Thursday, June 28, 2012
we undulated, and the wind whipped out and curled back in around us like a tongue ready to soothe us toward inevitable devouring, pushing and pulling use toward fangs and black gums and a throat that led to absolution. it was neither tailwind nor headwind or belgian crosswind laced with sleet and that farm smell that is at once haltingly fresh, and historically stale: it was wind, and it was going to win.
i heard his footsteps so delicately placing the pavement behind him, as if selected carefully before executed, as i plodded foolishly to my demise, and the hill began to rise. he had a close-cropped beard, round glasses, a bandana round his forehead, and sweat pouring down his bare torso into the dark-stained waistband of his blue running shorts. i knew this without looking behind me. i knew also, from listening, that he was suffering as i was, though it wasn't his feet, rather, it was his breathing. we were going to do it, then, we were pitted. it was lap four of seven, no reason to race, or to cede an inch, so we drove forward, each to his doom.
i knew that i would win. this is a bold statement from someone who never wins anything, but this wasn't really winning anything, so i knew i would do it.
i led to the beginning of the false flat. he waited. i led to the beginning of the last kick of the hill. he came round. i let him get a few strides on me, maybe three at most, and then i decided that i would kill myself reeling him back in. step for step, i suffered, sweat and snot streaming down my face, shoes pounding audibly into the hill in that funny kick-step way, just on the balls of the feet, never there long enough for more than a temporary purchase of traction. i came round. we ran even for three, maybe four more strides. then i pushed. he faded. i pushed again to come clear, he huffed his resignation, and i went.
there's something exhilarating about departure. as soon as those perfect striding footsteps faded into the background, my beleaguered cadence lit up. i attacked. it was only a few more lengths to the top of the hill, to the metal post with fading yellow paint, to the cloud of smoke rising from the tourist on the bench, but it seemed to take forever. i had become time. at the speed of light, time ceases to exist. legs churning, muscles dissolving, the finish line impeccably preserved, i approached, but never gained. it was yearning, perpetual.
we sweated back down the slope in our 'easy' gaits, each plotting the next one's death, a perfect murder amid pines and race flats. he sweated and jogged, coughing now and again with the remnants of a near-death exertion. some spit or sweat landed on my face. i lapped at it, unconsciously, eating the heart of mine enemy, ingesting the meat of an animal that is fast, taking in the flavor of victory. i had broken him. and i was still running.