Crossing Water


I never much liked tunnels. Or driving under overpasses.

Dad would make a game of it, bellowing good-naturedly in one long exhale: “Gangway: Tunnel…” Often he would draw out the word until we emerged into the light of day.  But not in the Lincoln Tunnel. His lung capacity did not allow for 1.5 miles of entertainment.

I didn’t mind bridges. We drove across the newly-constructed Verrazano to see my grandparents in Brooklyn every weekend. I remember thinking it stretched on forever, and I couldn’t understand why my dad called it “narrow.” It was long—the longest suspension bridge in the world, he liked to remind us—but not narrow.  It stood gracefully tall and spread widely across the water.

By the time the toll was raised to more than $1.00, my family had moved to New Jersey, where I was busy learning about the state highway system: Odd numbered routes run north/south; even numbered routes run east/west. Except for Route 18.  Our travels occasionally took us across the Raritan River, but for the most part I was finished with tunnels and bridges.

When I moved back to New York City as an adult, I discovered a new kind of tunnel.  Trains hurtling through confined spaces, electrified by a hazardous third rail, inevitably filled my life with miles of anxiety.  My heart raced along those tunnels, as if set to a different frequency underground.  My preference for traveling in tunnels under dry land was secured.

But when it came to crossing water, I chose suspension over submersion.

Of all the news I heard following the storm, the closing of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge most ignited the imagination of my youth.  I understand now that “narrows” refers to the water spanned by the bridge’s 48-year old road, the water over which its 27,000-ton towers preside.

I’ve crossed that bridge so many times. The first time was probably only a few years after it was built. Then, I was crossing water to connect to my grandparents, to my past.

Perhaps, after it reopens, I will find myself suspended above the narrows connecting to my future.

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