This afternoon I spent close to five hours chatting with two young women, both of whom I’d met at the Natascha McElhone talk just last week. I found them passionate, articulate, open-minded, opinionated, fascinating, intelligent, well-rounded, knowledgeable individuals with wonderful stories that they were kind enough to share with me. It is so gratifying to meet emotionally-receptive women. And I think it is often difficult for twenty-somethings (and thirty-somethings, and so on) to make new friends, particularly when you are shy, or career-oriented, or already married, or just not crossing paths with like-minded people. But we had found each other: and that felt incredibly special. As we parted ways, I felt rejuventated and my mind was brimming with ideas about female friendships and endless possibilities regarding theatrical experimentation and different ways in which we, as powerful women, could change the world.
I arrived at the tube station, and there was a recorded announcement playing over the loudspeaker: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, due to a person under a train, there is no service in either direction between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central stations on the Victoria Line. Your tickets will be valid on replacement bus services.’
Who knows what happened. This person may have jumped. They may have been pushed, or prodded, or harassed. It may have been an accident. This person may still be alive, just barely. I may read about it in the news, or it may not be mentioned at all; certainly not great press for the underground. Due to a person under a train. What a chilling description. Someone may have died, and it was announced by a recorded, possibly manufactured voice over the intercom. Due to a person under a train. And not to make this all about me, but ‘between Seven Sisters and Walthamstow Central’ is my station, Blackhorse Road; it happened at my station.
So what to do? I took the tube as far as I could go. Then I walked up the stairs to find a replacement bus. There is no replacement bus, I was told. But the announcement said… That was ten minutes ago, the attendant told me. Now the tube is running again. So that’s it: ten minutes ago, there was a person under a train, and now I can take that same route home as though nothing had ever happened. Someone may have died, and it inconvenienced me for no more than ten minutes. Do you ever stop and wonder, why is my life so darn agreeable?
In Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa’s party is disrupted temporarily by the news that a young man killed himself by tossing himself out of a window earlier that evening. Throughout the novel, Clarissa has been contemplating suicide herself, considering that perhaps her life has been a bit of a waste, throwing parties and playing the socialite and perhaps even marrying the wrong person. She wanders off into another room, thinking about this man she’s never met, who threw his life away on a moment’s decision, and she imagines that for herself, briefly, fleetingly — and then she decides to return to the party; a subtle shift in perspective.
As I walked home from the station, my thoughts returned to my glorious afternoon, and I breathed deeply through one of those rewarding headaches typically produced in moments of repose following hard-earned achievement or intense emotional delight. Having just left the party, I’m still carrying the after-glow. In this moment, I am unapologetically happy and very grateful to be alive.