Feature Writer Roger Cicchese – Fools Rush In

Sounds in the subway station at Park Street in downtown Boston, Massachusetts are extremely loud. The trains rushing to and fro roar like huge lions. When the drivers apply the air brakes it sounds as if a large dragon is releasing hot, ozone-scented, rancid breath.

Even though this all happened nearly twenty years ago, I recall every detail as if it happened just yesterday. On that day, the crowds of travelers were somewhat lighter than usual. I was in the station because I was returning to visit a friend down in southern Massachusetts which required me to transfer trains so that I could get to the commuter rail at another station. All of this explanation is necessary because of what occurred at the transfer point.

I used to use the subways a lot for years. As time passed however, I felt less safe in the trains and stations, and so, I found other means to get where I wanted to go. On this particular day, I had no choice. I really wanted to visit my friend and the subway and commuter rails were the only option.

As I moved through the station I must have appeared to have been unsure of where I was going. A nice young woman came up to me and asked if she could assist me in any way. I was glad for her offer. She was also quite appealing in her own way and so her company would not be hard to take. I explained where I wanted to go and she informed me that she was going in the same general direction. I gently took her arm and we began to walk toward our destination. There are several sets of up and down stairways in this station which must be navigated depending on where one intends to travel. It would be such a set of stairs we would have to traverse soon going down.

I was totally engaged in conversation with my very feminine guide. She told me her name was
Lisa and she was traveling in a similar direction. I thought to myself, “nice woman, but she’s too young for me. Besides, there’s something sort of distant about her.” Even while she seems very present with our conversation, her manner was somehow distracted or as if she was paying attention to other things as we walked and talked.

As we advanced toward our goal, I became totally enthralled with our back and forth chatter. It was due to my complete inattention that I didn’t recognize that we were entering what was the landing at the top of a long stone staircase going down. I didn’t realize that we were at the stairs until my foot suddenly was no longer touching solid ground. All at once, neither foot was on the floor. I was now airborne. Instantly, I knew this was my ending. Falling down a long flight of stone stairs through the air would spell certain disaster. I also realized that, amazingly, my fingertips were still in contact with Lisa’s arm. I managed to keep them there, I know not how.

Everything seemed to go into slow motion. I was falling. No part of my body was touching any part of the stairs. It felt as if I was floating more than falling. I guessed that my life was probably coming to an end and that’s why everything seemed to be floating in slow motion.

Finally, it seemed like several long minutes later, we landed. The first thing I discovered was that I was on my feet. I had no pain or twisted limbs. Lisa was there too. She began to cry softly. She asked me if I was okay. I was shaken up, but no other injury of any kind. I inquired of her well being. She said: “Oh, I’m fine and wow did we have a ride.” I also recognized that we had both fallen straight down the long stairway without ever touching railings, or stairs. Not even a bump or scratch. We had dropped straight down. What were the chances of that? Lisa asked once again if I was okay and when I indicated everything was fine she said: “well I really have to go now or I’ll be late for my next appointment.”

I felt a little bit guilty about the whole incident and wanted to do something to reassure her and to thank her for her kindness and help. It was my total negligence that had caused this dangerous situation. When I turned to thank her once again, she was gone. People are sometimes like that so I just wrote it off to a stranger not wanting to hang around or get more involved. I just stood there, at the foot of the stairs reviewing the series of events that had just happened.

As I stood there a man walked over to me and inquired if I was all right. He told me that he worked for the Transit System. He said: “I was taking a break and suddenly I looked over at those stairs and saw you falling. It startled me so much that all I could do was watch the disaster unfold.” He informed me that he expected that at any minute I’d smash my skull or something on those stairs. Or, perhaps I would do a somersault, over the railing, as I was falling, drop and crash to the cement floor far below to a horrible death. When he saw me land on both feet at the bottom of that long stairway he, too, was in shock. Neither he nor I could believe my good fortune.

I then asked him: “what can you tell me about the woman who was falling down those stairs with me? What happened to her? What did she look like?”

There was a very long pause from the subway worker. He said:”What woman?” I said: “you know, the one I was hanging onto as I was falling.”

He responded quickly: “Buddy, you feeling alright? I have been standing here for the past ten minutes even before you came down those stairs. There was nobody man or woman, with you before, during or after you fell, or should I say floated, down those stairs.”

I said: “Her name is Lisa and I’d been walking through the station for several minutes prior to our adventure on the stairs.”

He was vehement! “Nobody with you, you were alone friend.”

So I asked what happened to Lisa? He told me I must really be more injured than we thought because no one was there, except him, watching the disaster unfold. I concluded that Lisa probably slipped away in the usual passing of human traffic in the station.

The Transit Worker quickly set me straight on that one: “Nobody down here for quite a while now. I’ve been standing here and the place has been eerily empty. So there’s no way anybody could have been here and gone without me seeing them.”

It was time to go and I got the next train. As it pulled out I wondered, “Who was Lisa? Where did she come from? Where did she go? What was her next appointment?”

I think I know who she was! What do you think?

It is said “Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread.” If I was a fool on that fateful day, then who do you suppose Lisa was?

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