He checks the schedule in the tiny laminated wallet that lives in his pocket. The 7.36am express, due next from the intersection. Always crammed to gills with pasty skinned business men on their way downtown. As with the former, as with the next. As with any Friday morning. That thousand tonnes of metal slides up on the rails, that token few peel out of the Sardine can and stumble onto the platform. Then the crush commences. A few hundred human bodies compressing up against each other in an orgy of unwelcome intimacy. He reminds himself of the damp rain outside, staining the platform, requiring that extra volume of varied colour umbrellas; absorbing more capacity that might otherwise permit some fortunate travellers the space to respire.
Casting his gaze along the curving tunnel, he caught site of the dishevelled man for a third time. Previously his direction had been towards the end of the platform. This time he moved forward, in the attendant’s direction. His necktie loose, his shirt bunched up and only partly tucked below his belt-line. He would look down, shake his head a little; off to the right, into the neatly lined crowds; out to the right at the tunnel wall, with its precisely engineering tiling, advertising billboards. There were four. One for a popular brand of toothpaste, another for a travel agency. The attendant tried to recall the remaining two, but memory failed him.
The clock now 7.35 and something-seconds, with light gradually illuminating the tunnel a hundred or so meters ahead. Screeching, breaks pressing against wheel arches as the deceleration began. Distracted for a second, the attendant’s view returned to the mass of morning commuters. In a few seconds the train began to enter the tunnel, its lights casting a travelling ring of light as it worked its way towards him.
Then it happened. A blur of movement. A shriek, a scream. A crescendo of machanical noise. The crowd suddenly parted, half way along the tunnel. The most ungodly crunch; a first percussive and then wet, moist. In his memory later he would recall the horriffed look on the helpless driver’s face. Hours later, with the chaos past, with the cleanup crew finished and the station returned to midday steady peace, the attendant would wonder if he had imagined that he had looked. Perhaps his eyes had forced themselves closed, that he hadn’t witnessed a thousand tonnes of metal crash into a human body.
But it would not have mattered. He would never know why the dishevelled man had lurched onto the line at 7.36am on Friday morning. A wet day, 23 degrees.