Friday, April 17, 2009

Dwelling on Coincidence

After reading Jud's post about the pre-wedding office party I was thinking of writing a post on how marriage scares the crap out of me (an often explored topic for those of you who knew me as a college student surrounded by a sorority of engaged women), it would have rambled on about how I would enjoy the stability, having someone to go to restaurants/parties/movies with as well as someone to help (godforbid) raise children, but then one of my students told me about this.

Yesterday a man walked out in front of an Amtrak train a few miles from where I live.

This town is crisscrossed with train tracks, they are the remnants of a blue collar town that can't figure out if it's future rides on the working class or on the creative class, but the Amtrak runs very close to my apartment.

The sound of train horns have never bothered me -- in Ann Arbor the train runs along the river (go figure) and I always have lived near the river -- which is good because both in Chicago and Kalamazoo I've been close to tracks. In Chicago the eL ran a block behind my building. But these people dying bother me.

Another incident happened a few months ago in this city. And then last summer/fall a woman died on the train tracks in Ann Arbor. I do not know the whys or whens of hear death, but when I think about it, I imagine it at sunset. The train rushing at her from the west. The sun gleaming off the train golden on her face. I imagine that she knows. That she's planned this. That she is calm. That she stands there like a Madonna with sad, knowing eyes, her palms faced up.

It's a silly image; one that has nothing to do with the truth. I don't know why I have these thoughts. I don't know why I only think of her when the sun has started to set. But I never, ever see the train hit her in my mind.

The horn blares; the blue, gray steel comes into view; blocks the sun; her eyes adjust to the darkness, the horn still lowing an unheeded warning. And then I see nothing.

Now there comes another instance. One delivered to me by one of the four people I spoke to today. I speak with only four people, and 25% of the people I speak to speak to me of dead men on train tracks.

Why all these people? Why all of a sudden? Why do I keep hearing about it? And why does it bother me?

Lately I have come to dwell on coincidence. Not in a sinister, horror movie sort of way. But in a what now, why now, what-can-I-make-out-of-the-chaos way. I'll keep turning this one over in my mind and I'll see what else I find buried in memory and association, for I am certain I will write about this. These past few months since I have realized that I am both able and inclined to write non-fiction essays I have let myself dwell in coincidence, and I have not been disappointed with the results. Previously, I would have tried to turn this all into a short story. And I would have been disappointed with the results. What turns into mind blowing coincidences in memoir become over worked cliches in fiction.

I do not know, yet, what will come of this, I only know that something will.

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