5.30pm, Wednesday 28 December, and I’m standing on the platform at Camden Road Station, waiting for an Overground train to take me to London's East End. It’s cold, the sun has set about an hour before and there’s hardly anyone about – not surprising during a week where most people choose to stay at home.
I usually wait for the train right at the end of the platform, where the last carriage stops. I notice a man walk slowly past me and nonchalantly move into the “no entry” area which leads to machinery and the bushes that run alongside the tracks. He’s dressed head to toe in black and carries a backpack with neon green stripes.
At first I think he works for Transport for London (TfL). Then I wonder if he’s just someone needing to piss. But he takes his time back there and when I check again I see that he’s moving deeper into the bushes, as if planning to walk home beside the train tracks.
I go down the platform in search of a TfL member of staff because now I’m thinking “what if there’s something in that backpack meant to hit the train?” There are no staff members around. I go back to the edge of the platform and look over the fence. I can see him now and he’s standing right at the edge, waiting for the train to come.
I shout “Hey!” He turns around and slowly walks back to the platform.
“Do you work here?” I ask.
“What were you doing back there?”
“I was looking out for the train.”
“It’s a strange place to wait for the train,” I say. All his answers are delivered flat, without any emotion. I can see now that he’s a white English guy in his 40s. “Were you going to jump?”
“There is help out there if you need it.”
“I know,” he says, still emotionless. He returns to the edge of the platform, just by the barrier, and looks out for the train.
“Are you going to jump?” I ask again.
“No,” he says and moves away from the edge.
I repeat that there is help out there for him and again he says that he knows. A few other people stand near us but they are oblivious to our conversation - too absorbed by their phones.
We notice the train pulling into the station. I look at him and he looks at me. My heart’s in my throat because I know I’ll have to grab him if he makes a dash for the edge. The train stops, the carriage doors open, and people step out. He lingers behind everyone who’s boarding, as if waiting for me to go in first. I don’t move, waiting for him to get in. Once he does so, I step in after him and sit down one carriage away.
I chat with friends on WhatsApp and post a question on Facebook about what I should do next. The consensus is that I should find a TfL member of staff.
The train reaches its destination, Stratford. Everyone gets out and I see him lingering by the stairs, as if planning to turn around and get back inside the train. When he sees me watching him, he joins the crowd leaving the platform. I go after him but lose him in the human flow.
I find a young woman who works for the TfL and tell her what happened. She asks me to follow her and says she needs to report it. We go into a small office on another platform and I give her as best a description as I can of the guy. She says there are many suicide attempts this time of the year and that she’ll put a call out across the network to look out for him. She thanks me for reporting it and I say goodbye.