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She wanted us to call her Grace. She was worried that if the hospital found out her real name, they might fire her for what she had done. Before the accident, she had been one of their most respected employees.

Grace was tall and thin and pleasantly attractive. Her well-kept hair was stylish but practical—straight brown and bobbed with bangs. She had full rosy cheeks and dark, close-knit eyebrows framed her chestnut-colored eyes. When she smiled, she always tilted her head slightly to the right and down, unintentionally showing off the dimple on the left side of her face. Her hands were soft and small, sort of child-like. And although it was 1996, she wore wide wale, kelly green corduroys; a navy blue, button-up, cotton sweater; and mahogany-colored, leather clogs with thick, green and blue argyle socks.

I remember Grace as soft-spoken and reserved, but genuinely friendly. She barely talked about what happened, but she did say that her family had always expected her to “have all her ducks in a row.” And it was easy to imagine her crossing the road in a small town with her 3 young children waddling behind, perhaps with a police officer stopping traffic to allow them to reach the other side safely.

Picturing her alone, though, on the night that she deliberately walked in front of that train is much harder to do. She was someone else then. She didn’t want to reach the other side; she wanted it to vanish.

She must have sustained dozens of injuries in the crash. But days later when she was released from the hospital, there was really only one aspect of her appearance that truly gave her away. Sure, she may have been limping, walking with a cane, and probably, beneath her preppy and thoughtfully coordinated outfit, she was still covered in bruises and scrapes. All of that could have seemed unremarkable, though.

What made it real and what you could not mistake was what you saw in her eyes. The collision was in the corners. Where there should have been white, there were blurry red lines running together. Those bloody ink blots staining her eyes were the mark of the train that had knocked her flat on her face between the tracks, swiftly and precisely enough to keep her alive.

 

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