More Life

Somebody died on the tracks today.

I'm not sure whether it was an accident or negligence or suicide, but a person was hit by a train in San Francisco this morning and they are no longer alive.

I heard the news from a man on a cell phone as I descended into Castro Street Station on my way to work, and the woman in the booth confirmed it a moment later. The underground trains were temporarily shut down and she suggested that I walk out to the street and wait for the F line, but I decided to walk the two miles to my office instead.

As I made my way down Market Street, passing restaurants and shops and sleeping people, I hoped that the accident wasn't a suicide. Having spent the whole of my twenties in New York City and then Chicago and now San Francisco, I am not a stranger to mornings altered by accidents on train tracks. Trains stop moving and people stand waiting, usually quietly, sharing in the possibility that the accident might not have been an accident at all, but a choice that they must acknowledge, if only for their commute.

I arrived late to work and had a bad way about me. Accidents like this always feel too personal, like hearing a secret that was never meant for me. It doesn't do well to dwell on things of this nature, I realize, but I held onto it anyway. After an hour, I forced myself to read an excerpt from Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." The excerpt, a monologue spoken to an angel by a man dying of AIDS, offers a kind of hope that seems realistic in a situation like this.

"I want more life. I can't help myself. I do. I've lived through such terrible times and there are people who live through much worse. But you see them living anyway. When they're more spirit than body, more sores than skin, when they're burned and in agony, when flies lay eggs in the corners of the eyes of their children—they live. Death usually has to take life away. I don't know if that's just the animal. I don't know if it's not braver to die, but I recognize the habit, the addiction to being alive. So we live past hope. If I can find hope anywhere, that's it, that's the best I can do. It's so much not enough. It's so inadequate. But still bless me anyway. I want more life."

Hope does not change the outcome of today's events, I do know that. But I hope it was an accident.