Friday, April 08, 2005

empty hallway

I walked down the steps, into the long hallway, the same as I did every other day, but on this day, the hallway was empty. I noticed immediately - this hall, ordinarily packed with people, was vacant but for me. I knew this had to mean something.

I walked my normal route to the subway, not avoiding others as I went along. I wasn't avoiding those who were reading their phones' text messages, causing them to walk at a halved pace. I wasn't avoiding eye contact with strangers brushing up against me. I wasn't avoiding physical or verbal invitations to purchase a new product, career, or faith. I was alone in a place I'd never before been alone, searching for its meaning - it had to be a metaphor of sorts, something I would soon make sense of.

For the first time, I was able to hear the sounds of wind pouring through. I noticed how it competed with the echoing sounds of my own footsteps, which told me to soften my steps. I hadn't before been aware of how loud I was in this hallway; my sounds and intentions had always been overthrown by the crowd.

I was nearing my destination when a swarm of people appeared before me, coming straight for me, bringing with it all the things I had briefly enjoyed being without. The face of the swarm was a fleshy wall, quickly devouring the emptiness before me. My comfort faltered, as I knew my pace would soon after, being abruptly thrust from side to side by the wave of pedestrians. My time alone was nearing its end, and as a final act of desperation, my mind did all it could to grab hold of the situation's meaning, but the crowd engulfed me before it could.

Thrust back into my daily routine, I laboriously navigated my way through the crowd, losing the sounds of the empty hall to the noise that keeps it hidden. I lost my sense of reason, and was fully placed into the task of finding my way home. In that state, where meaning escapes me, I realized that the empty hallway had no meaning to be found - by whatever name I would attempt to give it, it would just be an empty hallway. I now had the metaphor I'd been seeking.