The Marathon Runner


She wanted me to watch her sprint down the block—just to the stop sign, no further—to check the evenness of her stride and the quality of her expression. Her words. A marathon she’d been training for was less than a month away. She wanted to perfect the final push, to appear tranquil, as if the twenty-six point two miles had filled her with the hope she’d seen in the face of a female runner on TV.

I watched from our front porch as she started to run on the dark empty street. I realized I’d forgotten my glasses inside. Her breath left silver puffs behind that expanded then left. I imagined the control of her lungs, their efficiency. I could see them working in time to the sound of her feet against the pavement. She looked like a hand, an index and middle finger for legs, a hand I would hold underground.

“How was it?” she asked.

“You’re lovely,” I said. And she was.

“But you’re not wearing your glasses. You didn’t see anything.”

“Yes, believe me.”

“Describe it then. Be specific.”

I wanted to tell her what I’d seen, what I’d always seen, but it wouldn’t be enough. I asked her to run again, which she liked. I knew she would. It was good to know I cared. But she was right, without my glasses she did not look as she thought she wanted to look, as just another in-stride runner, fitting right in. I watched her descend the porch stairs, shaking out her arms, preparing, always preparing. At a certain distance the edges of her blurred, softening against the glowing grid of streetlamps. The light on every part of her. What she couldn’t see.  

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