The journey begins just before sunrise. This is the brightest thing in the room, and nothing else is visible in the dim remnants of the streetlights.
The sun has risen and the complex array of metal, wire, and electric currents that will carry me off is fast approaching. There are a crowd of us folded into ourselves on the platform, hiding from a biting cold wind. Although we are an “us” and are bound together by our relationship to the mode by which we travel, we have never spoken to one another.
Some days , the industrial beast is the car and not the train, and I am the singular passenger. It’s just me, the car, and the road. The thousands of commuters I pass on my 20+ miles drive only matter to me insomuch as our cars do not touch. The only thing that would make these fellow travelers significant to me is in the event of disaster. As long as this does not come to pass, we mean nothing to each other.
Mass transit does not entail such anonymity. On the train, we are still nameless and silent but now, we are not faceless. We are strangers dozing together, awake but just barely so as we hurl forward towards the rest of our day.
We pass open plots of land on the way. This land holds history. The history of this space is that this used to be a grassy field, with smatters of trees and the occasional wildlife sighting. In a few months, it’ll be the far end of the a Costco.
Each station we pass brings a greater mass of sleepy bodies into our metal cars, where we sway together, refusing to acknowledge one another. The platform is placid and empty. It’s too cold to appreciate dead trees.
This path has a history. Slithered through the snowy visage of Old Queens campus, Very Important People wear down this pavement every day. I don’t know any of them.
The trees in Voorhees Mall are beautiful in the summer. They span up and over the surrounding buildings. One of my favorite things to do is to look straight up on the path below in order to trace the upward reach of the old branches. I never see anyone else looking up.
However, some things are better observed from tall heights. The sunset is just such a thing, even if it’s seen over an empty parking lot and is facing the local mecca of capitalist strength.
Even in evening traffic, caged or framed by nets of metal and currents, the evening sky is lovely.
In the car, one is not confronted by the dangers of the city. Dark streets are foreboding and vehicular gridlock is comforting to a commuter on foot.
It’s hard to forget that New Brunswick can look evil at night, and maybe our own light pollution has cheated us out of a chance of a redemptive starscape. Then, at least, we could call ourselves gothic.
People hate on the suburbs but leaving the city can be relieving.
Despite the silence and the darkness and the isolation of it all though, this city still has its moments.