I take something called the Path when I travel to the city. For anyone whose not familiar with New Jersey, the Path is a subway that connects Manhattan with Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark. It's relatively reliable and inexpensive ($1.75/ride) and it runs all day and all night.
There's something about that ride in and out of the city, in the lighted car, screeching and jolting along the dark track under the Hudson River. So many people crowded in together, each a stranger to the other, each with their own thoughts and cares.
They mostly try to ignore the discomfort of the trip and the presence of other people - I try too; sometimes I'm successful. But there's something also between those many people, who manage to be jostled and shaken and moved by the train and everyone around them and still manage to behave far far better than they would on any freeway above ground.
I think sometimes when I'm on that trip, surrounded by those other souls, between what I have to do and where I want to be, that time is rushing by or over in the dark beyond the windows. I feel like I'm not in a subway at all, but instead in a capsule that for a moment allows me to pass by all the lives and paths that I will never know but only be aware of as a great sweep of noise and movement beyond the little light of my life.
I'm tired I guess, and probably a little loopy - I have a tendency to fly into the sublime when I'm tired. There's a new year coming up tomorrow too, and I'm sure that's put me in a reflective mood as well - the years move faster than they used now.
But the subway is a comfort to me - as it is for many city dwellers. Because even though it's not always convenient and not always clean or even safe, it's a reliable passage between the places I need to be. And unlike the dreams that ferry me from one day to the next, I know I am not dreaming, and though I may be a stranger to those around me, I am not alone.
Good night and good luck in the new year.