Running Dialogue: In Which I Transcribe My Thoughts From A Run I Attempted On Saturday [ 2005-06-28, 6:44 p.m. ]

It's 93 degrees out and somehow I don't own any shorts, not one pair, nothing I can pull on to wear for a run, and I am sure, as sure as I have ever been of anything, that if I pull on full-length athletic pants I will drop dead within four blocks of my apartment, and I am whining and complaining about the lack of shorts in my wardrobe so my husband offers a pair of his too-small basketball shorts to me, and I try them on, stopping briefly to wonder where the basketball shorts came from in the first place, but then get them on and look in the mirror and FREAK OUT because I look so very, very bad in them, not unlike a basketball player, and so I whine some more and eventually find a pair of hideous capri running pants that I have no recollection of ever buying but are lightweight and therefore my best option even though they are too big and the thighs balloon out like jodhpurs or whatever those queer riding pants are called.

I am eventually out the door, leaving Kent to stay behind and help our landlord install a new toilet in our bathroom, the new toilet that has been promised to us for over four years, and I am out out out of there before there is a chance for me to see the mess and destruction that comes post-installation but pre-clean up. So I am outside, I am going running, I am not sitting on my ass watching the Top 20 videos being counted down by a very skinny person, instead I am OUTSIDE, Doing Things, but I am squinting and GOOD GOD it is hot and I kind of wish I hadn't had the brilliant idea to run outside instead of in the cool comfort of the gym and maybe I should go back to my apartment and get my gym card and run on the nice treadmill instead of the broken, patchy sidewalk, but then I remember the toilet and if there is one thing I am sure of it's that I do not want to see Kent and our landlord hoisting the old, cracked toilet out of the bathroom because not only will I worry about them accidentally dropping it on someone's foot but I have no idea what the area behind the toilet is going to look like and I am pretty darn sure that I best stay away. So I keep walking down Clinton Street, and figure that at 3rd I will make a left and start running, run to Prospect Park, run the loop there, and then walk home, which seems like a reasonable goal. Except that I start jogging at Sackett Street, just east of Smith, and by the time I am at Hoyt Street, that is to say, about 7 houses from where I started, I realize that OH DEAR SWEET JESUS this run is going to be hard.

My ankle is hurting and there are blisters on my feet and my calf is sore (why???) and my knee hurts and every joint in my body is stiff and please please please tell me that it's not because I am old and feeble and that my plan to run in a marathon is not just a pipe dream and why is my KNEE hurting now? I'm running and already it's a struggle and I have about four miles to go which seems like a damn impossibility but in case anyone forgot, a marathon has 26 miles and I think that I am in big trouble because I have been running for about three minutes and I already want to stop. I run to Bond Street and turn right and I see a new café, right in the middle of pretty much nothing, and I think that is kind of weird, because when I tell you the café was in the middle of nothing, I mean it was across from a lot where taxi cabs go to die and next to some abandoned warehouses which will someday probably be zillion dollar condos but are right now big pigeon coops. I turn on Union, because although I planned on running along 3rd Street, Union is closer and I am tired and so I just turn and try not to squint so much in the sun because I do not want crows' feet, now do I?

As I approach 3rd Avenue I have to step around some men loading some big huge things into some bug huge trucks, and when I get closer to the men with the things and the trucks, I can see what all the big huge things are and they are CASKETS, lots and lots of caskets, and to my left is a GIANT CASKET WAREHOUSE, which maybe will be slower in its conversion to uber-luxe loft condos, but how freaking weird is that? I am waiting for the light to change and all I can think about is how many CASKETS I just saw, and that almost all were shiny and white and why does it matter what color the casket is anyway? I think a white casket is like a white limo or white tuxedo, and the way I feel about white limos and white tuxedos is that they have no business being in my eyesight, ever, and again, can we talk about the fact that on a Saturday at 11am, the casket warehouse was open but the donut shop was not?

It is while I am waiting for the light to change that I first realize, No, no I am not going to keep running, I am going to walk, maybe just for a little bit, because it is motherfucking HOT and I am feeble and gimpy and most definitely NOT entertaining fantasies of starring in my own Nike commercial. Or Adidas, really, because they have the new Stella McCartney workout line and if I am going to exercise and potentially run IN RACES, then I think I deserve a little couture. But when the light changes, I half-heartedly jog across the street, and make it halfway up the next block (up! Because am heading to Park Slope and it is called Park Slope because there is a SLOPE and my aching legs - well, leg does not so much like the slope) before I stop running. I do not, however, stop pretending that I will still manage to run the 3.5 mile loop once I get to the park. But, am now walking. Still sweating and still squinting, and not really enjoying myself, so must still count as exercise, though, right?

When I reach 5th Avenue I pause to "stretch," because there are many fire trucks and ambulances and police officers and on-lookers, and a segment of the sidewalk is blocked off with CAUTION tape and people are looking up and pointing, and I am nosy as hell and want to know what is going on. I "stretch" as much as I can, but still can't figure out what the potential drama may be, so I "shake it out" and cross the street, finally heading to 3rd Street, albeit at a much slower pace than I planned. I pass Blue Ribbon and think maybe sushi would be good for dinner. I pass the cat clinic and wonder if Tuesday would like a kitten. I pass the fourth Bugaboo in as many blocks and wonder if Vivian is a ridiculous baby name or not because I kind of think it is lovely.

When I reach Park Slope proper, the stoop sale crowd is out in force, as is the stroller set, and at one point I walk past a family and get a whiff of Waterbabies sunscreen that is so sweet and strong that I want to grab their toddler and lay my head next to its fat little belly and just breath in that sweet summer baby smell which takes me back home more than any other smell, even eucalyptus, and in that one breath of Waterbabies is every summer I ever spent at the pool, as baby then child then teen then lifeguard, and I can taste the Otter Pops we kept in a big cooler in the pool office and I can feel the grit of the diving board under my feet and I can hear the whistle of the lifeguard and the splash of the water and feel the sting of chlorine in my eyes and I want to be back there, more than I have ever wanted anything, back on a hot deck under the blazing sun with crispy hair and shorts that are damp in the ass from pulling them on over my bathing suit.

