I can hear it from our bedroom, that low heavy rumble of a train on its tracks. There is a faint whistle, but we are many streets up and there are rows of trees and a river between us, soaking up its sound.
Often only the heaviness of movement is what I can hear, a heaving while the town sleeps.
When we moved in to our house this spring, I heard it clearly. Woke, in fact, each time it rumbled beneath us. Now, I have to really listen to make it out, and only when I am first tucked in bed with time to think. By this time next year, I am sure I will have stopped noticing at all.
When I was a child, I had terrible asthma. I say that as if there is any other way to have asthma. Even now I can feel the panic of an attack, the primal fear of those hidden passages beneath my bones, closing up and betraying my lungs.
P.E. was the worst. The horsey wheezing trapped in a chubby, uncoordinated body made for a junior high cocktail of potent self-hatred. The mile run was akin to adolescent torture, designed to humiliate and incapacitate. I am sad to report, it was deadly effective in both regards.
The asthma is gone, the fear is not. It comes rumbling through my head without me ever really registering its presence.
Until one morning, as I was walking on the treadmill, I started jogging, slowly and deliberately, like a tiny thread of a miracle about to unravel. I came back the next day, listening to Kristine Di Marco’s “I am no victim” on repeat.
It was two minutes, and then three.
Then, a month later, it was a mile, then two.
Yesterday, it was three miles.
It is still not easy, ever. About five minutes in, my mind says, “I’m not sure about this. Let’s just walk. You don’t have a body built for running. Are you sure you should be doing this?”
Yes, I tell my mind—and that freight train of fear that’s been making its way across the horizon of my thoughts each day for the past three decades.
There is an abundance of air, I tell my body with each step. That train may still be here, but it does not need to drive your thoughts; you can quiet it with the sound of your breath.
Inhale, again, and that train has budged.
I don’t know when—which precise inhale or exhale will do it—but I believe there will come a moment when that train clatters in a heap, pushed free from its rusted, broken tracks, and that I will stand beside it, nudging it with my toe the way you check something dead, amazed at how noisy such a small thing could be.
CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.