Walk through Mt Vic tunnel
A wind drags you in and from one moment to the next, the world becomes condensed into a small spherical city artery. When sound condenses itself, it’s felt as an echo forgetting to recede quietly into the background; it bangs in equal amounts for as long as it takes. There is no diminishing. And when movement condenses, it moves air around like a drastic drop in altitude. The gut doesn’t respond in horror, it just meets itself as a hardening wall; like ovaries drying up and refusing to spill any more of their energy or life. There’s a locking down of your body when you walk through that tunnel. Eight minutes of menopause.
It doesn’t take long for a full body flush to take hold. It’s hot in there; so much compression of Wellington’s pent up exhales. The heat penetrates your mouth and nose, sending soporific messages to the hairs that recline in the burn of your windpipe. A shallow breath is easy and longing, a deep breath seems to break something apart.
Sound rumbles and has the velocity to suck your voice out of your chest. You try speaking in there! It’s like you are moving much faster than your words, and you can only just hear it way back there. And pardon you when you swear as a car toots it horn, the contractions of your shoulders – up to your ears already – jolts your whole body forward in a flight of surprise. Do you think it funny, also, how we hold our body against completely inevitable outcomes, and still freak out when it happens?
That tooting. Come on, you must have done it yourself. Remember when someone cut you off on the motorway and you reacted with brakes. And a frantic search for the horn, but you can’t find the damn thing! The energy got stuck there at your fingertips. Yes, it would be great to blast as the adrenaline attacks your inert body. But you can’t just sound off now, bumper to bumper on Vivian Street.
Oh what a god send the Mt Vic tunnel is then aye! What a saviour we built into the Wellington fabric of commuting. To allow, for 30 seconds at least, a little bit of Latino flare and ingratitude to spill out of our contained days. Blast it. Blast it. Blast it!! Aahhh, the release, not like sex – you’d need to be in a city like Rome for that – more like masturbation; pent up and unromantic. Or, it must be acknowledged (if you can detach yourself from the moment skillfully enough) slightly flirty and brazen. There’s a game going on. The just for the hell of it tooting.
Still, when you’re walking through, those sympathies disappear and you return to a reserved and hardened Anglo-Something. A whipping temper at short boil, crammed under a stiff lip or collar.
It’s hardly surprising, given the conditions of those eight minutes that you’re not favouring a rational response. Your mind is thick with hammering vibrations, an engulfing descent into noise, and space seems ever more tightening. I’m not surprised you don’t even care to engage with another migrating pedestrian, or worse; cyclist. Empathy is for the clear minded. Do you look over your shoulder also, wondering if a silent cyclist is about to flurry your feathers? You’re right, some do go by quite fast and it’s just lucky for them you didn’t follow that impulse to flay your arms out. God, the restraint you show!
Day light is coming. Cool air is coming. You probably quicken your pace because you know you’re not yourself in there. It’s someone else, taken over your body and mind, and hey, really, you’re a lovely and caring person outside of that tunnel. I’m sorry you say to no one in particular, at the other end, I don’t know what came over me.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alys Titchener is new to the scene of creative writing, having just completed her first paper at the IIML, ‘Writing the Landscape’. Assignments could be either prose or poetry, and ‘Walk through Mt Vic tunnel‘ was her first prose piece. Alys keeps a poetry blog called Squashed Mosquito Poetry as a way of journalling her emotional landscape.