Friday, April 23, 2010

Stripping Away The Pain

Running. Outside. On the battered roads of New Hampshire. Sand, trash, cigarette butts, mud, and exhaust. Dedicated? No, I love running inside on my treadmill, and I always will. Strap on the ankle weights, set the incline to the max, and fire up the Netflix. Pick a movie, something ninety minutes long, maybe an independent comedy, no subtitles (too hard to read while running), and hit the start button. Running inside on a treadmill is to train in relative comfort, unlike running outside. Running inside is like being tortured by the French instead of the Soviets; it hurts, but most of your body will continue to function when they are done with you.

So, I am running outside today, for no particular reason other than convenience, and the pain is with me from the start. These days pain is like breathing, it comes naturally to my soul. If it isn't physical, it's emotional, and if I am not in pain than I begin to doubt my own existence. I never understood cutters before; I thought them to be attention seeking teens in angst. Now I know, so my apologies to the cutter community. The pain starts in my lungs, following my breath up and into my nose. It isn't cold today, but it isn't quite hot either, making the moist, pollen-laden air that much harder to suck in. But I suck away at it, because my body is demanding it. It is angry with me; running is a different type of workout, it is not like the weight training and core work to which running has taken a back seat for the past several weeks.

I think I can hear my arms laughing at my lungs and legs, but it might be me. Music is great to run to, but these days music can bring about a paralyzing mood, and in order to make it through this run I have spun the Ipod wheel to a British radio comedy show. Keeping the drivers that pass by guessing, I am smiling and laughing out loud as I run. It is rare to see a runner cracking up as he self torments, and the thought of someone sitting at their dinner table tonight, shaking their head as they tell of the happy runner they witnessed on their drive home makes me laugh and smile even more.

I stop at some railroad tracks, dropping into a runner's stretch across a couple of ties. I bring my head up and look down the long straightaway. In an instant I am taken back to searching for Jared's body last summer. Elizabeth and I had walked the tracks near his home for a few hours. They were long, straight, and lined with trees all the way out to the bay. I shake my head at the emotions rushing through me like blood. My eyes are stinging from sweat, tears, and pollen. I collapse, surrender to the memory, and utter a few words of what might be considered a prayer. After a few moments, I remember that the kids will be waiting for me at the end of their music lessons; I must run.

I start back the way I came, and come to a hill. Halfway up, I am holding my own, my emotions running the show. Something bright catches my eye, and I turn my head as I pass a dirt driveway. There is a shed, set back from the road about forty feet or so. It is sheltered above by trees, and dark shadows have swallowed it's mossy walls. The door is open, and a light shines through. Inside stands a man fidgeting at a work bench.

He is naked.

Thanks Jared, I needed to laugh. And laugh I do, all the way back to my kids.

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