There’s that extended moment in the subway—when I’m on the train and we head into one of the long, darker tunnels and the lull between stations seems longer than usual. Much, much longer than it should be. This happens during my morning commute when I catch a certain express train, a 30-block trip along a long, dark enclosed section of the track. The line must split there with the local trains, because as we speed ahead to the next station I can’t even see the local running alongside us, though I know it has to be there, somewhere. Sometimes I stand at the head of the first car, looking out the front window. Other times, I sit, or I cram in with everyone else and grab a pole, and I wait. And wait.


I know it’s not rational, but I get this doubt. Like the train made a turn it wasn’t supposed to. Like the tunnel I know for a fact had an end yesterday won’t end today. There’s fear in that feeling, and also excitement. Where are we going? It’s not to the office, is it? It’s way past Midtown; it’s off-island; it’s someplace I’ve never seen.

Mostly, though, I’ll admit I just feel doubt.

Then, just when I think it won’t happen, the train approaches the light. There’s the station and now I can see the platform and the bright lights washing through the windows and the brakes slowing and the doors opening and I feel… foolish. Nothing was wrong. We were on the right track. We were going to stop here all along.

This is way overly symbolic, but—you guessed it—it’s how I’m feeling now. I’m between stations. I’m in the dark. I’m doubting that there is a next station, that the train will ever stop. But I always reach it, don’t I? Just at that moment when I think it won’t stop it stops. It always does.

My freelance project went terribly today. I think because I know it’s the last one (I keep repeating this in my head to myself: it’s your last one; you won’t take another; I won’t let you; it’s your last one, your last one, your last one) reaching the end is all the more miserable. The 30 blocks I have to go feel like 3,000. In page count, I’ve reached 20 out of 80, and the deadline is in less than two weeks. I really do have a long way to go.

6 thoughts on “Tunneling

  1. Ah yes, I’ve been between stations recently. Someone I was able to realize this time, though, that even though it seemed endless, I would be arriving at some point. I guess that I’ve been between stations so many times, and always end up at my destination eventually (even if it isn’t where I’d like to be, it’s somewhere).

    Nicely written.

  2. I do think you are one of the few people on the internet that can take those hard-to-hold intangible thoughts/feelings and perfectly articulate them into entries that always have me nodding my head at some point or the other. I just had to say that. Here is to that pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel revealing itself & opening up very soon. I hope the home stretch of the freelance project steadily improves for you.

  3. I second Courtney’s comment – it’s how I feel too. You’re so very adept and articulating the intangible.

    Good luck finishing up (your last) freelance project – and then moving forward with writing for yourself, right?

  4. I don’t know what your project is about but if it’s adolescent fiction you sure could mine a lot of your own blog entries and plop them in there to fatten up the pages and provide instant depth. Every thinking person on a subway makes weird subconscious associations to being in a tunnel for so long ,It’s not natural, We’re supposed to to pretend like it is. But it’s against our instincts to feel buried underground in the dark like that. Great material. Use it and get the damn thing over with. I should talk. I have a book review due today I’m avoiding. Much easier to give advice.

  5. No, you can’t take any extra freelance. You just can’t. You promised yourself, remember? You have goals of your own beyond those of others, yes? I know the money is hard (God, money sucks) but if you can just buy yourself some time I have no doubt it will pay off in ways both emotional and financial.

  6. Thanks, guys.

    Yeah, after I finish this project, I want to work on my own book, the one for me and no one else. I keep getting panicked about finances and saying yes to things, but I know it’s true that it’s NOT worth it. Even if I have to leave New York and rethink my life, it’s not worth it. I actually mean that.

    The project I am doing now — it continues to go horribly — is fiction for kids, yes, though it’s an adaptation and I have no control over the characters or the story. It’s stifling to say the least. It wouldn’t be so hard if I were able to be more creative, but at the moment it feels like slogging through a term paper.

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