The Longest Time

It was a crime.

A serial crime. Committed ritually each morning under midmorning sun’s gaze. Flagrant. But so easy. An hour.

One hour of each morning carved indefinitely out for a morning jog… at all costs. There was no argument, no space between heartbeats to contemplate what I was doing. I left my brain free to its own hooliganish devices. Therein lay the charm.

My brain was absorbed almost totally with the primary objective, perpetration of the offense, the run, the picture of which was scattered across my brain in small pieces belonging to different collections of neurons–cardiovascular health, bikini body, soft tan, productive use of time, personal betterment, etc–and what was left unabsorbed found itself secondary objectives, that oozed thickly amongst brainish mosaic pieces like tar, unsolicited wanderings–song lyrics, appointments, questions, fears–that wove around the delicate glass picture.

But tar melts. It always melted just when I thought I was doing marvelously. It melted and multiplied like the salty beads of sweat rolling off of my skin and fell in between the asphalt cracks of my body to gum up every objective except completion. Finishing my morning attack on my body. Cut to the chase. No questions asked.

So today, I encountered a man and a Weimaraner that distracted me for a few precious seconds and before I knew it I had reached the bottom lip of the hill, the only hill on this run. I geared up as I normally did, focusing on the jagged mosaic tile stuck on to my clump of motivational neurons that had on it the image of Abraham Lincoln leading George Washington’s army through miles of frostbitten fields with rags for shoes, and I stopped.

I stopped. I committed that fatal error I always cautioned myself against before enacting the daily plan. I stopped approximately one hundred and forty-eight pounds of hurtling inertia dead in its tracks just to look around. Unsure what I was doing, I took a full 360 degrees worth of observations. I found were no walkers, runners, bikers or workers in sight. The man and the dog had apparently vanished into thin air. For the moment, there was just me at the top of the hill with all of this lush green grass and weedy purplish wildflowers whooshing happily in the wind, so I just stood there.

I just stood there. I couldn’t feel my heart beat, and I didn’t think about much. I just breathed.

Darned if I didn’t stand there, palms open, heart up, eyes to the sky like that kid on the first spring day on campus who abruptly stopped walking, took his back pack off in the middle of the quad, and proceeded to exalt the sun as if that was the reason he had signed up for college in the first place. I even added a few half sun salutations in because it seemed like the only thing to do.

After all of those days spent stopping only at the lifeless command of the grayblack stoplights on the graywhite roads surrounded by graysilver cars and graygray gas stations, after attempting to turn off any feeling in my body that could be unpleasant, after countless viciously checked off miles, here I was, caught up inside four converging trails, three towns, two parallel strings of telephone lines, and two parallel edges of subdivisions, and noticing only me and earth and sky. It was my last run before leaving for camp, and I hadn’t done 6.7 miles without stopping, but I was on top of the world.

I looked around at the impossibly lavish unsuburban prairie around me, stubbornly preserved to greet me this delicious June day. I thought about all of those mixed up girls and me in the wilderness this summer, and it slipped right into my happiness. No tar necessary.

It was a sign.

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