more people crowding on because the signal had just sounded, and the train was about to move towards the Hudson River, past Grove Street and Pavonia Newport, through the Hudson tube and on into Christopher Street before reaching the subway station at 9th
(where we ended up having our breakfast). And after that it was going to carry on uptown to 14th
and finally 33rd
which, for all I know, was where you had been heading yourself that morning.