It’s too much. Think about your feet man, dammit. Remember when what’s-his-face said, Dammit that way? Think of what’s-his-face. Slumping in his chair. Hair a mess. Sort of pathetic. Not like you. Not like now. You are graceful. You are a gazelle. Where are those water stations? Do they have razors there? Is it a thing that some other runner has thought up. You should have trimmed it. You were gonna trim it. You keep licking your damned upper lip. Mile marker 18. Not even water.
Can you make it? Will you do it? Do it, man. Dammit. God, what a softy he was, with his round belly and always slightly untucked shirt - a mess of a guy and always smelling of whisky. Whisky. Soon, you can be whisked away.
She’ll be gone when you get home, dummy. Lick the stash, tastes like sweat. Is she there? Is she on you? Was that yesterday? No. Two weeks. Past two weeks. You and your training. You and your quick feet. She was gone when you got back. Said she’d leave if you left. Made her points plain. You’re hitting with your heel again. Toes first. Pounce more. Bounce. Lengthen the stride. Focus on the footing. One-two. Two-two. Don’t count off. You get lost in it. Mile 4 was a thousand numbers. It’s dizzying. They mount up. Counting off the miles in quarters. Looking for the road signs. Checking out the lawn chairs and the beers in hands and the many faced onlookers. They’re screaming for you. Is she out there? Can Cheryl hear you?
I’ll take a trip out to the ranch. I’ll tell her in advance. I’ll call her and bellyache and say this was it, the final race. It’s no first place today. 3, 14, and 22 have been in front of me the whole time. That’s 39. I want to cut them each into 13s and take them by surprise. Three 13s is easier than 39. I can work with 13s. I just have to double myself, a simple multiplication of two. I only need to cut one to show. Match 14 and pass him. I’m breathing too hard. No more numbers. Back to toes. Chest out. You have this.
She had you. You can see the small of her back when she bends off the bed. For what? A sock? A stocking? Is she sliding back into what she left at the bedside? Is it time for her to go already? She was always out the door on your off days. And you were always long gone when she wanted to stay.
You are a runner. You’ve always ran. She touched your back that last night and you winced. Felt her hand retreat without seeing it. Wanted to take the wince back. Un-tense the shoulders. The air around you moved. Then the air in the room was still. Still smelled like her. Vanilla body oil and some flower you never remember the name of. Citrus. A citrus-like scent. You listened for her breathing. Is she out here?
Mile 24. She wanted me to trim it. Wanted me to lose it. Said she missed me clean. Four quarters left. Was it too much to ask? Could I have been that insulted? I told her to stop riding me. I told her to not ride me so hard. Don't cramp me. Don’t tread. She left her treads. I’m all marked up. I’m gonna chop this sweaty fucker off.
Three quarters left. What’s the matter with Kate Bush anyway? It’s just something she thought we should try. Just music. Just a needle on another record. I shut it down. I’m a lowlife. I’m a crimelord. I’m down in the gutter. Oh shit, that’s 14.
Two quarters left. Where do you go from here? You can see the three of them. They’re paces in front of you. You’ll pass 14. That’s one 13. Only 3 will be left. You can put 3 in his rightful place. 22 is way out. You’ll never reach him. But you can be 2. You can be 2. You see it in your head as you pass 14 and enter the final quarter. You see the number 2. You can be 2. You can be 2. You can be. You see you. You can be too. You see her. You can be two. You could have been two.