The following is fictional. I just wanted to write something about crawling through a tunnel.
It’s Wednesday night and I’m at O’Leary’s again. The best thing about this place is that the dim lighting covers up the filth and makes makes people look more interesting than they actually are. As I finish my beer, I remember once again that I’m drinking alone. I slap six dollars on the bar and reach for my jacket. From behind me I suddenly hear someone whisper.
I turn around and out of nowhere there’s an old dude sitting right there with a wonky eye and a captain’s hat. How had I not seen him before?
“Yeah?” I say, wondering what he wants. Had I dropped something?
“You ever go through a tunnel?” the captain growls.
“What?” I said. This was beginning to be a little strange.
“I said, ‘You ever get on your elbows and knees, down in the dirt and the grime, and crawl into the darkness, not sure if you gonna see the light again, and make your way like a worm through the belly of the earth?”
“Do you know what it’s like? You’re down there, in the endless shadow, and you’re alone. All you see is a spit of dirt in front of you where your flashlight shine from your mouth, one inch above you is the earth, and beneath you is the earth. You got nowhere to go but forward or back. The earth is swallowing you up. You just a few sorry square feet of matter down there, with all that earth about you. And you know in one second you could be gone.”
I’m not sure how to respond…I don’t feel that uncomfortable because he doesn’t even seem to be talking to me. Would he notice if I left? But then he goes on, apparently lost in a memory.
“And it don’t matter how good you are. Once you’re down there, the panic’s gonna come. You’re going to be halfway to the center of the earth, wiggling your bottom like a popstar, and sooner or later it’s going to hit you. Maybe after five minutes, maybe after an hour. It don’t matter none. You’re gonna wanna see the light. You’re gonna wanna stand up and shout out and see the sun and know life’s got meaning again because down in the darkness you don’t know what’s real. You’re gonna wanna smell a woman’s hair again, gonna wonder about your friends and family, if you got them, and more than anything, you’re gonna want space. But there ain’t no space. Not in the tunnel. And the more you think about it, the more unbearable the tunnel gets, till it seems it’s closing in on you, lowering itself little by little, trying to squish you out of existence. You can’t see nothing ahead of you, just more tunnel. You feel it’s never going to end and for a moment, you know you’d rather die than be in the tunnel for another second, where you can’t move, can’t breathe hardly, can’t hear anything besides your own scared breaths, touch anything besides dirt. And then you know that you’ve already died and you’re in hell itself. The tunnel becomes your hell, a personal hell. And you know you can’t go on, that you’re going to stay there in your dark, dirty hell and die the death of an animal. Your world is so small…so small….”
I just stare at him for a second while he looks past me. Do I say anything? Do I try to reassure him and tell him it’s okay? But once again he continues with no verbal notification from me.
“So after 25 years, I finally got me this captain’s hat and became a Christian.”
A few hours later, I realized my wallet, ring, and watch were gone.