For Lauralynne, a fast lady

I used to run and hated it, but needed to do it if that makes any sense.  One morning, as dawn was turning from mud black to dirty grey, I had run past my normal area near the grain loading freighter terminals, and punched on into downtown.

Out of the mists of downtown shot a matched set of gorgeous athletes, straight at me down the waterfront sidewalk.  One, a man in his late 20s, went about six-foot-two with a 65-dollar winner’s cut accenting his idealized features.  His partner, a perfectly coiffed blonde (how do people keep their hair nice when they run?) of about 22, bobbed along in polychromatic Spandex that hugged her every sleek, delicious curve. They were smiling, breathing easy, wafting along on hundred-dollar running orthotics made of pure styrofoam domination.

Slapping along in my old sweats and stained Adidas tennis shoes, I was embarrassed for myself. I didn’t have the pace, didn’t have the look, didn’t have the sexy mojo to darken their cosmopolitan sidewalk world. Without a budget for the gym, I squeezed out situps on the floor of my crackerbox Queen Anne condo, punched out a few pushups every mile or two in the muddy grass and goose poop, and dried not to drown in the rattling spit at the back of my throat.

Moving over to make way for the golden couple, I ducked my head in deference. They were ten years younger and light years faster and probably worked 60 floors above the benighted, windy canyons of downtown.

Then I saw the other guy. Indistinct in the gummy fog, he ran along behind the two.  They’d probably passed him the way you’d pass a gum wrapper, without so much as a “Hmm, wouldja look at that.”

He was balding, pot-bellied, about five-foot-eight in his beat down shoes.  He had on a pair of bleach-spotted maroon sweatpants and a long-sleeved beer shirt. His mud-splashed socks wouldn’t stay up, and like me, his glasses were speckled with rain and coated with mist. Behind them, his eyes bugged just a little crazy.

And he was running. Not jogging. Not “training.” That little dude was putting it all out there. Running!

From half a block away, I heard his lungs rattle, heard his whistling breath torture his palate. It was costing him everything not to stop and walk, not to lean on a lamp post and pretend to stretch. In his head, I could hear him roaring “Fuck it, I don’t need this pain, I can stop right here and no one would know, nobody cares, fuck this!”

Or maybe that was me.

Before they passed me, I saw him drop off the sidewalk, into the mud puddles and cigarette butts… and accelerate. Bald head steaming like a teapot in the rain, he pulled up even with the pair and splashed the high-tech swaddling of their perfect legs with the scrim of the city he swam through.

The couple’s arms swung freely. Their legs were loose. As the schlub hustled past, down in the gutter, his back was tight and his jaw was shoved out like he dared the world to punch it. He stepped out longer with his left leg than with his right (opposite of me). His few soaked strands of hair strung limply down the sides of his skull.

Their smiles were fixed and they stared straight ahead, armored under perfect hair. The little man didn’t exist for them. Did. Not. Exist.

Wheezing like a steam engine and half-blind from condensation, he reached down deep and passed those Buffies like they were lined up at the old folks’ home buffet.

I don’t know who that little man was, but I have loved him ever since. In that indomitable moment, he was beautiful.

And so are you.

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  1. *blushing* waitaminute – did you just call me bald?!?!

    Thank you Jack.

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