It was raining. Several of my friends and I had just left rehearsal from an apartment in Brooklyn. We stopped at a bodega to get some snacks, or what should have been our dinner, since it was almost 11 p.m. The L train was nearing the station, and someone jumped the turnstile to make it. We rushed aboard in a flutter of laughter and sighs of relief, all of which ended as the doors shut behind us.
It was there that we saw her, this Jane Doe. She was lying there, sprawled across a seat that would normally hold three people. She wore a white party dress, with what I hoped was mud splattered across her. She was breathing, that much we were sure of. She had her purse in her hand, but no sense of her surroundings. Everyone on the train was trying not to look at her as they carried about their business.
A couple of us went over, but she was completely comatose. Four stops later, my friends stood up as Union Square approached. They asked me if I was going to be alright. I told them yes, and that I was going to stay with Jane until I knew she was safe. One of them mentioned they would alert the conductor or police if they saw them.
Strangers exited and entered the train. I remained seated, carefully watching everyone around me, knowing if someone tried to mess with Jane, I would put up a fight. Another young woman sat further down, across from me. She looked at Jane’s body lying there next to her, then stared at me. We had an unspoken understanding that we were now in this together. She nodded at me and I nodded back.
The train approached 8th Ave., as a voice on the intercom bellowed “This is the last stop on this train.” Everyone exited. Everyone, except me and Jane. The other young woman had gone to alert the conductor, leaving me with the body.
"You're not alone." I said out loud as the body shifted in a sleep-like state. "Can you hear me?" There was no response.
As I sat there, I thought about the events that led both of us to be there on that train that night. I thought about how she wasn't expecting to end up here. She had probably planned a fun night with her girlfriends. I wondered what kind of person would leave her alone. Who would think she was okay to make it home by herself? I prayed that she hadn't been roofied or raped.
The conductor finally approached me and asked me if I knew her. I said no.
"Well aren't you just her guardian angel then?" He laughed.
I glared at him.
"No," I thought. "She's my sister." While we had never spoken, made eye contact, or even exchanged our names, that didn't matter. What did matter was that the entire time on the train, no one did anything to help her. People laughed, made jokes, even retorted "Oh, I've been there before. Poor girl." Some people even looked at her like it wasn’t out of the ordinary, like they shouldn’t be alarmed.
Thirty to forty minutes later, two police officers approached us, a man and a woman. They looked at me and asked me a couple of questions. Then they yelled at Jane until she barely stood up. She made it to a seat on the subway platform, where she passed out again. They continued to yell loudly and rudely, with the sense that they were blaming her for being in that state. The male officer told me I could leave, but I remained still. The conductor stood next to me, trying to be nice, but only irking me more. The female officer stopped for a moment and turned her head towards me. She knew why I was still standing there. And with the slightest head nod she told me that they could handle it from there. So I turned my back and made my way out of the station.
I decided to hail a cab instead of taking the A train uptown. As I sat down in the backseat, I told the driver where to take me. He asked me if I was alright. I provided a weak "yeah" as I stared out the window with tears welling in my eyes. Almost out of habit, I began to recite my favorite speech from The Heidi Chronicles in my head.
"We're all concerned, intelligent, good women. It's just that I feel stranded. And I thought the whole point was that we wouldn't feel stranded. I thought the point was that we were all in this together."