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Blood on the Tracks

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The G train at Hoyt-Schermerhorn.  

Last year, the Transport Workers Union organized an exhibit of Marvin’s art—watercolors and etchings of friends and strangers riding the train, and of homeless men asleep on a station bench or curled up in a subway car. “He had beautiful work,” Jeff says. “I just saw a whole different side of him. I saw his sensitivity. And I felt more connected to him.”

For the first few months after Marvin’s death, Mike regularly visited the site of the accident. It was hard to stay away. He saw a psychologist every Tuesday, and afterward he’d have to take his paperwork to an NYC Transit office in the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. Some weeks, Mike would drop off the paperwork and quickly leave; other times, he descended the stairs to the G train. Leaning against the wall at the end of the platform, he would survey the place where his friend had died.

Workers had poured sand on the track bed to soak up the blood, and over the months Mike watched the sand disappear. Some days, he peered down into the pitch-black tunnel, waiting for a train to come, trying to figure out how deep the track’s curve was and how much warning the motorman would have had. One time Mike spotted a dreadlock on the track—he knew it was Marvin’s—and on the next visit he retrieved it, then sealed it in a plastic bag and put it on his bedroom dresser. Last fall, he noticed that someone had written in chalk on the column wall separating the two tracks: MF RIP.

Asked why he kept going back, Mike says, “I can’t really put that into words. It just makes me remember him a little bit more.”

Nearly seven months after Marvin died, Mike returned to work. Another employee might have asked for a transfer to a different position—something less dangerous, anywhere but on the tracks—but Mike did not. “I don’t think I could do anything else,” he says. What about becoming a station agent? “You’re just sitting down most of the time.” What about a motorman? “You’re just pushing a thing; you’re not doing work like trackworkers do work. We do work. Hard-labor work.”

The first nights back were the toughest, in part because he was assigned to work on the G line. “I was in a daze,” he says. “Every time a train was going by, I was looking at those wheels.” But eventually he started feeling at home again in the tunnels. He liked the camaraderie of the track gang, the feeling of fatigue that accompanied the end of every shift, the sense of pride he got from knowing that he was doing an important job. And so he keeps going back. Five nights a week, just before ten, he puts on his helmet and his orange vest, and he goes down to work in the hole.


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