Month: June 2019

Incognito No More

It’s Saturday, around noon.  Nancy, Sarah, and I are sitting in the train station in Stamford, early as usual, though this time I was the one who had suggested leaving extra time in case there was traffic.  We’re sitting in a row of seats along the wall of the main lobby. It’s too soon to wait on the platform. We’re headed to Boston. Each of us is wearing the blue t-shirt that identifies our purpose. One Night.  One Goal. Stop Suicide. I used to be self-conscious about having the word suicide on my chest. I didn’t like that people instantly knew something very personal about me or my family. Now, though, I’ve lived with that as part of my identity for ten years.  I wear it a little more naturally.  

Through the double doors to my left, I see a tall man and a small child striding toward us.  They are holding hands. Both are wearing bright red capes. The tall man has on a full Superman outfit, blue boots, shiny blue tights, blue shirt with a giant S on his chest.  The small child has a lightning bolt flashing across his shirt instead of the S. Perhaps he’s Super Flash. Neither shows a hint of embarrassment. Nor do they abide by Superman’s usual tendency toward an understated or incognito public persona.  I watch them as they meander casually through the station, purchasing tickets at the kiosk, buying snacks at the newsstand. I try to catch a glimpse of what Superman eats. No luck. They draw a few stares and chuckles, but seem unfazed. I lean back, guessing my t-shirt won’t draw much attention.

A few moments later I see a tall, slender man who looks to be about my age walk through the same double doors.  He’s wearing sweats and running shoes and a familiar blue t-shirt. I can tell two things immediately: I don’t know him, but I do know something personal about him.  As he strides closer to us, he smiles, nods, and gives us a thumbs-up signal. He knows something about us.  

He plops down in the seat next to mine.  “Headed to Boston, too?” he asks. He knows the answer of course.  We’re wearing the same uniform. 

“Yeah.  It’s our first time doing the Overnight.  You?”

“My first time, too. I hope my feet hold up.”

“We’ve done a lot of community walks, but we’ve never been able to make it to one of the overnights. Did you lose someone in your family?”

“No, a fellow I work with died by suicide in February.  I saw an announcement about the walk, and we got some people from the office together to form a team.  How ‘bout you?”

“Our daughter died ten years ago.  Her best friend lives in Boston now, and she asked if we wanted to come up and walk this year.”

“Oh, I’m really sorry.”

“Well, the walks make us feel like we’re doing something constructive. It’s great that you and your friends formed a team.” 

We exchanged stories for the next half hour, newly acquainted, newly linked members of a club no one joins willingly, walking our way out of the shadows.