“Hey… *huff* how are *gasp* you?” I wheezed.
The beachfront passed us lazily on the left. A motley mix of tourists and locals wrapping up their afternoon of leisure under the slowly setting sun. Cyclists and other joggers shared the sidewalk, a tireless serpent of concrete that seemed to stretch for forever.
“I’m good” she breathed without missing a step, her perfect stride a constant rhythm of grace and poise. Garbed in black spandex with her brunette ponytail swaying from shoulder to shoulder, I could set a metronome to her even steps; my heart tried but failed repeatedly, instead opting to pump blood to the rest of me to keep me alive.
“That’s *gasp… good.” I managed after a few heavy footfalls and a weak smile.
She looked over at me, with a knowing smile on her lips. I stood erect, puffing out my chest and attempting to keep the same vigor in my step to match hers. But my legs were already on fire, my lungs imploding under the effort. Talking, was a luxury my body simply couldn’t afford.
Her laughter was musical, and she did it with such ease. I felt like a caveman being shown fire for the first time, struck by both intrigue and fear of this perfect human being able to do so much with the same oxygen and sidewalk we shared. I watched as she began pulling away. But in truth it was me, slowing, sputtering, stopping, until I was walking with the same unremarkable speed as the towel-toting beach goers who populated the sidewalk. I watched her perfectly curved haunches, rounded hips and slender arms still methodically pumping as she grew smaller in the distance.
I had been weighed and measured, and in her arena I had been found so far wanting, I couldn’t keep up. It was in essence the perfect rejection. The one thing I knew about her, “She likes to run” was trumped by the one thing I had shown her, “I really suck at running” There was no question as to the incongruence of our souls.
– – – –
So I ran and I ran, determined to mold my soul into something better than squishy playdough. My ratty sneakers gave way to sporty running shoes. I bought shorts that didn’t chafe my inner thighs after the first thirty feet. And I got one of those little ipod bicep bands on the wings of Amazon. I did my stretches on the benches in view of all the other runners, and in lieu of any running talent or physical ability… at least now I looked the part.
I caught up with her again in the weeks to follow. Pink tracksuit, moving in a blur of energy and motion, her golden blond hair pulled into two pigtails, and flecks of gold reflecting off her freckled cheeks as the sun cast its final rays of the day.
“Run here often?” Bad pun, I know.
She cocked a curious eyebrow at me.
“Y’know this could be more fun if we play tag. *huff* Y’know I’ll chase you and you chase me?”
She quickened her pace and then she was gone, a slender golden glimmering figure on the horizon. Was that my cue to give pursuit? Try as I may, I simply couldn’t keep up. And I soon I was coughing and sputtering on the grass.
“Okay… I’ll chase you.” I wheezed weakly, my hands finding my knees and my lungs seeking the ground as she grew smaller in the distance.
– – – –
My new shoes became old shoes, and the elastic on my ipod case began to lose’ it’s hold. But still I ran. It was months later when I saw her again. Gray yoga pants and a fitted line green top, with her raven black hair pulled taught in a braid.
“Y’know all these people running in the other direction… they could be running from a fire and we would never know.”
“If there was a fire, they’d be running faster. More screaming too.”
“Maybe they don’t want to cause a panic?”
“Jokes on them, I set my fire back there.” She flicked her thumb playfully over her shoulder in one fluid motion”They’re running right to it.” she smiled, never breaking strike.
“I like you. You’re funny.” I blurted out. Surprised I have enough oxygen and energy to carry on a conversation.
“You’re… interesting.” Not quite the compliment I was looking for, but close enough.
“Do you want to get coffee?” I ask her.
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“Me neither!” I exclaim. “But when I ask people if they want to get whiskey, they look at me funny.”
“I like whiskey.”
“Well then, do you want to get whiskey?”
“Well that depends. What would you have done if I said yes to coffee?”
“Drink hot cocoa in a big boy cup and call it a double-frap-mariachi-blended-mocca-pikachu.”
She laughed, a rich and musical sound.
“Yes, to whiskey.”
And there was just enough oxygen left in me– to smile.
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