Egg Yolk Subways

Phillip Le
Jul 7, 2016 · 4 min read

Time. Like passing trains on parallel tracks. I’m crammed into one in New York, and then Boston, then Chicago. In every car I see clear, lucid frames, my window intersecting with the windows of the passing carts, all quick snapshots in time. I don’t know the person on the other side of the frame, but for one moment we share a space. It’s so tangible, I want to rewind the film, 35mm subway cars realigning that I may ask through these windows:

Who are you?
Have we met?
How far away was it from here?

She won’t respond, “1,000 miles.” She’ll tell you “17 hours.” That’s how it works. We don’t measure distance with miles, leagues or kilometers anymore. We measure it with time, a complicated conversion rate made up of the division of distances and seconds. Or minutes. Or hours. We finagle the answer, something we could accurately determine were we to apply minimal algebraic reasoning. But we’re all so caught up with time, the saving of it, the managing of it, the worth of it, that even our physical distances are measured by it. We’re so attuned to giving time physical weight we approximate its value when dealing with traversing tangible space. You can’t help but feel that same cull as when waking amidst a dream.

Dreams. I dream vividly. Some nights more than others. When I wake suddenly, mid-dream, I don’t simply wake up remembering the dreams as past fog, wisps wiping away towards daylight. Rather, they click through from a continuous stream into the next, one scene and then the next, the next until the moment in which I wake.

If dream and reality were a film, the frames between dream-state and awake-ness would jump-cut from one state, one shot to the next. I’m dragged unwillingly into the real world with a physical weight to my back, a fog in my mind, like an egg yolk slowly lifted from a bowl full of egg white: the mass of yolk and the white of egg inextricably connected until that moment of break between glutinous substances.

A sudden PLOP and I’m drawn to a waken state. The pull just lets go.

That was this morning. In one frame I’m dreaming of old friends, merry times that probably could have happened, but didn’t. And then within the next frame I hear a closing of the door, see a ceiling stark white, feeling smooth leather on my skin. I’m on a couch and I’m waking up, I realize. I feel heavy and my mind is confused despite the fact that I know I’m now in reality. Yellow yolk yanked from a pool of thick white. The window of a subway car zipping to match its counterpart.

It’s like that moment with friends forged long ago. Wasn’t it yesterday that I saw them together in New Zealand? And then the next day we were all at their wedding? No, we’ve jumped from there to another friend’s wedding a month later where we were all dancing, singing, and racing along the streets of Portland. Or was it the New Years when we slid over ice-stricken streets to see the big Christmas tree in Boston? And then I meet their precious daughter Madeline, giggling at me like she has ages ago.

That’s the feeling you get when you’re separated by time. Each moment is inexorably linked to the last one. The Kaitlin and Chris that I meet now with their adorable Madeline only had a frame apart from the Kaitlin and Chris of New Years, of Lindsay’s wedding, of their wedding, of our time in New Zealand. Quick snapshots on subway cars pulled from the egg white of yesterday. I know there are tapestries of woven stories separating those moments, but the possibility to rewind back to see them again feels so logical. Like chosen scenes from a television episode, I’ll just go back to season three when we were in Boston on their wedding day, season four to smile with them on New Years Eve as we’re counting down the moment before the next frame cuts through.

I’m now sitting on a deck. Not the one on South Boston’s harbor, but the deck adjoined to my house in Philadelphia. Despite Matt being unable to relocate those steps he found all those years ago, I can hear from the slight breeze traveled the distance of the Pacific, across the snowy titans dotting the American plains, and over these rooftops reaching me say “Memory Hold The Door.” And with a nod, maybe a smile, but definitely reassured, all I can think back is, “May all the memories lived and yet be lived continue to hold that door.”

But then suddenly, the pull lets go. I’m here, now. That was all then. It’s been thirteen years. No, wait, it’s been four. Or three. Two.


Revised July 7th, 2016. Originally written on August 21, 2012.

Phillip Le

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Full-time curioso living at the intersection of strategy and design. All opinions are my own.