Nothing to See Here

City runs are stop-and-go. Run a block, wait for the walk sign, run another. City runs are what it means to be feel alone in a crowded room. I love the city streets but the best runs are the ones that take me down gravel and dirt paths. Weather through overgrown greenery or bare skeleton branches the woods are welcoming to me. The trees do not stare or catcall. They do not get in my way. While a run downtown brings a frantic energy to my steps the woods brings me peace and focus. There is no one to measure myself against in the woods.

Running on the street is a competition against every person that I pass: a competition not of speed but of stature. Me at my peak versus everyone else at his or hers. Am I faster than she is beautiful? Am I stronger than he is smart? As I weave in and out of the throng I wonder where and how I fit into it. I wonder if the others wonder to themselves the same things.

There is opportunity cost in the city. There are people to my left, right, front and back doing things that may not be better or worse but are inherently ‘other.’ With every turn I come face-to-face with a different path. Something else I could have chosen to do when I woke that morning. A different set of clothes I could have put on, a different fight to fight that day.

Road runs spark thoughts of doubt. I ask if I’m enough, I wonder how I can be better. These thoughts creep up from time to time but never as often as while I’m out running. There’s a vulnerability to letting hundreds of strangers see you panting and sweating with no redeeming features, no semblances of importance like a destination or companion, to arm yourself against their passing judgment. Just a set of beat-of Saucony trainers and a sloppy ponytail wagging behind you.

The trails are not like that; they present no hasty appraisal and no missed opportunities. There is no competition to be had with the boulders and trees, who stand unaffected through changing seasons. They are not watching me or perceiving me. Here I am truly alone and free to run fast or slow, gracefully or clumsily, without fear of judgment. It is here where, in truth, I have no idea how fast or slow am I going and no clue how large my spot of back sweat has grown. I loose the GPS signal and meander down the trail, oblivious to my pace and to anyone else’s. There is nothing to see but the trail in front of my and nothing to do but follow it back home.

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Good Morning, Sunshine

He has an aura about him, as if he were famous. The kind of person who orders vaguely off the menu, but his drink is specific- Dark and Stormy. I fiercely ignored him.

“The best rum in town is in your glass.”

I shifted my shoulders.

“What are you, a Sommelier?”

“Yes, actually.”

I turned my head away, but stopped. His eyes teased me.

His crow’s feet told me he was older. When he looked at me he studied me- watched my lips move and eyes flutter at a joke. His breezy hair hinted at the grays I’d eventually tickle on his chest.

“I go by Sunshine. I used to live with models who coined the nickname.”

“I go by Lily. My parents wrote it on my birth certificate.”

He was polite and hungry- we chatted kindly about our meals.

He just recovered from a motorcycle accident, but there isn’t a scar on him. He’s the kind of person who would ask what day it is, then reference my offhand comment from hours earlier. He told me he loved my lips.

“So Lily, wanna get another drink?”

I didn’t say yes, but I didn’t run away, either. He’s the kind of guy who must walk on the curbside.

We walked into a bar that looked too upscale to actually function as a bar. I used to work in a bar. The smell of them always gives me this exhausted, broke feeling. I could gauge the time of night by the tip jar. 8PM- empty. 10PM- mostly empty. 12AM- still seeing the bottom. Maybe I was just a shitty bartender.

Anyway, it gave me a taste for good beer. I scanned the taps.

Really? Natty Boh?” I scoffed a little too loudly.

I settled on more liquor.

Instead, the bartender slammed down a glass of his cheapest beer, overflowing with passivity. Well, fuck it. I promptly gulped it down, watching Sunshine stare, stunned.

Something about sitting on the other side of the bar got me feisty. I didn’t like being in bars if I wasn’t earning spare change and tip jar lint. So I talked shit.

He laughed a half measure too long at my off-color comments. His eyes lingered on me, flinching at every curse word I uttered.

But I was Teflon. Every chide comment rolled off my back, slick like a seal’s. My glances were choreographed. I rationed my laughter and swore excessively. This is not the Lily I know. And we’re pretty tight.

“So what do you think your odds are with me tonight?”

I don’t even remember the words leaving my brain and sliding out of my mouth.

We stumbled, fumbled, and snickered home. His eyes were glued to mine. There wasn’t another sound that could creak his neck half an inch. He had fascinating half sleeves- I studied them as he gazed over me.

The next morning, I expected him to slip out. We got breakfast instead. He’s the kind of person who asked to use my comb.

Over eggs, he told me crazy stories. He’s the kind of person who hits on girls with rappers and smokes up celebrities.

Sunshine kissed me on the street corner and headed home on his motorcycle, taking my fearless alter ego along with him.

“95.”
“Huh?”
“Last night you asked me a question. 95.”