If you were the wife of a highly successful, Premier League footballer, and a delivery guy was asking you to sign for a package addressed to an unfamiliar name, of course you’d turn it away.
That’s what was going through my head, as I stood there, suspended in time and space on the 14:12 intercity service. The train was just a few hundred meters from the station. I’ve always been one of those travellers who gets up early. It drives my boyfriend mad. The pilot puts the wheels on the tarmac and I’m already unlocking my seatbelt and making a move for the overhead storage. So impatient.
Holding on to the handrail, I had been willing the train to move faster, as standing in such close proximity to the onboard toilet was making me feel sick. Schoolgirl error, I should’ve moved back to the other end of the coach.
That random conversation with my boyfriend about a minor, actually humorous incident at work had stuck in my mind. Like when I can’t figure out the next step on my daily sudoku and I zone out, staring into the distance. My mind often snaps back to random snippets of conversation.
That one time an old boss lost his rag in the car because I claimed my favourite song of all time happened to be the same as his. He said I was wrong, I was just trying to fit in and be cool, I should have the confidence to be myself. There was an awful silence in the car while the song rang out on the radio. It’s still my favourite song.
Another conversation my brain likes to regurgitate, was with my Dad. He’d asked me to go Christmas shopping with him, in particular for a jewelry charm for my stepmother, to mark the birth of her first grandchild. Sounds pretty normal, apart from the fact I’m a mum of three. Apparently my children didn’t count. That one stung, so I kind of understand why that stick out. But the package story?
I think I remember the heat on my face at this point, or maybe the shunt first.
The guy stood next to me had a black Nike backpack on both shoulders. Two-strappin’ as my fourteen year old would say. I remember this clearly because I liked it and Googled to see how much they are.
He flew toward me from the train coach door, the backpack connecting with my face with such force, I was told afterward that it broke my nose. I’ll probably never know what he was carrying, but it felt like bricks.
The impact started a sort of domino effect as I reeled backward into someone else, eager to depart the packed train. Next came the shattering of glass, and then, the darkness.
The crumbs on the worktop slowly came into focus. A sudden pang of embarrassment. I should’ve done a better job of cleaning up before Joyce got here. I doubt she’ll judge me given that she’s here to help, not hinder.
“Is there anything you want me to jot down, anything at all” Joyce asked patiently. I shook my head. She began to gather up her notebook and papers, I could feel her pity as she smiled and patted my arm.
“We can try again next week. Remember, there are no rules here. All at your own pace, in the meantime, try to write down any thoughts or notes you might want to chat about and I’ll see you on Thursday, same time?”
“Sure” I replied, and added an absentminded “Thanks, Joyce”.
The woman was being paid to sit and listen to me talk about the trauma. Trauma, God I hate that word. Incident is another one that gives me goosebumps now. So does survivor. I sat with my guilt, in comfortable silence, long after Joan had left. A blank notebook in front of me. Physically unable to pick up the pen and write down the thoughts racing about in my head.
It’s like I’m waiting for the swell to calm. I keep picturing Niagara Falls. The memories, pictures, sounds, feelings, all flowing rapidly over the edge, fighting for position. I’m up there on the edge, amongst it all when I want to be upstream, where the water flows quietly.
I picture myself standing on the riverbank, the sun warm on my face. I close my eyes. I can hear the water running by and I am calm. I can stand there all day.
Until the heat gets more intense, it’s burning. I open my eyes, look down at the water. At a package floating by, tied with string, no, wires. Lots of wires. The sun stings my face, I cover my face with my hands, they’re covered in blood and then, the darkness.