The sound seemed to bounce off the subway tiles and reverberate through the tunnel, amplifying the noise of the crowd tenfold. Brian hated it. It was making his head pound horribly. He pressed on through the throng as quickly as possible. This was the worst part. The pressing of bodies, the heat, the smells… He needed air and space.
Someone shoved from behind and he nearly lost his balance. He was saved only by the woman he bumped in return, who then teetered into the man in front of her. They were like a dominos, he reflected, once one person stumbled, they each had to take their turn.
He mumbled an apology to no one in particular and focused on the cool air now whooshing through the tunnel at intervals. The exit couldn’t be too far away. Sure enough, the final set of stairs loomed ahead. He fought his way up them, hindered by the crowd but making steady progress… Until he tripped in the final step.
He must have hit his head. He woke up to an angel, a cool breeze and spaciousness. He inhaled a great big breath of fresh cool air, letting the relief wash over him.
“How do you feel?” The angel was looking down at him with kind, gentle eyes.
“Am I dead?”
“No. You fell and hit your head. We’re calling for help.”
“Oh. Ok. I’m near the door. The air feels better.”
“Don’t love the subway, huh?” The angel had beautiful eyes.
“No. It’s horrible, hot and crowded… And the noise… I hate it.” He paused while the angel looked around for the paramedics. “I thought you were an angel.”
The angel’s head snapped back to meet Brian’s eyes. “Me? No. I’m Paul. I’m a nurse at St. Luke’s.”
“I’m Brian… You have very kind eyes, Paul the nurse.”
Paul smiled genuinely and reached for Brian’s hand. “I’m glad I was here and I’m happy I met you, even if you had to fall.”
Brian’s heart skipped a beat. He thought he might still be falling. He was pretty sure that was an opening and he took the chance. “My phone is in my right pocket. Please, put your number on it so I can call you when I’m well.”
“Better yet, I’ll put your number on mine so I can call and see how you see doing. Tell me your number and I’ll text you so you’ll have mine also.”
The two men smiled at each other in the midst of the chaos. Something wonderful was about to begin.