But I am somehow on 3rd Street in Park Slope on a humid June day and 50 Cent just came on my Shuffle (which is strapped on my arm in such a way that I now have a roll of ARM FAT sticking out over the Shuffle Arm Band thing, which is so very, very sexy), so I go past the Waterbabies family and cross 7th Avenue and re-focus my attention on the lovely, lovely houses. I imagine which one would be best at Christmas time and wonder where I would park when it was time to unload the tree from the car and how many people we could fit inside for the holidays and if our friends would be interested in starting a tradition of a formal Christmas Eve dinner party. It is shady on this block, and the limestone buildings are set back from the street and I can't imagine any bad things ever happening on this block. I am almost at the park now, and I leave behind the shady peace of 3rd Street and cross towards the park loop. I try not to look at the hot dog cart because he has popsicles that look really freaking good and I have no money with me at all. No nothing, I realize. I have the clothes on my body and my iPod Shuffle and no money or form of ID or even set of keys, which makes me think that if anything bad were to happen to me, I would be laying somewhere unclaimed for a very long while because the only information anyone could gather from my would be that I like both Snow Patrol and 50 Cent, and also the Garden State soundtrack, which identifies me as nothing more than Generic Brooklyn Yupster. And worse, I would be dead in a ditch, unidentified and wearing the hideous giant capri pants that I pulled on out of spite and ire, and so I make a mental note to tell my husband that if anything ever happens to me, please only give the newspapers GOOD pictures of me, and perhaps he and I will sit down and set aside photos for such a use, ones that are flattering but also hint at the depth of my soul and emphasize the tragedy in my not-so-happy ending.

Also, I kind of want a hot dog.

I reach the loop and start to run, as per the deal I made a few blocks ago, but OW my ankle and OW my knee and OW OW OW I am stiff and feeble and old so I pull over and do some more "stretching" to make it less obvious that I am flat out ditching the run, and I start walking home. Crossing Prospect Park West I pass a man heading into the park who is clearly SO FREAKING JAZZED about his run that he is singing and humming and wearing teeny stretchy pants, and I scowl at him while Dirty Boulevard comes on my Shuffle.

I'm walking home and feeling sorry for myself because I had a fantasy of becoming a proper runner who has flat abs and toned calves and talks about 'the burn' and 'the zone' and wears an Ironman watch. But instead I am a flabby pale walker with ugly capris and a bad (c)ankle. I walk past no less than seven stoop sales and they all make me angry because who in their right mind expects to make money off of old GRE study guides and chunky black shoes from Steve Madden? I walk past the CAUTION tape on Fifth Avenue but there is now only one fire truck and I can't tell what the drama was all about earlier, and as I try to gawk a little better I get body-checked by a tall Asian man with a navy blue Bugaboo.

The casket warehouse is closed when I pass it this time. At Nevins I turn right and I can swear I hear splashing but figure I am hallucinating, perhaps brought on by the wicked, wicked heat or else a residual pang of nostalgia from the Waterbabies family. But I hear a whistle and even though I am the only person in sight, I am pretty sure that it was a REAL whistle and not just a figment of my imagination and so I follow the sound, and there, behind the sprawling casket warehouse is a PUBLIC SWIMMING POOL, and it is not fancy and not glamorous and possibly not even clean but it is a POOL and there are kids playing and slow, fat adults side-stroking in the lap lanes and the pool is the EXACT color of my childhood, I swear to you, clear as can be. There is no way that I will be able to convince my husband to join me at a public pool located behind a casket warehouse and adjacent to housing projects, but maybe I should go one afternoon, because how bad can a pool really be? I look in for a while, standing on the street side of the chain link fence long enough to possibly make the lifeguards wonder if I am shopping for a new seven-year-old kid. I'm not, just standing and wishing I still lived a bike ride away from the big, clean pool where all my friends swam and where I still sometimes swim in dreams, only in the dreams I am usually terrified because I am supposed to be in a race and have not trained in oh, 12 years, which I guess is my variation on the Naked At School On Book Report Day dream or something.


After staring at the pool for a few minutes more I wind my way home, through deserted industrial streets along the Gowanus Canal, and I pass a Harley Davidson block party as well as three men standing in suits in front of the housing project, screaming at the top of their lungs at people who walk by. They scream at me but I can't hear them because now U2 is on my Shuffle and I have it turned up LOUD and I wish I knew what the men were screaming about but mostly I am ashamed because the men are white and most of the residents of the housing project are black and when I saw the three white men in suits in front of the complex I assumed they were there to "help" someone but really they are possibly crazy zealots who are shouting words of hate when everyone else is playing in the sprinklers or reading the newspaper or setting up a game of dominos. I keep walking, and notice that my shoulders are starting to burn.

How fucking hot is it anyway?

I just want to be home and I want to wash my skanky hair and take off these stupid pants and if I walk in the door and the toilet is not installed and I cannot pee and take a shower I will be so very, very cranky.

Was it always this many blocks to my apartment? Please don't let me run into anyone I know right now, because the sweat, the squinting, the sunburn, the CAPRI PANTS. I just want to go HOME.

When I finally get home, the apartment is empty, the old toilet is in the middle of the kitchen and there are MapQuest directions to the nearest Lowe's on the computer. I peel off my dirty clothes and finally locate the hamper (under the kitchen table) and step into the shower. I decide that I'm not going to go running tomorrow after all.

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