by Christopher P. Mooney
I’d heard stories about it from some of the other drivers — drivers who’d seen and experienced it, including my old man — and I’d also heard stories about drivers who had to chuck the job after one because they couldn’t face getting back in the cab. So I knew the score as soon as I saw him, black cap pulled down low over a thick beard. A big lump, he was. He climbed over the perimeter fence as if it wasn’t there. I pulled the emergency brake, blew the horn, shouted and screamed. But at that speed, with only a few hundred feet between sight and impact, the train won’t stop in time. It can’t.
There’s a horrible moment of inevitability when the whole world slows down because you know what’s about to happen. You know what’s about to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it. You sit and wait. There’s no sound, no obvious noise or sign to tell you it’s happened. That he’s dead. But you know. And the passengers, most of them, especially in the forward coaches, they know it, too.
Your training kicks in then and everything after that is automatic, senseless, as if some other person in some other place is moving and talking on your behalf. To the passengers, the depot. The police. Then all you can do is sit and wait, again.
It was several hours before I was able to go home, but that didn’t bring any relief. Any distance. My wife — and we’ve been together for nearly twenty years, married for ten, a very close relationship; a good, strong marriage — has no idea what my job involves, not really, so I couldn’t even begin to tell her what had happened, never mind how I felt about it. Sure, I got a doctor’s line that was good for a wee while and the rail people — you know, the higher ups — probably did everything they could, but eventually I had to go back to work. You can’t pay the bills with anger. The dead person used my train to do something terrible. His head must have been in a dark place for him to even think about doing something like that and I feel sorry for his family, for the people he left behind — I found out at the coroner’s court he had a wife and young kids — but he didn’t give a fuck about me; about my life and what I’d have to deal with after. You ask me, it’s a selfish way to do it, for sure.
And there’s guilt, too. People are always surprised when I say that, but it’s true. Sometimes I have to remind myself it wasn’t me who killed him. I know there’s nothing more I could have done but I still feel bad about it.
The job’s never been the same since. Neither have I, not really. Probably never will be. It’s not as bad as it was after it first happened. It’s definitely less raw. But I’ll never forget it. I remember it, all of it. Every moment. Every detail. I’d forget it if I could, but I can’t. I won’t.
Christopher P. Mooney was born and raised in Glasgow and currently survives in a small house near London. At various times in his life he has been a supermarket cashier, a shelf stacker, a barman, a cinema usher, a carpet-fitter’s labourer and a foreign-language assistant. He is now an English teacher and a writer of transgressive fiction.