I’m rushing into the tunnel light, leaving everything behind. I try not to think, just keep my mind on the white line ahead, let it lead me, take me as far as it goes. There's nothing else now, a thought as chilling as it is strangely thrilling. A feeling like ice fighting fire runs through my veins.
But no more thoughts. Follow the white line. I glance at the speedometer: pushing into the red zone. I loosen my grip, so hard, on the wheel and ease up my foot from the floor.
Finally out of the tunnel and heading due east. The city's jagged gray outline — once appearing to me so promising in its bold thrusting upward — now seems like a sad, worn scar upon the edge of the horizon, fading, enveloped in a surreal haze of sunset and smog.
A little less frantic than moments ago, but I’m still too close to spinning out of control. I take some deep breaths and wish I could shut off my mind for a while. Why is it so hard to possess such a power? Maybe if I'd taken Barry's advice — how many years ago? — back in the late ‘60s, and learned TM, I could clear my mind at will.
Yet, if I had taken his advice, the entire course of my life might have been different, and at this moment in time I wouldn't be here on the Long Island Expressway, going this killing speed in my car, in my mind.
I better slow down. The wheel’s shaking in my hands. I glance in the rear view mirror. Normally so implacably calm, it’s a face I almost don’t recognize, every muscle so taut, eyes wide and wild, like some crazed character conjured up in a bad dream.
I refocus my eyes intently ahead, try to imagine myself like Barry, serenely meditating on a mountaintop in India. It’s strange how, even in extreme moments like this, when things can't get much worse and someone else’s life appears infinitely better, it’s hard to put myself in another’s life. I am who I am — and who I will be?
Who I will be, who I will be. Suddenly my thoughts retreat to that distant, idyllic time as a freshman in college, studying the Greek classics. My life stretching brightly ahead down an uncluttered road, how terrifying to me was the ancient Greek concept of fate: that chorus like a chill wind blowing ceaselessly through the plays, whispering of a character's sad but sure destiny, despite how young and full of promise he was.
I must stop letting my mind wander so far! Just focus on the straight, white line ahead. How purposeful and clear it is, like my life … but … but isn’t that turning out to be no longer true, and maybe was always more an illusion, something I constructed, one comforting lie upon another?
My grip gets tighter on the wheel again, my foot presses closer to the floor. How easily it responds, how intoxicating the rush feels.
Yes, there it is! I started out wanting to do something good, nothing too grand. I saw that shining line between the just and the unjust, but then that clear line began to disappear: lawyers and the corporations we represent, just wanting to win, no matter what. And in a time when people judge you more by how much money you make, if you win at whatever you do, or how much power you wield, speaking of what is good and honorable sounds oddly quaint and anachronistic.
Still, in spite of the growing grimness I felt in my work — the sleazy deals and plea bargains, corrupt judges and defense of those I knew were pre-eminently guilty — I probably could have persevered, if it hadn't been for ….
Red zone, definitely crash and burn time if I think about her. Steady now, focus on the white line again. See how it leads into the darkness spreading out wider and wider the farther I look? Like my life, starting out at a fixed point then breaking up into indefinable fragments disappearing into a fathomless black hole. An end, no doubt — but could it also be a beginning?
Enough, enough thinking!
I'll just keep going as far as I can go. There’re hardly any other cars now. I’m getting out into the country, the moon and stars shining brightly overhead. The air is tinged with a saltiness, and there’re no sounds in my head but the whirring of wheels spinning on pavement.