As the first glimmer of headlights showed in yonder darkened tunnel, 14 million Torontonians patiently waiting on the Union Station Line 1 platform with only a minimum gnashing of teeth and rending of puffy jackets, didst breathe a most welcome sigh of relief.
“Ahoy!” A shout went up from a tall man with sharp eyes, honed yet sharper by his desperate desire to quit the cursed downtown firmament in favour of the green hills north of the 401. “Look nigh fellow friends and fare-avoiders, the last of the great subways to make it through the fearsome delays of the southern Toronto transit scheme dost appear. We may yet make it to Finch before summer proper. Huzzah!”
Whispers, tweets, and ominous sounding announcements from an unintelligible PA system, had prepped the would-be passengers for the worst. Word had spread that all Line 1 subways were holding at St. George station – also known as The Doldrums, or rubber latitudes, so-called because here many a delayed passenger had abandoned all hope of making their destination in this lifetime and simply started walking.
So when the bows of the metal clipper passed out of the tunnel and into the wan light of the southern-most tip of the Toronto trade route – where the waiting riders were stacked in orderly piles six deep, the children on top passing snacks and water down to those on the very bottom – a great cheer went up from the crowd.
The exhausted looking subway captain piloted the serpentine vessel into the station, avoiding eye-contact with the heaving hordes dockside, clearly traumatized by the things she’d seen further back up the line, in the heart of darkness out of which no further subways were expected this day.
“Last ride north,” those already onboard breathlessly shared with their new companions as they entered. “Won’t be another until 6:00AM tomorrow. You’d have had to get a hotel. Maybe start a new life. Come in, come in, take a seat by the fire. We caught a pigeon and have made a stew. It should be ready by College.”
With all 14 million people loaded in and properly trained in how to breathe in alternating patterns, the weary subway closed its doors and gave its customary sigh to signify it was going to continue on its way under protest. But as the train gave a desultory sounding of its door chime, a shout was heard from one of the supposedly empty stairwells. A man was coming, down the stairs three steps at a time, waving his arms, briefcase flailing, eyes wild with adrenaline and late-afternoon coffee.
“Wait,” he cried as he reached the now-accelerating subway. Passengers, their faces smushed against the glass, tried not to look. There was no hope for this man. He was the damned. He was too late. The man realized this too, and his sprint slowed to a trot, then a walk, and then finally a slump-shouldered standstill.
“Tell my family I love them!” He shouted at the departing train in general. A woman locked eyes with him and nodded. Just before she passed out of view she mouthed the words ‘I will find them for thee. Be strong.’
“Thank you. Thank thee.” The man shouted back, his words echoing in the empty station. “I will stay here till the subways being running again in the fall. God willing.” His words were lost in the screech of metal on metal, as the subway rounded the curve leading out of Cape Union, leaving a growing multitude of brave, but very late, souls in its fleeing wake.