Today I went for a run in the park. It was my first real bout of exercise in over a year. My legs are feeling it. My ankles are feeling it. My stomach and my heart, they are feeling it.
Paul rang the doorbell at 10.30 am, which is exactly when he said he would ring it and which is exactly why sometimes I just cant get down with punctuality.
I like to take my time with things; I’m real easy like that.
I dragged on some shorts and a t-shirt that I didn’t care about that much and wouldn’t mind if it got those sweaty yellow stains in the armpits that some t-shirts do after a bout of exercise. The sky was clear and the clouds were white and sparse and feathery. There wasn’t much of a breeze, and what one there was was light and gentle. It was running weather. I pulled on my shoes and washed my face. Lets go, I said, and opened the door for him then followed.
We won’t run to hard, he said, but we won’t stop once we start. I agreed and stretched a little before hand. Reaching for my toes. Pulling my foot to my ass and feeling my thighs burn a bit. I sat down and put my feet together so my legs were diamond shaped. I leaned forward and tried to touch my nose to my heel. I lay out, my hands high above my head and my toes pointed forward I breathed in. I breathed out. I breathed in and breathed out again.
About a mile into it I was pretty impressed that my cardiovascular system hadn’t already collapsed. We watched as other runners past us by –who do they think they are, Rocky? - and took deep breaths of the clean air that smelled like grass and dirt and trees and sweat. We made some small talk in between short gasp
Someone got murdered here a few weeks ago.
Really? That would explain all the cops.
The cops were everywhere. Two around every curve. On horses. On bicycles. In golf carts. In cruisers. All patrolling. Patrolling the park.
Yeah. The guy was 50 years old. A black dude. They still haven’t found a motive.
They get the guys that did it?
Damn. Why would all the cops be here during the day though?
It happened in broad daylight.
By the second mile my ankle started getting week. I didn’t say anything though. I didn’t complain. Play through the pain, right? The balls of my feet were getting numb. It was everything I could do not to limp along. I stood straight though. I held fast. But eventually I had to call time out. I had to stretch a little more.
You ok dude?
Yeah man. I’m cool, just need to stretch a little.
We got to the third mile and the cops had placed a mobile surveillance unit van there. A cop stood across from it. Another did circles on his bike between the two. More joggers passed us by. Braggers.
The final stretch is a hill. I made us take a pause before we hit it. I just want to stretch my ankle once more, I said. Paul said take your time. He did jumping jacks and ran in place to keep his heart rate up. I walked to the bottom of the hill and said lets go, then began to climb it without him.
Up until this point my lungs were in good order. My breathing as steady and my pace had stayed on par with it. But by the time I got to the middle of the hill I could feel every last second of the past year and a half swelling inside my bloodstream. My lungs began to reveal their true, murky brown color. My face became flush and red. Sweat dripped down from my neck and chest. My tank was out of gas. But still, I kept pushing along.
Just to that last sign, Paul said, lets do it. He pointed at a green a yellow one that said CARS KEEP TO THE RIGHT. So we picked up the pace. We began to run to the end. A last hurrah. A heroic triumph. My lungs ablaze. My legs and ankles weak and brittle and on their last steps. We reach the bottom and I collapsed on the lawn. Paul stood a while longer, stretching his hamstrings, touching his toes. That felt good, he exclaimed.
I pointed to some trees and shrubbery off in the corner. It’s in the front of the park, but it’s hidden, like a dark alley in the forest. You know what that is right there? I asked. Paul looked up, squinted a little, and shook his head.
That’s where that dude got killed. Broad daylight. 50 years old.
I shut my eyes and let the sun bake into my brain for a second. Paul sat down cross-legged next to me. Two cops rolled by on their ten speed bikes.