Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday night in Fairwater

The early evening air is cold. Huge clouds of breath churn from my body as I run through the city's dirty western fringe. The cold is preserving my legs and I am moving faster than usual, half sprinting through the world of orange and black and swirling white light. Shadows stretch and turn and twist, the uneven pavement disappears into darkness and I am running on faith. My left foot finds only air, misjudging where the pavement should be, but momentum carries me forward. Faith in speed and strength.

Up ahead, fat man and a Staffordshire terrier, a metal barrier between them and the road, the pavement two feet wide. I refuse to slow. On my right shoulder I can feel a car coming, can feel its headlights, can feel its speed -- another Ford KA rushing to get home in time to watch "The Simpsons" or whatever the hell it is that people rush home for. I don't look. I can see the car in my mind. There is still space.

Where the barrier begins I fly into the road in full sprint. Fifty feet of metal fence to keep the man and his dog from stepping out into traffic. Fifty feet of metal fence to keep me from returning to safety. The strength of the car's headlights licks at my heels, starts to consume my legs.

This is where I'm best, I think. This is where I live. In these stupid decisions, in these times when I pick up speed to face challenges. "Headlong into adversity" -- that's what I wish they would say about me. Hornet's nest breaker. Wall kicker. Shit-storm creator. Bridge burner. Romantic and wild. Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs.

A oes heddwch? Nac oes, motherfucker. Nac oes.

My legs strain. In the thighs and calves, muscles pull and push and demand more energy; they claw strength from my gut, set my lungs on fire. Swirling shapes and sounds and colours and the white light growing brighter behind. There is no need to look. Just as I can see the car in my mind, I can hear the driver's thoughts, I can feel him refusing to take his foot off the accelerator.

"I won't speed up," he thinks. "But I won't slow down. He's the one darting out into the road. If he wants to take that risk, it is his to take, but I'm not slowing down. I'm not losing this battle of will."

The spring of the concrete, dust of exhaust swallowed, roar and whine and rattle of engines, legs powering, straining, burning, and ravenous to devour the space. Speed, strength. And in my mind I can feel the heat of the car's engine pushing, taunting, threatening.

Pop step jump back onto the pavement -- the car's engine throttles as if growling: "I could have, you know. I could have had you, easy." -- and into a pack of teenage boys all with their hoods up and jumping in excitement at the act. Laughter and sarcastic cheers as I weave through them: "Go on, runner-man!" "That's it, me ol' son!"

"W'hey!" I shout, fist raised in the air, and still sprinting. Past the car, now stopped in traffic. Turning left, away from the main road, uphill, slowing, laughing. This is where I'm best, I think.

But one day I will be too old and there won't be enough strength in my legs. What then?

1 comment:

erin said...

Then you'll be the driver, of course.