Running the Night
I ran along a bitumen path tacked together with long strings of tar. Cracks formed here and had been covered in and over with a black snake that wound on and on. I said of these serpentines on the road that I could make artwork of them if I found myself charged with their production. It was not an original idea as I could see that they almost formed what looked like ancient letters of their own; Arabic, Hebrew, a language from some other time and place, not here.
But here, I run on this path where a train once was. In my childhood a train. It ran here and there and I remember it only in flashes and they disappear when I try to hold them too tight. This makes me fear for my long distant memories, the ones who make me who I am. It is for this reason that I do not visit them often. I can’t rub them out, lest I be made also redundant and gone.
This path, this running path. I try to remember what this town was like and I touch on the meaning of life here, but recoil. I don’t want to know it, not again. I want to float above the existence of the people who live here and swim away from their tendrils that float up and seek to tangle me. We all float down here. It’s a town like that.
I run past the place where my brother once lived. You can come and live here too, he said, but I didn’t really want to, and I don’t know why he wanted me too either, nor could I think where he would find the room for another person; the small dwelling already full of his girlfriend’s children. Still, momentarily, when he said it, a flare of excitement lit my insides, excitement that he might want me there, and excitement that I could do something new with my life and transcend my parents.
A strange noise and I see a car in an underground parking lot. It’s only when I get level with the lot that I see two young men, one leaning against a Subaru, bright blue, and another sliding around the concrete pylons on a drift trike, his feet a mad whirr.
I try to envisage where I am and how far I’ve run, but I can’t and I decide it doesn’t matter, so just keep running. I love it, this movement. I become a different self each time I go here. A piece of that self comes back to stay with me always. I am new because of this amazing thing I can do, an amazing thing I once thought impossible.
That is why this run is so special. I’ve never run here before, not like this. I never believed I could. I run past places that I know from before and smile there because I know a secret that most of the people living here don’t. I can feel this place and I know it because I once loved it. I don’t anymore. I can’t anymore. The time for that has long since gone.
There’s Billy’s place and I smile because I longed for him to return from school, so we could play together when I myself was too young for school. I think it cruel that my parents kept me from the company of other children until I was old enough to go to school. It’s why I can’t make friendships work. I always felt like I had to belong to something, someone and never knew how to let go or when it was time to let go. I don’t still.
The CWA hall where I had my terrible 21st birthday. How I hated it. It’s a house now and as I see it there, next to Billy’s with Leo’s garden of old in the background, my smile vanishes and I look away.
I run past the pubs, backpacker hostels and cafes. I dance a while at Mary Ryan’s to see a book about a dingo in the window. I make a bouncy effort to remember the name, so I can look it up later.
I never imagined I could run here, along this Esplanade. I run past Greg Love’s old house. It still has the same beautiful stained glass windows. At the crossing I do a ridiculous leaping run in front of a car and I keep running past people at the ice creamery. I don’t look at anyone, just the middle distance. This, I find is the best way for me to run. This is where I can find the zone. Still, I feel like I own the sky.
When I come back I run at the back of Woolworths and I think about how I hated working there. It was a waste of three years of my life, but I didn’t know any better, didn’t know how much I could be because I didn’t believe.
In the room I see the sweat up the back of my shorts and laugh. Once I would have cried, but now that I own the sky I can do anything.