There was a guy in high school, my freshman year, who had taken a particular dislike to me. I am not sure why, to this day, but he spent our mutual study hall needling me. He was a lesser football player, one of those people who lacked the skill, wit or charisma of the stars of the team, but was still part of their ilk. He was also at least a year older, although about a foot-and-a-half shorter than I was; many of his cohort had the privilege of free periods–he did not.
I never felt all that bullied, more exasperated; although I tried ignoring him, and I tried disarming him with my ill-developed high-school wit. I recall being disappointed when the classroom moved, and he came with me. Thus it had been about three quarters of the year when the clash came. The bell had run, and the hall was filling with students. He came up to me–I will never recall what exactly he said, what the final straw was that broke the camel’s back. The kid, channeling the sitcom eras of the day, threw out a line and walked away.
I very vaguely recall a look of terror when he realized I was following him, but what I do recall was him running through the hallway just me. I was chasing him, zipping between passing students and trying to gain ground on him. He bumped into people coming to him on either side, I breezed quietly past them. Eventually, I caught him–just at the edge of the wing, before going into the main connective hallway. I tossed him roughly against a bank of unopened lockers.
Through gritted teeth, I growled, “Don’t. Ever. Talk to me. Again.”
I walked away from the encounter on a high, feeling not only proud for standing up to some jerk, but also like I was in possession of some animal agility that I had never seen before. He left me alone for the remaining months.
I never saw it since, at least until my run last night: I found myself running just as rush hour was dumping people in Cleveland Circle. As I came down the rise, I found myself confronted with a stream of humanity leaving the train station. Which is when I found myself weaving: a sudden burst of speed, and an equally surprising fleetness of foot. I found myself passing through, just brushing past one person.
This time, this ability came forth without anger, without frustration, with just the need to keep rolling. Which, I can only assume is how my mutant power will manifest. If we have learned anything from watching superhero movies, those abilities usually come out at times of stress or emotion, and are later channeled with practice. Clearly running is my practice, and this is my timing.
Coming around the corner, heading down Beacon Street, I found myself trapped almost behind a slow-moving family dragging a handful of children. On my approach, I had visions of bowling them over, but again, speed and agility puts me through the eye of the needle: I find myself passing through them like a mist.
I start to think about a conversation I’d recently had with a friend about runners. She was frustrated by the number of runners who called “On your left!” behind her as she was walking down the sidewalk, already trying to give them enough room to pass. I feared, briefly, that I was becoming that person, as I shoot between family members trying to go about their business.
I comfort myself with the fact that, as a novice runner, that instinct is not in me. I recall, vaguely, that being a rule from dabbling in track in high school gym classes. My instinct, as a pedestrian, is to try and move around other people. I hope that is how other people view me…
Shirt of the Day: Venture Bros. Spanakopita!