A rather grisly tale for my return to blogging

So… after so long an absence, what news from Sycorax Pine? First, the reason I in fact have time to write is this: I turned in a complete draft of my dissertation to my adviser on Monday. It runs about 250 pages – a length unbelievable to me even given my extreme self-consciousness about my own, shall we say, verbosity. At any rate, my adviser will almost certainly have excellent and terrifying changes to propose when he has made his way through my longwindedness, and then my terrible enslavement to work will begin again, but until that point, I have a little more time available to read, blog, sleep, watch the Netflix I have had out since December (!!!!), spend time with the people I love and, you know, actually concentrate on my teaching work.

I am now speeding my way homeward on the train to visit with my family, and this yields the other strange event I have to report, more immediate in time and troubling to the conscience. In truth, it is by far the oddest and most disturbing travel tale in my experience. I was on the train, talking on my cell phone and telling D how tired I was, how much the uncertainty of the job market (still no news on that front) was unsettling me, and skimming over other such delightful topics of exhausted narcissism, when suddenly I heard (or perhaps felt is the more appropriate word) a harsh and sustained series of thumps beneath our car of the train. “Um,” I said to D, “We just hit something.” “Like a branch or like a person?” he asked. “Oh no, it definitely didn’t sound like a body,” I instantly replied (based on what knowledge, I now wonder, of how the human form sounds hitting a fast-moving train?). The train slowed and then stopped, and as we sat on the track for the next two hours, it became increasingly clear from the expanding crowds of police investigators and arrival of television crews that we had, in fact, hit someone.

This was upsetting, clearly, but more upsetting was how, um, un-upset everyone seemed to be. The frisson of gossip (really more characterized by excitement than horror) traveled up and down the many baffled cars of the train; the conductors were unable to tell us anything besides “We are a part of an in-progress police investigation and can’t give you any further information, but it will not affect your safety.” The next reaction, however, was almost universally one of annoyance: “I’ve got places to be,” one of my fellow passengers said, “I don’t understand why we can’t just go on. I mean, if the guy’s dead, he’s already dead, right?” What kind of people were we, I began to wonder, we who were on this train? Such is the blessedly and perhaps unnaturally insulated nature of my existence that I am rarely separated from the end of a life by a matter of about a foot of carpet and metal casing, and I felt myself, like my fellow passengers, instantly deflecting this knowledge and focusing on the accident’s effect on my immediate life. Suddenly I felt mired – no, completely walled in, by the boundaries of my own consciousness and of self-interest.

So that is the jolly news of my day. Better (or at least less morbid) news to come, I hope!