Sunday 29 September, 2013
Dell Rosenberg had walked the two miles to the subway station. Although, perhaps walked was too energetic a way to describe his movement that day; wandered or meandered was a better fit for how Dell moved. The heat in the city had got to him earlier that morning, sweat still beading on his face from every pore, and under his suit jacket, his previously crisp blue business shirt was drenched with sweat. But today was the day, and the heat would not deter him from seeing it through to the end.
As he descended into the station, the air around him cooled. Not a great deal, but enough to make him feel slightly human again. When he arrived at the platform, he reached up to straighten his tie. It was a habit from his days in military service when roll call or an unexpected inspection meant that he had to look presentable at all times, even if he was up to his elbows in axle grease from the platoon’s ever-failing jeep.
‘Those were the days,’ Dell said quietly to himself. A young mother on the platform looked towards him, having heard Dell speak.
‘Sorry?’ she asked. He smiled at her and shook his head, indicating that his words had not been directed at her. She half-heartedly returned the smile, and then directed her attention back to her baby-sitting in the worn out old pram.
A gush of warm air accompanied the train that pulled into the station just after the young mother looked away form Dell. He watched as she hurried onboard, pushing her way through the waves of people exiting the train. He continued watching her as she made her way to a carriage that wasn’t particularly full, and sat down next to an old, African American woman. The older woman slid along the seat to make room for the young mother, and they broke into a short conversation, presumably about the baby, before returning to the unwritten subway etiquette of non-communication with fellow travellers. When the train had gone, Dell looked around him, and saw that just as the train had done, the bodies disembarking vanished as quickly as they had appeared, and he was alone.
Alone suited him. It had done since he returned from the last of four tours of duty in the Gulf. Momentarily, he thought of his platoon. None of them had been right when they returned. What they had seen, what they had been exposed to, what they had been ordered to do by faceless men back home who would never see the cost of war as his platoon and others had, had driven many soldiers to despair. War had a way of bringing even the strongest of men to his knees. Dell had outlasted and outlived most of his platoon. He often wondered if that was something to be proud of, but had never lingered too long on the thought because he knew his day would inevitably arrive.
He lifted up his arm, pulled back his jacket and shirt sleeves, and looked at his Rolex. It was almost three o’clock. The afternoon subway runs would pick up in about half an hour or so, as workers heading off for an early weekend made their escapes from their employers, and back into the arms of their loved ones. He thought of Reneé, and how she smiled when he would arrive home early on a Friday, before driving off into the countryside for a weekend away. She loved wandering the streets of the small towns along the route to the farmhouse, stopping to visit every antique and collectables store that they came across. It was the small things that made her happy, and seeing Reneé happy made Dell happy. At least for a little while. He looked again at his watch. He had about a minute until the next train arrived, and he could hear it thundering towards the station.
Stepping forward so that he was almost at the edge of the platform, Dell took three deep breaths. He glanced again at his watch. Forty-five seconds. In his head, he counted down the time, as images of his military service days, and his life with Reneé flooded his mind with memories, both good and bad. There was no turning back from this moment. No way to stop what he had been planning for months. No way that he wanted to stop what he’d planned for months. Dell had lived with the memories of war for too long, and he was tired. Life didn’t return to normal for most of the guys in his situation. Oh, there were support structures set in place for he and the others like him: psychologists, counsellors, doctors that would shrink the heads of former soldiers until every last, dirty little secret was aired in confidence, but nothing really helped. Not work, not family, not hobbies, not the good times. Not drugs, or alcohol. Nothing.
So, like many who Dell had seen combat with – seven – he desperately felt that there was only one solution to his never-ending malady. Six. The depression he had suffered with for years had finally got the better of him, twisting his thoughts in one direction. Five. Reneé would be well looked after. He’d made sure to bank everything that he could, and even though his life insurance probably wouldn’t pay out, those left from his old platoon, and maybe some of the new guys who had been regaled with the heroics of Dell’s men would see fit to look out for her. Four. It would be difficult for her at first, but he knew she would eventually move on, perhaps find another man who had less baggage to contend with, and she would survive. Three. No, Reneé wouldn’t just survive; she’d thrive. That was her nature.
The subway train was almost in place. Dell could see the driver as clear as he could see his watch. Two.
‘I’m sorry,’ he mouthed to the woman at the controls of the train. ‘I’m so, so sorry.’ And with his last words spoken, his last deep inhalation of the warm air being forced through the tunnel by the train, he stepped off of the platform and into the path of the train.
Immediately understanding what the well-dressed man on the platform was about to do, the driver activated the emergency brakes of the train. She knew it wouldn’t fully brake in time to save the man’s life: he would definitely be killed on impact, but her training and instinct kicked in, and her body automatically went through the motions of engaging an emergency stop. One.
. . . The end . . .