My friend Dan and I took the light rail to Saturday Market last weekend to find Christmas gifts for various people. After wandering around for several hours and eating some delicious teriyaki chicken, we made our way back to the tracks to hop on the next train home.

We passed by a street preacher, which is a very normal sight at Saturday Market. This was a young white guy, fairly well-dressed and with a clean-shaven head. He was making his points very loudly, but something about the volume and pitch of his voice made it impossible to understand anything he was saying.

As we stood waiting for the train, a very unhappy-looking homeless man approached the street preacher. The man walked up and stood several inches away from the boy's face, apparently listening very intently. The boy continued yelling happily and gesturing animatedly at the somber crowd that had gathered.

After a moment, the homeless man began to yell as well. He yelled back at the boy, their faces inches apart, both waving like epileptic traffic cops. The crowd became more interested in the small scene unfolding before them, and passersby began to stop and watch.

Dan and I laughed quietly to ourselves and prepared to get on the train, which we could see approaching from down the track. As the train approached, I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a man walking directly toward the tracks. As he walked, he was looking over his shoulder at the street preacher and the seemingly demon-posessed bum, grinning to himself. Somewhere in the back of my head, it occurred to me that maybe he hadn't seen the train coming. Since light rails don't make very much noise at all, this seemed to be very likely.

He was only a few feet away, but the train was coming fast. I told my legs to jump, intending to grab him by his jacket and pull him away from the edge of the platform. But before the nerve impulse reached my leg muscles, the train reached us.

There was a whoosh as the train sped past. The man, his right foot planted on the very edge of the platform and his balance already shifted to his left foot, ready to step forward, turned as he heard the noise. As he turned his head and saw the blur of the train zooming by mere centimeters from his face, his nose brushed against a window. He jerked his head back and froze.

I was almost as stunned as he was, still poised in half-leap, wondering how he had managed not to get hit. As I stared, he slowly turned his head toward me, the rest of his body remaining perfectly still.

"I didn't even see that coming," he said slowly, with wide eyes. The train had slowed to a stop by then, and the doors opened. People rushed on and off. Dan and I smiled at him awkwardly, paused for a moment trying to think of something to say, and then decided to just get on the train and be happy that we hadn't seen the man's body flung fifty feet through the air before landing and sliding another fifty feet across the concrete. My guess is that this man now looks very carefully both ways before crossing train tracks.

As the train pulled away, we watched the street preacher and the homeless bum still yelling at each other with conviction. Both were completely unaware that, whether they were saving souls for Jesus or not, they almost helped kill a man. There's a kind of sad irony to that, don't you think?

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