Posted by: David Weimer | June 15, 2014

Chapter 4 – “Another Run” [upcoming book excerpt]

Situations of I

Situations of I

[Février]

 

I ran everywhere when I was a child. As an 18- to 20-year-old, I ran in the Army—in the mornings for PT (physical training) and a few times a year for our regular PT test 2-mile runs. I also ran daily for exercise, to counteract the fat-storing effect of drinking German beer. I was vain and appearance-conscious—unlike now….

In my late 20’s and early 30’s, I inline skated hundreds of miles on roads, sidewalks and parking lots in Pittsburgh, Wheeling and Memphis. Then I discovered skate parks and ramps in Stuttgart, Germany, Southern France and later, back in the U.S.

During my late 30’s, I began using my Nordic Track ski machine, the one that my first, practice, wife had given me for my birthday moments before telling me that she wanted a divorce. I’d kept the machine and took it with me wherever I moved because it seemed so potentially useful.

After that, for several years, until my mid-40’s, I didn’t do much running or skating or skiing.

Instead, I plodded along under loads of lumber, sheets of drywall, bags of concrete, sectioned railroad ties, old bathtubs, cans of paint, buckets of drywall mud, replacement toilets, rolls of tar paper, bundles of shingles and extension ladders. My steps were heavy and just as carefully-placed as an elephant or very large human walking on ice.

If my feet happened to slip while I was carrying something from one place to another on a job site or to my work van, I would go down like a slow motion sequoia, usually ending up sitting or kneeling with the load still in my arms or on my shoulder. For eight years, I walked, thus burdened, as a self-employed one-man-band, jack-of-all-trades handyman/painter/contractor.

On the last year of my handyman run, while watching my older son playing soccer for his third year from the sidelines in my folding chair, I shouted, “Don’t give up! Come on, Gui! Go after the ball!” It was a matter of conditioning, I turned to my wife and said; they need to keep running so that they’ll able to run.

On the last day of soccer, the coach arranged for our team’s parents to play against their kids. After five minutes in a forward position—or maybe sooner—I vowed to myself to never again urge Gui to run faster during a game. I ran and ran and hopelessly attempted to catch my breath. I never did catch it. I was out of breath for that entire interminable match. I ran, and panted, hands folded on top of my head whenever we had a blessed five-second break. I can still taste that iron flavor from my scorched lungs.

Not long ago, I was walking down a former railroad corridor on an asphalt walking path paralleling the Ohio River in Wheeling. It was for exercise; I wasn’t working physically for a living anymore.

I had stepped off my slowly-moving contractor work train. I felt that I was getting out of shape. I had been walking, strangely unbalanced without my tool belt’s weight, without the familiar hammer handle thumping on the back of my leg with each step. My hammer hangs in my basement work room now, unmoving.

On the trail, as I passed under the 19th century Wheeling Island suspension bridge with its see-through metal grate decking that allowed you to look up and see the vehicle undercarriages through it, I saw a few hundred yards ahead of me the boathouse of the Wheeling Yacht Club on the left side of the trail, the river side.

Run, something whispered.

Perhaps my silent companion who is always right and who never sleeps was trying to tell me something. My other hemisphere. My right mind. Maybe it was a whisper from a younger me, trapped inside a soundproof box.

I experienced worrying thoughts of hurting my feet or knees or getting shin splints from unaccustomed running.

Run.

The word repeated. My excuses ignored, I began.

I began jogging, carefully and lightly, and it occurred to me that people, and me, too, grow older and grow away from a very simple thought: the willingness and memory of running. Everyone formerly ambulatory has run before. Everyone formerly ambulatory—no matter how bad they look now, limping or rolling along.

The image of a carefully-walking old woman came to mind as I jogged. Yes… that definitely could be me. I could forget. Could? How about, “do”….

The concept of running becomes more and more a monumental-felt thing.

Run? Me? No. No. Of course not. When I was a child, sure, but not now….

How a word, “impossible,” starts to attach, moss-like, to that simple, short word, “run.” Some probably couldn’t run now to save their lives. Not now. And even if they could, they probably wouldn’t let themselves try. They’d be too afraid of breaking something or of falling. I can see this in myself. They wouldn’t run to save their lives because they’d be trying to save their lives by not running. This three-letter gun held to their heads, trigger pulled back—Run—would be met by the sobbing heartfelt words, “I can’t.”

Blam!

It’s easy to envision such a scenario… in others. I prefer to think I would be different. But if I were 90? Would I dare to run? If I could run at 90, would running start my odometer turning backwards?

I’m going to walk again on the trail today. It’s probably going to be raining down there in the Wheeling Ohio River valley. Up here, in Flushing, sleet and granular snow falls, whispering on the grass. I’m going to run. Who knows what will come between me and this word, but I will it to happen.

After jogging, that first time, a combined six hundred yards from the bridge and back, I stopped and touched my toes, gently. I slowly stood straight again. I then walked to Heritage Port where my car was parked. My heart was pumping, my blood was moving. It felt good to be alive.

Yesterday, a gorgeous February sun shone in a clear blue sky over leafless trees and green-brown grass. The light struck the Wheeling Park playground. In a pond nearby, Mallard ducks paddled around. On a hillside opposite the park, thousands of headstones stood upright in the bright sunlight, guarding their buried namesakes.

My wife and I sat on a wooden bench, warmed by the sun. We watched our sons and their friends playing hide-and-seek and freeze tag. They were running everywhere. Walking only happened, briefly, between bursts of running.

“Ben!” a boy shouted from the swings.

My eight-year-old ran over to take the swing next to Noah, his friend from a nearby village, who we’d brought with us to the park.

I said to Andrée, “They run everywhere.”

Each generation watches the younger one running up from behind to snatch a held-out baton in order to continue without stopping, without looking back….

Today, after lunch, I’m going to take my wife’s car to drive to the post office in Holloway to mail my packaged books. Then I’ll drive down to the river valley for my “local route” of visiting thrift stores and libraries looking for books to add to my shelves at home; I sell books. And write. I don’t handyman anymore.

Afterwards, a couple hours before tonight’s M&M Philosophy meeting in Wheeling, I’ll park somewhere along Water Street and walk down the concrete steps to Heritage Port again and stop at the water’s edge. After a while I’ll go up some different steps to the paved path, and just beyond the playground shaped like a ship, and just before I pass under the suspension bridge, I’ll push off with one foot, and begin jogging again.

Maybe I’ll run a little harder.

 

[- excerpt from “Situations of I,” an upcoming collection of short stories & essays.]

 

 

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