I tell my buddy at work before leaving on Friday evening that I’m exhausted because I don’t get much sleep. I want to run, but don’t know if I’d survive it. This young woman’s a big runner, so we often discuss running and the races she participates in. She’s much younger than I am, so of course she says I should go on ahead and do it. “It energizes me when I’m tired,” she says. “Oh all right. I’ll try,” I say. “Yeah, just run real slow,” she tells me.
I don’t know that I can refer to my running as running anymore, it’s more like jogging these days. As years pass, I get slower and slower. I watch young bunnies pass me by and remember the old days when I sprinted along with the wind in my youth. I think with pride – “I’d beat your ass right off if I was your age!” I do what I can now, sweating like a pig, taking forever to jog the few miles I try to tackle every week, swallowing my pride about how I look.
Having left work, walking on the path to the bus, I feel like I’m trudging through molasses I’m so tired. My senses are dull, the color green in the trees and grass doesn’t seem that green, and my hearing is muffled. Walking irritates me. I stop an impulse to start whining, and my pocket book feels like a bag of rocks. I hope I don’t run into anyone I know on the bus. I work in the lush area of Riverdale, where you don’t find the heavy traffic of people that you find in midtown. There you can hide from people in the throng of suits. The idea of small talk overwhelms me and makes my chest tense up – the energy it demands, the cheerful façade you have to put up. I am sure that a grimace would seep through the conversation and that the other person would think: “Sandee is finding this conversation painful.” At the bus stop, I prop myself on the garbage can, which smells like a dead rat, but I don’t care — either that or I’m stretching out on the grass behind me. The BX7 pulls up, I get on and think, ‘How the hell’m I goin’ runnin’?…zzzzzzzzzzzz…’
At home I put on my running clothes right away before I change my mind. Should I drink coffee first why hell yes! This’ll do the trick to propel me down the street. I’m doing it, jogging down Seaman, toward Bennett now. I’m on that stupid incline turning from Broadway onto Bennett, shit! — This is the part of the jog where I start sweating — I’m sapped. I coach myself, ‘Fuck it I’ll walk-jog, I ain’t fittin’ to have a heart attack’. I’m fine as long as I don’t think too hard and don’t worry about how I look – the ego’s a bitch like that.
Four blocks into Bennett I hear the clacking heels of shoes. It’s just a few yards behind me. It doesn’t sound like the heels of a woman’s shoes. The sound is a solid stride that comes from a man’s shoes. It gets louder. No, I think. It’s louder now. NO, NO! I say to myself. This person is merely walking. I turn around. He’s an…interesting, well, he’s a young Jewish/black kid, wearing a yarmulke. He’s got kinky blonde hair, full lips, and other partially African features – I think, I know this kid – could life be weirder. When I worked in midtown years ago, there was a black woman who’d get on the train with her obviously biracial son who was about three or four at the time. She was dressed in orthodox Jewish clothes and the kid was wearing a yarmulke – this was that same kid now grown up, a teenager. How many orthodox black/Jewish kids with kinky blonde hair could there be? He’s walking faster and faster I can hear — race walking. I look him in the face now as he’s side by side with me! Through my huffing and puffing in my version of running, I say pointing at him, “You’re trying to make me look bad!” I start laughing then. He smiles and says, “No, I’m just late for Shabbos,” and he continues to walk past me. He leaves me in the dust by two whole blocks! The rat bahstid! I’d just been passed by somebody walking?! This is the funniest shit that’s happened to me in quite a while – I’m so invigorated by the humor in this that I don’t even feel tired anymore! Between laps, I’m laughing my ass off when no one’s looking.