Saturday, September 24 2022 - 9:38 AM
subway train
Photo by Dreamstime

Samaritan on the Train

It was 9 a.m., and Boston was already a sticky 80 degrees. I plopped in front of the air conditioner, content with the idea of staying planted there all day. Since I had forgotten to eat dinner the night before, I planned to stay in, snack, and relax.

But my boyfriend had plans of his own: smoothies for breakfast. He’d heard of a new place in downtown Boston and wanted to try it out.

The humidity coated our bodies as soon as we closed the apartment door. I didn’t want to walk a mile to the train station, but my boyfriend’s excited smile filled me with determination.

A little over halfway there, I said, “I think I need to take a break.” My hands had been trembling for a while, and my stomach ached.

My boyfriend gave me a funny look and urged me onward, attributing my whining to my dramatic personality. Regardless, I insisted. So after a couple of minutes of leaning against a wall in the shade, we continued.

Finally, we reached the station, which was packed with nearly 100 people waiting for the next train. While the above-ground platform was still exposed to the outdoor heat, the stone walls and shade brought the temperature down at least five degrees.

The automated system announced the train’s arrival, and a loud rumble filled the station. With a loud whoosh, the train rushed past me.

But, oh, the smell. Somehow the fumes stank stronger than usual, and the train’s motion made my head spin. I clutched my boyfriend’s arm as the world tilted. What is happening to me? I thought.

As we boarded the train, I realized I’d need to stand since all the seats were full. But as the train began to pull out of the station, I felt dread. My body had made a decision, one I refused to be content with.

“Marcel,” I said to my boyfriend as I tugged on his hiking shirt. “I think I’m gonna faint.”

I could feel him looking at me, but I couldn’t lift my eyes from the red laminate floor. Instead, I focused on my growing sense of nausea. I’d never fainted before, and internally I began to panic.

“Oh, okay, um… Let’s try and get you a seat when people get off at the next stop.” But I could barely hear him. I needed to make my voice more urgent, so I assembled the strength to speak again. “No,” I managed to mumble. “I’m gonna pass out.”

A gap. When I search my memory for that slot in time, the shelves remain empty. At this moment, I felt surrounded by a deep void as I blinked out of time.

And then, a high-pitched ringing in my ears. My limbs had pins and needles that intensified with each passing second.

As my mind came to, I wondered, Is this heaven? 

My sense of smell returned, and I thought, I must be in hell because heaven could not smell that bad. I tried to move something–anything–but failed.

After a few more seconds, I opened my eyes a sliver. It took several more attempts at opening my eyes before I could open them wide enough to take in my surroundings.

My boyfriend crouched behind me, holding the upper half of my body off the floor. A woman in a hijab fed me sips of her water from a plastic bottle. I gladly accepted the gift, feeling like I was being brought back to life.

After a minute or two, my boyfriend placed me in a seat someone had given up on my behalf.

We exited the train at the next stop, and my boyfriend nurtured me for the remainder of the day with sugary snacks and loads of carbs. We never did get those smoothies.

To this day, I am thankful for the Muslim woman on the train who shared her water with me, a total stranger who responded with as much urgency as my boyfriend. I often consider the Golden Rule of “treat others how you want to be treated” or even the story of the Good Samaritan when I relive this story. We live in a country full of diversity, and it is common knowledge that Muslims often receive unreasonable scrutiny due to paranoia.

This woman risked so much to help me. Instead of being concerned about the judgment she might receive, she knelt and came to my aid. The memory is vague, and I can’t remember her face, but her compassion impressed me, and I look forward to a time when I can return the kindness to someone in need.

If you liked this, you might also like Drinks of Compassion | Kindness Changes Everything 

Sabrina Mapes writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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About Sabrina Mapes

Sabrina Mapes

writes from the Pacific Northwest.

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