Sunday, October 10, 2010
Lori Carol / a story / 10 October, 2010 - 5:35am
I stared with an emptiness at the work before me. The lifelines in the palms of my hands were both scratched away, and I stared also at this, bewildered but not turned away. The sewer grate's dull round edges took most of the afternoon to grasp any useful hold of. I felt rage not without the bounds of humility. My fingers and hands looked chewed up, by factory machines. They were greasy, smeared with grit from the street, scratched and bleeding from a number of damaged nails and several patches of raw skin. The remaining lines in the palms were filled with dirt.
After too much thought way high up in the clouds and after too much positive attitude cracked apart by the plaintive reality of life being stronger than fate, eventually I worked my way through the lanes of a department store not far from here and came away with a chisel, some hooks and a chain.
I'd washed my hands and put on some band-aids and now I had tools and I would get under the street before twilight descended.
It would take some time yet, but considerably much less of it on account of the hooks and the chain.
And then I'd have the hole chiseled open in the street and I would descend into the part of my life that would consume and eventually defeat me. But I always knew that would have to happen, so I didn't view this as destructive behavior. There was a path set out in life for everyone—from the narrow chasm of the slick widening womb to the dry dust of the narrow ditch and coffin—but just because not everyone sees theirs in a lifetime does not mean it's some difficult or ghostly experience, or some inopportune challenge to discover the right thing to do. Sometimes, when there is nothing to occupy your time, and nobody there to distract you, the path becomes, in fact, almost antagonistic in how clear it is. So, earlier, when I'd spent an hour or whatever it was, scratching at the sewer lid, I wanted to beat my fists against the worn tar street and yell into its vast elongated, gray-black face, and spit and tear at its body until it allowed me to enter. Like, reasoning with it or something. It was only when I'd come to grips with the true physical properties of the matter that I had got up off my knees to secure tools, something which I should have thought of long before coming here.
However, just because I had this idea of how things were going to be, it didn't mean that I had some angelic bright white bulb over my head with the whole thing mapped out and solved.
If I'd had the whole thing solved I wouldn't be so eager right now, sweating, pacing, lost. If anything had been so easy, my shirt would still be tucked in, my hair moderately in place instead of disheveled. I might even have had a flashlight.
But here in the darkness and damp patches of exposed brick and cement and steel bindings, I could see nothing but awkward tunnels leading to indefinite darkness. Two tunnels to one side, stretching off from one another in kind of a similar direction. And then behind me, one larger tunnel, leading . . . behind me.
Three choices. I weighed the matter as if my two simple hands could realistically seize the most of the balance while my mind filled in for the test of the rest of this burden.
Complete silence enveloped the hole. Up above me, the street and a bright eye of sunlight. I wished I had a way of getting that sewer grate back into place up over me without canceling what little light I had left. Even if one of these tunnels went straight into one direction for over a mile I could still look behind me and see the distant little blot of lit cement that would mean the way back to the street, but if I put that sewer grate back into place it would be pure darkness with no direction at all but the feeling of the cement tube wall.
Though if the tunnels turned off after only ten minutes of walking it wouldn't matter anyway.
Already it didn't.
So I left the hole open and ducked into one of the smaller tunnels going off slightly to the left of the other, opposite the larger one behind me. At this point the light then began to recede very rapidly.
I'd counted on my eyes adjusting to the darkness, and that the bulb of sunlight descending from the open manhole in the street behind me would keep with me for at least a little while. But it didn't.
It only took a couple minutes and a few turns and however many steps and I was in darkness as complete as the grave.
Underground. Underneath the street. Chasing a dream.