Morning Tunnels

| January 30, 2017 | 1 Comment

[image description: an MBTA green line trolley, backlit by the sunrise, with snow on the ground and trees silhouetted on either side of the tracks] photo credit: Night Owl City Beacon by the setting sun via photopin (license)

[image description: an MBTA green line trolley, backlit by the sunrise, with snow on the ground and trees silhouetted on either side of the tracks] | photo credit: Night Owl City Beacon by the setting sun via photopin (license)

Fenway

It’s 6:49 AM and barely light out when I get on the train at Fenway Station. I’m clutching my coffee in one hand and digging for my CharlieCard in the other. I sit down behind a bespectacled man wearing a peacoat and sweater, both open wide enough to show off his chest hair. People baffle me. Lately, though, most things do.

Kenmore

The train rumbles down into the tunnel, into the dark. I shut my eyes and lean my head against the window. I am so tired. Early this morning, I jolted awake, shot up in bed like a cartoon character, convinced I’d overslept my alarm. When I looked at the clock, it was 3:24 AM. My dreams these days are vaguely unsettling. Strange forms and colors and snippets of conversations churn through me all night, galloping nonsensically through my brain. A handgun. A phone call. A bad tattoo. When my alarm drags me up through the shallow layers of early morning sleep, I feel like I’ve barely rested at all.

Hynes Convention Center

Once I’m awake though, I like my routine. I’ve been student teaching for a week and a half now, and I like being at school, with the students I’m working with, being on my feet instead of hunched over my laptop all day.

Copley

I take another long swig of coffee. I make a mental list of questions to ask my supervising teacher. I remind myself not to let any silences get too long, and that I have to be the best version of myself all the time now. Grow up, I say to myself. The tone of this command is less unkind than it is afraid.

Arlington

My first full week of student teaching has corresponded with the first week of the Trump presidency. I am not sure how much of the stress and tiredness I feel comes from adjusting to working full time while still going to school nearly full time and how much comes from watching the world seem to get darker and more hostile every day.

Boyleston

The train screeches around the bend after Boyleston Station, and I scroll through my email. A friend from home has sent me a message about how anxious she is these days, how miserable. She closes with I thought you’d understand.

Park Street

I get off the train and join the stream of people pressing down to the lower platform. I find an empty stretch of wall to lean against while waiting for the Ashmont train. The nice thing about commuting so early, I think, is that I beat the morning rush hour, so the trains and platforms aren’t as crowded as they will be an hour from now.

Downtown Crossing

I’m still thinking about my friend’s email. I do understand. The 24-hour news cycle is wearing on me, is wearing on everyone I know. I read the news in the morning, and by the time I leave school in the afternoon, it seems like a week’s worth of sadnesses have piled up.

[image description: an MBTA Red Line train, blurry with motion as it pulls away from a station platform] | photo credit: JFB119 RLBwaySB-01 via photopin (license)

[image description: a MBTA Red Line train, blurry with motion as it pulls away from a station platform] | photo credit: JFB119 RLBwaySB-01 via photopin (license)

South Station

Lots of people file out of the car at South Station, and I take a seat. I pull out my phone again and open up Twitter. My feed is full of anger and sadness and calls to action. It’s important, I realize, but I struggle with it. I am too slow, I think, for social media. It takes me ages to write out even 140 characters. A Facebook post, of the sort many of my friends have been posting lately, feels like an enormous undertaking. I write, pause, delete, re-write, edit, give up. Even re-tweeting things, sharing other people’s words feels like a deliberate act of curation that must be undertaken with care.

Broadway

Since the Women’s March especially, I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between doing something and being seen doing something. Is making yourself, your work and your beliefs, more visible self-serving? Or is it imperative to calling in others? Can it be both?

Andrew

While commuting, I’ve started listening to podcasts—mostly about disability rights and activism so far. This is a way of focusing my energy, making myself look outwards when I naturally tend towards introspection and rumination. There’s a quote from President Obama that I repeat to myself sometimes, and it floats back to me now as the train pulls into the station: “But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself…then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.”

JFK/UMass

The problem with looking outwards, with focusing on the work, is that it requires a belief that you are capable of doing the work, that you have something to give.

Savin Hill

Two days after the election, I wrote in my journal: All the cracks are becoming visible…Things that held together just enough, stayed just hidden enough, are splitting apart, being laid bare. All the underlying ugliness shows. In the past four months, the country has unraveled, my family has unraveled, my own hard-won mental health has unraveled. I am not sure of the goodness of my loved ones, I wrote, not sure of the goodness of the world, not sure of my own goodness. It’s hard to reconcile this frightening rush into the future (student teaching, graduation, the impending Real World) with the sense of falling behind and falling apart. 

[image description: a black and white photo of the inside of a subway car, taken from the floor of the car] photo credit: Jovan Jimenez Chicago Transit Authority via photopin (license)

[image description: a black and white photo of the inside of a subway car, taken from the floor of the car] photo credit: Jovan Jimenez Chicago Transit Authority via photopin (license)

Field’s Corner

A teenage girl wearing a backpack and a puffy purple jacket gets on the train and sits down across from me. I make a promise to myself to call my little sister this evening.

Shawmut

Just a few other people left in the train car now. I wonder who they are, where they are going. What they are doing and what the world is doing to them. I wonder what they say to their wives and husbands and children when they read the news. I wonder whether they are looking inwards or outwards. I wonder what they repeat to themselves in order to keep going.

Ashmont

The conductor’s voice crackles through the train. Ashmont, last stop. Doors will open on the right. Last stop, Ashmont. I step off the train, straighten myself, take a breath, and face the day.

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Category: Boston, East by West by T, Reflections

Emily Hurd

About the Author ()

Emily is a special education major from a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania. She's a firm believer in the virtues of art-making, rambling discussion, and consuming excessive amounts of both coffee and tea. Her other interests include reading and writing poetry, poking around in abandoned houses, and procrastinating indefinitely. Her proudest moment involved replacing the word "oil" on construction signs with "fish" so that the signs in question read "fresh fish and chips."

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  1. Ceci says:

    As usual your clarity of expression astounds me, even when what you write about is murky, undefined. Thanks for sharing your morning with me.

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