Tunnel vision

Every time I drive to M and B’s place (as I did today), I resort to holding my breath for a stretch. The shortest and most direct way to their house compels me to drive through an underground tunnel, and then underneath a massive bridge overpass. I look straight ahead. I count. I usually speed up, imagining that by doing so I will avoid disaster. My stomach morphs into a ball of knots, panic and prayer weaving through my innards. A few evenings ago was no different. In fact, it was worse.

Unwittingly, I landed in a traffic jam inside the tunnel, forcing myself and all cars ahead of, and behind me, to crawl to a complete stop. I tried gripping the steering wheel, but the palms of my hands went clammy. My legs tensed up. I turned off the music and turned up the A/C.

What’s going to fall on me?, I wondered aloud. Prayers were routed to the traffic gods. The traffic light gods. The exhaust gods. Even to the emission gods. Oh please, get me out of here.

I looked out my windows and up at the tunnel’s ceiling: Dozens and dozens of gaping holes where once there were tiles. In some spots, water was dripping down. With no discernable pattern to the exposures, I eliminated the possibility that road construction crews may have carefully dismantled them, one by one, while the rest of us lay sleeping.

Instead, I felt that my instincts were confirmed: Steel girders, decades-old, unveiled chunks of crumbling concrete; worse still, decaying tiles, reaching their expiry date, simply fell down. But: What time of day (or night) do they fall and onto what? Unsuspecting drivers, whose windshields are instantaneously crushed? Motorcycle riders, on their way to a baseball game, a tile falling into their lap?

Oh, ye behemoth bridges and tunnels around the world: When will I be set free, once and for all, from the clutches of such random strokes of fear?

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