I was on the subway yesterday and I think I decided that I know how I want to die. It wasn’t from being on one of the deceivingly empty cars, as those can make anyone think about ending it. I was on a normal-smelly car, cramped with strangers, when we rode past the construction lights that have those Broadway-type lights. I have a friend that loves this, and she will swing from pole to pole (if there’s room) and sing a tone-deaf version of Wicked’s “Defying Gravity.” Part of the reason she does it is to embarrass me, and part of it is because she fully embraces the anonymity of our city and the statistic that you will never be the weirdest person on any given subway car.
The lights burst through the windows, creating this bright strobe effect. Before this moment, I was zoning out, imagining I was anywhere else. The lights blink through at a steady pattern and I wonder if this is how it feels when you’re abducted.
I looked around at the people I was cramped with and I began to think about the movies about natural disasters, or the one’s where the world is ending for some reason or another, or the plot comes down to in some way or another that someone has to die in order to create the opportunity for someone else to live.
Remember the drawing straws scenario from Armageddon? In the end, Bruce Willis pulls the air tube on Ben Affleck as they are saying goodbye, putting Affleck off guard and Willis throws him into the elevator to send him back up to the ship. They share a moment where Affleck yells “Harry! Harry don’t do this!” and it’s very touching as Willis says “Take care of Gracie for me” or something like that. It’s an emotional scene, as Willis gives up his life for Affleck with the hope of him spending the rest of his life taking care of his daughter. The ultimate sacrifice to save the world, even beginning with just one single person. This emotionality carries through when you hear Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and the end of the 90’s couldn’t come soon enough.
So I’m imagining a world where getting on this subway car is choosing to die in order to save someone else, heading down a track to eternal darkness. On the platform as the train pulls in, I know what needs to be done. I’m standing on the most crowded platform ever, and the train hisses to a stop. It is impossible for anyone to exit the train because there is no more room on the platform and for some reason, none of us are going up to the surface. I look in the eyes of someone in the car, the line between life and death just an electronic “ding” and a closing door. With all the thinking possible, I switch spots with them, pulling them onto the platform as I take their spot inside the death car.
Once I’m inside, the doors close. The person I pulled out looks at me and we lock eyes. They put their palm on the glass, and I’m reminded of Liv Tyler doing the same after the image of Bruce Willis’ face goes to static in the command center back on Earth.
I look around the car, joined by my comrades who have all made the same decision as me in some way or another. They all left someone on the platform to carry on in place of themselves. For some reason, these are the rules and this is how it works.
The train begins to move, entering the tunnel and tubes of the unknown. That’s when we pass the section of the Broadway lights. Like a runway landing at the airport, tracing our path to whatever is to come. We’ve arrived: Welcome to Death.