Sunday, June 11, 2006

the run

She ran and ran and when she could run no more she tripped to a faltering walk, falling over her own too-large feet. Her own huge regular gasps hung trapped in her ears, looping; she marveled inwardly at how they did not, could not pause, her body superceding her will. The chatter of the carefree others seemed miles away. Her head was too heavy, and she found herself looking at the ground, at the wads of damp dead grass strewn like corpses over the freshly-shaven green to which they had been attached the day before. She thought it would be better, faster probably, if she fell to her knees and onto her chest and just crawled the rest of the way. There was three-quarters of a lap to go-- the end was not far, but certainly not near. She felt that she would die before she made it the rest of the way. Her heart would give out, or implode. Her heated brain would drip out her nostrils. Her internal organs would just shrivel away. The weight of her jacket sat on her hips, negligible, but the snaking sleeves kept unraveling from the knot she had made and she had to retie it again and again. Another second of her time wasted. Her arms bobbed up and down, her hands fisted, and she thought that it probably looked ridiculous, and wondered if anyone was still watching. How far behind could she be? Three minutes, four? She had never stopped moving, though early on she had stumbled her way behind everyone else and stayed there. Rest-breaks had not been allowed her, and she didn't think they would have helped anyway. Once she stopped, she didn't think she would ever be able to walk again. She was thirsty, so thirsty that she thought she would not allow herself too much to drink in case, like a dehydrated refugee, her stomach would not be able to retain it and she would just throw it up. It seemed all too plausible. She tried to breathe through her nose, which was next to impossible, and she resorted back to gigantic mouth-gasps. Her face burned. Half-blinded, she fell across the finish line.

"Seventeen minutes. Not bad!" the woman in the orange vest said encouragingly, scrawling something onto a clipboard.

The others were gone.

She made it to the picnic table and collapsed, too weak to get to the water fountain. Her face still burned, and when she put her hands to it it throbbed incessantly. Her eyes felt soft, like they could melt in her face. She tried a hand on her collarbone and found her pulse quiet but hammering fast. She put her head on the table gingerly and listened to herself breathe, obnoxiously loud. She realized her clothes were all damp, just a little, from her sweat. Her feet no longer existed for her, had momentarily crossed into another realm. She was glad that the day was not warm, even though the cold contrasted with her too much and she thought it might phase her out of existence, as matter and anti-matter cancel. She wanted to fall into a lukewarm bath, to hell with it all, and

(probably drown)

relax. She wanted to sleep, but she knew she couldn't. Her head was pulsing too much. The blood ran to her brain and made her veins twitch with its rush. Her chest rose and fell and rose and fell in a manner that was almost exaggerated. Her eyes were open-- she had not the energy to force them shut-- and she was glad that no one was in her line of vision, even though she knew that if she thought about it too much panic would swamp her and she would search everywhere for them, regardless of her exhaustion. But right now she was just glad to have no witnesses. Even the petite middle-aged woman in the orange vest had discreetly gone away.

She had lived through the mile, somehow.