Waiting for the Train to Rome

We were waiting at Salerno station for the train to Sicily when a woman on the opposite platform collapsed. Her husband held her head while she shuddered, her arm extended. It was the arm you see in Renaissance paintings, fearsome and knowledgeable. Men ran across the tracks to the couple. One held her legs up. Then her head fell to one side, her face went from white to blue, or purple, and her husband stood up, wailing, clutching a pillar. His scream chilled the entire station.

Every face turned. Fear percolated down the platform. A woman stroked her baby and turned away. Other women covered their mouths, their eyes wide. A sheet of death washed down the line, cold and impenetrable. So life can be like that! You can be waiting for the train to Rome and then you're gone, your hand pointing to your fate. Again the man called out, and again. Around her body a group of people clustered, one man desperately working on resuscitation. Then the train to Rome arrived. On our platform we sighed in relief, excused from having to see them. We moved from our frozen positions and tried to look somewhere other than at that part of the train. When it finally moved on, the cluster of people had gone, replaced by paramedics and the frantic husband, down on his knees now, fluttering around his wife's revived body as she tried to sit up, holding her hands and soothing her down. A paramedic dressed the wound on her head where she had fallen, and another listened to her heartbeat. More people arrived with a stretcher. Our platform relaxed, able to move, to check the indicator for our train. When I looked over again she wasn't there, her husband, the paramedics and the stretcher all gone.

A cleaner was climbing the stairs. He heaved a bucket up the last step, mopped the platform where the woman had been lying, and disappeared back down the stairs.