I wake up Christmas morning with new snow on the ground. Disgusted, I immediately gather my running things to head off the PTSD. When I walk out the door there’s more snow fluttering down, so I start my Garmin and get to work. It is the first day of my plan for Boston and there’s a pace window programmed. My watch starts chirping at me relentlessly–I’m running faster than I’m supposed to be. After a few minutes I calm down and stop trying to outrun my memories. I touch the warmth of my gratitude that my kind new friend has gifted me with a coach to prepare me for Boston. Brendon, my coach, thinks I can perform at a comparable pace to what I did in New York. The prospect of this possibility is the brightest flickering of hope in my life right now.
The steady quiet crunching of my footsteps and the whisper of my breath are all the sound there is. Only my tracks interrupt the virgin snow as I cross a broad patchwork of farmland blanketed in white. The crops long ago harvested, it is desolate and vacuous out here. I have a flash of memory; myself as a teenager driving this stretch of road from school. I wept with fear at the impulse to speed up and drive into a tree then wondered; how fast would I have to do it? What would it take to overwrite my corrupted memories? I think bitterly of the happy memories Kevin and I were going to make together. I have a rock in my life now, he told me. I blink back tears; I believed him. It hurts intolerably.
I round a corner at a house where I used to babysit. A ruddy colored retriever runs to the edge of the yard to bark at me and I speak soothingly to him as I continue on my way. I light up with compassion for the concern I can feel in the dog, and the interaction shakes me loose from the vice-grip of pain. The falling snow picks up speed and blows into my eyes, so I close them and run without looking. I trust that I’m going the right direction. Why can’t I do that in my life?
I look down at the road before me. It is white like a blank canvas, the dedication garment of an infant or a bridal gown; white like I wore running New York days before my wedding anniversary. I chose white with great care and intention–the color of new beginnings.
I’m alone. I wanted a new beginning in which I was loved, but here I am. I try to touch the sense of jubilation I felt running the streets of Brooklyn as little children reached out for high fives and bands played. I can see their happy faces, I can hear the music but inside me there is only endless pain and unhappiness. I was so happy so recently but it feels far away, like a dream, like something that maybe never happened after all.
I have miles to go, so I simply keep running toward the new beginning I don’t trust and feel little sense of connection to. I run through blinding snow and bitter cold. I run, fast and continuous. I feel the beating of my heart and the tender warmth there, the ease with which I’m covering miles of snowy ground and the holiness of this moment. Maybe this is it and I’m beginning again right now, alone in the snowy middle of nowhere.
Occasionally I notice the footprints of a deer or rabbit or squirrel who crossed the roadway before me. One set of squirrel tracks catches my attention particularly; the animal apparently crossed the street, changed his mind, ran in a circle, continued on the roadway and then turned around several times before heading off into the wood. I burst out laughing at the erratic journey the small tracks chronicle. I sober, thinking of my own erratic journey and my own sense of being lost and confused in an unforgiving world. The snow pours down and settles over my shoulders. With a mile to go, I feel strong and pick up the pace. I pass the home of my favorite childhood neighbor and open up my stride, running hard until I am sprinting through the snow.
“Whee!” I call out, delighted to be hauling ass.
“No whee,” I hear in my abuser’s voice. I don’t remember what he was scolding me for–only that I was happy and he wanted to shut me down.
I sprint faster, faster, teeth bared as I kick up snow and fly and scream at the indignity of all my fucking unwanted memories. Garmin counts me down. I stop and walk on the brink of another plunge into despair. I remember Kevin sharing a memory of me from years before we started dating; “You were like an angel to me,” he said.
I lay down in the road and my tears mingle with the falling snow as I wave my limbs listlessly. My eyes close, heavy with grief and longing as my hot breath rises up in a spire. What if I just stayed here lying in the road? I feel the fleeting cold kisses of the snowflakes landing and ceasing to exist against my lips. I’m not giving up here in the fucking snow–so I get up and dust myself off and instruct myself;