03. MUSIC INSPIRATION
Pursuit of Happiness:
Walking in the Woods
Between the sound of breath in my ears.
Mr. 'Cheap-shoes, expensive watch, and respectable sports jacket’ is on my left. He exhales with looping, long sighs. I’m caught up listening for his inhales and I keep missing them. His breath is stealthy, zen-like (when did his exhale start and his inhale begin?)
Mr. 'Brand new sneakers, brand new basketball shorts and old hoodie’ on my right is all-in for both cycles. His gasps for air might be mistaken for panic if not for his calm exterior. The force of the gasps matches the rattling exhaust fan of his reversal. I am without headphones. I curse skipping my morning pat-down before I leave the house. ("Keys, wallet, phone, headphones?")
Next stop. Shudder. Wheeze. No movement. Doors open, bringing a whiff of dark air from the station deep under the earth. My commute will not live into the morning sunlight for another three stops.
Three stops. Nine or ten minutes.
How many breaths can one take in a minute? Why not compare my train mates? I can count and keep score. Is that be too much to attempt this early? (I’m one hasty cup of coffee into the morning. I usually postpone math until the third.) I could make it a competition - tennis or an awkward tug of war. Forget tennis, too complicated. (I can’t calculate sets!) I’ll count the exhales of cheap-shoes and inhales of new sneakers. Straight scoring.
1-1. Simple. Too easy.
2-2 and the game is afoot!
5-5 and I’m enthralled. I almost forget to breathe myself.
They're in synch and it's neck and neck at 8-8 when sneakers sniffles and coughs.
Crap. Does that count? Now it’s 9-8, cheap shoes takes the lead!
Worse, sneakers fiddles in his pocket and goes silent for two more exhales from cheap shoes. Do I score it 11-8 shoes or do I give sneakers credit? The train bumps and everyone resets their positions.
Shoes and sneakers are back in sync but shoes has pulled into a comfortable 16-12 lead.
Now the questions race through my brain. Is shoes breathing too fast or is sneakers breathing too slow? Is shoes a Type A cranking through his allotment of life’s precious moments with nary a thought? Is sneakers coasting, recognizing the here and now? How do I find balance in a world where I’m slammed between the two with no escape?
All this time I’m arguing with myself did it get to 20-16? Is sneakers shifting into deep breathing exercises? Is sneakers about to find enlightenment while shoes and I watch our lives dribble away between stations? Do I urge him to catch up?
Next station. Each stops breathing. No, just pausing. They inhale deeply. They are preparing to leave! Are they ensuring they leave with a lung full of train and memory of home? How does one last deep gulp prepare them for the station, the walk, the bus, or the people? They leave side by side, neither giving deference to exiting the cramped commute. No quarter asked. None given.
New faces file in. New air falls to the floor, exhaled with defeated tones. Shift from foot to foot. Nothing to do but breathe.