I'm running again. Thrice in the last four days. Up (or, often, around) the big hills of our neighborhood, under the pink canopies of blossoms. And before you think it sounds romantic, let me assure you, it ain't pretty. Imagine (or don't, please don't) my hulky frame jouncing and bouncing in a too-small tank top and cropped pants, sweating like the dickens ... you get the idea. People pass me. Not just svelte figures with swinging ponytails. But old men. Old women. Dads pushing strollers at a leisurely pace. Frogs. Snails. Two-year olds with polio.
I used to run a lot--several times a week for an hour. I'd listen to a whole episode of This American Life, doubling over laughing when it was funny, little tears mixing with pouring sweat when I was moved. But that was in Mississippi. And since then my health has made it impossible. It's only now, coming out on the other side of all that, that I realize just how impossible it was. Running takes a lot of energy. Not just pounding the feet, but getting out of bed in enough time to do it, putting shoes on the feet, gearing up to feel humiliated by my creeping pace and not care. Not to mention the winter. I don't get people who run outside in winter.
Anyway, today I ran by a bus stop. I was nearly home, Bjork was on the ipod, I was feeling good. "Who cares what I look like when I run?!" I was thinking. "I'm healthy and happy!" I was thinking.
This little old Asian woman sitting on the bus stop bench looked at me and her face lit up into this huge bemused smile. Who knows what she was thinking. She didn't say anything. For all I know, she could have been remembering a particularly jolly episode of Full House. But I tell you, to me she looked EXACTLY like she was thinking, "Whoa, even the big American girls run. Look at that tummy bounce!"
I don't think I could ever flip someone off. It's not in me. But I must say that as I passed this woman, I found it comforting to touch my thumb to my middle finger, marking it, readying it, just in case.