The only thing more difficult to imagine than the future we now find ourselves in is what it was like before.
I know that girl.
Before she took a blind, fearless, hopeless leap into high school and running, she was an awkward, sweet little sculpture of inscrutable emotion. I don't know what made her lace up a pair of shoes, but we started two years ago, and we have overlaid maps on streets and neighborhoods we would have never otherwise ever known existed.
I remember her saying how ugly I was to one of my friends.
We ran 12 miles, through quiet trails, alongside people playing disc golf; across busy intersections, jogging in place and watching drivers blare their horns and cut each other off.
Should we cross?
You can't win an argument with a moving vehicle.
I want to remember the crossings more than the hesitations. The next week, we ran a half marathon. I had ordered a 13.1 sticker ahead of time, and gave it to her as soon as we finished. Two years ago, she was unable to make it half a mile without stopping.
I can't believe you got this already!
We run past a man on the street, no sign, but disheveled and haggard.
I ran past a guy like that and asked him if he wanted my sandwich. I said it was tuna fish. He told me he doesn't like tuna fish, but said thank you.
I get nervous, she is so unassuming, and empathetic to anyone she imagines left aside. I don't say anything, don't share my fears of her alone and tiny.
I feel like I can't share that story without seeming like I want attention for me.
I don't think that, I say.
I don't tell her I wish she would be more aware for her safety. I don't know what the right thing to say is, so we just keep running.
These are not the forested, lakeside runs from my past, whose obstacles were jutting roots and the carelessness of my own quiet thoughts. Here are moving vehicles, broken concrete, and unintentionally bad advice.
But my knees are holding up. There are unbelievably happy moments, which I feel no need to resist, inexplicable as that is.
And I have a cat.
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