The problem with talking about seeing the light at the end of a tunnel is that it presumes that you are in a tunnel, a unpleasant place, dark, and that you will see, at the end of this, something hopeful, an end to your suffering, light. A light you will want to go to. Emerging, blinking, dumbfounded, into a new fresh bright reality. Well that’s not really the problem; the problem is that it leaves out my father’s joke about the light being an oncoming train. But I digress.
When I have emerged from darkness, blinking, as I say, dumbfounded into a new fresh bright reality, my main feeling is that there has been a revelation, that I have learned something, which something I promptly forget when I plunge back into darkness again. My life in this way feels less like a nice straightforward journey by train, from tunnel to light, and more like a carousel, going in circles. A noisy circus ride, endlessly up and down on the same horse and then a moment when I catch a glimpse of myself in one of the mirrors on the center pole and I see everything with sudden clarity. Then the horse keeps going, the alignment breaks, I lose sight of that moment, epiphany glides into memory, is gone. The cacophony of calliope music, the pre-recorded organs of hell, until at some point we align again and I remember: Oh, right, this clarity, I knew this once, here it is again. At this point all I’m hoping for is that when the ride grinds to a halt I’ll be in a bright spot, though in any case the ride will have ended.
I was in therapy last week gazing at my kind therapist’s kind face. He has a terrible haircut, the balding ponytail look and on the greasy side usually. I can’t take him entirely seriously because of that but when I’m talking he looks at me full in the eyes like he has nowhere he’d rather be and I appreciate that. Also sometimes he looks genuinely moved by stories I tell him and sometimes I’d pay for that, so I do. I was telling him a story about how I was working on believing I was loved whether or not people said it out loud, and it felt like a great insight was coming on except I could see that he saw it coming because he’d seen it before, I’d seen it before, nothing new. Turkey in the Straw.
Okay but what if I think of it as a train ride? What if I imagine the revelation that I told Dr. Anton last week as being a train ride through a tunnel, to the light at the end. What if I imagine a train. A compartment. You and I in a train compartment, two people sitting across from each other. What if I imagine we are traveling somewhere, somewhere we have never traveled, gladly beyond, so to speak. The train is central European, the seats the cheap but durable wine-red vinyl of every train seat, forty plus years of sausages and lard-smeared bread eaten by people sitting here, forty plus years of beer cans bought at the train station and popped once the train is in motion, forty plus years of children who didn’t want to sit still, grandmothers whose support hose constricted at the waist and inevitably sagged at the ankles, couples trying to lessen the monotony of their relationship by taking it on a trip. We have already run out of things to say and we are sitting in what I like to imagine is a companionable silence though I’m not looking at your face in case anything there contradicts me.
I see the tunnel as we approach it and I see my chance. Before we go in, I force my eyes into yours. “Why won’t you just say that you love me sometimes?” I ask, and then we are plunged into darkness. My plan, to the extent that I have one, is that you will tell me the truth in the dark. This is why I have always preferred darkness: because that’s where the truth is. Late at night, the house will tell you where it hurts; the tiniest wind and it creaks and moans. People whisper the best secrets in the dark. And even my own darkness is so much more true to me than my own light. So we will enter the tunnel now. You will tell me the truth. Here, in the darkness.
But the tunnel is too short. I always forget that European tunnels are shorter than their Asian counterparts. As if they know that what can happen in the dark is more trouble than they want. A scream. A murder. So we’re plunged into the light at the end of the tunnel in no time, and I haven’t even shifted my eyes from your face yet. I have the full brunt of your gaze when you say it.
“I won’t say I love you because I don’t.”
That’s it then, the light. The revelation. The moment of blinding, absolute clarity. The thing I could have seen coming, if I’d looked.
*joined a writing group and this was the prompt