It was such a tiny, tremulous cry. A little robin’s egg beg, a small but bright
But I heard nothing, or I heard but didn’t hear because by the time I process the itty-bitty
Enough to bother wondering where it came from, this precious wee
I immediately recognize that the situation has already escalated, so
If nothing else, there must have been other signs, and we’d missed them, as it is only just now that we all seem to be looking around, first at each other, and then, eventually, at
Oh such a little lost lamb of a lady,
Everybody’s grandmother (not mine, of course, my grandmother on the white side was an absolute ox, and my abuela was steel and fire and would have, with only a glance, commanded us to save her and be grateful to have had the chance) but the type of lady you are assumed to think of when you think of a normal (barely there rosewater tea cozy slipper socks soft paper thin skin spidery handwriting and five dollar bills in your birthday card) grandma
And above her head the tiniest gap between the train doors, the automated train doors, the actively trying to close train doors
With her between them, and surely not enough space, not for her fluffy white hair and soft meek face or her narrow shoulders which would fit almost between my hands, but still
“oh help me oh”
Small as she is this cannot be safe, and the doors are still squeezing her crushing her brittle crone bones and no escape, for her, or for us
Only this terrible impossibility which can’t be happening cannot happen because of course the doors will open trains are not made to murder us this can’t
One of us is there to save her
One of us, at least, is able to act when they see an old woman crying out for help, because they (not me, I’m still sitting here watching this unfold, knowing nothing, unable to grasp the situation, unable to change it, unable to do anything really except stare helplessly, because unlike this stranger I don’t) know that you can just pull apart the murder doors, apparently
This goddamn hero, is right here pulling the doors, still struggling against them,
Wrenching with all their might, until, with one final snap, the doors jolt open,
Just like that,
Allowing our lady the moment she needs to shuffle inside, away from her death –
Free, and totally fine, safely seated, still shaken, but thanking this stranger, this business casual savior,
And doors closing, we’re on our way at last, and maybe I can join in the car’s collective sigh of relief, because I’m fine it’s fine
Is it even my fault that my instincts begged me to
“wait, just wait, just hold on please”
This was not great,
For me, or the old lady,
But nobody got hurt, and the train’s not delayed, and I can almost believe we’re really OK, even if I won’t or can’t ever be the one who will just see, and know, and act.
M. Roanoke (they/them) is a queer folk artist based in Kansas City, Missouri. Their work appears or is forthcoming in Bureau of Complaint, Bullshit Lit, and elsewhere. Find them on Twitter @GangyRothstein.
image: “That’s the wrong kind of kettle” by Laura Eppinger, as part of the “Have a Petty Party” series. Laura has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and weird hybrid stuff. Visit her here.
The “Have a Petty Party” photo series interrogates what it means to be a host, a guest, a homeowner, and a woman who wants an identity separate from her housekeeping abilities. For this project Eppinger embroidered paper napkins, paper plates, party hats, doilies, and more. You’re not “supposed” to stitch on these things. And the messages aren’t celebratory. See more on her site.