Yesterday, I was on my way to a meeting about the college process for my high school junior when a different experience presented itself. The man sitting across from me on the subway – seemingly intoxicated, bag in a bottle, belt loops tied together to keep his pants on – stood up and then suddenly dropped, unconscious and face first onto the floor of the car. There was a crunch (his head) and screams (from some of us around him) and a splatter of blood from a cut above his eye. There was a pause, a circle created as passengers stepped away; he lay motionless until he reared up, howling, blood on his face and hands, and then there was someone there, crouched on the ground beside him to calm him down.
The man who came to his aid was not a doctor. He was a passenger who could ask for napkins, who could ask the injured man for his name, his age, who knew to try to keep him conscious; who (whatever you might think of the wisdom of this) held the bloody napkins to his head stop the bleeding until a half an hour later when an emergency medical team finally arrived. He, and a young woman who joined him, made sure that the injured man knew he was not alone by talking to him, touching him, by knowing instinctively how to live in a world where we are more the same than we are other. The same world where MTA personnel are prohibited from touching anyone, and where some of the other people on the platform used the shock and confusion in the car to grab an empty seat and watch the show.