Torah Train

I awoke with a start on the train this evening, my head knocking against the shoulder of a young boy sat next to me. When I came to I saw there was a tall Hasidic man stood directly in front of me. I noticed he was reading a thick leather-bound book written in Hebrew, perhaps the Torah, I’ve no idea. The script reminded me of Arabic and I started thinking about that episode of Sister Wendy I spoke of in my previous post. In the episode she shows us a page from the Holy Koran. The writing is so beautiful, she says, that Muslims believe just being in its presence is a blessing. Sister Wendy presents this notion in such a beguiling way I was quite taken by it.

My pleasant thoughts didn’t last long, all thoughts of Islam these days can lead to only one place and I found myself thinking about ‘Terror’. I still find this word clumsy on the tongue but it is as good as any I suppose. I imagined the man in front of me was a Muslim wearing a turban and it was the Koran he was holding, I thought I might have been scared if this was the case; shameful thoughts I know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if even decent Muslims feel the same way of late.

Then a horrifying thought entered my head. What if the Hasidic guy was an Islamist in disguise? I knew the absurdity of what I was thinking but I also new I was onto something. The guy had a bag on the floor and a large rucksack on his back. I looked up to see his face. He was fairly dark skinned. I started wondering how dark Jewish people can be. I knew I was being stupid and ignorant and probably racist but the thoughts kept coming. Wouldn’t dressing as a Hasidic Jew be the perfect disguise? Who would ever stop you and check your bag? And what about all those mad clerics who believe in Zionist plots to take over the world? They’d have a field day when they saw the CCTV footage on the news. Oh brain, please, no more!

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, we were approaching the Manhattan Bridge and I pictured the moment of the explosion. It would destroy my fellow passengers, the train, half the bridge and myself. Being high above the water made the prospect all the more terrifying. Why? My shattered body would have further to fall perhaps? The twitching nerves in my charred remains would get an unpleasant shock as they splashed into the East River?

I looked around the train and into the weary faces of the commuters. I considered that things like this had actually happened in Israel, in Britain and throughout the world. There really are individuals who would murder these people for no reason. No sane reason anyway.

I didn’t even calm down when we’d crossed the bridge. I’d promised myself whilst still over the water that if I made it to the other side I’d get off at the first stop. As we were pulling into Dekalb Avenue the man pulled the book out of the bag on the floor and opened his rucksack. My whole body froze; he’s going to drop the Torah on the detonator! This would be the final blasphemous irony; sure to be rewarded when he met his deranged maker.

Why I tensed my body so much I don’t know, I doubt shrapnel has a harder time getting through tense flesh. The bag was one foot from my face and I morbidly pondered whether I’d prefer the nails to go through my eyes first and come out the back of my skull or the other way around. I turned my head sideways; my eyes seemed too delicate to take the full force of the blast. These are Heidi and Billy’s eyes I thought, how can this man want to steel them from my family. How dare he!

When we got to the station I got up and walked as fast as I could to the other end of the platform. As I calmed down, I slowly came to my senses, realizing how stupid and melodramatic I’d been. I also realized I’d been affected by Terror for the first time. I began to hope in my heart that there is an afterlife, as I can think of no earthly punishment fitting enough for the immensity of these crimes.

One thought on “Torah Train

  1. Well Simon, if it makes you feel better… I couldn’t help but cry when I was leaving Veronica at the airport. And then, while watching Spiderman on the airplane. 🙂 What parenthood does to you….

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