Last week I came undone. It started at the Chicago Red Line stop—I thought I might throw up… nothing but phlegm this time. Got on the train.
By the time I made it to Belmont though, I felt worse. The marquee said 10 minutes for the next Brown Line to Kimball. I leaned over the blue edge of the platform and vomited onto the snow-covered tracks below. I looked up and a train was coming right at me, so I shifted to the other side of tracks and vomitted again.
My body was starting to shake. I could barely stand. The only thing that felt good was the cold air against my face.
I looked up and caught a woman’s eye. She looked away indifferently. I turned back to the tracks, vomiting again. Turning again, the woman, same indifference stare. So I looked past her to a railing I might could lean on.
I stumbled over and my bags dropped abruptly as my body slumped. I tried to breath. Or was I crying. The pain was increasing in my limbs.
And then I felt a tap on my shoulder: “Are you ok? Can I help you?” from a stranger, a woman—not the same as before—young, unusually nice. She said “lean on me… give me your bags… let’s go sit down on the stair… your body needs rest.”
I did as she said.
"I’m right behind you," she said as she was on lookout for the next train. As it approached the nausea came back, something fierce. But we made it onto the train, me slumped over in my seat and this kind, stranger woman asking aloud to everyone in the car whether anyone was going to Kedzie—my stop.
No one, it seems, was going there.
But neither was I… on the heels of her request, I made my own—calling out for a plastic bag. Had quick response from many on board.
I threw up once and the stranger woman decided we’d get off at the next stop and get me a cab. I collapsed onto the platform, vomiting three more times onto the ground.
"Customer assistance is needed on the outbound platform" resounded—Oh, for me, I realized.
There came the CTA officers—”does she need an ambulance? medical assistance?” I said NO… a bathroom…
They barely got me down the elevator and like a magnet I followed the CTA jacket into the door saying “authorized personnel only” to see an pen door with toilet and sink.
I dropped my bags, tore off my coat, and well, my body seemed to turn itself inside out.
After numerous “you ok? you still ok?” calls from the stranger woman, I finally found myself splayed out on the floor of the bathroom writhing in pain, saying please please do come in.
She had to get a key and made it in—I just wanted to stay on that cold floor, she wanted to get an ambulance. I insisted no, so she helped me on with my coat, grabbed up my bags, hat and gloves, and helped me into a cab.
I think I yelped and yawped all the way to my apartment. Twisting in my seat in a vain effort to soothe the pain.
She said, “you can lean on me,” and so I did.
She asked if I had anyone. I said no. She said what about a friend, a roommate—I said he’s at work. She asked can we call him… I paused, then took out my phone and handed it to her, said “Ross,” and she called.
"He’ll be home in 40 minutes to an hour. He’d like me to stay with you until he gets home." I said " no no, that’s alright, you have done so much. Thank you. Thank you so much."
We got to my house, cab pulled over, waiting as they walked me to my back door, unlock, and goodbye. Up I went. A short dance ensued… collapse, bathroom, collapse, bathroom, meds, collapse, writhe, pass out.
Better home in my bed, though, than at the Belmont stop.