Episode LXXXIX – Run the Round Routine

It had been a day just like every other day for the past month. I knew it because my brain was lost in its new daily routine. I paid only minimal attention to my left foot smacking the ground. In its faded rubber covering, it rebounded back as my right foot replaced it, and planting itself automatically on the ground. North of my feet, my legs soared over the cracks and gaps of the crumbling sidewalk. Further up, my lungs churned oxygen throughout every nook and cranny of my body. Even higher up, my brown eyes faded into the abstraction of my blank irises. Somewhere beyond that void, my thoughts rambled around in my head, coalescing from abstract strands and theories. This afternoon run around a loosely set course was my only constancy. Like always, it had begun at roughly 2:41 p.m. I had flown down the stairs in my baggy and ragged workout shirt that reeked. I swerved around the first left corner and then cut across four lanes of merciless murderous surface street traffic at the first opportune moment. I kept going up a well worn trail that cut straight through the expanse of three quarters of a mile of overlarge street dividers.

The overlarge street divider was the best section of the run. The divider was covered in grass, small shrubs, and even trees. It was less a divider than a long island of sanctuary. The streams of pavement that were split by it were covered by more old trees, and the houses that were set back from it were hulking stone expanses that were no less than small palaces. In the fall, the leaves were ankle deep and crackly. In the spring the whole area glowed with growth; in the summer the green provided cocoon of cool from the humidity, and in the winter, imaginary warmth seeped into cold legs from the soothing smell of smoke flowing from invisible chimneys. Like always, I was past the waiting speed-trap with a negligent flip of the hand, making a hard left onto the next busy surface street, packed with early afternoon rush hour traffic. It was an uneven straightaway, another quick left and a long uphill stretch full of horns, crunching gear-boxes, exhaust, and fast dashes across unsafe driveways, alleys, and streets before I made my second to last left. During this stretch, my speed shined. Granted, I had always been a quick starter. But along this ugly section of grime and whizzing chrome, my second wind flew into my lungs, and my feet positively flew my body away from any perceived dangers.

Then, it was across another street, and into the park where I was safe from the menacing teeth of motorized vehicles as my route darted downhill in the slightest of grades. On my left and right, fresh runners, and anxious bikers blew by at slow to astonishingly fast speeds. Occasionally, I fancied that someone passed me in a particularly arrogant manner, so I would spur my protesting legs into a quicker pace, and re-pass them, just because I could. Other times, the offending party would then re-re-pass me, and like a pair of oddly matched frogs we’d trade pole position until one us had to veer off and concede the challenge. I then made my last left like I always did. I went up the residential road, past the emptying pre-school, and toward the only right turn I really ever made, back to my dorm. This route was not simply in my mind, known like the back of my hand. It was engrained in every pore and muscle of my body after twenty-eight plus repetitions. I could have taken every step safely with my eyes shut. I could have slept-run the route and not faced real danger at any point. I knew where every car would be in the gridlocked sections, and I knew where surprises might suddenly shock my heart. Beyond that, the route knew me and where I would be at each minute of each day. Beyond that, it was ordained that my body would touch each and every point at a certain moment each day because it appeared that I had always been there, mid-stride, and would always be at that place from that point on.

The routine had hypnotized my brain. It was convinced that it no longer needed to monitor my body from approximately 2:41 p.m. to 3:46 p.m. It was convinced that nothing terrible would ever occur, and that it was free to think about larger problems, like last night’s hangover and assorted social situations. I knew that it would have kept this negligent assumption indefinitely, had it not been hit by a car at 3:41 p.m. today, a day now unlike every other day in every way.