She stood there, reeling slightly, imperceptibly, each time the metro came by. A few people glanced once, twice, wondering why she was still there. Probably just meeting someone, they concluded. There was no one around to note how long she had stayed. No second thoughts, eyes gliding over her like everyone else. In a city so big, individuals had long lost all meaning. There is only the crowd.
Once, upon her arrival, she had looked out the window and seen the thousands of lights, the city many times the size of her home province. "How," she wondered, "could anyone ever be lonely here?" Always someone close enough to touch, always thousands and thousands of them.
But now she understood. So many potentialities, but so few actualized. Just a sea of faces, none of them looking back.
Sometimes, she tried. Smiled, frowned, laughed, cried. Once or twice, someone had spared a look. But like as not, they'd left her alone on the bench. Not worth their time. Their life was too busy. She wasn't worth anyone's time, no matter what she did. A disheartening conclusion.
Her life had become a series of meaningless interactions. Queries accompanying transactions, always answered with the same "Fine, and you?" that was expected as a social nicety. She knew better than to tell the truth here. All this time, and nothing of meaning.
At first, she'd been enthusiastic. Had looked for happy people in the crowd. Attempted interaction. Quickly, however, she discovered that a "hello" to a stranger would result in an uncomfortable glance. People didn't do that here. They had long ago become inured to the idea of... another person. An unplanned interaction. Saw just another faceless block with their hand out, asking for money, asking for time, asking for commitment. None of that here. A serious place.
Now, she hard learnt. She saw only the bustle, tight lipped, elbows out, rushing to make the metro. And there she stood, undecided.
Today had been a normal day. She'd gone to work, behaved unremarkably, eaten dinner by herself in the food court, and now was on her way home. But watching the first car arrive, she'd been struck by a sudden fancy: it would be so easy. One step to oblivion. No one could stop her, and there was no chance to regret. It would just be... over.
A suddenly attractive possibility. She let the train go by as she pondered, strengthened in her resolve as each minute wore on and no one even looked her way. Increasingly secure in the knowledge that no one would miss her. When was the last time she'd had a friend?
Her mind veered away from the question. She stepped closer to the edge, feeling the rush as the train passed her by. Inhaling the perfume of the person next to her, brought to her nose on the sudden flow of air. Letting the crowd jostle her. But not getting onto the train.
Again and again the scene replayed itself.
She was frozen with indecision, thoughts forming only slowly through the haze in her mind. One thought hung, obscuring all others: "Why not?"
This time, she looked up when she heard the train. Stared at it and moved just a little ahead of the crowd. Waited until it was close. And then -
They stood, waiting, fidgeting, the crowd writhing as it inevitably did. Past rush hour, but still early enough to create a mass of people. As the other train came, loud sighs filled the air. That was twice now, that the other train had gone by. It was unfair. They wanted to go home.
Finally, the sound came from the left. Heads turned in anticipation, people shuffled forward.
Relief as the train pulled in, and suddenly - screams. People reeled back, panic spreading. "Someone jumped in front of the metro!"
The body was well under the train; it was too well timed. The conductor had no chance to stop. Those near the front could see blood on the window.
Only minutes later the paramedics came running down the stairs. The crowd milled, uncertain. Curiosity mixed with horror mixed with annoyance. Some people cried. Some swore as they noted the inconvenience. "Ugh, why can't they pick a less selfish way of killing themselves? Here they are thinking no one will miss them, but this way they've managed to annoy a whole city! Can't people just do a bullet to the head anymore?" The intercom blared, stating that due to a request from the paramedics the metro would be temporarily closed on the green line. People just arriving turned around, swearing, "Not another suicide! It isn't even January!"
The driver sat, in shock. There was nothing he could have done, he knew that; she had timed it perfectly. But he kept seeing the moment over and over again, how he'd caught her form from the corner of his eye, saw her step... The pieces of his life fell apart as he focused on this instant. He still had not moved when the paramedics came. They lead him away, eyes unseeing.
The crowd dispersed, settling into just those people with no alternative but to wait. The maintenance teams responded with a practiced ease that was just a bit eery. Hours later, everything was as before. The metros running. No cross, no newspaper article or radio blurb. Just another nameless suicide. Not worthy of note in a city so large, where it happened so often. Merely an inconvenience, dealt with mechanically by all but those who had been closest.
Was she right?