When I was a small child, my parents often used to drive to Brooklyn to see elderly relatives. I loved to explore their musty apartment, with its smell of mothballs, footed hassocks, and the building itself, with its equally elderly elevator man, in his white gloves. However it wasn't the destination I remember most but the route.
We would frequently drive through the Holland tunnel, which seemed to me nearly endless. Now perhaps it was not coming from Philadelphia but in the course of other travels that we actually employed it, but we often did.
I was familiar with tunnels aplenty, since we often rode the Frankford Elevated subway in Philadelphia. These were frequent and short, plunging the rider into a totally dark world that would end as suddenly as it began when we emerged, blinking, back into the bright sunshine.
This tunnel was something else, more elemental. Tiled and dimly lit, like an underwater world, the narrow walls would seem to close upon us, alone among the multitudes. The cars would nose forward, like startled fish, borne by the movement of their fellows, having totally surrendered any individual will.
It went on and on, so long that I forgot the world before and after it, and when we finally emerged into the light, it was a shock and surprise, a glad one.
In my current life, I have been in a very long tunnel, it has seemed to me. Years long. I felt that I must have wandered into it at night, and in the morning, lost, I was unable to find my way out.
Mile after tiled mile the tunnel would wind, and I was in it alone. Once in a while, a light would wink somewhere, and hope would flare up, like a candle, then be gone.
But now, I think, even this long dark route has started to give out. The faces of others are before me, and doors that seemed closed have begun to open.
The chief thing about tunnels that I had forgotten is that they help a person to get somewhere otherwise inaccessible, the road hewn through a mountain, the portal from one world into another.
I set foot on these new continents with trepidation, like an explorer, ready to map the new world.