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Yes’, agrees the woman in the aisle seat four rows behind me, with whom it is not apparent. It breaks the silence of this partially full 4:36 city-bound train. After a few minutes she reiterates in the same agreeing yet irritable tone ‘Yes…yes…yes…’ This stirs my insides; a lurch of the heart trying to escape this body. It is fear. I am surprised. This senility is not a realistic danger. Of course I do not outwardly react, as a glance towards the other passengers confirms their non-reaction. I try to rationalize my fear of this physically harmless mental incapacity. It is a selfish apprehension, I understand, it is not at all empathetic fear I feel for this batty old woman.

Had she a partner, home, children, grandchildren, friendships, before she began tripping up on everyday existence? Had she ever had anyone at all? ‘Yes…’, again she reminds the passengers of her compliance. I wonder mostly about whom she is answering. Is she answering God in some one-sided prayer, is she answering a phone poll survey, is she answering herself? It strikes me that it is not only what I do not know about this woman that frightens me, it is the depth of her certainty in her repetition of the word ‘yes’. ‘Yes’, the converse of ‘no’, her one glimmer of conviction in an eroding mind. I wonder if in madness the mind, unworking itself unraveling streams of conscious thought, actually finds a sort of certain answer within itself.

Is she even aware of whom or what she is addressing? Has she forgotten to ask why she is agreeing in unquestioning automation? Has her declaration of ‘yes’ just become habitual, so that she knows no alternative? If this is the case, hasn’t the habit of scheduled life of many humans acted in the same way? Standing up to leave the train at my station, she seems to read my mind to confirm my suspicions. She simply says ‘yes’.

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