Running Playlist

As soon as the door opens, the cold rushes in, overwhelming the warm entrance of the house with its urgent, unexpected icy embrace before the threshold is sealed once more.

Amidst this weak vacuum of air, the first beat rings out. One. The driveway scrolls quickly underneath the reluctant staccato taps. Two three. The ground welcomes the interruption and becomes part of the melody, scratching its own rhythm between the reliable thuds of thick foam. Four. The lonely melody slips easily surpasses the gentle grip of the sleeping neighborhood and greats the rushing road. Five six. An increase in escalation seems to be a reaction to the frantic whizzing cacophony of breath that the morning traffic exhales in intervals determined by the tacit stoplights. Makes and models disappear. Dodge Charger, garbage truck, Subaru Forester, Prius, Volkswagen Bug, they all mesh into a single streaking mass, respiration personified. Anonymously, they bear witness to the beat’s determined performance, never more than an audience to the ceaseless drumming. It scratch-pats its way alongside the mingling automobile sighs exhumed by the rest demanded by the stoplight and continues. Seven.

Impervious to the imposed rest, it pushes onward, leaving behind the red yellow green conductor who must remain suspended, beam-less in the daylight. Inevitably, the cars begin their frantic dialogue again, clamoring to make up for the moment’s pause, but this is only heard transmitted through decrescendo as the dewy golf course opens its hills to the percussive reverberations. The flatness of the sidewalk is more hospitable than the road, and the tempo slowly responds. Eight nine ten. Until, suddenly the garden-bed that held the ostentatious orange blossoms of June and the romantic flowers of August shifts into view. The death of winter has not affected its regality. Stocked with beige-silver stalks and gray spidery skeletons of the summer glory, it stands tall. Not silenced by frost, but muted, whispering rather than shouting its encouragement from its perch amongst the rolling hills surrounding a picturesque water hazard where ghosts of golfers can be heard clicking and muttering their way around par.

Applauding, maybe, silently cheering as the clap-brushing beat overtakes it. Eleven. This mute ovation stirs the critical wind to life and it whips along the curving road, whistling its suggestion to halt, silence, terminate, destroy the tune. But its disapproving boos merely add a welcome accompaniment to the percussive orchestra, transforming it into a full symphony just in time for the bridge to the final verse. Twelve

thirteen. The crescendo into the finale begins slowly, almost imperceptibly as the rhythm is enveloped by the pocket of an empty park, awake, but still awaiting the arrival of children’s laughter, dogs’ barking, and bikes’ whirring to revive it to consciousness. In response to this solitude, the beat tiptoes swiftly through the park-dreams in order not to prematurely disturb it. Fourteen. Pounding thickly on the frozen mud, it slips through the well smoothed trail that defrauds the bushes and trees claiming to be a boundary between the property of city and citizen. The beat emerges gloriously, liberated it baostfully adds a few grassy thumps between sidewalk scratches and subtly extends the anticipation between steps. The mood changes too as it becomes more confident, no longer hesitating to demand the attention of the garbage men, the children shivering at the bus stop, the unidentifiable robed creatures stumbling down the driveway to pick up the morning paper. Fifteen sixteen. Their dazed faces reflect the beat’s triumphant progress as they watch it wrap them in its dust: a dream as immediately as it leaves earshot.

Then with a gasp, the beat’s unchallenged auditory conquest is halted by the aerobic automobile crowd once again. This time, the beat must rest patiently, employing the whooshing mechanic sighs as a drumroll, taking advantage of the rushed prelude to pull, tug, stretch, crack, heat its instrument when–in a sudden silence between green lights, –it explodes off the corner and into its triumphant final exaltation. Seventeen. The road falls quickly into oblivion and is replaced by prairie.

November did its work to disintegrate the soft green skin and delicate flowers of the native stalks, and frost digested the sinewy grasses that had once stitched the living quilt together. Only the long stalks remain clattering and groaning emptily at the whim of the December wind. Their stooping reply to the wind briefly forms beige hoops at random across the barren field, giving the impression that the ghosts of covered wagons still inhabit the contrived suburban prairie. In this landscape, the beat provides the patriotic rumbling of the rolling wagon wheels, heralds of the introduction of man and virgin land. As houses unavoidably sneak once again into view, the familiar feel of the sidewalk reduces the beat to an echo. Its throbs are no longer original utterances but rather a condensed history of the sights of its hour-long trek. Nineteen. As it rounds the final cul-de-sac, the beat signs its message to the now lively people of suburbia:

Scratch. Pat. Today may be full of the gray, freezing death of winter. Scratch. But, that has not inhibited its beauty. Pat. Its music is impervious to the freezing whims of December. Scrat. It’s within your reach–

twenty.

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