I don’t know when the superstition started or who started it, but I believe in holding my breath when I go through a tunnel. If I can successfully hold my breath the entire way some mystical force will grant me the chance to make one wish. It was for this wish that I will end all conversations whenever I enter a tunnel or I will pound my fist on the ceiling in frustration as the heavy traffic slows forward progress to a crawl and the oxygen I have captured in my lungs quickly drains away. When I was a child I wished for personal things, amazing things, things that I know now not even a magical wish could grant me. So, after many years and no magical powers or a pet otter to call my own, I began to wonder what exactly I was wishing for.
It wasn’t until I was 15 that I figured out how this wishing thing worked and my faith in tunnels was renewed. It was at this age that my older sister was diagnosed with a chronic illness, and it just so happened that the hospital she was admitted to was on the other side of one of the few tunnels we had in the area. She was in the hospital for a month, and every time I went through I wished not for myself, but for her. I didn’t care about getting magical powers anymore; all I wanted was for my sister to get better. I would sit in the passenger’s seat of my father’s car, the radio playing softly as neither of us could think of anything to say on the way to the hospital, but as our little car entered that dark arch, I captured as much air as I could and the silence didn’t seem so bad because now it had a purpose. Now I was silent because I was wishing with all my heart that my sister would be able to recover and that she would still be there when we made it through the dark unknown of the tunnel.
It was only after many tests and procedures and various pills and drugs that the doctors figured out how to make my sister better. When she was finally allowed to come home, we went through that tunnel one last time, and we both looked at each other and puffed out our cheeks with captured air and released our breaths at the end with a heavy sigh. I told her that I had wished for her to get better every time I went through. We decided that the magic of the tunnel only worked when we wished for someone else, and that these were the wishes that were allowed to come true because they were selfless and pure. It is not enough to simply have the power to make a wish, but we must be responsible and considerate enough to use that power for others. It may not be that difficult for the average person to hold their breath through a tunnel, but it is difficult for most people to realize that wishes can be made for others. I learned this lesson only when someone close to me really needed it, but perhaps it could have been avoided if only I knew the secret sooner. So, I have not made another wish for myself, but I hope that when I truly need it someone out there will hold their breath and wish for me.