Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Running into One Another.

I went on a run in the rain yesterday. It was coming down hard, and windy too—the ground was slippery, the sky was dark, and very few people were out braving the streets of Berkeley. Descending Euclid Avenue at the end of the run, the wind picked up and I started to get worried. What if my hands go numb? What if I slip? What if it gets colder? Luckily, I cut this line of inquiry short with another question: am I in pain right now? And honestly, the answer was no.

I ask myself this a lot when I’m running, usually when the conditions are fine and I’m just bored. Is there anything wrong with how I’m feeling right this very moment? Occasionally the answer is yes—like the time I was running intervals around the track and I felt the soul-crushing sensation of localized tenderness in my foot that every runner dreads. But far more often, the answer is no. Most of the time, running feels just fine, and I just have to remind myself that I’m okay.

It’s a practice of genuine self-awareness—not some quasi-self-awareness based on external cues like the weather or what I ate for breakfast. Those things can have an effect, but feeling defies reason. Sometimes it’s sunny and I feel shitty. And on this particular run, it was pouring out and I felt better than ever.

* * *

Sometimes I get jealous of myself. I’ll be sitting at home alone, remembering that night a few weeks ago when I was happily romping around between the sheets with so-and-so. How lucky I was! To have all that unmitigated contact with skin! And kissing! And ear-nibbling! Why didn’t I appreciate it more? And oh, to be doing that right now…

Then I’ll stop myself because, hey, he didn’t call me today. Maybe that means he doesn’t like me. Maybe I was just a conquest, a rebound, a drunken mistake. I shouldn’t set myself up for disappointment. I should pick up a book, cook a meal, go on a run—anything to stop thinking about this.

The tension between the reverie and the worry is enough to make anyone woozy. I can never seem to remember the little trick that comes in handy when I’m running: how do I really feel about this person? When I stop to consider this question, I often find that my memories are more powerful than the experiences they seek to recreate. That it was more about uncertainty than ecstasy. That I looked at him sideways and thought his feet smelled funny and he was too blonde and he talked too much. Or not enough. The point is: I don’t know you very well. And may or may not want to get to know you better.

And why all this anxiety over someone who I might not even like? Why am I thinking so hard about what he wants, and wanting that to be me, when actually maybe I don’t even want him? When you merge too quickly, it’s easy to disappear.

Because when two realities merge, it can be quite jolting. One minute I was complimenting you on your shoes and the next minute you were asking me if I had come. Yes, thank you, but wait, what? Do I know you from somewhere?

That’s pretty much how I always do it, and I’m not very well-practiced in the alternative, whatever it is. Getting to know each other slowly, over time? Like dating, or courtship, or something? It all seems so antiquated. Maybe I should just accept that that’s not how things are done in this day and age.

But the way they are done feels like the time I crashed into a walker when I was running fast on the track. He didn't move out of the way, and he didn't acknowledge what had happened. It was weird. But then, why didn't I acknowledge it either? Because it is really weird, isn’t it? It can’t be just me.


  1. In telling your story, you tell my story. I love you for that.

  2. "Yes, thank you, but wait, what? Do I know you from somewhere?"

    This sums it up.

    If I cannot know myself, how could I know someone else? If I can never know myself, who has a relationship, and with what?

  3. Wow, you are an amazing writer. Found you accidentally through Rumpus. Such a great blend of intimacy and universality. Makes me want to sit down over a beer or 3 and trade stories. I hope NPR or CBC radio finds you and picks you up.
    -Johnny Trash

  4. Yes. I also love this post. Resonates so fully with the tension between sexual empowerment and the search for something meaningful that I often feel as a single 20-something female.

  5. Hey I can totally relate to your story....I run to get away from stress and my hopeless romance of a mind...if that makes sense...Ive lost my heart and got it ripped apart last year...a long relationship of waiting for intimacy and sex and it never happen..being a dedicated, nice, in my own type of world guy I couldn't handle years of not being touched...I tried and was denied...so fucking lame...to get denied for no reason but I;m not ready is totally understandable...but 6 years and NO...so I ran....ran everynight to relieve myself.....to forget about sex and to tell myself she's ready when she's ready...then she moved to London for school and she met someone and they had sex the first date and I was dumped on Facebook..of all things...for nothing..a year pass...I did my thing to forget....I lost weight, ran, got lazy, drink, worked more hours selling meat...I would wait for her call...to see if she would come back...I would make drunk phone calls and yell and cry...I tortured myself and I thought I had hope...That she was going through a phase...but In reality she wasn't sexually attracted to me....that was the truth and it fucking hurt...but I shook it off and now running is a means of happiness..I ran because I was sad...now I run because its rewarding...I ran into a pole last night thinking of this story to tell you....